Welcome back to the sixth week of Tarot B*tch here at Unwritten! If you missed last week, please go ahead and catch up right here! Sarah M. Chappell is an absolutely multitalented babe. I wanted to bring her here to Unwritten to show you what a modern witch and tarot reader actually looks like. She is not only a tarot reader, but she is an incredible healer and spirit worker. Sarah is a powerful force in the 21st-century tarot “relaunch” and I am so psyched she was able to sit down with me to share her insights on the wonderful world of the cards.
The Everyday, Practical, and Modern Witch
Kylie: Hi, Sarah! I have to say, I was looking through your website and am so impressed with how professional it is. What was the moment in your tarot career that made you decide to “go pro?” (Guys! Go check out her stunning website!!)
Sarah: Hi, Kylie! Thank you for the nice words about my site. I’ve worked in marketing for a long ass time and making websites is a secret joy of mine. I still do marketing as my sometimes side-gig, and having my own business has been a great way to test out new methods and designs.
Going pro was a surprisingly easy decision: I had rather abruptly quit my day job, and needed to make some money! Perhaps not a super spiritual reason, but it helped me to stretch as a reader and get comfortable serving others. I was also fortunate to have a mentor who supported (pushed, even!) me to read, and a great network of healers and friends. At the time, I lived in New York City where you can’t have a party without a tarot reader. So there were a lot of opportunities and lots of folks who were starting out just like me!
K: I mean, your website really does it all. You have your intuitive counseling program, you have the podcast, you have an ebook! How you dedicate time to really separate yourself into these niches of your own brand?
Maintaining multiple focuses that flow with my work style has helped me to find the right clients while still having fun with my business.
S: The different aspects of my brand stem from my inability to focus on one thing for too long. Sometimes reading tarot drains me, so I’ll shift and work on my alcohol-free herbal product line. When labeling bottles start to drive me crazy, I can go edit an episode of the podcast. I find that it ebbs and flows very naturally, though some things (like the podcast in particular) require large chunks of dedicated time, which is not easy for me. But the podcast is an offering – my largest free offering – to the community.
When I am able to remember that I make it as a service to other small business owners and those who cannot always afford to work one-on-one with a healer, it checks my ego and I get the work done. That said, if I ever get to the place of being able to hire help, the person will be a podcast editor!
The different aspects of my brand stem from my inability to focus on one thing for too long.
I think it’s important as a solo entrepreneur to follow what you’re passionate about. Too often we feel the pressure to chase what is popular, or to try and figure out precisely what our audience wants. Every time I do that, I end up burning out on projects that don’t nurture me and rarely bring the clients or income that I am seeking. Maintaining multiple focuses that flow with my work style has helped me to find the right clients while still having fun with my business.
K: I’m really fascinated by your story. Who really inspires you as a reader? I think of some of the readers out there today have truly molded me into the reader I am today. I’m thinking specifically Melissa Cynova of Little Fox Tarot and her book Kitchen Table Tarot, for me at least. Do you have anyone that really just defined how to be a modern reader for you?
Learning to use tarot as a tool for personal growth opened the door for me.
S: This is such an exciting time for tarot; the practice has really exploded to the point of being trendy! Tarot is an amazing tool for self-reflection, counsel, and care, and I continue to be inspired by my peers who are pushing the boundaries of what the cards can offer. I first learned tarot through Lindsay Mack, who introduced me to the idea of tarot as a way to dive into our soul’s work. Before her, I had only ever seen tarot cards in bookstores and had no idea how to connect. Fortune telling never resonated for me, and while I am empathic and highly intuitive, I did not start out particularly psychic or tuned in. I had to build those skills.
So learning to use tarot as a tool for personal growth opened the door for me, and that is the cornerstone of modern tarot reading in my view. At this point, I am really interested in the work of Brittany from Meadow Queen and Britton Boyd of Archaic Honey. They both offer beautiful integrations of tarot into their daily lives through Instagram (with luscious pictures to match) and are powerful readers. Their blogs are amongst my favorites to read on tarot and general witchdom.
I did not start out particularly psychic or tuned in. I had to build those skills.
K: You label yourself as an herbalist. You’ve even studied holistic herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. You’ve also studied spirit work. Can you kind of define what these things are to our tarot newbies reading this today?
S: Sure! Tarot is such an important part of my work – and is most of my business – however I find it can only take me and my clients so far. Tarot is the roadmap, it shows us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we can go. That’s pretty useful! But tarot does not get us there, we still have to do that work ourselves. Herbalism and spirit work are methods to help heal us in the present so we can move forward.
Herbalism is using plants as medicine. Plants are the oldest medicines we have, and many of our modern pharmaceutical compounds were originally synthesized from plants. There has been a resurgence in herbalism as an effective way to heal the body and the mind through plant preparations.
It’s empowering to be able to make a tea blend or a tincture in your own home, take it, and feel better! It’s easy to do some basic research to get started, but I do recommend talking to a professional herbalist if you’re taking medications or are at all unsure. There are a lot of plants to get to know!
If you’ve ever done a shamanic journey or a plant spirit meditation, then you’ve done spirit work.
Spirit work is a term and tool I’m learning from Ren Zatopek (she’s AMAZING please go visit her site immediately). This work is about having conversations with, well, spirits. Animism, the belief that all beings have spirits (including your dog, your basil plant, and your mailbox) is fairly common in the tarot world. If you spend your time diving into cards and talking to plants like I do, it’s not a big leap! The idea that our earth is, well, animate, is what’s behind using certain crystals for different rituals or to bring specific energies into your life. So, in spirit work, we use tools like meditation and trance to facilitate conversations with other beings.
If you’ve ever done a shamanic journey or a plant spirit meditation, then you’ve done spirit work. I’m in the beginning of these studies but have already found it to be a profound tool for my practice. Ren has a rockin’ free course to get you started!
K: It’s just fascinating looking at all that you’ve accomplished in your life. You’re a Reiki healer, you’re a stone energetic healer, you’re an herbalist. How has this sense of healing, of making someone whole again, influenced your view of tarot? How do you think your medicinal background has changed how you read for your clients?
So much of the power of the tarot is in peeling back layers to help us see more clearly, and that can certainly apply to areas that would benefit from healing.
S: Tarot is extremely useful for me as a healer because it helps me to know where to focus, and can also help to reveal areas that need help that my clients are not aware of. So much of the power of the tarot is in peeling back layers to help us see more clearly, and that can certainly apply to areas that would benefit from healing. When I work with clients, I always check in with their physical and mental health. I do this primarily because it is my responsibility to refer them to a doctor or other appropriate medical professional if that is what they need!
But it also allows me to offer tools to help them shift out of their current pains, whether that is herbs or energy healing. I have found in my own life that my mental and spiritual issues tend to manifest in the body, and tarot is amazing at clarifying those issues, which ultimately leads to healing. We can’t heal what we aren’t aware of!
K: Speaking of healing, the day I bought my first tarot deck I was told by a psychic that I was too empathic to read or do psychic work for clients. I was told that I would take on too much external energy. Do you think that is necessarily true, or what do you make of that? I know a lot of people are also empathic, or at least sensitive, too.
The trick is to prioritize your own care and to recognize that if you’re burned out you won’t be able to help anyone.
S: I don’t think that’s necessarily true at all. Empathy is one of the most powerful tools for the tarot reader. I am extremely empathic and sensitive, which led me to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol for a decade because I did not understand how I relate to the world and that I easily gather the energy of others. That is the danger the psychic may have been suggesting: if we don’t have the tools to protect and cleanse ourselves, it can be overwhelming to read for clients. For some folks, it’s just too much and they choose not to. For me, if I don’t read for clients I feel useless, like what good is it to be so empathic if I’m not helping people.
But that requires diligence. I don’t see more than two, maybe three clients in a day. Any more than that and I get overwhelmed by the energy. I hope with time that I’ll be better able to cleanse, but for now having a cap on the number of clients helps me a lot. I also do a lot of work to ground and release energy, whether that’s cleansing the space I’m working in with smoke, or taking a bath with loads of salt. The trick is to prioritize your own care and to recognize that if you’re burned out you won’t be able to help anyone.
K: And, seriously, can you share with us how you were able to send yourself through these programs financially? A lot of millennials find themselves in this position where they want to follow their passions and they truly want to start their own businesses, but they can’t find the right financial answers. Personally, I’ve been pushing off pursuing yoga teacher training because I’m genuinely afraid of not making that money back, you know? How were you able to not only financially take on these trainings but also start your own personal brand?
All the skills in the world don’t make up for the extreme stress of being broke.
S: That is the question, isn’t it? The answer: credit card debt. And I do not recommend it! I also have been fortunate to have some help from my family, but mostly it’s just been me being stupid with credit. When I first started diving into healing work, I had a great corporate job that did afford me the financial freedom to do trainings. When I had to leave that job rather abruptly, I was put in an odd situation of not really being ready to start my business but really needing to have my skills together so I could.
I made the choice to continue to invest beyond my means, and mostly it has paid off. But I don’t recommend it. All the skills in the world don’t make up for the extreme stress of being broke. My mental and physical health have suffered, and it has forced me to make choices from a place of fear rather than a place of power.
My business has always been able to pay its own bills, usually with a little leftover to pay myself.
Starting my own business was actually fairly inexpensive. Depending on what you do, you mostly just need a website, and maybe a space to see clients. Most of the other bells and whistles can wait until you have an income from the business. My business has always been able to pay its own bills, usually with a little leftover to pay myself. I enjoy business and have managed a few for other people before, and having a plan in place made a huge difference. That said, it can be hard to predict growth in a service-based business, so I’ve had some fun and not so fun surprises along the way.
All that said, if I had to do it over, I would have tried to stay in my corporate job longer, or at least have left with another job in place. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking out a loan or using a card to get your business going, but if you’re like me and are extremely risk adverse, it may not be the way to go! But please don’t let fear stop you. There is so much in this world that is truly devastating, and debt is not always one of those things. Living a life without pursuing your passions is, to me, worse. But that is a pretty privileged thing to say, and not everyone gets to make those choices. If you are able to, don’t throw that away.
Witch encompasses not only my work but also how I try to live my life.
K: Do you identify as a witch? Your podcast is entitled So You Wanna Be A Witch (find it here!), but that doesn’t denote that you call yourself that. (If yes, how do you bring this up in conversation when you meet someone new?)
S: I do! To me, a witch is a healer, someone who seeks connection with the wider world, both seen and unseen, and works to create shifts through that connection. It is a word that I have reclaimed for myself thanks to the work of Milla Prince and Asia Suler. Witch encompasses not only my work but also how I try to live my life. It doesn’t usually come up in conversation until people ask me what I do for work, and then I get to say that I’m a tarot reader or a healer, which opens the discussion. I don’t personally feel a need to tell everyone that I call myself a witch; as a healer, it is important for me to meet people where they are. For some, that is calling myself an herbal medicine practitioner. For others, witch is the way to go.
I am infinitely grateful that Sarah was able to take this time to share some of her trade with us. She is such a fabulous reminder that the tarot is young and curious, just like we are. She is also a fantastic business woman. Thank you so much for sharing some of your week with us, it’s always a pleasure.
Until next time!
Featured Image via Sarah M Chappell.