Taking the tarot test
MAJOR Tom bills himself as one of the world's best tarot professionals, who can help you achieve what you want in life. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks how did he turn from the US Air Force to the mystic realms - and tries the cards - IT was in a Californian beach house, that the mystery of Tarot first appealed to Thomas Schick - or Major Tom as he is now known.
By Tracey Sparling
MAJOR Tom bills himself as one of the world's best tarot professionals, who can help you achieve what you want in life. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks how did he turn from the US Air Force to the mystic realms - and tries the cards -
IT was in a Californian beach house, that the mystery of Tarot first appealed to Thomas Schick - or Major Tom as he is now known.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, a bored young Tom was exploring the cupboards in his grandparents' house as young children do, when he discovered a pack of Tarot cards and began asking questions.
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What were these beautifully-intricate playing cards, and what sort of game were you supposed to play with them?
He said: “I don't know how old I was, about seven or eight, something like that, when I discovered the cards. They kept me entertained for hours, just looking at the pictures.
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“I'm still learning about them today -that's part of the fascination for me.”
The mystic method of divination stayed with Tom through his days as an art teacher in the early 1970s, then in the US air force where he worked for 12 years and achieved the rank of major, responsible for discipline and morale.
After travelling the world he ended up at RAF Bentwaters, but when the air force scaled down after the Gulf War he settled in Framlingham in 1992.
He began studying the tarot in the early 1980s, aided and abetted by his mother and grandmother.
Today he reads the tarot online, via email, by phone, post and travels the county to meet people face-to-face - most want to know what their love lives hold. His clients span the world as knowledge of this ancient art grows, but the stigma of scepticism still exists.
Tom, 50, bills himself as East Anglia's leading tarot professional, adding: “I am one of the best in the world, I would go so far as to say I am as good as anyone in the world.”
He shows me the deck of continental-inspired cards he designed himself, which was voted in the top ten new decks released last year, at the 2005 Melbourne International Tarot Conference where he starred as a presenter, last summer. He is also a member of the Association of Tarot Studies.
Tom said: “I've wanted to design my own deck ever since that day in California. I took up a challenge I saw on the conference website, to design one card a week in the time running up to the conference.
“The original concept was to use people from my everyday life to portray the various characters in the deck. As I've gone along, I've found that some of the people in my everyday life are people I've only ever met online. At any given time, one of us will be experiencing what the cards show.”
Major Tom lives his life by these cards - he strives to give himself objective readings - so would they contain the answers I needed?
I had a host of questions, but as it turned out we only had time to address the first.
Essential oils smouldered in a stone oil burner shaped like an outstretched hand, and the lights were dimmed, as Major Tom looked me deep in the eyes.
He placed his precious cards in my untrained hand… and the worn edges told they had been much used.
He calculated my birth number by adding together the figures of my date of birth 2+8+5+1+9+7+4=36. 3+6=9), totalling nine.
After a bit of shuffling, I asked my question 'will my job change this year?' and cut the pack to get my first character card on the table. How could it relate to me, I wondered as the selection was completely random.
My heart sank when I saw 'the hermit' pictured on the card - does this mean I'm a billy-no-mates who never goes out?
Not at all, said Tom, who went on to describe a leader perched high on a mountain above the troops, who is ahead of the game and understands a situation before others catch on.
Oh well, that's slightly more flattering.
He added: “News will come through this person, they are also a messenger.” How very appropriate for a journalist.
Next Tom dealt five more cards, adding: “You know your job will change, you knew that before you asked the question.”
I denied this, because no changes have been discussed at work.
The first card he dealt was the Cavalier of Swords, which Tom said signified a person who rushes in and opens their mouth without thinking first, and makes rash decisions which they might live to regret.
Not me, I protested, but Tom suggested it could be someone at work. Forgive me if I don't mention any names!
Seven Cups was the next card. Tom said: “For me, this represents striving for perfection. Your job could change, you do have some control over the changes coming but there is confusion over which way you should go.”
Ten of Batons was next, which is a bit like dealing an ace. Tom said: “Lots of people will get stuck at this stage and never move forward into a new cycle. You are not sure how to move on or where to go next.
The Pope was my next card, who is sometimes seen as a teacher. Tom told me I needed to have faith in something bigger than myself. He quotes Homer Simpson as saying 'everybody needs something to believe in,' adding: “You need to believe you can make a difference in the world by doing what you are doing.”
The last card is the Ten of Coins. This card signifies generations, and sometimes represents a legacy. He said: “There is a long term answer here. Once you have discovered your belief in yourself, and the difference you can make, then you will end up leaving a legacy. This is pointing to successes which will be remembered.
“And it wouldn't surprise me to see children in the next year, certainly.”
Tom added a final few words of advice: “There are only two reasons to be alive, to have a good time, and to learn things. Whatever you are doing, wherever, it should be one of those things. If you're not, what's the point? It seems simplistic but I think it really is that simple.”
By now it had become clear. I had realised I had been mistaken to believe that the Tarot cards predict the future.
The cards had not told me what to do, which direction to take, or what would happen - for example the mention about children was interesting, but could just mean there are some in the family.
The message was that my destiny was in my own hands.
“Many people think the cards will tell what will happen to them, but it's not about finding out about the future,” said Tom. “The cards don't suggest your decisions, but they suggest what you need to look into - the responsibility lies with you.
“For me, the tarot is entirely about getting the information you need to produce the outcomes you desire.
“It all comes from within you - nothing foretold is set in stone.”
Ipswich Tarot Café is an event for people to pop in and find out more on February 12, from 12noon, with a short talk at 1pm. Entry by a suggested donation of £5, towards the Association for Tarot Studies.
Major Tom also runs a ten-week learn-to-read tarot class from February 27. Both events are at The Great White Horse Hotel, Tavern Street, Ipswich.
Does Tarot reading work for you? Or are you a cynic?
Write to Star Letters, the Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A divination system that uses a set of cards, to gain insight and achieve greater control over issues involving relationships, opportunities, and life changes.
Some of the Tarot symbols are thought to have originated in China, India or Egypt. Tarot cards date back to 15th century Spain, Italy and France, with archetypal roots that go back almost 2000 years.
A tarot deck consists of 78 cards that you lay out in any one of a number of spreads. Each card is symbolic of an energy or spiritual truth, its relevance depending upon its position in the spread.
A Tarot reading gives a snapshot of what is going on in the present. It can help you see aspects of a situation that have been invisible to you, and return insight and advice. Although it does reflect probabilities, it is not fortune-telling.
There are so many possible outcomes that tarot readers spend decades mastering the meanings of all the cards in all the different combinations.
Modern playing cards are derived from the Tarot.