Interview with Christine Jette - Conducted by Diane Wilkes

Tarot Shadow Work is one of the best tarot books I've read in a long time.  I was so impressed I decided I'd see if Llewellyn could set up an interview with the author, Christine Jette (pronounced "Jetty").

On the same day I planned to contact Llewellyn, a synchronicity all tarot readers will appreciate occurred--I got an email from Christine, offering to send me a review copy of Tarot Shadow Work!   I asked instead if I could interview her for the website. 

For those of you who have yet to buy and read this book (speaking of the shadow:  we know all too well these two things don't necessarily follow one another), let me urge you to read my review of the book.  Be you beginner or professional, If you use the tarot for self-awareness, check out Tarot Shadow Work for yourself.  Her book covers new ground with sensitivity and intelligence--and is beautifully written to boot!

Christine Jette  as Strength, gentling her animal nature
Diane: What was your introduction to tarot? 
Christine: I grew up in a strict Presbyterian home. Nothing is as stark as the Church of Scotland. Things like Ouija boards, psychic ability and tarot cards were seen as the work of the Devil.

While in college in the early 70's,  I happened by a girl in a dorm room who was reading for her friends. I was stopped, completely mesmerized. What is THAT? The first deck I bought was the Rider-Waite and the first tarot book I ever read was by Eden Gray.

Tarot stayed on the periphery of my life for 20 years. I'd read for friends but I kept my "other life" a complete secret from my family of origin. In 1995, I had a dream that shouted "STUDY TAROT IN DEPTH, Christine!" OK, so I studied, but I remember thinking "Why?"

Diane: Studying tarot in depth?  You mention being a big fan of Mary K. Greer in your book. What other tarot books influenced you?
Christine: I like Gail Fairfield (Choice Centered Tarot) for her eloquent simplicity.  For depth of insight, Rachel Pollack's 78 Degrees of Wisdom is unmatched. I love mythology, so Juliet Sharman-Burke's book, The Mythic Tarot, speaks to me. I especially like her workbook that allows us to color our own cards.

For the sheer power of narrative, I read Cynthia Giles' The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore. She made a valuable contribution to using tarot for healing in Methods, Mastery and More

Since I am fond of Jungian psychology, Sallie Nichols' Jung and Tarot is 
one of my favorites. Of recent authors, I appreciate the joy of ritual in Tarot Celebrations by Geraldine Amaral. Cait Johnson taught me that tarot is 
playful in Tarot for Every Day and Tarot Games. Janina Renee gave me magic in Tarot Spells.

One of my all-time favorites is Spiritual Tarot by Signe E. Echols, et al. It introduces the shadow in tarot and puts tarot on a higher plane. 

And I can't emphasize enough how influential Mary K. Greer was on my tarot study.  She introduced me to the idea that tarot is used for transformation and 
healing and explains reversed cards better than anyone in the universe.

Diane: You've mentioned a lot of my favorite books.
Christine: Here's a twist: After Eden Gray, one of the first books I bought was by Eileen Connolly.   She has a completely Christian approach to tarot, but that is not why I got so much from Tarot for the Apprentice. She was the first author who actually explained HOW to learn the cards in a systematic way and enter and leave a card. She taught a method of learning which other books didn't discuss.

I also found her Christian approach very useful when reading for people who are scared of the cards. For example, she calls The Sun, "The Christ Light."  By knowing her approach to the cards, I have been able to communicate with and help an awfully lot of people who otherwise would be afraid of the cards. It's as if I can say, "See, Christianity and tarot are compatible." Since my goal is to help, I try to speak the language of my seeker. I don't like Eileen Connolly's definitions myself, but her work has been an invaluable tool in reaching out to as many people as possible.
Diane: That's interesting to me, because I know many readers who live in places like the Bible Belt, where there is a Fundamentalist Christian anti-Tarot mentality.  It seems that Connolly's books might help bridge the gap a bit.

How did you come to write Tarot Shadow Work?

Christine: For about a decade, all readers had said I should be writing but no reader could say about what (I should be writing). I was clueless. When I asked Laurie Cabot what I was supposed to be writing, she answered "Gothic Tarot? Does this make any sense?  It doesn't to me."

 I immediately knew to the tips of my toes what she meant and wrote the outline of the shadow book in a train station waiting to go back to Boston.

Diane: What is the connection between Laurie Cabot's phrase "Gothic Tarot" and 
shadow work?
Christine: Gothic means many things.   In its strictest sense, gothic refers to a Germanic people. Other definitions include an uncouth behavior, a type of architecture, a literary style of writing or a type of print, as in a Gothic font. What the other definitions all have in common (excluding the Germanic people, of course) is an alluring darkness, something that is at once abhorrent and compelling. Dracula is both sexual desire and evil. Pan is scorned for his looks but plays beautiful music unseen in a cave. Think of the gothic architecture of haunted houses. Aren't we fascinated and horrified at the same time?

As long as the shadow remains hidden from our consciousness, the shadow is at once us and not part of us, the lost parts of ourselves. We are both compelled to act out the powerful shadow behavior and repelled by it when we do. We feel so good when the shadow asserts itself because it is a moment of power; and, we hang our heads later asking "What on earth made me do (fill in the blank)?"  Rather "gothic", don't you think?

Diane: I can see that.  

Could you share your experience with shadow work?  Do you do this with clients or in workshops?

Christine: Because shadow work involves coming to terms with some of the most intimate aspects of life (and embarrassing or painful memories), I have not yet offered a shadow workshop. It is slow, painful work and when repressed memories surface, professional help is often indicated. I don't feel that a short, casual group setting with strangers is appropriate for anything more than an introduction to what shadow work is, because shadow work cannot--and should not--be rushed. 

To me, a shadow workshop would be akin to having therapy with the therapist's door wide open for all to hear the intimate details of one's life. I am not ready to offer one, although I have certainly thought about it. 

I have always read in a way that is more like therapy than fortune-telling. Mary K. Greer introduced me to the idea of asking questions, instead of being the "High Priestess" with all the answers. I see myself as a guide.  The way I look at it, if a client comes to me and I tell her what she already knows, that may validate her feelings, but is it truly helpful?   I try to give clients new ways to look at problems. Think of the Hanged Man: when people come to me for a reading, I give them another angle from which to view their situations--and I do it by rephrasing their questions. 

For example, if a young woman says to me, "Is my boyfriend being unfaithful?" I respond with, "Let's do a reading about your confidence in relationships." When a client asks, "Will I win the lottery?",  I say, "Let's do a reading about your feelings and attitudes about money." The answers people need always come out this way because tarot answers what we need to know, not what we want to know. 

So, to make a long answer longer, I have always incorporated the psychological self into readings, and I have found that the shadow self (unresolved conflicts and unexpressed emotions) always surfaces in the way I read the cards, whether I call it a shadow reading or not.

Bluntly, people who are uncomfortable with therapy are uncomfortable with the way I read the cards. I've had comments like "Oh, you're so personal or gee, you really know how to get to the bottom of things!"   It's not for everybody.
Diane: What about you?  How has tarot been healing for you?
Christine: I have had problems with chronic gastric ulcer for years. I took medicine ad nauseum without looking at the behavior that was causing my belly to eat itself. I would feel better for a time, change nothing about my life and find myself back in the doctor's office. One time, about four years ago, the doctor said, "Change whatever it is you're doing, Christine, or you're going to lose part of your stomach."  It was mind-numbing advice. Change what?

I started working with the cards because I knew that they might reveal my unconscious motivations. I noticed a lot of Swords. Of course, I thought that meant surgery, but as I meditated and journaled, I realized it meant painful memories and past hurts. When I drew the Queen of Swords, it told me I had unresolved grief issues that were literally eating me alive. I started going to a therapist and sure enough, a lot of painful stuff came out before I could heal.  Lo and behold, my ulcer started getting better, too.

It made me look at tarot in another light. Here is where I am most influenced by Cynthia Giles. In Methods, Mastery and More, she has a wonderful chapter called "Wellness: Rejoining Body and Mind." Her work was most important to me in looking at the tarot for use in healing.
Diane: What is your main deck? Do you recommend one especially for shadow work?
Christine: I have used the Robin Wood deck exclusively since it came out. Before that, I used the Rider-Waite deck. I am hesitant to recommend a deck to anyone, though.  It needs to "speak" to the person and I can't do that.  Everyone has to find her own deck. It's a personal choice based on life experience and frame of reference. The cards are a picture book of the stories of our lives. We all have different books.

I will say that there are some decks especially NOT suited to shadow work. Shadow work is about the yin and yang of life: coming to terms with life's dualities, contradictions and opposites. Because of this, any deck that omits the masculine principle is inadequate for shadow work because shadow work is about life's opposites.

Daughters of the Moon has no male imagery and Motherpeace has only young or weak male imagery. Because we all have masculine and feminine qualities in us (Jung referred to this as the anima and animus) we need a deck that clearly shows the masculine--and feminine--in their most potent, powerful forms. Women can be aggressive competitors and men can be nurturing.  Decks that exclude half the human race are not suited to shadow work. Or, if used, will not yield as much information as one that depicts full masculinity and femininity: the yin and yang of shadow work.

Click Here for Part Two of the Interview      

Interview and Page 2000 Diane Wilkes