Welcome to the latest instalment of my series, Readers in Profile! In this series, I talk shop with some of my favourite tarot readers about their origin stories, approaches to the cards, and their pro tips for fellow readers and professionals.
Today, my visitor is Ashley McElyea, from Story by Tarot. Welcome, Ashley!
First, tell us a little bit about yourself as a tarot reader and a human person.
Thank you so much for having me! My name is Ashley and I am a tarot reader + tarot writer over on Story By Tarot.
As a human person, I am a queer witch, wild introvert, coffee drinker, and book addict. And if I am being completely honest, a Netflix binger, currently binging Leverage and Ghost Whisperer. As a magically inclined person who dabbles in astrology, I also claim being a Scorpio Sun, Libra Moon, and Aries Rising. I love being a home-body, unless I need to take a road trip. I love doing nothing but reading or writing, unless I need to do yoga or an intense work out. I literally feel like a walking contradiction most of the time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a tarot reader, I am honestly of two minds. I love the traditional, “here are what the cards say about potential circumstances” and “here is what you can do” approach. Just super straight forward (but with my own flair) and use it as a preparation of what is to come. But I also love using the cards in a non-traditional way for myself, using the cards for writing prompts, journal prompts, or as a storyboard. Nothing serious, but more creative.
What is your tarot origin story?
Ooh, yes! I love origin stories! Here’s the quick and dirty version:
I picked up my first deck in January 2015. So a little over a year ago. I have not been reading long, but it feels like I have read forever. I picked up my Rider Waite deck at Earth Bound Trading Company and the day after was referred to Beth Maiden’s Alternative Tarot Course. And I have been reading ever since.
On a personal note:
I grew up in a super religious household and all my natural inclinations to the occult, the witchy, and the woo were basically squashed so I wouldn’t go to hell. So cards like The Devil and Judgement come with a very religious overtone that I have spent a lot of time deconstructing in order to become the reader I want to be. It’s a process, but I’m getting there.
How does tarot fit into your life day-to-day – what are the regular practices you use to connect with and learn from the cards?
In my day to day activities, I pull a card (or five) every day. I like to get a sense of where my energies are and how the day can be best spent.
In terms of learning, I find that each new deck brings its own learning style. For example, the Hidden Realm tarot was my second deck and I connected with it immediately. So much so, that I rarely need to read the guidebook. Each person comes alive as I lay them out in a spread and they craft their own story, all I have to do is write it. On the flip side of that, my recent tarot deck The Hermetic Tarot, is like learning all over again. It’s filled with symbols, mythology, astrology, and occult goodness. I really am taking my time with this one and feel like I’m starting over. I absolutely love it. When it comes to tarot, I never want to stop learning.
Do you integrate tarot into any other aspects of your spiritual or creative practice?
I use it in almost every spiritual practice that I use. I have a chakra deck for when I’m tapping into my energies to see what is happening. I have a few decks for shadow work (I typically don’t use these for other people’s readings). I also have an astrology deck for when I am studying current star and planet patterns. And I have several decks that I use for creative writing.
If you read professionally, are there any pro tips or insights you’ve picked up along the way that you’d like to share? If you’re not offering professional readings (or even if you are!) we’d love to know, what killer piece of wisdom have you picked up along the way that has transformed your tarot journey?
Oh, I do not consider myself a professional reader just yet, but I have done several readings. And side note: I am working on opening a shop, but I do $5 and $10 flash sale readings on my social media sites whenever I am inspired to do so until I open the shop.
But this one piece of wisdom, I can absolutely share!
Don’t sling the cards when you aren’t feeling well. I think this is so essential and readers can forget to take this into account. If you’re sick, if you’re upset, if you’re tired, you need to be resting. Don’t take on more clients, tell current clients you will follow up when you are feeling better. You need to take care of yourself first, otherwise you will be no help to anyone else.
I just have to ask – what would be your five desert island tarot (or oracle) decks? Which ones couldn’t you live without?
Oh goodness, I would have to have my Rider Waite Coleman Smith deck. It was my first deck and when I can’t figure anything out, that is the deck I turn to. I would also take my Tarot of the Hidden realm so I could continue to craft stories. That deck is just filled with so much magical energy for storytelling. Hmmm, definitely the Arcana of Astrology so I could stay connected to the sky. The stars really teach us so much and I would be so sad if I couldn’t find a way to connect. And my last two would be the Deviant Moon and Green Witch tarot, both of them to represent my two “sides” : shadow magic and nature magic.
Finally, where can we find you?
You can find me on my website Story By Tarot. There I post spreads for tarot writing, personal magic posts, fellow readers stories about their favorite cards (Stories By Tarot – I’m always looking for submissions!), and currently I am running a series called A Retelling – my take on “difficult” cards that I craft into new stories. As far as social media, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thank you so much for having me on, Marianne! I look forward to finding more readers via this series! Thank you for creating it. ☺
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Ashley as much as I did. And I have to second her piece of extremely sage advice - if you're not feeling up to it, put those cards away and take a break!
What's your number one piece of life-saving tarot advice? Let me know in the comments, or share it on Twitter!