Charlotteans love $177 tarot card readings with this former biologist. What’s the appeal?

Charlotteans love $177 tarot card readings with this former biologist. What’s the appeal?
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Mariah Oller, founder of Harvest and Moon, does up to 20 tarot card readings per week. She’s taking an ancient practice and making it a part of mainstream Charlotte culture, and counts people like Natalie Stewart and the women behind Girl Tribe Co. and Hilliard Studio Method as clients. She’s also done readings at events put on by Opera Carolina and the Cabarrus County Visitors Bureau.

Oller’s private clients pay $177 for an hour-long reading that covers major life topics including changing careers, buying a house, or having a baby.

Oller acknowledges that the practice of reading tarot is “woo,” a phrase she uses frequently that’s synonymous with being a little “out there.”

So why then do so many people invest real money into a reading and use Oller’s words as a guide for their major life choices?

“People love tarot because it allows them to ask questions. It allows them to be skeptical. It allows them to take an hour to think of things from a different perspective,” Oller explains.

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Photo by Erin Bowman

Christine Tobias lives in New Jersey. Her sister lives in Charlotte and discovered Oller on Instagram. Recently, Tobias flew here to see Oprah speak and paid for the two of them to have in-person readings with Oller, too. She previously had done a virtual reading with Oller.

Tobias says that during both sessions, she and Oller explored parenting-related topics.

“I’m sure there’s always backlash about believing in tarot and the skeptics will have things to say,” she says. “But I’m of the camp of believers that we’re all connected, and we all have the power of choice. Sometimes you just need a little encouragement and validation for the choices in front of you.”

Though clients like Tobias come to Oller with questions that are about as significant as it gets, don’t expect her to deliver impending bad news.

Instead, “I always look for the lesson,” she explains. So a card that may look like it’s about gloom and doom is probably more about pruning your friendships or de-junking your house.

She also lets her clients guide the conversation, so even if she feels compelled to talk about, say, marital problems with a client, “I’d let you lead the conversation. If that feels too tender for you, I wouldn’t push that for you.”

As we chat, the former cell biologist emphasizes she’s not a fortune teller, nor is she a medium. Instead, she relies on her “well ancestors” (blood relatives who have passed on but have healed from their earthly issues) and her client’s well ancestors to provide guidance during a session.

Her preferred place to do a reading is somewhere with enough space to hold the presence of these spirits, but without a lot of distracting background noise. She and I met at The Dunhill Hotel, which is rumored to be haunted, on a drizzly, gray day. I couldn’t think of a better, moody setting to dive into topics involving the supernatural.

“It’s like playing a game of telephone in a lot of ways,” Oller says as we chat about the actual process of reading tarot. But she clarifies that when she’s pulling cards, she’s not hearing voices. I ask how she can feel confident in the information she’s receiving.

She points to the couch next to us, decorated with a maroon throw pillow.

“It’s exactly like looking at this pillow,” she says. “What color is it? Do you hear a voice in your head telling you it’s maroon? No. It just sort of pops, right?”

Oller knows that some may see her scientific background as a conflict with her current profession, but she thinks they work in tandem.

“Science has always felt like magic to me. Even when I knew, ‘And this is how I clone a cell.’ I’d be like, ‘I’m a witch! Look at me. I’m creating life!’ Science is very ‘woo’ to me.”

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