Cameron Ayers is the founder of The Tarot Parlor, a business offering Tarot services. We talked to the Portland native recently about his beginnings with Tarot and what made him decide to turn his passion into a business.
You mentioned on your website that you had a religious upbringing and Tarot and divination in general was not encouraged. Our artist, Rosario Salerno, had a similar experience growing up. Do you think you would have been drawn to it when you were younger if it was not forbidden?
I have always had an affinity for cards. Something about the medium really works for me. As a kid I collected cards, both trading cards and playing cards. I had tons. I just loved looking at the images and the feel of the cards in my hands. I grew up in a conservative religious household where any type of magick or divination was considered “of the Devil” and a one-way ticket to eternal damnation, so strictly forbidden. That meant that tarot wasn’t an option back then and it actually took me years of religious de-conditioning before I felt comfortable picking up a deck, but if it had been allowed, I absolutely would have been drawn to tarot as a kid.
How did you originally become acquainted with Tarot?
I was vaguely aware of tarot for most of my life because I would see a neon signs for tarot readers on a street corner or notice a tarot reader at fairs and festivals, but since tarot wasn’t allowed in my house growing up, it wasn’t until 2011 that I actually started to familiarize myself with the system. I was living in a large communal queer house in California at the time and one of my house-mates had a couple tarot decks. It was the first time I had known anyone who used tarot. I was still a little nervous about engaging with tarot because of the conditioning I had received growing up, but my curiosity eventually overcame my fear and I asked my house-mate is I could look at some of their decks and I even got a reading from them. A couple months later my partner gifted me with my first deck, The Collective Tarot. I clicked with it immediately and I started devouring any resources I could find on learning tarot; books, blogs, You Tube videos, you name it. Six Months after that I started my blog, The Tarot Parlor, because I wanted to write about tarot as I learned, and share my experiences working with tarot. Then two years after I started the blog, I launched The Tarot Parlor, where I offer reading services.
What made you decide to start offering reading services?
I tend to approach life with an entrepreneurial eye, I have always been that way, ever since I was a kid. I started my first business when I was 8 or 9 years old, selling baked goods to neighbours, so I just tend to turn all my hobbies into businesses if I can. In terms of tarot, I realized that I really enjoyed doing readings for others and the people who I read for told me that my readings were super helpful, so it seemed natural that it should develop from a hobby into a business. I knew I was ready to make the jump when several of my friends, who read professionally themselves, assured me that my readings were professional caliber.
How did you make the transition from a passion to a business?
Because I have an entrepreneurial mind, I was already running my tarot blog like a business years before I actually started offering tarot services. I was already thinking about web presence and branding, doing networking, utilizing social media, building community, etc., so logistically there wasn’t actually much of a transition for me.
What is your relationship with Tarot, what does it mean to you? When do you use it the most in your life?
For me, tarot is first and foremost a tool. I use it most often for personal development and to help me plan and troubleshoot my life. So If I have a project that I want to tackle and I’m looking for guidance on how best to proceed I’ll pull a couple cards to see what steps I need to take next. If a situation is confusing or overwhelming me and I could benefit from some clarity or a fresh perspective, I’ll do a reading. If I’m going through a tough time I’ll use tarot to look at what lessons I can take from the experience and how I can grow from it. Stuff like that.
Also, since I’m a writer too, I like to use tarot to inspire my creative writing. Sometimes I’ll pull some cards to dig deeper into aspects of my character’s personality or their back-story. I also like to lay out a spread to explore potential plot arches for my story, or to see where certain plot points might lead. I actually did a series of blog posts last year about using tarot for writing.
Have you found a Tarot community in Portland?
I have found an amazing tarot community here in Portland. My friend Lisa Moon Cat (lisamooncat.com) runs the group Portland Tarot Learners. We have a monthly tarot meet-up and it always brings in an incredible group of people of all experience levels. We usually spend the first half of the meet-up talking about a tarot related topic and then we break off into groups and read for each other. It’s a lot of fun and it’s how I made most of my friends when I first moved here three years ago. Portland is also home of the Northwest Tarot Symposium (nwtarotsymposium.com) which is being held this year March 4th-6th. It’s really exciting having such a big event so close to home. There are also a lot of metaphysical shops and teachers in the area who offer classes on reading tarot and other metaphysical disciplines. All of these different resources makes Portland a really incredible place to read tarot and to find other folks who are interested in tarot.
Do you think the Tarot scene in Portland is different to other parts of the United States?
I would say so. Portland is a weird, quirky city where people are really open to alternative lifestyles. Folks here are also very much into community building and networking. Because of these things, it is the perfect environment for a tarot community to flourish.
Do you collect decks? If so what are your favourite?
I do have a bit of a collection, I think maybe 18 or 20 decks at this point. I have a couple favourites. Right now I’m using The Antiquarian Tarot the most. It’s an independently created deck by Maree Bento (divinemuses.net/tarot) who is a local reader here in Portland. I feature a lot of images of that deck on my website. I love it. I also love the Smith-Waite Centennial Edition Deck, The Collective Tarot, The Tarot Illuminati and The Deviant Moon Tarot.
Do you have a special relationship with any specific cards?
I have a special bond with The Hermit. As an introvert and a seeker, I identify with his archetype most strongly. For me he represents the value of solitude and walking a solitary path. Also, I see him as a symbol of living authentically and breaking from the mainstream. He’s gone off in search of his own truth, his own way of being. He trusts his inner light to guide him and allows that inner light to shine for whoever else might need a little illumination. I find his message very comforting and encouraging because often I feel that there is no room for me, the queer solitude loving introvert, in such a normative extroverted world. The Hermit reminds me that there is, and that following in his footsteps is a sacred path.