Monthly Archives: January 2012
Lost & Found in the Faery Realm of Nova Scotia
by Krista Schwimmer
In the mid 90’s, I found myself traveling to one of the most magical places in the world: Nova Scotia, Canada. Heart broken and lost at the time, I simply felt a deep desire to be near wild and rocky coast lines. A dear friend of mine, Ken Friedman, who I had met through Tibetan Buddhism, invited me to stay with him in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He told me later he laughed to himself when he saw how I had packed all my belongings in my car to “visit” him. He knew, even if I didn’t, that I was there to stay a while!
As soon as I arrived in Nova Scotia, I fell madly in love with the terrain. Once I settled my things with Ken, I traveled around on my own for a bit, heading up to the spectacular Cape Breton for a brief stay at Gampo Abbey. When I returned to Ken’s apartment in Halifax, I decided to go back to school and study marine biology at Dalhousie University. Although I went back to the United States one more time, I soon returned after checking with a relocation astrologer who confirmed that Nova Scotia was indeed the ideal place for me to pursue and obtain my dreams.
A year after my arrival, another student and good friend, Yvonne, took me with her to an interesting, pagan bookstore on Barrington Street. It was called Little Mysteries. One of the owners of the store, Vanessa Smith, held “Meet and Greet’s” after hours for the local pagan community. Michael and I met each other at one of these, and soon, started dating. From the very beginning, we got along, sharing a lot of similar passions such as philosophy, nature, and anything Celtic. A waitress in a restaurant even thought we had been married for quite some time. Oddly, too, when I was in my 20’s, I loved that Joni Mitchell song, “Michael from Mountains.” Somehow, I got the notion that I would marry my own Michael from mountains. I even deliberately looked out for a man named Michael in my 20’s; but soon, gave up on the idea when other men came in my life. Later, when I told Michael this story, he said he had actually lived on a hill when he was a child.
When I first met Michael, he had been studying the tarot on his own for almost a year. In fact, on our first date at the Granite Brewery, alongside an incredible plate of steamed mussels with garlic and a home brewed lager, he proceeded to give me a reading. Although I don’t recall the details, I do remember thinking he was the first person who had ever given me a decent tarot card reading. Tarot is a divination tool readily available. As a result, I find that many people don’t really get to know the tool itself; or, if they do, they use a one dimensional and even, overly literal approach to it. Although self-taught, I could tell Michael had a natural ability with the cards.
Michael decided to test out his abilities on strangers. So, he advertised that he was an apprentice tarot card reader needing to practice his skills on others – for free. The first call he received was from a woman going through a divorce. Reluctantly, Michael agreed to do the reading. Much to his relief, the woman called back and canceled the appointment. He thought surely he would start with something easier than a divorce.
The next call he got was from an Arabic man whose whole family had been cursed by someone who did this for a living. In our culture, when people come to see us thinking they have been cursed, we have found this largely to be in the person’s imagination only. There are cultures, however, where it is woven into their beliefs in the same way possession is for the Catholics. Although we do not personally remove curses or even ethically agree with the exorbitant charges some readers charge to do this, we will on occasion look into the situation to see if there is really a curse on the person or not. Of course, when Michael put himself publicly out as an apprentice reader, he had no idea he would be presented with such a heavy situation right away. Still, he decided to meet the man and see what he could do to help him.
While Michael did his reading, me and some of his friends waited for him at Moca, a local coffee shop in Halifax. After two hours, he arrived. He said they had loved his reading. Apparently, he had faced his fear quite well.
That was one of the first lessons we learned as professional readers: whatever fear you may have about doing readings, the universe will immediately conjure it up for you to face.
Michael decided to take a chance as a professional, tarot reader; I jumped in, deciding to compliment him by working beside him doing readings with the Medicine Cards, a Native American system developed by Jamie Sams and David Carson. I was still in school part time; but I was beginning to feel the cost of education was too much for me. I did not want to end up with a student loan debt I could never repay!
We decided upon the Mystic Raven for our business name, as we are both great fans of the intelligent and magnificent corvids. The only place we could find to do the readings was a table at a nearby mall. It was a lot of money for us at the time just to rent – $500 a month. We took the table and began our business, sitting there from the time the mall opened to the time it closed, six days a week. One reading included first a medicine card reading with me; then a tarot card reading with Michael. I will never forget what I thought when I had my first paying client: what in God’s name am I going to talk about to this stranger for more than 10 minutes?
In just a few weeks, due to the tarot’s popularity, we realized that I would need to read it as well if we were going to make a proper living. Besides, I was already beginning to fall in love with the tarot as a unique and accurate system. So, I literally learned what Michael knew in less than a month. Granted, I had a heavy background in metaphysics, having studied numerology, astrology, and other subjects since I was 17. I also already had a strong, natural intuition and an empathic nature. Still, it is not something I would recommend to most people. I recall that even my dreams reflected the intensity of the process: one I remember being about brain surgery. Another time, I found myself waking up with my leg in the position of the hanged man.
Our business took off there in the Halifax mall. We gained a public reputation strong enough to get the attention of Vanessa Smith at Little Mysteries. She invited us to read there, which we happily agreed to do. There, Michael easily found his stride as a reader. Indeed, he was the more popular of the two of us. My turn was later – though I do remember impressing a woman on a cruise ship so much that she returned with most everyone else on the ship!
After the birth of our tarot business, Michael and I decided to be hand-fasted. We picked the Summer Solstice for our wedding day; then changed it to the day before as the weather looked like it was going to rain, and we were having an outdoor hand-fasting at the secluded Bear Cove. The rain followed our day anyway – though it stayed dry enough for the ceremony itself.
We also worked at the Halifax waterfront, using cloth covered boards as our lap tables. Beside multimillion dollar yachts and tall ships like the Bluenose II, we did non-stop $10 readings often until the wee hours. I remember one woman I read for there, first asked to look at my palm. I held it up for her to see. She simply nodded, and then agreed to get a reading from me. Evidently, in her mind, I had the necessary marks!
One of our favorite times to read at the waterfront was during the annual Halifax International Busker Festival in August. This 11 day festival showcases the world’s top street performance artists right alongside the Halifax waterfront. More than 500,000 visitors come through for this amazing event. Although not officially open to tarot card readers, somehow, me, Michael, and our friend, Shane, (who saved our hides by letting us sleep on his couch for free several months) were welcomed.
Although we were building up steady clients and a great reputation in Halifax, Michael thought we should test our talents on a larger scale. On October 29th, 1997, we packed Michael’s Suzuki Sidekick with two crates of books, two suitcases, a tent, blankets, one pillow, a Coleman stove, music for the road, a bit of dirty laundry, and both of my bow and arrows. We had only $500 to our name. Our destination was California, where both my parents lived. We thought our journey would be short – 6 months to a year. We never dreamed we would end up living in Los Angeles for over 14 years. I suppose some of it was my fault. Once, playfully, I had told Michael that I was going to read for the stars! I meant nothing by it– in fact, I am one of the least star struck people you will ever meet. Still, I had spoken it out loud; the universe had heard.
Before we left Halifax, our friends gave us a warm send off, blessing us with a CD compilation of Celtic music for the road, a medicine bag of crystals to protect us, and hearty farewells. We were like the Fool in the tarot: eager for the adventure, trusting of the world, and completely oblivious to the pitfalls ahead.
One of the last memories I have of leaving Canada, was later that night when we drove through St. John’s, New Brunswick. It was raining lightly; the air reeked from the local paper processing factories. I looked out the passenger window and saw what I first thought was a dog. As I looked more closely, I realized it was a beautiful, red fox. I felt relieved: though we were leaving behind the Faerie Land of Nova Scotia, Magic was trotting along right beside us.