Lafayette is a hub in Louisiana that is heavily influenced by Catholicism. Lafayette is painted white with a Catholic and conservative ideology, and natives to the city have trouble seeing the abnormality in the Catholic icons and enormous cathedrals looming over every corner.
Despite the overwhelming conservative outlook, there is a growing population of residents who utilize the occult to embrace the mystical side of Louisiana’s heritage. One popular practice among Lafayette residents is tarot card readings.
Tarot card reading dates back to Italy around 1445, and the cards were originally children’s playing cards. Tarot reading is different in every culture and has many different origin stories. For example, in Ancient Egypt, tarot cards were believed to have been handed down by the Egyptian god of wisdom.
Though many believe that the practice is demonic, it is generally used for guidance and acceptance of the realities that are set before the readers. Readers use this practice as a means of understanding the world and particular life situations through their intuition for themselves and their clients.
Take a closer look into the process of a tarot reading.
The first step in a tarot reading is the shuffle. The client shuffles the cards however they see fit, and carefully consider what part of their life they want clarified. This process can take as long as one minute to one hour and can be on any topic.
Next, the reader deals the cards in the order that the deck was cut. Without altering the original lineup of the cards, the reader groups the cards together in separate groups that they believe work together to form a symbolic idea that represents either an event, an action or a feeling.
Lastly, the reader and the client discuss what the cards mean, the symbolism behind everything and the overall message the reader can decipher from the context of the client’s situation.
“When I read the cards, I look at the colors, the content and the numbers,” said Elizabeth Sonnier as her hands softly grazed a large stack of long, experienced cards in a dimly lit, bustling cafe in the late afternoon. “If you’re in the mindset of skepticism, what you’ll get is skeptical answers.”
Sonnier, a local astrologist, tarot card reader and educator, sat in a bright, bustling cafe with 15 brightly colored, elaborately decorated cards spread out before her. She sipped a coffee out of a ceramic mug as she walked through the process of the readings. A few people stopped to ask whether she has business cards or a personal website. One woman interjected the reading to recount the times her high school friend would read her cards in her youth.
Sonnier began reading tarot cards in 2007. She taught herself how to read and interpret them with a book she bought from a thrift store and loved the trade ever since. The historical significance of Louisiana’s mystical and powerful history was one of Sonnier’s inspirations for teaching herself to read tarot cards. She admitted that she hid her interest from others for years in order to spare her reputation.
“People already thought I was crazy,” said Sonnier. “I didn’t want to exacerbate it,”
Within the past decade, the hard line between progressive and conservative beliefs on tarot reading has faded and these practices have become a frequent practice of the youth of Lafayette.
Sonnier has a business as a professional tarot reader and is known as In Tune Tarot. She said her clientele’s demographic is anyone and everyone.
Another tarot reader in Lafayette is Eve Zaunbrecher. Zaunbrecher is a historian who grew up in a Catholic household in Acadiana. When she was in college, she started reading tarot cards for fun. Now, it is a lifestyle she chooses to uphold.
“The first time [I got my cards read] was in New Orleans. It was about five years ago, and it was like a $20 confidence boost,” said Zaunbrecher. “Ever since then, I kinda just kept rolling with it.”
Zaunbrecher began reading in 2017 and currently lives by her trade. She believes the practice and it helps others understand and cope with the various twists and turns of life. Zaunbrecher said she uses astrology and the aspects of the planets’ location to get a more precise interpretation of her readings. In a bent, tattered leather notebook, she has a record of every tilt and location of planets from the moment she was born. She uses these figures to clarify the messages from the cards.
“The cards are a journey, and it’s always toward growth,” said Zaunbrecher. “I think it’s comforting to tell people that no matter where you are, you’re not going to stay there forever. Everything is cyclical.”
Delaney Miller is another tarot reader in Lafayette and is a junior-level visual arts major at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Miller is from Shreveport, Louisiana, and has been reading since she was in high school. Growing up in a heavily Baptist community, Miller said the stigma behind tarot reading is less enforced in Shreveport than it is in Lafayette.
“Not everyone believed in it, but they were much more open back home,” said Miller. “I noticed more people are getting into it here, which is refreshing.”
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is one of the few public college campuses to have a Catholic church on site, the dogma of the Catholic culture still rests within the city.
According to Rev. Clinton Sensat, a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, said the trend of tarot reading and the appreciation of the occult in Lafayette are only temporary.
“The growth of interest in the occult shows that man’s religious impulse can never be smothered, just misdirected,” said Sensat, “The occult is to religion as quackery is to scientific medicine.”
Though the trend has seen criticism, tarot reading is slowly becoming a common practice in Lafayette’s community. It is unknown whether it is going to keep diversifying the city or fall short of becoming anything more than a trend.
The cards and their meanings from a personal reading.