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The season of death, the veil is thin, and a tarot tribute

The Death card from the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White

The Death card from the Mary-el Tarot by Marie White

This is Scorpio season, the season of death, the season where the veil between this world and the next is the thinnest: it has also been a season for me and mine in which we’ve lost more loved ones than previous years.

This past Saturday, my coven celebrated Samhain, the Witches’ New Year, the sabbat made for honoring and revering and celebrating the dead, our ancestors both of blood and spirit that have crossed the Veil before us. For more information about how witches celebrate Samhain, Courtney Weber covers it here.

I’ve felt disconnected from this holiday in the past. While I’ve had family members that have died (my grandparents), and I’ve loved them, it was an obligation of love: of course I love(d) my grandparents! But I never really knew them or had much interaction with them because they lived in England. We would go to visit them every few years, but it was not the same as the relationships I saw between my friends and their grandparents, or even my now-husband and his grandparents. The loss of them happened either when I was a baby, when I was around eight years old, and later on in my teens the last of them passed. I didn’t really KNOW know them as people.

But this Samhain was hard, not only with the first of my friends passing (I’ll get to that in a moment, which is what this post is mostly about), but with my uncle passing, my husband’s uncle passing, and his grandmother passing unexpectedly as well. It was all too much, and the Veil felt more inhabited on the other side than the living side this time. It felt… crowded. So many souls clamoring to be with the living, to communicate with them, to party with them. Maybe this is how most witches feel during Samhain, but for me it was a very new sensation to feel a familiar soul on the other side.

This year, I lost someone that I knew, that I considered a friend and a tarot colleague. A few years ago I met two lovely women that live in Westchester who are also tarot readers: one came to me as a client with a full-on “hey, I’m a reader, but you know how it is sometimes when you can’t read on a subject…” and one I met at Readers Studio (the tarot conference) only to find out I had worked the same PTA fundraiser with her 2 weeks before really “meeting” her.

Since then, we have all kept in touch, and a few times have gone out to eat together and talk shop, and refer each other to clients when we can and when it’s applicable. We affectionately call our little trio the “Three of Cups”…

One of them instigated a “let’s get together soon” email at the end of April (right when I had my car being totaled) so I said as much: “okay but car-less, will let you know”. A few weeks later I said “okay let’s try to get together again.” One responded quickly. Nothing from the other, which was unlike her, but still, I didn’t think much of it.

A month later, I thought about how unlike her it was to not respond to an email, so I decided to call her…. only to find a “the user has not set up her mailbox yet” message. My alarm bells started going off, so I asked the other member of our trio to try whatever number she had for her, because I had gotten this message. So she did, and got the same message. I didn’t know what to do at that point.

A few days after that, I was reading a blog post and someone had mentioned in the comments section that they had found someone online only to find out the person had passed away. Alarm bells again and a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I searched like that person did (I had simply never thought to do it, as my friend really didn’t seem to dig social media)… and I didn’t like what I found. I sent an email to the other member of the 3 of Cups:

I am full-on freaked out right now. I did a google search because I was worried about Valerie, and unfortunately found this facebook post (screenshot attached) and the following link with this, “In August my friend Valerie was involved in a horrific car accident. It has transformed her into a woman I’m getting to know. But even as I get to know her as she is now, living but unresponsive, I want to honor and never forget the woman she was. The gift of self she gave to me is priceless. I am, and will always be, forever grateful.” (she is referred to by her full name earlier in the article) Call me when you can. I just don’t know what to do with myself right now. I am devastated by this. I had hoped we had all just simply lost touch because we were busy with our individual lives…

After writing and sending this, I was shaking and I felt cold to my bones (I guess it was shock. Is that what shock feels like?). And I felt lucky, oddly, because hell… my car was totaled BUT I WAS OKAY. It sounded like Valerie wasn’t for whatever car accident happened to her in August.

I resolved to do my research and reach out to the woman who posted the link I listed for information about which hospital Valerie was in. I didn’t even know if she was still alive or not because that link was posted in February…. I vaguely remember even turning to the cards at one point at which I pulled the 2 of Cups as the very first card and felt dread… not a normal association with the 2 of Cups, I know, but with our nickname being the 3 of Cups, I felt that tarot was telling me already that one of the members of our little band was gone. I had to know for sure.

Even as I resolved to reach out to this woman for more information about Valerie, I didn’t know what words I would use. “Hey, you don’t know me, but ____”? With help from my covenmates, with whom I was processing this shocking information, I was able to word the “message to a stranger about someone we both know”:


I am friends/colleagues with Valerie Sarnicole, and we lost touch in the last year. I had contacted her through email and phone to no response. When I had googled her name to check I had the right phone number for her I found your post mentioning her.

It is upsetting to find out someone I had presumed to be busy with life was in fact fighting for hers after a car accident. If you have any information that you can share, it would be most appreciated. Valerie is a wonderful person and I have seen that childlike glee for life as you described in your post for myself… it is infectious.

Hilary Parry

A few days later, I got an email back from the woman that wrote the nice blog post including Valerie. Sadly she confirmed the worst: that unfortunately, Valerie died on March 13th. She never regained consciousness.

I passed along this sad news to Lisa. We still haven’t met up yet since learning that Valerie had passed. I’m no shrink, but I think it’s because we’re both in denial about it.

Lately I’ve been reminded of Valerie while moving house: finding her business cards, the tarot deck and card she gave me on my birthday 2 years ago, little things. Is it because she’s reaching out to me from the other side, trying to let me know she’s okay, even though she met a tragic end? Is it because it is the season of death, and I am reminded that I never mourned her, I never grieved? Is it because the embodiment of Hekate that came through on Saturday’s ritual reminded us all that we need not wait until Samhain to connect with our loved ones that have gone before us, or even our loved ones that are still here with us for that matter?

I don’t know what it is, but I feel its presence and I acknowledge it. I want to give tribute to my friend Valerie Sarnicole, who was an excellent tarot reader with a dry wit, a psychological slant, and a wise, wise person. I’m glad to have known you, Valerie, and I shall miss you.


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5 Responses to The season of death, the veil is thin, and a tarot tribute

  1. […] A thoughtful post on death from Hilary Parry: The season of death, the veil is thin, and a tarot tribute. […]

  2. Lauren says:

    I just read this post after having googled “Valerie Sanicole” and am now shaken to the core. I had gotten to know Valerie a few years ago when we became swimming buddies at the y and we started to socialize outside of the Y. She was a sweetheart. I lost touch with her though after she stopped returning texts and phone calls.i figured she lost interest ( I’m after all old enough to be her mother) so I stopped phoning, texting and calling but it always gnawed at mead to what happened; now I know.

    • Hilary says:

      Lauren, I am so sorry that you had to find out about Valerie in a similar way to how I did. I assumed when she hadn’t replied to me that she was simply busy. 🙁 I am glad that you got to know her though. She was indeed a sweetheart, and a wonderful friend and tarot reader.

  3. Sandra says:

    I found a deal on Groupon for tarot reading by Valerie Sarnicole. The website wasn`t working, so I did a google search and found your blog. I`m wondering if someone is not using her name…

    • Hilary says:

      Sadly, Sandra, I believe this is the one and the same Valerie Sarnicole. She was previously known as Tarot by Valerie, then switched to her full name as a URL I only know of one Valerie Sarnicole who read tarot who was also associated with the Awaken Faire and the Psychic Caravan.

      I also do remember her saying that she had a few deals on Groupon.

      I would hope someone else is not using her name. I don’t think that’s the case here: just Groupon not being aware that she passed away.

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