Rachel True: The Tarot Godmother

It turns out, tarot’s just really good therapy.

There’s a ton of suspicion around tarot—some people believe that it’s a window into the future, some wave it off as complete hocus pocus, and some actually think that it’s pure evil. I didn’t know much about it other than what I’d seen in movies, but as someone who’s always been into metaphysical stuff—I went through a very serious Ouija board phase and used to watch Disney Channel’s “So Weird” religiously—I wanted to know more. So when I found out that Rachel True, who played Rochelle in everyone’s favorite ‘90s cult film The Craft, gives tarot readings right here in L.A., (and no, it wasn’t the movie that got her into the cards), I jumped at the chance to pick her brain, and maybe get a reading in the process. Little did I know I’d wind up sitting across from her in a two-story Spanish Revival suite from the 1920s that, legend has it, is legitimately haunted, crying like someone who just came out of a therapy session. Her description of tarot as “a shrink in a box” couldn’t be more dead-on.

As a kid, she tells me, she remembers pulling out Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols from her family’s shelves and pouring over the iconography. “It was like the symbols were speaking a language I understood,” she says. When she got her first tarot deck at age 9 or 10, she recognized the symbols as the ones from his book, and it all started to crystallize. Like Jung, one of the fathers of modern-day psychology, Rachel understood tarot as a tool for connecting with your deeper self. Not everyone sees it that way though, she admits. “Because I’m Gen X, when I was coming up, movies like The Exorcist or satanic killings all somehow got linked with occult stuff, but ‘occult’ only means ‘hidden’ in Latin. We’re talking about things that you can’t necessarily see but that you can tap into.” Aka intuition.

Rachel recalls always having a heightened intuition, although she initially brushed it off as social awkwardness. “I seemed to pick up on the energies that were floating around a room sooner than other people,” she says. If I walked into a party or gathering of friends, and there was a lot of tension between those friends but nobody was saying it, I could feel that.” She would bring it up only to realize that it was the last thing anyone wanted to talk about, so she resorted to practicing small talk to fill the void. “We as humans spend an insane amount of time covering stuff up, convincing ourselves that we’re doing something for this reason, but really it’s this other reason,” she says. Tarot can help with that. “It’s like peeling an onion. It reveals our true motivations about things and shows us how to make choices that will lead us to where we would like to be.”

It’s this sap-free self-help aspect that led Rachel to start writing a book proposal about tarot. That, and the fact that many people still see it something dark. “I love the idea of showing people that tarot is just you getting to know yourself. To me, that’s a really beautiful gift.” In the book, she’ll break down each card and intersperse the interpretations with stories from her acting life. A “tarot how-to-slash-memoir,” she calls it. “I’d love for people to understand that you don’t have to be a pagan, a Wiccan, or any of that to use tarot cards. These are simply tools—their magic is in their ability to help us unlock our own intuition.”

I think subconsciously, or maybe consciously, I was looking for a similar kind of roadmap when I stepped inside the lavishly ornate and slightly creepy Hearst Suite at the Los Altos Apartments on Wilshire—once the home of legends like Bette Davis, Mae West, and Judy Garland. A few coworkers who came with to witness the magic happen followed closely behind. Immediately, something changed. You could literally feel the energy in the room. I mentioned it to Rachel later, and she confirmed it. “It’s like the building itself is alive. It does something to you.” Um, intense. When we sat down for the reading, Rachel instructed us to take a few deep breaths, sensing some anxiety in the room. I suddenly realized that I was sweating like crazy. Also that there’s really no point in trying to play it cool in front of someone who can read people in her sleep. I took a deep breath and let it out with a long sigh.

Rachel asked me to cut the deck into three piles and stack them up in any order. She explained that there are 22 Major Arcana cards in the 78-card tarot deck, all encompassing the hero’s journey. Then she placed the top cards from the deck in a row on the table and turned over the Chariot, a Major Arcana card revealing a strong male figure positioned in a sphinx-led chariot. A  symbol of tangible success, she said. “Did you get a raise? A different job?” she asked. I paused, then shook my head. She flipped over the Temperance card next, diving into the allegory of a tarot card. “If you’re just looking at the card, it looks like an angel. But if you notice that there’s a jug in one hand, a jug in the other, one foot in the water, one foot on the earth—all of these things represent something.” It signals that there will be more balance in my life, she says, along with some kind of work-related success. “It’s kind of awkward because you’re with your work compatriots, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you get another offer,” she told me. I laughed nervously. “Five of Wands is above you, meaning people are noticing your hard work. You’re obviously an asset.” Okay, I could get on board with this.

She turned over the Six of Discs, a card symbolizing hopes and fears. “Have you always been an eye on the prize kind of person?” I quickly scanned through my memory. “Yes,” I realized. She had already picked up on the fact that I had anxiety and explained that when we’re anxious and repeating negative mantras to ourself like, I’m not going to get there, we’re practically praying that we’re not going to get there on time. I had never really connected words with prayer, but it made complete sense. “You’re an interesting juxtaposition because you’re quiet, but it’s like a little volcano inside.” Holy shit—how did she do that?

She turned her attention to the Two of Wands, a card that reflects that internal stress of trying to keep it together (something that I’m obviously very familiar with). “But you know that you’re more than keeping it together, right?” she asked. I nodded hesitantly. She described the two voices at play—the ego, which dishes out all the confidence, and the lower voice, which tears you down. “If anything is dulling out your zip and passion, it’s that little voice that says, ‘But it’s not good enough!'” I nodded. True. So true.

Rachel dealt out another tarot formation, placing the cards in front of her and translating the deck like you would a game of poker. The cards are divided into four elements, she explained—Earth, air, water, and fire—each matching up to a suit. Each suit and number has its own energy. For example, wands are fire, cups are water, or emotion, swords are air, meaning mental stuff, and discs are Earth, relating to physical things like money. There were a few fives in the reading, which, according to numerology, denoted conflict and change. There were also five Major Arcana cards, including the Justice card, which signified something major like a contract or marriage. Okay, whoa.

Next, Rachel turned over the Eight of Cups, which, she explained, described my present situation. A card of disappointment. There’s some emotional stuff going on here, she said. Accurate. She had already told us that tarot couldn’t tell you anything you didn’t know yourself, but this reading was starting to feel eerily similar to fortune telling. The only thing missing was a crystal ball. The Two of Wands came up again, paired with the Seven of Discs—a card emblazoned with a man in his garden looking visibly bummed. She asked me if there was a particular situation for me that ended in disappointment, but I didn’t think so. I told her the first thing that came to mind, which was that I’ve always been really hard on myself. I started tearing up. The peeling of the onion analogy felt especially appropriate here, in more ways than one. She told me later that she was actually offered a reality show around tarot, but she turned it down because tarot is super personal, and no one really wants to be read. It requires them to be really vulnerable, which, she said, is literally the opposite of what the Real Housewives do. Fair point.

I wiped away my tears, and Rachel slipped back into tarot godmother territory. She advised me to be a little kinder to myself and to pay attention to that voice in my head that says, I can’t or I’m not there yet. “If a stranger spoke to you that way, you’d probably tell them to fuck off.” I nodded. Not only was she absolutely right, but she was getting at something that had been pulling at me for a long time. “Your twenties are hard. So you’re not wrong,” she said matter-of-factly, adding in a little more life advice for good measure. “Don’t worry about what other people think of you, by the way. It’s so unim-fucking-portant.” I laughed, then took a deep breath and let it all out.

“Pick one last card,” she said, fanning them out on the table in front of me. I pulled out a card from the middle and flipped it over. The Justice Card again. Aka law, contracts, structure, marriage, etc.”There are so many cards in a deck,” Rachel explained. “When the same cards come up, I say it’s something to listen to.”

Here’s where it gets even crazier. Two weeks after the reading, I got a job offer—and yes, after some good old-fashioned soul-searching, I signed a contract. Talk about change.