Tarot Cards rock in Hollywood

Chicago, IL: They warned James Bond of foul play in Live and Let Die, haunted the dreams of a priest in Exorcist III, and foretold toothy canine encounters in The Wolf Man” This summer they turn up as calling cards for a serial killer in Woody Allen’s Scoop, and spell catastrophe for William H. Macy in Edmond. Yes, the tarot, that bedeviling deck of cards continues its legacy as Hollywood’s favorite prop and plot device for all things eerie. But according to Paul Quinn, author of the forthcoming book, “Intuitive Conversations with Life: Tarot for Insight, Guidance and Growth,” the cards’ creepy image is undeserved.

“There are seventy-eight cards in the tarot deck, and it’s the few scary-looking ones that get all the exposure,” says Quinn. He notes that in promotional posters for Scoop, actor Hugh Jackman holds a Death card depicting a black helmeted skeleton charging forward with a giant scythe. “Taken at face value the Death card screams of danger and demise — a perfect movie visual,” he says. “But in the true tarot tradition it symbolizes not physical death but the letting go of anything that gets in the way of spiritual growth.”

In Scoop, a card called The Hanged Man is found alongside the body of a murder victim. With its formidable name and unsettling image — a man hung by his foot, arms bent behind him — the card’s niche in Hollywood horror and suspense films seems assured. But from Quinn’s perspective, the card is far from frightening. “The Hanged Man represents experiences that require us to surrender control and develop humility and patience,” says Quinn. “There are times we all feel ‘hung up’ by circumstances, as if our hands were tied behind our backs. But the images in the tarot are symbolic in intent, not literal.”

Asked to identify a movie that presents the tarot in a less sensational way, Quinn cites the 1998 film The Red Violin. In that film, tarot cards predict events befalling the owners of a violin across the span of three hundred years and several continents. “Though the deeper meanings of the cards weren’t explored, they were presented in a poetic, intuitive way,” he says, “without the atmosphere of pending doom you see in other movies.”

Despite the cards’ predominantly dark role in filmdom, their popularity among the public has never been greater. Stuart Kaplan is founder and owner of U.S. Games Systems, which claims 75-80% of the tarot card market. “In 1970 there were three tarot decks available,” says Kaplan. “Since then, sixteen-hundred have been produced.”
Quinn believes movies and television may play a significant role in the increased interest in the tarot. “People see the tarot in movies and in shows like Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even though it’s shown in a dark context, it captures their imagination. They want to know what these mysterious looking cards are all about.”

A Chicago-based reader and teacher of the tarot, Quinn says most of his students come to the first class with equal amounts of fear and fascination. “I make it my mission to take the terror out of the tarot, but not the mystery,” he says. Indeed, the original intent of these cards just may be an esoteric mystery reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code.

When the tarot first appeared, in 15th century Italy, it was enjoyed exclusively as an aristocratic gambling game. But according to Quinn, esoteric scholars believe the decks may have been devised to conceal and transmit mystical concepts about spiritual transformation in dangerous defiance of Church teachings. Heresies hidden within a frivolous deck of playing cards. Adds Quinn, “Now that would be a good movie.”

Recently listed by Chicago Magazine as a “top talent,” Paul Quinn is a professional intuitive with an international clientele, and is author of the forthcoming book Intuitive Conversations with Life: Tarot for Insight, Guidance and Growth.

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