Arts and Entertainment

Solving the riddles of life through the Tarot on Whidbey Island

Michael Sheehan lays out a guide to life with his Tarot cards. - Patricia Duff /The Record
Michael Sheehan lays out a guide to life with his Tarot cards.
— image credit: Patricia Duff /The Record

Unwrapping the deck from a silk scarf, he gingerly laid the cards down and asked for a cut.

He picked up the deck and began laying down the cards on the silk-strewn table in an age-old pattern. The colorfully drawn characters of the Tarot revealed themselves in turn.

Bayview resident Michael Sheehan has been a Tarot reader for more than 25 years. Recently, he offered a reading at a local café in Coupeville, as a demonstration of what a Tarot reading can (and cannot) do for someone.

“I don’t prophesy what is going to happen,” Sheehan said.

“What the Tarot does is tell you how to manage your energy so you know more how to manage that energy differently, and get the results you want in your life,” he added.

Sheehan came to read the Tarot through a varied study of shamanism, mysticism, Eastern and Western philosophy, world religions, astrology and, finally, a focused study of the Tarot.

His purpose is, at all times, a positive one. When he sits down with someone, Sheehan said, his intent is to read a person’s core energy and give him or her the message that is most important.

“Whenever someone comes to me, I inwardly acknowledge a place of love and truth, so it always feels good to do a reading,” he said.

In what was a shortened version of his usual reading, Sheehan proceeded to lay 11 cards down on top of the rows that had been already placed on the table, interpreting the meaning of each one as he went.

He uses the Universal-Waite style cards, which are as colorful in their artistic renderings as they are in their meanings, such as the second card with its image of a woman petting a lion. This is the “atmosphere” card, Sheehan said, which signified strength, or one’s ability to face one’s fears.

The sequence proceeded to expose the cards representing “the obstacle,” “expectations,” “the root of foundation,” “the recent past,” “the near future,” “the inner self,” “the influence of others,” “the unforeseen element,” and finally, “the summary.”

He turned over the Seven of Wands (for the inner self) which depicted a figure standing on a hill.

“That would mean you’re standing on higher ground, or, that you’re right,” Sheehan said. This he explained meant one was pro-active in their growth as a person; that no matter how many others would try to discourage one with limiting thoughts, one can hold their ground and refuse to listen.

Ultimately, each interpretation the reader makes exemplifies the ability of the Tarot to get underneath the surface of situations that may be in the foreground of one’s life.

By using the Tarot, Sheehan has the ability to delve into the deeper meanings of one’s life in relation to what the cards are telling him. It’s almost as if his knowledge of each card’s meaning, combined with his focus on the person at the table, allows an exchange of ideas and energy that would be otherwise overlooked by someone who was trying to figure out what their next move should be. He’s not a seer, but more of a guide who can send you down the right path, or help you make a well-informed, next move in life.

Sheehan’s insatiable quest for knowledge started when he was 10.

He heard the Bible’s story of Solomon and realized if he was ever granted one wish in life it would be to possess a wisdom like Solomon’s.

Sheehan did well in school, and went on to study music and to get a doctorate in philosophy. But he wasn’t satisfied.

“I realized I hadn’t learned what I was after — truth,” Sheehan said.

Later, after 10 years of traveling around on a pilgrimage of sorts to find the wisdom he craved, Sheehan found himself in a metaphysical bookshop. He saw the deck of Tarot cards and knew immediately that he needed to buy them.

“I found wisdom in the Tarot’s balance of the masculine and feminine — the intellect and the intuition,” he said.

School, he explained, is imbalanced in its elevation of the intellectual, while ignoring all things intuitive.

“I started elevating my feminine side to gain wisdom. The root of all evil is the suppression of all things feminine and intuitive in humanity,” he said.

The Tarot succeeds as a useful tool, Sheehan added.

Even after 25 years of studying the cards, he said he continues to learn from the Tarot.

“It is a book of wisdom and a treasure of our lineage; an inheritance,” he said.

With that inheritance comes the answers to the riddles of a person’s life.

“A reading is just an effortless shift in perspective to give us the answer that was there all along,” Sheehan said.

For readings with Sheehan on Whidbey Island, e-mail him at or call 221-8832.

Although he is a permanent reader at the Phoenix Rising Book Store in Port Townsend, Sheehan offers his services to island residents in private readings that cost $80 for a full hour-long reading, or $40 for a half-hour session.

Sheehan will also teach a class on the spiritual growth and self-empowerment teachings found in Tarot symbolism. Each student will receive a coupon for a free Tarot reading to be scheduled later. The class will meet from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 1 in the Fellowship Hall of Langley United Methodist Church at Third Street and Anthes Avenue. The class fee is $40.

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