The Wahkiakum County Eagle

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Tarot: A guide to the past and healing here and now

Published on Tue, Dec 24, 2013 by Diana Zimmerman

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Some may use the tarot to try to divine the future, but for local resident Christine Payne-Towler the tarot have been a guide to the past and an instrument of healing in the here and now.


Seven years ago, Payne-Towler, an internationally recognized tarot expert, moved to the area with artist and publisher, Michael Dowers. They had both suffered painful setbacks in their lives and were ready for a change of scenery, a change of pace, and a fresh start.


Payne-Towler was born with a birth defect that causes double vision and double hearing, along with what she describes as a “nanosecond delay between my left side and my right side.”


“I’ve always been a little weird, a little unstrung,” she said. “My mother could see that I floated a couple inches above the ground. She didn’t always approve but she acknowledged it. And it made it hard for me to find clarity about what I was supposed to do in this world.”


It became a little clearer when she picked up a used tarot deck and some books, just for fun. When she got home and began to look over the cards and the advice in the books that connected to the cards, she knew exactly what she was looking at.


As a child of therapists, she immediately recognized an inherent application of the tarot cards: a counseling aid.


Intrigued, she continued to study them. At college, other students in her dorm took an interest in her hobby and, being curious, they cast her in a new role, as tarot reader.


Later, she tried doing straight energy readings where she learned to sit with someone and meditate for five minutes. Then she would tell them about their psyche and their childhood.


“That was terrifying at the beginning.” Payne-Towler said. She continued to study similar practices and continued to find success. In one class, the teacher closed her book two-thirds of the way through the semester and informed the class that Payne-Towler would take over teaching, much to her surprise.


Time passed and things changed. She found herself a single mother with a young daughter and in need of an income. Friends began to insist on paying her for their tarot readings and promised to bring her more clients.


“I never got to do anything else,” she said. “The universe was merciful to me.”


Back home in Orinda, several divinity students who had dropped out of Harvard University set up shop and began the Institute of Mysticism and Parapsychology, which later became the John F. Kennedy School of Psychology in Palo Alto.


Her mom, savvy to her daughter’s nature, suggested that Payne-Towler and her little girl return home so she could attend the school. 


“Is this the school for me?” she wondered.  “It was wonderful. I was thrilled. It was the most fun I’d had in an academic setting. They gave us a good introduction in the bones of mysticism and spirituality because they were all divinity students.”


“I’ve never quit studying since,” she finished.


That’s obvious if you’ve ever heard her speak. She is intelligent and articulate and has a deep and comprehensive understanding of the tarot, of astrology and their shared history. Her studies have led her to math, science, history, religion, myths, economics and politics and she speaks of them easily and fluidly like any gifted academic.


“The tarot deck is an adaption of the playing card deck, which came to us as the result of the Crusades--from Arabic culture, Payne-Towler said. “It had swept from the far east from China through India, mutating as it came. Some cards were round, some cards had more than four suits or had different card counts. The idea of playing, gambling, or competitive games with cards came along with other games like Go, or Chess.”


“It’s a combination of chance and smarts,” she continued, “because you had to have a good memory, as anyone who plays bridge knows. Most people were illiterate and one of the ways that Europe learned numbers was from the playing card deck.”

Some experts would like to keep the astrology and the tarot separate, but Payne-Towler recognized their symmetry the day someone drew her astrological chart and she saw their shared symbols.


She uses them in her practice. She has clients all over the world.


“I love to play with the cards because they are a perfect crisis counseling tool, Payne-Towler said. “But astrology is where you step back into that larger universe and look at how your psyche is constructed. Astrology was the psychology of antiquity right up to the 20th century. When I’m using tarot, I like to, if I’m allowed, make up their chart.”


Things are going well for Payne-Towler and Dowers. She’s written a book and is working on another. After a conversation about the psychedelic art of alchemists from the 1600s, Dowers jumped in with both feet and began work on a new tarot deck, The Tarot of the Holy Light.


They also share a great love for music. They perform with local Randy Williams in The Hidden River Band, and Dowers collaborates with Williams on another musical project. Payne Towler also sings with a local a capella barbershop group called The Harmony Hearts with three other local women. 


They are busy and very happy and absolutely grateful for the changes that have come in the last seven years. 


“We’re a testimony that you can start over at any time,” Payne-Towler said. “We’ve started a second life and we’re living the dream.” 


If you would like to speak to Christine Payne-Towler about astrology, tarot or trance, you may contact her at 360-849-4857.