The Fortune Teller’s Tent: Circus Card #2

May 13

Last week …

I challenged myself to post one original tarot-like card a week. So of course, yesterday, the cat shorted out my scanner by spilling a cup of coffee, and I lost my sketchbook for the thousandth time, making this week’s entry a bit more difficult than expected. So this week’s card is extra rough – colored  quickly by hand, photographed with the digital camera.

The show must go on!


It's A Flourish!

The Card
It's Another Flourish!

The Fortune Teller and her spiritualist illusions may not be part of the modernized, sleek circus scene, but she was once a standard fixture of the sideshow (at least if the movies are to be believed!)

What lies behind the thick, dusty curtains, mystery knockings and crystal balls? Are the spirits trickery, or real? Entertainment, or a fraud?  The questions are woven into the appeal, because part of us wants to be tricked, spooked, and left wondering. In fact, if we don’t leave her mystical tent with more questions than when we went in, she’s probably not doing her job very well!

I’m often a harsh critic of woo-peddlers like Uri Geller and the Colon-Cleanse hawkers on TV, but I have a weak spot for old fashioned fortune telling and other minor con artists of the entertainment circuit.  It’s just so damn charming, the way they use our own minds and desires against us.

So to me, The Fortune Teller’s card epitomizes a lesson about marketing; it asks you where you draw the line when you spin your sales pitch: Do you sacrifice integrity to spin a sellable illusion? Do you tell your clients the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Do you find a balance somewhere in between, casting an illusion that isn’t a lie, but might be just a little magical?

The real trick, in the end, is to be sure your client is happy with the reveal.

“Is it real?” Showman Ward Hall responds for carnys everywhere: “Oh, it’s all real. Some of it’s really real, some of it’s really fake, but it’s all really good” from Sideshow! Lessons for Skeptics


  1. Aww, that’s a shame that the fortune teller gets such a bad rap. Of course there are charlatans out there but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt (though seldom do I give them my money, but only because I’m a diy girl, even with the woo).

    • Tori Deaux /

      I love the charlatans, honestly… so long as they’re honest charlatans! For me, it seems like the sideshow-fortune-teller is, by nature, largely a charlatan. They’re entertainers, just like the rest of the sideshow, rather than using cards & palmistry to offer genuine and well intentioned guidance (which modern, less flashy readers do.) When I rewrite the card (eventually) I’ll try and make that distinction clearer.

  2. OMG another woo woo moment. I just finished writing and posting a blog about this very thing. I think its called entrapment vs friendly persuasion.
    I LOVE tarot cards.

    • Tori Deaux /

      Entrapment, eh? That’s a great woo-y word. Or something like that. (I think I’ve gone daft this evening)

  3. Oh – you made MY card. Thank you 🙂
    Fine line this “fortune-telling” vs. Charlatan thing.

    This may be why I love the show “The Mentalist” and not just because he’s so damn hot.

    Anyway, yeah – we’re all being a sold a bit of something – and we are all always selling a bit of something – the key is – know what you know, know what you don’t and never confuse the two. Oh, and remember you’ve ALWAYS got free will to say yes (or no).

    See — you totally could have excused your way out of posting a card this week — what with the cat (they are sooo clumsy) and the coffee — but you didn’t, you chose to muddle through.

    That’s my fortune for you you’ll do what it takes to keep the rest of us on our toes — because we need you to do that.

    • Tori Deaux /

      Love the line about we’re all being sold a bit of something, and we’re always selling a bit of something. And I’m glad *someone* is on their toes around here!