For this week’s Tarot Talk, we hit up one of New York City’s coolest tarot readers, Anna Toonk, to enlighten us on all things tarot, what it’s like working as a healer in NYC, and how the Akashic Records changed her life as a reader.
Tell us how were you first called to Tarot! I had tarot decks as a teenager but was totally confused about it—I basically just used them as a way to build mystique and zero self-inquiry. About 5 years ago, I became way more interested in everything mystical, and tarot kept coming up for me. I had a tarot reading and a big message that came through was: Until I made my peace with my intuition, I wouldn’t make complete sense to myself. It really stopped me in my tracks. I went to therapy, I strove to understand and accept myself, but there was still this big piece I was unsure about—and I had no real reason why. Deciding to really trust and believe in your intuition is scary, but tarot was definitely the way I waded in. I was finally like, “OK, let me claim this intuitive piece and let me study tarot.” I did a deep dive, one-on-one mentoring with Lindsay Mack and it all sort of took off from there. I became 100% fully obsessed and immersed with tarot. I was reading any book I could get my hands on, reading for anyone who would let me, and just falling madly in love with tarot. I started reading tarot full-time about a year and a half ago, so I’ve been reading tarot for 4 years now. It’s weird because I’m definitely new to tarot, but I am not new to being highly intuitive or psychic. Having this tool to make sense of all this stuff I “knew” but had no way to communicate how, or explain, has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Tarot exploded my life—I left a 15+ year career in television for it—but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
I feel like I see you using the Motherpeace more than any other deck—why are you so called to this deck, what importance does it hold for you, and how long have you been using it for? The Motherpeace deck definitely speaks the most clearly to me. It’s tricky with this deck because of cultural appropriation—I’ve also heard it be described as a relic of another time, and I agree with that. It’s a deck made by two white women in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, referencing a whole lot of people and cultures that are not their own. It feels grounded in a positive intent, however I don’t know what it’s place is in modern society now, or if it has one. My mom is an artist and art historian, so I grew up mostly abroad and obsessed with history, and this deck felt really familiar to me for those reasons. I saw imagery I really connected to from art, mythology, and other cultures—so it felt like a way to connect to the universal human experience, which is a lot of what tarot is.
What other decks do you love working with? How many decks do you own? I don’t think I have ever counted all of my tarot decks out of fear of knowing the actual number! I would guess I have 20+ and yet I am always like, “Ooooh, let me take a peek at that one…” [laughs]. Other decks I read with are the Serpentfire, Small Spells, Crow Magick, The Tarot of Crystals and Gemstones, Spirit Speak, Slutist Tarot, and Holly Simple Tarot. I don’t use a ton of oracle decks in readings for clients, but I love them for my own practice—Marcella Kroll’s Sacred Symbols deck, the Minimalist Oracle, The Tantric Dakini oracle, and Vessel deck are some of my favorites when I need to shake myself a little out of my brain and just get into my feels. I love them for what’s a message my heart needs to receive right now.
As a tarot reader, how do you feel about the rise of the DIY deck movement happening nowadays from independent artists who are self-creating and self-publishing their own decks? I LOVE IT. Tarot is such a powerful tool for creative self expression. I love the rise of indie decks. I wish there was more support behind it so people didn’t have to carry the whole financial burden, but I love that people are still doing it. In general, I super support whenever creative people have the attitude of like, “I’m sick of waiting for opportunity—let me just create it myself.” Tarot decks have been traditionally very white and hetero normative, so I love seeing decks coming out that are more representative of people’s individual identities. Tarot is such a powerful way for people to feel seen and like their experience has been reflected back to them, and decks should mirror this. There’s a lot of gatekeeping in magical and mystical practices and I love that the rise of the DIY movement is directly challenging that. Who says you can’t make a deck your way, in your voice, using your imagery? There is no tarot police, but I think it’s easy to be looking over your shoulder waiting for someone to say you can’t do that, you know?
Would you ever create your own deck? I would love to create my own tarot deck someday! Humor and art are two things that really guide me as a person and as a reader. I haven’t totally cracked how I would combine these things visually, but I make collages of how certain cards make me feel. Sometimes I think I would love to make an oracle deck because those are so deeply personal and you can feel that intention when you are using them. It feels like there is more freedom in that vulnerability.
How do you feel about the migration of Tarot readings in social media? Do you think this is a positive shift in the community, or is it oversaturing the art of Tarot? I give a lot of credit to people who give daily readings for the collective—it’s a lot of work, I don’t know how they do it. I think it’s great that people are showing their practice, card pulls, and spreads. It’s overall really positive, and it’s a great way to put yourself out there, learn more, and connect to the community. However, I do see a lot of readings out there that I am like, “I don’t know...that’s not how I define or experience that card at all.” Are they wrong? Hard to say, maybe they’re just not a reader I would ever see, or they learned tarot 3 minutes ago so they’re learning—we all just have a different lens. It’s a good challenge in just, meaning, because I disagree, it doesn’t mean that either one of us is wrong. The only downsides are people feel a pressure to go from being a student to a professional at a really unnatural pace and that concerns me—like, people feeling like they have to Instagram their tarot a certain way to be legit. I am pro letting yourself find whatever your visual voice is. The tone people adopt online sometimes makes me uncomfortable, it feels a bit too all knowing. On a personal note, I also find it a little boring. I mean I love tarot and find it fascinating, but how many photos of tarot cards can one see? I want to know more about the reader to understand the lens their reading is coming through. I value the democracy of tarot, it is for everyone, anyone can learn it, so anyone should be able to post about it—but it does seem to invite a fair amount of posturing and ego that I could live without. But I also try to subscribe to philosophy that there are a million different readers for a million different people, so I do like seeing that reflected.
What card(s) are you currently in right now? The Emperor and Queen of Wands keep following me around these days. I get their messages: the Emperor is like, “Come on, build those foundations and get the order in place to let the magic of the Queen of Wands flow!” Running a business is hard, it’s a constant balance between order and creativity. I am in a big phase of learning where I need stability in order to support my creativity. The 9 of Cups also keeps being like, “Hey girl hey,” which I am grateful for. We could all use the reminder to wish more, or to know what we really deeply desire in our hearts. It’s a nice reminder to take a pause and ask myself, “What do I really want?”
I feel like a lot of Tarot readers use Tarot for healing—what kind of healing do you do with Tarot and what does Tarot as a healing tool mean to you? Having my internal voice and intuition validated was hugely transformative and healing for me. It really set into motion that being myself really authentically and shrugging off a lot of the stuff I had internalized that did not belong to me. I use tarot more as a tool for self-acceptance. It’s a way to sort of look at everything without judgment or shame and be like, “OK, how do we work with this? How do I get where I want to go?” I also think whenever you are in a situation—no matter how smart, intuitive, or whatever you are—it’s confusing. Tarot is the best way I have found to achieve clarity on what the situation actually is, since it balances emotion and pragmatism if you’re willing to receive and see it.
What is the best advice you have for anyone out there just getting into Tarot? The biggest thing is to have patience. People get really frustrated if they haven’t mastered the cards super quickly. You are starting a much larger thing into motion, and learning tarot can be super triggering because it is a tool for self-reflection—so tread lightly with yourself. Don’t try to be a tarot master in 30 seconds or less, it will just keep you from really learning. I teach a lot of tarot and my two big pieces of advice are 1. Make flashcards of the cards, yes this sounds nuts but just writing the name of the card, and then on the other side a few keywords. Go through these everyday or whenever you can. Make two piles: the ones you know and the ones that it takes you more than a minute or so to remember their meaning. Learning tarot is a blend of memorizing the cards, and dispelling self-doubt. This exercise helps lessen the anxiety around learning the cards so your intuition can speak up a little more loudly. 2. Do daily card pulls for yourself, and ask 1-3 friends if you can do a daily card pull for them for a set period of time. I suggest 3 months, so you can see in yourself and someone else how the cards play out. How these are energies we are in, and the different ways they can manifest.
Please tell me all about Akashic Records! How did you learn/study this practice and what sort of readings do you provide with this knowledge? The Akashic Records blow my mind! I became interested in them a few years ago after I had a reading when I was at Delphi doing my in-depth channeling program—and then another a year or two later I gained so much invaluable information. Information that really stuck with me and I came back to again and again. When the opportunity to study with Christina Cross came along, I was like, “Maybe this is something I am supposed to do…” The Akashic Records, if you can imagine it, are like your personal Internet/Google: It’s where all the information about our lives—this is our current life, past lives—and we are able to access this information. Sounds pretty great, right? Well 1. It is! 2. It’s not that simple. The records are best for the big questions regarding life purpose, deep healing, finding direction, and what unique talents you have that you can utilize. I find the information is delivered in a way more direct way than it is in tarot, and there is no interpreting. When I am reading my records, or someone else’s, I don’t really run it through my intuition at all. I just receive and relay the info. To me the records are best used for really clear questions, or desires and you have to be willing to hear big truths around those things. For example, I asked, “Why haven’t I fallen in love in a while?” and the answer was, “Because you didn’t want to.” I mean, I definitely wanted a more flowery answer but what I needed was that direct one. The biggest thing about the records are being in them is healing in itself and it’s really shifting away from viewing yourself as a problem to be solved, and challenging yourself to see yourself as magnificent as you are and embrace that possibility and live in a way that honors that. Sounds easy, but I always say that people know what to do with the negative or hard times, there is a blueprint for it, but how to really believe we are truly great or accept the positive things that come our way is more challenging. It brings more stuff up to process. The Akashic Records to me help address those two things, it can tell you what’s available to you, and how you can really step towards it.
This may be a silly question, but since you work with your hands so much, are there any beauty/self-care routines you do with them before or after a reading? I wish! I have chubby little kid hands, and I bite my nails. Charming, right? Before events, I try to get a manicure at the very least if not more intricate nail art. I definitely do wash my hands obsessively and before each reading. I love using Weleda’s Skinfood, because it sinks in quickly, smells so good, and I can still handle the cards without them slipping around everywhere.
What is your beauty/self-care ritual like? Britta Plug gave me a really beautiful nugget of wisdom that combining intention and action elevates things into a ritual. Thanks to her I now love my beauty and self-care routines as acts of ritual. I love oil cleansing and use Myhavtorn, a rose hydrosol afterwards, and then a serum by Laurel Skincare. I love using nourishing oils which feel like a way I anoint myself, and rose. Rose is such a mystical flower with it’s associations with protection, love, and the divine mother so I like using it in my beauty and self-care. I make a lot of my own salt scrubs and bath salts as well. I like to make a New Moon salt scrub thinking about whatever I want to call in that moon, and then I either use herbs and oils associated with those things, or what I need to clear to receive it. I love a Full Moon bath, and think there is no better way to clear then just a whole lot of salt. I love a spray or mist, and La Abeja’s Star Water is the best—it’s a herby rose water spray that feels super refreshing and clearing. I give myself a little spritz throughout the day.
How do you energetically connect, and disconnect, living in New York City? How does this affect your readings? What are the pros/cons of being a reader/healer in NYC? Grounding is always a tricky thing. It’s really hard to ground yourself in easy ways in NYC. Nature is tougher to come by. I like to take walks with my pup after a day of readings. It’s a good way for me to remember that I am a human being on this Earth. I love a spritz or smoke bath between readings using mists, or smoke from palo santo or cedar. Boundaries are also a big thing. I have had to learn just because someone DM’s me at midnight, doesn’t mean I have to deal with it right then. I try to be present all the time, but only psychically “on” when I have opened channel or I am working. Maybe it’s living in NYC, but I really do think of myself as a cab and being on/off duty. I also need a TON of alone time which is still an adjustment for me. I am extroverted in nature, but doing intuitive work full-time has made me way more introverted.
What are some places in NYC you recommend for anyone interested in magic? My home away from home, Maha Rose, is a great place to take classes and their shop has some truly special crystals. Namaste Bookstore is great for buying decks, books, and supplies—I also know people who have seen readers there that they speak super highly of. Catland and Enchantments for magical supplies, and Flower Power for herbs. Myths of Creation for workshops and thoughtfully picked out mystical tools. I got a beeswax candle of a beehive from there that lives on my altar that I adore!
Besides Tarot, are there any other metaphysical practices that you love? Candle Magic is one of my favorite practices and one I do pretty regularly. I almost always have a candle going for something. Crystals are everywhere—I love using them for meditation and altar building. I love, love, love astrology and have been actively trying to learn more and more about it. At this point, I know my own chart pretty well and have learned that there is SO MUCH to learn in astrology. Learning astrology has actually been really humbling. I tend to try new things that interest me, and get obsessed for a little while and then I always go back to my classics. For me, candle magic is definitely one of my classics. I have a lot of fire in my chart so any magical practice that feels a little fiery is definitely enticing to me. I always come back to candles, the moon, and tarot.
What projects do you currently have in the works? I am prepping for my Tarot 101 Intensive at Maha Rose this summer and hopefully going to roll that online this fall. I’m also toying with a podcast idea but we’ll see. The scariest part of my work is allowing it to develop on its own timeline and not mine. I generally have to have a balance of firm commitments that don’t need to bake, but just need prep to allow larger ideas or initiatives the time they need to fully bake.
All photos courtesy of Anna Toonk.