Near the corner of the Arbor’s bustling walkway, a small camp-like spread can be seen next to Larry Calvaletto’s “Got Questions?” booth. Advertised with a piece of cardboard inked with the words “Tarot Reading,” the curious setup is gathered around a man in dark clothing reading a student’s fortune.
Dan Buckingham, a 26-year-old Tarot card reader from Michigan, has settled down on campus after three years of travelling. He has been visiting the Arbor Monday through Fridays the past five weeks.
According to Buckingham, his primary goal is not to make money; he charges no “fixed rate” and asks only for donations if students are willing. Rather, he said he does Tarot reading to offer guidance to lost students.
“I do it to help people; to give guidance and counsel to those who are just sort of wanting some clarity or wanting advice from somebody,” he said. “And past that, it’s a way to bring up certain topics or uncomfortable discussions that are otherwise inaccessible other than through a medium like Tarot or something like that.”
Buckingham has been doing Tarot readings for almost a year-and-a-half, receiving generally positive feedback from his clients.
“Before the reading, they’re normally curious,” Buckingham said. “The majority of them have never done this before, so they generally go to it with some expectation but don’t really know what’s going to happen. Afterwards, they’re generally pleased, surprised at the accuracy and overall happy with the outcome.”
The basic idea behind a Tarot reading is simple — the querent (the one receiving the fortune) picks an instructed amount of cards from a shuffled 78-card deck. The reader then lays out the chosen cards in a spread — that is a shape or pattern — that consists of different meanings depending on where the card is placed.
The Tarot reader (Buckingham, in this case) then interprets how the meaning of the card corresponds to the position it is in, and he gives a description or advice to the client what the spread seems to be saying about their current life situation.
Although Buckingham’s primary goal is to help those who are lost, there are some people he does not read for.
“I almost never read for people who are intoxicated,” Buckingham said. “Also, if I have a suspicion that somebody won’t be appreciative or won’t take it seriously, then I will immediately turn them away because I don’t want to waste my energy and time to help somebody who is not going to use it.”
Buckingham’s biggest concern involves contemporary society, and the direction it is headed if it doesn’t change.
“I sort of see that the way humans conduct themselves — with themselves as well as the rest of the world — is in a manner that is unsustainable and cannot be maintained for any much longer. And so this includes a whole host of systems we have in place and the ways we do business,” Buckingham said. “If this is not somehow overturned or stopped or changed, then very serious irreversible repercussions will result, and so that’s of concern to me.”
Buckingham specifically chose to do his readings on a university campus because students are “kind of figuring out who they are,” during a very important “transformation” in their lives.
“So I really feel like the world is in a position where that age group and that kind of potential is really necessary to address, and they really are the ticket to the solution.”
Buckingham’s biggest advice to UCSB students is to not worry too much, including about knowledge, material wealth, a degree or a job.
“I think in one way everyone is already enlightened, or is in complete connection with everything and that there is no religion or doctrine or thing that one needs to pursue or experience to get that,” he said. “In the end, I just want to empower them; urge them to think about things.”