So, Philly Is Kind of Obsessed with Tarot Cards and Astrology Right Now
This is how “Hey, what’s your sign?” went from creepy to cool in Philly.
For journalists, it’s always a little startling when an interviewee asks the interviewer a personal question. When this happened to me a few months ago, it was doubly strange, because the restaurant owner I was interviewing asked me — of all questions — my sign. She then went on to explain why hers (she’s an empathetic Pisces) made her especially suited for the hospitality industry. A month later, another interviewee brought up her sign, unprompted. Both mentions were dropped as matter-of-factly as if the speakers had told me they had two brothers or grew up in South Carolina.
It started happening with friends, too. At happy hour, over coffee, after a workout — everyone was talking about horoscopes and tarot decks. As the season changed, acquaintances on Instagram started using #VirgoSeason instead of #fall. After I had a tiff on the phone with my passionate, temperamental sister — an Aries, obviously — she said, “Sorry I overreacted. I’m a fire sign.” A pal in Delco disclosed that she recently started pulling daily tarot cards for stress relief.
There’s evidence of Philly’s over-the-moon obsession for all things astrological everywhere. Chic boutiques like Moon + Arrow and Ritual Ritual are carrying zodiac jewelry, smudge sticks, and energy crystals. Popular yoga studios Palo Santo in East Passyunk and Studio 34 in West Philly now host regular tarot circles — meetups where attendees collaboratively hash out the personal meaning of pulled cards. Local lifestyle influencer — and GOOD Festival co-founder — Kate Van Horn, a self-described “yoga teacher, blogger, and multi-passionate entrepreneur,” recently posted her well-manicured hands gripping a flower-strewn smudge stick.
So when did hardscrabble Philly get so far out, man? While we’re no L.A., as I look back, I can see how millennials’ newfound “spirituality” slowly rolled down I-76: Between an unceasing obsession with yoga, an increasing number of wholesome eateries, and all those newly popular meditation studios and sensory deprivation tanks, we’re a bunch that’s obviously in search of something.
Mystical celeb — yes, that’s a thing — Jessica Dore, a Philly-based behavioral scientist and tarot-card reader with a serious internet following, explains that “magic” aside, practices like these often function as therapeutic tools for reflection, not unlike taking a turn on a shrink’s couch — without having to go through insurance. But the supernatural intrigue doesn’t hurt, either. “We have an enduring need to connect with the unknown — something larger than us,” Dore says.
I can see that. But the desire might be even more obvious. Mama’s Wellness Joint in Midtown Village hosts a monthly tarot reading with local tarot-card reader Jessi Huntenburg, who describes it as “a psycho-spiritual tool that’s used to heal, reveal, guide, and clarify,” with the promise that you’ll “gain insight into a situation or concern that’s causing you confusion.” Maybe it shouldn’t be so shocking that we’re looking for answers in increasingly unconventional places during these unprecedented times.
But mostly, mysticism is just plain fun — and something to talk about that doesn’t ignite political and cultural arguments. As an intense Scorpio, that’s exactly what I need these days.
Published as “The Age of Aquarius Redux” in the October 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.