It has been my absolute pleasure to get to know Ashley Oppon, of Dreadlock Tarot. Based in New Jersey, Ashley is an intuitive counselor who works with the Tarot, Lenormand, and Spiritual Response Therapy (SRT). (I was also really intrigued by Ashley’s cool way of naming her Tarot reading offers). We got to chatting in December, sharing our thoughts on our precious and loved tool, the Tarot. You can find part one of our conversation in which Ashley interviews me, here. Today we continue our chat, with me finding out more about Ashley’s tarot practice!
Tell us how the Tarot came into your life. Could your 15 year old self see that you would be reading Tarot now?
So the story goes that I was 19 and I had just broken up with my first love. And I was really, really down. It was nearing my birthday and I went to one of my favorite shops: the bookstore. I ended up in the Metaphysical section as I always did before, and saw a pack that said “Easy Tarot! Learn the Cards Once and For All!” I remember being drawn to it and decided (since it was my birthday) to spend the $20. I went home and became obsessed with the cards. Journaling everyday, looking up all the information I could. Between then and now, I have had two what I like to call “crises of faith” where I completely abandoned the cards because I started to believe things that other people were telling me. But this last time I came back to them and I came back with a fury. I’m once again a full-time tarot junkie.
I always was an oddball, an eccentric kid, a believer in magic and a lover of anything metaphysical, historical or philosophical. I liked to be alone more than I enjoyed the company of others and I loved to explore and imagine that the woods behind our apartment were filled with wonders only I could find. A part of me has always been looking for long lost artifacts and the unknown, and as an adult I found that with Tarot. 15 year old me would be happy because I knew from a young age I didn’t want a normal standard life and career. I wanted a life full of wonder and now that is what I have.
How has your life changed for the better since picking up a deck of Tarot cards?
Well, the thing I love about tarot so much is that it gave me so much clarity. I very much believe that tarot is a messenger through which we can actually see answers from the Divine. Tarot has better helped me understand myself, and situations that I find myself in. It also has helped me to start looking at things from a different perspective. For example, sometimes when you argue with someone, all you can think about is how you are right and they are wrong. But then you or someone else pull some cards, and you can actually see how they are feeling and what they are trying to say from an unbiased standpoint. I love that.
At what point did you decide to go pro and set up your Tarot reading business (and have an office to boot!)?
Well, it definitely wasn’t something I was planning on. I went to see a friend, and someone I consider a tarot mentor, at a psychic fair. I got a reading from her, and then she said, “You know, next time you should come and read here! Earn some extra money!” I had only read for free at this point so it freaked me out, but I had been through a lot the previous year and decided I was going to start slowly escaping my safety zone. So I did my first fair and I loved it. Reading for people was so much fun and I made a decent amount of money! I saw on Facebook that the Tarot Association was going to start a program where you would be shown how to start and run a tarot business. I decided to apply even though I didn’t really think they would pick me for it, mostly because I didn’t want to be a full-time reader, I just wanted to do it on the side. Then they did! It was 6 months and I learned a lot! Legalities, taxes, how to deal with customers, you name it! It was eye opening and definitely hard work, but I enjoyed it. Somewhere in the course of that program I decided my goal was to become a full time reader, and that what I’m trying to achieve now.
And I love my office, it’s my little home away from home.
How would you describe your personal reading style? If you could describe your greatest strength as a reader with a single tarot card, what card would you pick?
The Star. It’s my favorite Major Arcana card and perhaps what describes me the best. I believe in silver linings and making lemonade from lemons. When I do a tarot reading, I realize that answers aren’t always going to be what the clients want to hear, but I really do believe in giving clients the tools to either realize they can change their situation or change the way they think about it so they can deal with it better. You may not always leave my office happy, but I strive to help so you can leave with some hope.
In your estimation, what is the biggest misconception people have about Tarot/Tarot readers?
I think one of the biggest problems is that people feel like you, the reader, can read their minds. I have clients who sit down and say nothing. They say I just want a “general” reading. Then when I give them information, they don’t understand why I didn’t go deeper into their love life or deeper into their career. Well, you didn’t ask! I’m an advisor, I’m here to give you insight and advice, not to just sit here and tell you every detail of everything that is ever going to happen to you. This is more like a counseling session, and when clients and other people understand that, then it has the maximum benefit for them.
Just from a very cursory look online, in general it feels like there are less people of colour in the online Tarot space. How might being a tarot reader of colour impact your practice and outlook?
The first thing I notice being a reader of color is that people have a lot of expectations from me, especially because my parents are immigrants (I know that sounds weird, but I will explain). They tend to believe I’m involved in an African/Diasporic traditional religion, which I’m not, and as a result of that, some black people who want to come as clients feel I’m not as “authentic”. On the flip side, I also do not do any “work” (magic or spells), and I have had clients say to me, “You’re the first reader I have ever met who doesn’t do work,” and they seem comforted by that fact. I think for many Black Americans who are so indoctrinated with Christianity from a young age, they feel bad if they come to see a tarot card reader. So knowing I don’t do “work” somehow makes them feel better.
One thing I do notice is that clients of color feel like they can better relate to me because of my race. And when I say clients of color, I mean of all colors. I live in an area heavily populated by immigrants and first generation Americans. I think people feel like I better understand their struggle and what they go through as minorities.
As a Jamaican (and an avid fan of Bob Marley since I was 14), I’m so intrigued by how you’ve weaved Bob Marley’s song titles into your reading options. Tell us a little about this process.
Bob Marley is my dad’s favorite singer (which is funny because my mom is the Jamaican one and she isn’t a big fan), and I have been listening to him since I was in the womb. I loved his voice, it was so soothing and comforting, and I love how he sings about everything. He sings about being poor, discrimination, unrequited love, going to parties, black history, you name it, he sings about it. And his music can be enjoyed by anyone and you can find a song for any mood you are in. I decided to name my business Dreadlock Tarot because I wanted my business to be a reflection of me and who I am. My hair is not just a hairstyle, for me it is a representation of my culture. So when I was planning out my business, I wanted it to look like me, you know? And it being called “Dreadlock Tarot”, I thought it was a great chance to pay homage to my favorite singer and a man who has influenced me and comforted me in so many ways.
What’s on the agenda for Dreadlock Tarot in 2016?
Well, I’m going to teach some more classes and come up with some more specific packages for different kinds of clients. I’m also a shamanic apprentice so I’m definitely going to be incorporating some of that into my practice. It’s going to be an awesome year.
You can find Ashley at dreadlocktarot.com.