Past a lesbian pride flag and down a flight of stairs into an underground bar, customers of Arcana Durham are met with mismatched antique furniture, mood lighting, themed drinks and a "family" of tarot readers.
As a hidden bar in the center of downtown Durham, Arcana is alternative, witchy and LGBTQ+ friendly. While the bar frequently hosts literary readings, queer trivia and queer craft nights, they are most well known for their tarot.
“Arcana Bar and Lounge is completely unique in that regard,” Heiltje le Roux, a card reader at Arcana, said. “I have not encountered that before. Not on any continent.”
Erin Karcher, the owner of Arcana, has established a family of eight readers who come on a weekly basis. Since each reader has their distinct style and deck, they all conduct their sessions differently. Customers connect with readers depending on their personalities or needs.
The bar has no televisions, which allows guests to be more present in the moment, Karcher said.
Despite misconceptions or stigmas about tarot, Devon Pelto, a member of Arcana's "family," sees tarot sessions as opportunities for people to share their experiences.
Pelto is completing a masters in social work at UNC, and said they use their studies to aid interpersonal connections in their spiritual work.
“[Tarot reading] is just another tool that we use to help with self-growth,” Pelto said.
By working in a safe, inclusive space like Arcana, Rene Lambert — a self-taught reader — hopes that tarot will be used as a tool of clarity for clients. They hope that their work will provide alternative trains of thought for making decisions.