Tarot 101 with Rachel True

I fell in love with Rachel True after I saw her play Rochelle in The Craft. Rochelle was the lone Black girl in a white girl witch squad and I could not relate more — with the tokenism, not the witch squad. I was thirteen and begged my mom to take my best friends and me to the movie theater to see it. This was way back in 1996 when all Black tv shows broadcasted on the same night of the week. Unlike the tokens before her that never acknowledged their Blackness (hello, Lisa Turtle and Angela Moore), Rochelle’s unambiguity was confronting as hell. Watching her fight off racism with superpowers was as meaningful as it was entertaining.

Two years later, True was featured in Half-Baked alongside Dave Chappelle. In the stoner cult classic, she portrayed naïve Mary Jane. She was cute but not on-brand for Black women back then. Sis gave more Blossom than Robin Givens vibes, which was exactly why I loved her (and Robin; just differently). Even though Black girls and women are just as non-monolithic as everyone else, we’re reduced to racial tropes and stereotypes imagined from the white gaze. It seemed that True was intentional in portraying characters that broke those stereotypes. She wasn’t known for being sassy or authoritative; instead, she played quirky and creative. I feel like Hattie McDaniel would appreciate that.

True has continued working on both stage and film since the 90s. However, her latest debut has nothing to do with acting. True Heart: Intuitive Tarot is a unique read; part memoir, part tarot card 101. The book accompanies True Heart Intuitive tarot card deck, with illustrations by Stephanie Singleton.

The Book

The major arcana are used to guide True’s personal stories and align them with the fool’s journey. This technique cleverly weaves together meanings behind the major arcana along with heartfelt essays that center ego, family discord, insecurities, and passion. As glamorous as life may be assumed of actors, she reveals that it’s also humbling and challenging as hell.

Details of a childhood that lacked compassion and nourishment and an industry that did little to affirm her presence forced True to lean on her connection with Self to guide her, both professionally and personally. The impact has led to her becoming a wealth of knowledge regarding tarot cards, intuitive exploration, and symbolism.

There are some messy moments revealed, but never without purpose. Using the wheel of fortune to address a professional slight, True reflects on a publicity tour for The Craft that excluded her. Her co-star, Neve Campbell, feeling bad, insisted that True be included. The next day an invite was extended to True. While there was a win that led to the actress included, it wasn’t lost that her presence was an afterthought. The reality was as sobering as it was pivotal. During the Emperor’s breakdown, the veteran actor recalls a time she spent on The Cosby Show’s set. The violent life of Bill Cosby’s is common knowledge in today’s world. But, back in the 1980s, not so much. Still, True recants how women on set would change in demeanor during and after engaging with Cosby. She uses the fallen star’s past persona to illuminate a chilling duality about The Emperor: the figure can use their power for both good and evil.

This is the book set for someone who’s seriously looking to learn about tarot cards in a meaningful way. Aside from the thorough examination of the major and minor arcana and court cards, True Heart also gives a basic breakdown of the connection of numerology, suits, and elements. Even the greenest of novices can begin their tarot journey with True Heart, using it as a blueprint to learning the basics and finding a groove. Pairing it with the cards provides the chance to learn on-the-go without relying on Biddy Tarot to answer every question (shout out to Biddy Tarot but still). For the more seasoned tarot reader, add another deck to the collection and make sure your metaphysical squad is as intersectional as it is magical with True Heart.

The Tarot Card Deck

“For most of my life, tarot has been a constant companion and an on-call shrink in a box.” Rachel True

Let’s get the reviews out of the way. Many purchased the deck and received the book as an added bonus; I was actually in it for the book and welcomed the deck as something new to play with.

A lot of Amazon reviews ranted about the quality of the cards:

“They’re too thin!”

“They’re already peeling!”

How thin can it be? I kept thinking to myself. I’ll tell you how thin they are: not that damn thin, relax. I’ve been using the True Heart deck interchangeably with my Rider Waite Smith deck, and I’ve had no problems. I like to compare my tarot cards to pillows: we all like different plush and firmness levels. I prefer cards on the lighter side because the thick ones get in the way of my flow. Also… the tarot card deck comes with a book that offers the same kind of tutelage that many readers charge hundreds of dollars for. Again, relax.

The images are stunning, expanding on symbolism and narratives from the traditional deck. For example, instead of the queen of swords sitting stoically and staring off into the distance, the True Heart queen of swords is staring directly at you, serving yams and a mean Daenerys ponytail. While she feels her feelings, she leads with logic and won’t be played for a fool. Such images allow you to call on levels of your intuition that answer quicker because of resonation. Truth be told, I like my deck to be Blackity Black, so I was underwhelmed by some imagery. Still, its intersectional update was a welcomed remix.

Like the book, the tarot card deck could stand on its own. Overall, I appreciated the style, the visuals, and the modern take on the imagery (The Fool and the Five of Cups are current faves). For those who are more interested in Rachel True than tarot cards, you won’t be disappointed. Each of the twenty-two short stories included are entertaining, from beginning to end. As for the metaphysical gang, anyone with an affection for practicing tarot can appreciate True Heart Tarot’s craftsmanship, but it’s a beginner’s dream.

Tamela J. Gordon is a Miami-based writer, tarot card reader, and book critic. You can find more of her book reviews and original content at shewritestolive.com

Writer. Feminist. Advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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