‘It is a spiritual guide’ - meet the tarot reader in Highgate’s woods
- Credit: Cristina De Rossi
They may be organised by smart phone app these days, but arcane practices are taking place among the trees in Highgate. Mark Collinson went to learn about tarot in the 20th century.
Over the centuries, witchcraft, fortune telling and raising the dead have all been attributed to the tarot reading at one time or another.
The archaic practice remains popular in some quarters and, tucked away in Highgate, is the Tarot Forge of Cristina De Rossi.
Cristina says she does believe that some people are psychic but that not everyone develops those skills and, for her the tarot are a spriitual guide, helping you connect with your “higher self”.
Tarot cards have been around since the 14th century and gained popularity in Italy as a simple parlour game called trionfi (similar to modern Bridge), using hand-painted cards, often depicting Greek gods or of the four elements. The first suggestions that they were a force for evil came from the church, not because of occult activities, but because of their increasing use for gambling.
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As warring armies advanced across Europe at the end of the 15th century, tarot cards were introduced to new audiences, including in France and Switzerland, where lavish decks were crafted.
By 1789 Jean-Baptiste Alliette, known as ‘Etteilla’, produced the first deck designed with occult purposes in mind, and became the first occultist to make a living through the art of tarot reading and teaching.
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Swiss clergyman Antoine Court claimed tarot was derived from an ancient book of Egyptian arcane wisdom. Despite a lack of evidence to support this, it caught the public’s imagination, and a second book by Etteilla gave practical lessons on how the cards should be interpreted.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and Cristina told the Ham&High why the tarot hold a fascination for her.
“I use the tarot as a tool for self development, like self counselling,” she said. “It’s a journey, a spiritual path, and it fits in with my pagan lifestyle. I now want to share this with other people.”
She said she has studied the tarot for more than 20 years and she has been running workshops in Queen’s Wood.
“It is connected to a kind of spirituality. The symbolism is Christian, pagan, and comes from all kinds of traditions, it’s linked to the Golden Dawn, Hermeticism and many European esoteric traditions,” she said. “It borrows from different religions and symbolic systems, astrology, it is a melting pot of different traditions.”
She said Tarot reading in its modern form is intended more as a guide or signpost to events you may face during your lifetime. How you view the signs or how you interpret what you see comes down to you.
“It is a spiritual guide, I believe there is a higher self that you connect with through the tarot, your intuition, your higher conscientiousness, so you are your own guide.”
Cristina continues: “Some people are psychic, if you believe in that. I don’t use it that way because I don’t have those abilities. A psychic is someone who can connect with a different realm, or spirits. I do believe there are mediums, people who have a certain perception, like a sixth sense, I do believe we all have it, but it is not developed for all of us,” said Cristina.
The Tarot Forge holds regular workshops in Queen’s Wood, lasting approximately 3 hours with a charge of £5.00 per person.
“The people are really lovely, It is a nice group, it’s relaxing with a lot of storytelling and imagination, people find it very therapeutic,” says Cristina.