After my business trip to Canberra this week, I was desperate for a treat, personal space, and reflection. I just could not wait to open my new Tarot of Delphi Deck on Christmas day. I needed a new deck now.
I quickly nipped out of work at 4.30pm to find a new deck within short distance of the city. So I ended up in Melbourne’s Haunted House Bookshop.
The Haunted House Bookshop is better known for its haunted Melbourne tours (I’m seriously tempted!). Reading the Google Reviews, I expected a black tavern run by Bernard Black. I got both. The stuffy smell and dark atmosphere drew me up the stairs, where I was faced with a range of bric a brac – the shop is packed to the rafters. I ask the owner where to find Tarot cards – I can look at the catalogue at this end of the shop, and the boxed cards at the other end. I do a va et vient between the two for 40 min, it is difficult to choose from so many decks in the catalogue (and some cards are badly photocopied), and the smaller decks are held behind a glass panel. I start to despair. I’d come to the shop not looking for anything in particular, waiting to be inspired, but the choice is overwhelming me. I ask the owner if he still has a copy of the Victoria Regina (it was in the catalogue, and I’ve been looking for a copy for ages since it is out of print). He informs me he sold the last copy two weeks ago for $120.
We start a conversation about decks (the Sun Night) and he proceeds to showing me all the decks created by my favourite artists, sifting through the catalogue. There lies the value of the shop – not in the old cobwebs, but in the fountain of knowledge that is the owner. And he does look like Bernard Black, slick black hair, dull skin and all. He is very to the point, and eventually we end up chatting about Malthusianism and environmental conservation (I mentioned I had to go back to work to attend a conservation event). His views on minke whales and overpopulation are radical, but he seems genuinely happy to have a keen ear trapped in the shop.
After failing to find three decks I was asking for (it’s Christmas season …), I finally settle on the Celestial Tarot by local Melbourne artist Kay Steventon. At this stage I desperately need to leave the shop. I have no idea what I am getting myself into, but I am drawn to the images, captivated. I step out and immediately open the plastic wrapping protecting my new friend. I walk down Bourke Street, head in the clouds, head in the constellation images. I know I am going to be late, but it doesn’t matter at this stage. I keep flicking through the images of deities and monsters in the tram, jump off, rush through the doors of the Sidney Myer Centre, and I am still holding the starry cards when I run into my colleagues. I discreetly tuck the cards in my bag, and resume my serious, scientific life.