Mary Shock is an artist, Tarot reader, Reiki practitioner and intuitive psychic. From personal experience using Tarot to cope with grief and trauma, she has brought that same healing to her clients and students through Tarot readings, workshops and art. Mary has been reading Tarot professionally since 2011. She published her original creation, The Summer Tarot Deck, in February 2017. She has taught Tarot classes in Maryland, Oregon and California. She hosts the monthly meetup BMore Tarot Club and the podcast Tarot Electric. Mary is a self-taught visual artist, specializing in collage. Using mystical insight, she explores the subconscious, sexuality, spirituality and magic. Her work has been shown in galleries in New York City and Baltimore. Mary’s mission is to open space for healing and love. Mary Shock is a radical healer committed to justice and enlightenment.
About the Artist
My mother said as a child I was always interested in the occult.
And I have to say ‘Thanks, Mom!’ for giving me my first Tarot deck at age twelve. That Christmas, when I unwrapped the classic Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, I could not have guessed how much love and healing Tarot would give me, and I am so grateful!
It was mid summer when I encountered Tarot for the first time. At my cousin’s birthday party, my aunt read Tarot cards under a big umbrella by the pool. I was around 11 years old and completely curious about Tarot. My aunt mentioned something about my relationship with my mother, pointing to a card with a woman on it. Now I wonder what the card was, Queen of Cups is my best intuitive guess.
The gifting of Tarot from mother to daughter seems like an unconscious family tradition; my grandmother gave my aunt her first deck. I am not surprised that my Irish Catholic family supported and encouraged my interest in magic. My experience growing up in the Catholic faith was formative to who I have become, showing me the beauty of prayer and ritual while teaching me to know my own beliefs and question authority.
In high school my world opened up when I was accepted to Baltimore School for the Arts to study acting. At that amazing public school, I made meaningful friendships and my intuitive and empathic self was awakened. In theatre class, I learned to harness the power of memory, to understand subtext and, in learning to become other characters, I became confident in my own voice.
All this time I had a Tarot deck and although I played with it occasionally, I was not obsessed and my Rider-Waite-Smith deck was mostly forgotten in some closet. Then my mother gave me another deck of cards. I took this fortune-telling deck to school on the last day of my senior year, and read for my classmates, who eagerly waited in line for a reading, reporting that my interpretations were accurate.
Soon after I found my Tarot deck and began reading again. This time I got super into it, reading for myself and my friends. I would use the celtic cross spread often. I read books on Tarot and different websites. I practiced Tarot with one of my best friends. We would read each others cards and exchange interpretations. I was learning to read Tarot in a flexible, positive, spiritual way.
While Tarot was an awesome source of guidance in my life, I was also struggling with depression which had been a part of my life for years. After abandoning my second attempt at higher education, during a period of deep depression, I lost my Tarot deck, the deck my mother had given me many years ago. I had traveled with it and loved it and losing that deck felt terrible.
After grieving the loss of my Rider-Waite-Smith deck I heard the call to read Tarot again. I found the Aquarian Tarot at a New Age shop and I liked the art deco images. So I began to study and read with this deck. I was starting to feel less weighed down by depression, thanks to Tarot and art. I began making visual art, expressing my emotions and dreams through collage and paper. I recognized that many of my collages reflected my past lives. Some of these pieces released my shadow-self on paper, illustrating parts of myself that brought up fear and anger in a cathartic purge.
Then I lost The World. One night, my friends and I had made our favorite midnight hike to swim with the moon. I was sitting on a rock, just overlooking the water, shuffling my Tarot deck. Then a Tarot card fell from my hands and floated quickly into the water. In the darkness I could do nothing. I watched the card sink and felt a pain creep into the pit of my stomach. I buried my deck in my bag, insisting I was ok, it was no big deal. I was angry with myself for using my deck so foolishly close to the water. And I was sad. It took me about a week to check the deck and discover which card I had lost. When I found that I had dropped The World I became scared. What could it mean to lose a Tarot card? It couldn’t be good, and to lose The World, the last card in the major arcana representing enlightenment, had to be a bad omen.
So I looked inside myself, to discover elements of my world were not in alignment with my values and goals. I reexamined my relationships and environment. I knew happiness was a challenge for me, so I lived with the irritatingly simple mantra “fake it till you make it.” And I did not give up on Tarot. I understood there was another message in this loss, besides the encouragement to create a joyful world, I also knew that deck was not right for me. I needed to continue my search in finding a Tarot deck with which I could truly connect.
I eventually found a Tarot de Marseille deck and took it home, not knowing if I would love the traditional Renaissance imagery or not. I did like the idea of getting to know a style from the very early incarnations of Tarot. As it turns out, learning to read using a Tarot de Marseille deck really helped me grow as a reader and learn to trust my own inner voice. I learned how to read without checking a book for definitions. I learned the numerology of Tarot and made powerful personal associations with the cards. This deck became like a close friend and a book with infinite chapters. I took my deck almost everywhere, although I learned to keep it far away from water!
By 2011 I was reading Tarot for all my friends, friends of friends and professionally at events and parties. That hot, Baltimore summer, while making art in my childhood home in Hampden, surrounded by magazine pages and paper scraps, I was inspired to create my own Tarot deck. It took me a little over a month to collage all 22 cards of the Major Arcana. I worked for hours at a time, sitting hunched over on the floor. I would enter into a trance state. I was tapping into the universal oneness and flowing with something that was both bigger then me and also an essential part of me.
While creating The Summer Tarot Deck, I was influenced by all the decks I had known, loved and lost over the years. I was also empowered to make something new. Each card tells my story and, as a whole, the deck presents my journey. In this artwork I was able to heal. I reclaimed my body. I called on womanhood and sexuality to be dynamic means of transformation in my life. I gained new understanding of authority and order. I embraced change. I made a deck that speaks to my personal visions, a deck that I believe will resonate with the universal oneness within each soul.
In the years that followed, I only edited four cards although it did take many attempts and experiments with different images to finish the cards that caused me the most challenges, which were, of course, the cards I needed to make amends with in my own life. As I did the internal work, I traveled and hunted down images to finish my deck.
For several years, I read tarot off and on, alternating between immersing myself in the intensity of spiritual pursuit and putting it all aside to focus on my own reality, seeking a fulfilling career, and battling depression, which eventually felt more like a victory. Tarot was one tool of many I used to rewire my life. I learned to cope and live with mental illness. At times I forgot I’d even made a Tarot deck. I kept it wrapped up in a special blue hat box, tucked away and out sight. I’m grateful for my friends who continued to request readings from The Summer Tarot Deck, and insisted I bring it to parties to read for their families and friends.
In 2015 I completed my deck, four years in the making. Each card finally had the perfect figure and composition to create a Tarot deck that would be illuminating. I had a “DUH, ya think??” moment when I realized The Summer Tarot Deck needed to be printed, and that I was passionate about Tarot. I had spent so much of my life feeling passionless and hopeless, but after fighting and learning to cope with depression, I could finally see the gifts I already had. I was excited to launch The Summer Tarot Deck and myself into a life of healing and lightwork. Thanks to the support and enthusiasm I received from my community, I chose to leave my minimum wage job and became a full time tarot reader, artist and youth arts educator.
Since then my imagination and inspiration have been off the charts. I have been working on publishing The Summer Tarot Deck, showing art in galleries in Brooklyn and Baltimore, reading Tarot at events and for individuals, new healing artworks, writing, and lots of personal, spiritual exploration.
So that the story of my Tarot origins, a glimpse into my spiritual journey and growth. It is clear to me how much I have to be thankful for. Recently, I have been celebrating by giving thanks for my mental health, which is not perfect or “cured” but functional is enough for me. I am also thankful for my family, friends, community and for my spiritual guardians who guide and protect me. I have also come to appreciate the challenges I have faced because I can see how they gave me strength while testing me. I am very thankful to be feeling so strong and in my power in the present moment. The present is a constant, ever-flowing gift.