In this ongoing series, ArtRat Gallery Social Media Manager Maddy Visscher explores the people, places and things that make our neighborhood great. Email Maddy with feedback and suggestions about the topics you want to see us cover! 

Heart-and-sword graphic on the door of The 12th House in Grand Rapids' Heartside neighborhood.

First chronicled in Europe during the 15th century, tarot cards are an important tool for divination. If you want cartomantic insights into your past, future and present selves, you can choose from a deck of options within a 5-minute walk of ArtRat Gallery: The 12th House (8 Jefferson Ave. SE); DreamPirate Gallery (136 Division Ave. S); and The Mortals Cafe (111 Division Ave. S). 

How does tarot work — and what do the cards have to say about opportunities and challenges for Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood in the year ahead? ArtRat went to the source for some divine guidance.

A beautiful broom stands by the open door of The 12th House, its handle a gnarled branch. Inside are tables of crystals, handmade jewelry and whimsical clothing, shelves of colorful cards and books about candle magic, sustainability, and the histories of Hindu deities and Irish faeries.

Behind the register, Carmen Kempen, the store’s in-house tarot reader, is shaping wire around a sparkling hunk of white quartz to create a necklace. She introduces herself as the Maiden of the Vale, who serves the valley of the Grand River. 

Carmen explained that in addition to reading cards for individuals, collective readings allow her to glean insights about a group of people, or even a place. The Maiden of the Vale had done a reading for 12th House itself when the doors opened in February — and she was generous in affording ArtRat a glimpse of Heartside’s potential as revealed in the cards. 

A space for insight

The Maiden of the Vale sitting at a table with tarot cards.

Carmen opened a moving wall to reveal an intimate space: a large round table adorned with candles, crystals — and rubber ducks. She apologized for the clutter, but pointed out she is a chaos witch, after all.

Card readers use numerology, archetypes, Zodiac signs and elements to create connections among the cards, then follow their intuition to channel hidden knowledge. Carmen’s deck mirrors her values, featuring diverse human subjects, including people of color and gender-nonconforming individuals. “We see ourselves in the cards we read,” she remarked. 

“Tarot for me is all about healing,” Carmen told ArtRat. “It's reaching into the deep, dark places to pull forward things in a gentle manner, in a safe space.”

Cards on the table

So what did the Maiden of the Vale see on behalf of Heartside? 

Five cards fall from her hands — the nine of wands, seven of wands, four of pentacles, queen of pentacles and knight of pentacles — and we sit in silence as Carmen examines them.

She says Heartside is full of promise that can only be realized by aligning the initiatives of different individuals and groups involved with the neighborhood.

Tarot cards for sale at The 12th House.

“These cards are showing us a deep, energetic passion for the work being done,” she says, “but there needs to be more communication between all the branches and more stability within the roots. Otherwise, the whole thing will fall over.

“Heartside can be at its absolute best, but only if we strengthen our connections to each other.” Carmen continues. “There’s something big coming, and together we can embrace it.

"The air is changing, the witches are waking up, and we’ll be right here when you’re ready.”

The 12th House is open 11am-7pm Tuesday through Friday, 11am-8pm Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday. Contact the Maiden of the Vale to schedule a tarot reading. 

DreamPirate Gallery offers tarot read by Kylie Hailstone as well as a slew of other metaphysical services, all by appointment. 

The Mortals Cafe is open 8am-6pm Monday through Friday. Resident cartomancer Katrina Peshka offers sessions every Friday from 3-6pm. (Katrina is on temporary leave as of this writing, so The Theatre Crow is handling readings in the interim.)