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Monday, October 11, 2010

Miss Cleo & the Four Doors

Miss Cleo

You may not remember her, but Youree Dell Harris was something of a minor celebrity of dubious reputation in the late '90s. Operating under the name of Miss Cleo and claiming to be a Jamaican Shaman, Harris appeared in late-night infomercials as well as several 30 second commercials for the Psychic Readers Network. As the spokesman for the network, Miss Cleo offered psychic advice and predictions based on Tarot readings while a prominent 1-900 number appeared on the screen inviting listeners to call in for their own reading at .99 cents a minute or more. 

While some believe that the calls were scripted or that the callers were actors who were hired to "play along" with the readings, it is clear that Miss Cleo had some knowledge of the Tarot. Her warm, friendly and inviting manner with her callers made her a magnetic and charismatic figure later parodied on shows such as The Simpsons, MadTV, and Angel to name a few.

At the height of her popularity, a Miss Cleo Power Deck was put on the market. The cards were basically a Rider-Waite clone with an Egyptian theme that also included some minor changes from card to card. It is interesting to note that Miss Cleo actually used a Rider-Waite deck in the infomercials (see picture at right). The deck came with a 30 minute VHS video of Miss Cleo explaining the upright and reversed meanings of the cards as well as a brief description of three tarot spreads including the Past, Present and Future Spread, the Four Door Spread (see below) and the Celtic Cross Spread. 

Several lawsuits were filed against the Psychic Readers Network and Miss Cleo herself  in 1999 over deceptive business practices, which included spamming and false-advertising.  The lawsuits were later settled out of court, but not before much of Miss Cleo's claims regarding her past had been discredited. During this time it was revealed that Miss Cleo was actually Youree Dell Harris, who was born in Los Angeles and who is not Jamaican.

It was later reported that Harris had previously created a version of  the character of Miss Cleo for one of her self-penned plays Women Only: A Celebration of Love, Life and Healing in which she played the part of Miss Cleo. After settling the lawsuits filed against her, Harris went into private practice as a shaman and spiritual-adviser through a company located in Florida. In October of 2006, Harris came out as a lesbian in an issue of The Advocate. Harris also claimed to be a survivor of domestic abuse.

For many people interested in the Tarot, Miss Cleo's infomercials were the closest they could get to seeing a reader actually ply her craft.  Despite claims that the infomercials were scripted I never saw an instance where I felt that Miss Cleo gave her callers bad advice. Despite her previous past, it is clear that Miss Cleo was responsible for introducing the Tarot to a whole generation of individuals.

The Four-Doors Spread

The Four-Doors is a Tarot Spread utilized by the character of Miss Cleo in her many infomercials which appeared on late-night television in the last 1990's and early 2000's. It can be used for specific questions or general readings.

The Four-Doors spread is a pretty straight-forward spread, however some readers may be intimidated from using it as the card positions do not have any designations as in other spreads (the past, the present, how you feel, the near future, the outcome, etc...). Without designations for each position in the spread, the reader is forced to look at the cards before him or her both individually and as a whole to intuit from them the information the cards are attempting to communicate. However, as with any tarot spread, your accuracy with using the Four-Doors will depend on your level of understanding of the Tarot, your skill-level, and your amount of gifted-ness with reading cards in general.

1) The spread begins by shuffling the cards. When you are done they are cut into four stacks before you.

2) Next, turn over the top card in each stack and place it face up above its corresponding stack. 

3) Finally, turn the top card in each stack over and leave it on top of its corresponding stack. 

The cards are then read from left to right beginning with the first card on the top row and ending with the last card on the bottom row.  

Carolina Dean



Chiron Armand said...

Omg, best post ever! So interesting! And according to, her kit included a book titled "Keepin' It Real," which I'm guessing is an allusion to the Jamaican-Kemetic metaphysical honor code akin to the The Four Noble Truths.


Carolina Dean said...

Grrr, I forgot to mention about the other little book. Thanks for pointing that out!


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