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For Tell-All Tarot Readers, Past, Present and Future Are All in the Cards : $10 to $75 Will Purchase a Wide Range of Opinions

May 26, 1985|DICK RORABACK | Times Staff Writer

Life is a trip south on the 405 Freeway .--Tarotologist Eileen Connolly

Let's call the man Caleb.

It's not his real name--not in this life, anyway--but somewhere along the tarot trail he decided it had a nice gnothological ring to it.

Caleb didn't know what gnothology was either, not when he started out (it's an arcane name for numerology, the upshot of which is that all our names are numbered, not to mention our days). He didn't need a tarotologist, though, to tell him that given names can alter one's entire personality, and vice versa. (To this day, for the several hours it takes to get used to a new haircut, Caleb feels like a "Charles." The feeling usually passes after a good night's sleep or a vodka and tonic, whichever comes first.)

Having Cards Read

Whatever, Caleb decided a couple of months ago to have his tarot cards read. An ordinary, down-to-earth guy, he was not well versed in the occult or the mystic. Caleb, in truth, wouldn't know a psychic if it bit him on the gnoth.

But while he didn't believe in the tarot cards--those prophetic pasteboards bearing the likenesses of allegorical angels, devils and go-betweens--he certainly did not disbelieve. He determined to keep his mind open to the point of vacuity (in truth, not that difficult) on the theory that tarot, unlike nature, adores a vacuum.

Like everyone else, Caleb was curious about his future. Consulting a variety of tarot-card readers couldn't hurt, could it?

It could hurt.

$75 for Openers

It could hurt $75 worth, for openers, or $10 for those with a lower pain threshold, or all local stops between, depending.

On the upper scale, he found, are the professional consultants, many of whom have plumbed the "occult arts" for years, some of whom insist they are emotionally drained after a serious reading.

On the lower scale are the assembly-line readers who work in volume at psychic fairs or seaside piers, dispense good news as quickly and colorfully as a gum-ball machine, and call themselves Madame Rosetta.

Is there a discernible difference in results, Caleb wondered.

Absolutely, he concluded: $65.

Nevertheless, they are a many-splendoured lot, the tarot readers. For the most part, they are bright, articulate, opinionated and seem genuinely interested in improving the parlous human condition. If their methods vary wildly, they share at least one trait: an unshakable faith in their own infallibility, even in the face of egregious error.

Among Caleb's favorites, and a fair cross section of practitioners in the Los Angeles area (fees in parentheses):

Most upbeat: Jeanne Solloway, Sherman Oaks ($40).

Most accurate: Jessica Fairmont, Los Angeles ($75).

Best informed: Eileen Connolly, Malibu ($75).

Most fun: Spencer Grendahl, Los Angeles ($75).

Most exotic: "Sophia the Reader," Venice ($15).

With permission, even encouragement, most sessions were taped, partly as a bung to a porous memory, partly as a means of monitoring short-term predictions. (Caleb was disappointed that he didn't get rich in February, delighted that he didn't get divorced in March, relieved that he wasn't betrayed by a close colleague in April, and is anxiously awaiting "the fulfillment of your talent as a painter in May." Caleb is hard put to draw a straight line, but his wife has been after him since March to touch up the patio furniture. On second thought, divorce seems imminent.)

Call It 'Interpretation'

In hindsight, then, Caleb was able to make some wild generalizations about foresight:

--Do tarot-card readers equivocate?

Does Betty Crocker fudge? In any given reading, there are more hedges than the Grand National. (Of course, the readers don't call it hedging. They call it "interpretation.")

Jeanne (on the prospects of Caleb's son): "He has to make up his mind, to set his goal, and in April or May he will produce. Or not produce. That remains to be seen."

Spencer (on Caleb's alleged "love life"): "I don't know what you've been up to, friend, but you've been up to something. Either you and your wife are very estranged and you have a lover--or vice versa."

--Are tarot-card readers accurate?

One can base an assessment only on what a reader can tell a client of his past. (The future obviously is a lot trickier: Who can say with absolute certainty that he will not become president of Libya in 1992?)

There was a general consensus that Caleb had had a rather strict upbringing, that he was a "self-made man" and that he had married late after quite a bit of dillying and even some out-and-out dallying.

All of this was true, a little disconcerting but possibly attributable to a face as furrowed as a 1936 road map of New Jersey.

A further divination, however, was downright spooky. Each reader had Caleb pegged as a writer, despite his having made his appointments under an assumed name or two. On appearances alone, one might guess the profession of a chimney sweep, or even a hairdresser, but a writer? Perhaps it's the vacuity. . . .

--Can the layman understand a tarot reader?

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