From a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony to a hand poured Chemex, brewing coffee demands a ritual. Although the aforementioned processes appear superficially different they are fundamentally similar in that careful steps are followed to set ourselves up for a sensory experience—to be intimate with, delight in, and fueled by what we have created. Just like brewing coffee, reading tarot cards inspires a ritual. Clearing the deck, shuffling the cards, and carefully placing them into formation allows the reader to ingest and translate their symbols. The resulting themes and ideas have the power to reveal, caution, and inspire. In essence, if we allow them to, the rituals of coffee and tarot can propel us forward.
Earlier this week I had the unique opportunity to participate in a coffee and tarot ritual with Rizz. Formerly a barista, Rizz has since built a career as a substance abuse harm reduction worker, helping rehabilitate pregnant and parenting women. When she's not engaged in social work, Rizz is busy investing in her passion project, Qveen of Swords Tarot—a tarot reading business in Toronto's west end.
Rizz kindly invited me into her cosy kitchen, brewed up a french press of Pilot Coffee's Guatemala El Milagro, and we sat at her table to talk about what brought her to tarot, the wisdom of the cards, and her affection for coffee. To know Rizz is a gift. She is a force—a strong and generous spirt—and I am thrilled she took some time out to share a little bit about herself and Qveen of Swords Tarot.
tLBCC: What compelled you to begin studying tarot?
Last year was such a difficult year for me. I felt like my whole world was crumbling around me and I felt lost and unsure of myself. I needed somewhere to put my energy. I needed something I could pour myself into. I have been reading cards for years for myself and friends but never really went beyond the little book that comes with the decks. I always knew the cards brought me a sense of wonder and peace and I was curious if I could go deeper. After struggling through a hard time I really felt like I needed to do something that was just for myself—a space I could go to every week and devote time and energy into learning and healing. After the first class I was totally hooked and my thirst for wanting to know more only grew as time went on. I completed my first 12 week course in Tarot and and am currently in the second level of that course.
tLBCC: What kind of cards do you use? Can you tell us a little bit about the history of these cards?
I use the classic Rider Waite Deck because that is the deck I learned on in my Tarot class. The Rider Waite has so much imagery and symbolism that is easier to read when looking for consistency within the cards. The Rider Waite deck has been around since the 1900's and is one of the most widely used decks. I have started collecting other decks as well like the Wild Unknown Tarot Deck because I love the art, but in readings I always go back to my Rider Waites.
tLBCC: What is one of the most surprising things you’ve learned since you started studying tarot?
I would say how complex it is. Using numerology, symbolism, consistency within the cards, the elements, suits, hierarchy and statuses. Its very complex! Which makes sense but I don't think I was aware of just how much goes into each card and card pairings. Each card is read based on so many factors and then adding your own intuition. Each card can have many different meanings depending on the other cards in the spread and always relates back to what the question was to read it effectively. I was also surprised at myself—through practice my own intuition has grown and I am trusting in that process.
tLBCC: You began your working life as a barista and transitioned into social work. On top of your day job, you recently started a tarot business. Are there any common themes in your careers of choice?
I would say number one is being an active listener. I have an ability to just sit with people where they are at and show empathy and be in the moment with them. I admire human resiliency and the strength that comes from sharing our stories with others, with building a community, and having support through any type of situation that can be happening for you. I'm a professional problem solver in a way. When I started off as a barista I loved the connection that I had with people—listening to them talk about their lives and their day. I felt like I was building something within those relationships that was genuine and community based. As a social worker I feel the same way, my job is listening and supporting women in many different roles, but it's that human connection that keeps me going in my day to day. We are all just people with different social locations trying our best to become our best selves. Since starting my own tarot business I feel so connected to the person I am doing a reading for in the moment. We have this rare plot of time that we are truly present and I can feel connected so strongly to someone I've, in some cases, never met before. I'm a big believer in finding your voice, in community, and in having people around you who truly listen and value what you have to say. I am lucky to be able to give that to people.
tLBCC: Who is a good candidate for a tarot card reading?
I feel like most of the people who seek me out really are looking for clarity around a specific situation or person. The cards can act as a guide to show you different paths and avenues to take with what is in question. They can show what actions are necessary for a favorable outcome. I also have individuals just seeking guidance in their day to day and that totally works as well! I think being open and receptive to different ways of being and acting is ideal. I think being open and willing to work towards what you are seeking is effective. Having the ability to be receptive to what the cards are telling you and then putting that into action will help you get the most out of your tarot reading.
tLBCC: What is the most rewarding part about reading someone’s tarot cards?
Honestly, for me the most rewarding part is having everything else in my day disappear the moment the reading starts. It's truly magical to read for someone and be completely in awareness and in the actual moment. I also love those moments when the person is really resonating with what I am saying and I know we are on the right track together.
tLBCC: Do you read your own cards? If so, how often? And, how do you find that reading your tarot cards helps you in your life?
I do read my own cards regularly. I would say almost daily. I find it increasingly difficult to read for myself though because I know too much about what is happening in my own life. I do look to the cards for guidance and to see how my day will unfold but for any complex issues I turn to my tarot community for a reading!
tLBCC: What would you say to someone who is skeptical of tarot?
I think its normal to be skeptical of the unknown. I was somewhat skeptical when I first started too. I think all you can do is be open to other mediums and ways of thinking and the proof is in the cards.
tLBCC: In your Qveen of Swords Instagram bio you identify yourself as queer. Why is it important for you to disclose your queer identity on social media? Do you feel that tarot fosters inclusivity? If so, how?
I really want my tarot service to be inclusive to all peoples. Throughout my own experiences I can say that safe spaces are invaluable and necessary. I want my clients to know that their tarot readings will be in a safe space and that I am a safe person to connect with in that way. As a queer person, I really want to focus my brand on other members of the LGBTQ community as well as allies of this community. I also need to make my business space safe for myself when dealing with strangers. I am a member of that community and I need folks to understand who I am.
Although the cards have genders assigned to them I really read them as gender non conforming and representative of many different types of peoples. I think there is room for growth around queer tarot as well as queer materials for us to build into our community. There is always room for improvement and growth and I hope to be a small part of that. I recently found some queer tarot decks that are so inspiring!! On my list of things to get!!
tLBCC: What is your favorite coffee shop in Toronto? And, why?
I love Tucana Coffee on Dundas West. It has been a staple for me since it came to the neighborhood. The coffee is on point and the owner is such a good person. Everyone that works there is so friendly and it has been such a good community spot. I also frequent Capitol Espresso in Parkdale and have recently started going to Safehouse Coffee on Dundas West.
tLBCC: When you are in the comfort of your home, how do you brew and take your coffee?
I use a French press and have a collection of different mugs that were either given to me or that I've managed to gather over the years. I drink it usually with a splash of almond milk and I'm good to go. I love coffee and drink so much of it!!
tLBCC: Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to someone interested in learning how to read tarot?
I would say if you are interested to start with an intro class. I went to one at The Rock Store in the Annex and that's really where my obsession started!! Take a class and practice as much as possible. I still continue to practice and study daily. There is always more to learn and room for growth.