Hold My Broom is an OnMilwaukee exclusive series exploring the magickal, mystical and cackle-worthy.Elliot Adam is an oracle. He doesn’t take this term lightly. He questioned its legitimacy for many years. And he made great effort to escape it for a decade, including moving to another state, focusing entirely on music which led to him receiving a doctoral degree in oboe. But, as we all eventually find out about ourselves, we are who we are. More on that later.
Earlier this year, the prestigious New Age publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, published Elliot's first book, “Fearless Tarot: How To Give a Positive Reading In Any Situation,” and advanced him to write a second, which will be out, hopefully, in 2022.
“Fearless Tarot,” which features a forward by Theresa Reed, aka The Tarot Lady, is based on Elliot's popular website and blog. Elliot didn’t plan to write a book, but after his large fanbase requested one repeatedly, he decided to do it. And do it he did. “Fearless Tarot” won the Gold Medal in the Divination Books Category at the 2021 “Coalition of Visionary Resources” Awards.
Elliot's approach to Tarot cards is about empowering the individual to find answers within themselves.
“My book is about redirecting people to their best selves. You know what to do better than I know. Like all oracles, I’m here to give you some words that will marinate for a while and then fall into place because your inner-self will know what to do with the information,” says Elliot.
“Fearless Tarot: How To Give A Positive Reading In Any Situation,” does not suggest that "positive" means every Tarot card reading should be a falsely upbeat interpretation of sugar-coated bullshit. Instead, Elliot brings out the deeper meaning of each card and sheds light on what can be learned, including the “darker” cards that many people find daunting or scary like Death, The Tower or, the most misunderstood card in the deck, The Devil.
“(Elliot) is centered on being proactive, no matter what cards show up in the reading,” Reed writes in the book’s Forward. “Rather than sharing the Tarot through the lens of fear, there is hope and a way forward.”
Elliot’s early journey
Elliot was born and raised in Milwaukee. He lived here for the first 30 years of his life, and then left to purse advanced degrees in music at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
“I love Milwaukee, and I am so happy to be back, but I really needed to get out of here for a while,” he says.
Elliot grew up on Milwaukee's near-South Side and describes his childhood as a rough experience. His mother was disillusioned by alcohol, judgmental religion and unkind partners. Eventually, Elliot's relationship with his mom strengthened – she even became his biggest fan. Elliot took care of his mother during her final year of life, but unfortunately she passed shortly before "Fearless Tarot" was published. The book is dedicated to her.
As a kid, Elliot found solace in local libraries where he read everything he could find about mythology and mysticism. He also found a deck of Tarot cards in his attic and was instantly fascinated, but a family member confiscated them. However, when his older brother returned from Germany where he served in the military, he got wind of the situation and secretly took Elliot to Brady Street to buy another deck of Tarot cards.
Elliot attended Bay View High School in the mid-1990s, and his experience, as an openly gay kid, was terrifying.
“This was before ‘Glee.’ There was no safety for gay kids,” says Elliot. “You were hunted, harassed, shamed and beat down. I don’t want to trash talk Bay View High School, I have no idea what it’s like now, but it was not a safe place for me in the '90s.”
To escape the bullying, Elliot retreated to the orchestra room to find solace. It was there Elliot found the oboe, by way of the trumpet and clarinet.
“I always wanted to play the trumpet, but they didn’t have any left. The orchestra teacher brought out an alto clarinet and I thought it looked like a piece of plumbing, something you’d find underneath the sink. It was in a huge, ugly case,” says Elliot. "But then I saw the oboe, I didn’t know what it was, but it was smaller and sleeker and would fit in my bag. And it turns out it was available, because no one wanted to play the oboe either.”
Elliot went to the library and checked out oboe CDs, taught himself to play and quickly became noticed by the Milwaukee Publisc Schools (MPS) system for his talents.
“I played and played until I didn’t sound like a duck,” says Elliot. “Little did I know, the oboe is a solo instrument. It tunes the orchestra. It’s a very important instrument. And I got really good at it. And because no one plays the damn thing, I got all the solos.”
And although music improved Elliot's high school experience, the bullying became insufferable, and eventually he dropped out.
Teen Tarot reader
When Elliot left high school, he needed money. Although he was as passionate about oboe as he was about Tarot, reading cards was a direct source of revenue. Elliot got his first Tarot job at the Tea House in Bay View and then went on to read cards at the iconic Hand of Glory in Downtown Milwaukee.
“Originally, the owners were skeptical of me because I was still a kid, but I read their cards and they hired me on the spot,” says Elliot.
Elliot made enough money to rent a room in an apartment with “a bunch of nice lesbians who liked drum circles” and put his entire self into his readings.
The combination of his mature life experiences, genuine concern for others, and gifts of intuition and vision were the perfect combination for highly accurate and personal readings.
“From the time I was 10, I was listening to people who were falling apart all around me and so at 17, I knew how to address subjects I didn’t have any personal experiences with yet,” says Elliot. “I was able to give people real-life insight, like telling where to invest in the stock market or how to get through a divorce or what kind of career decision they needed to make. To this day, I don’t know what I am saying or where it’s coming from. It just comes out.”
When the Hand of Glory shuttered, Elliot's brother, the one who bought him the Tarot deck, suggested he open his own shop. It seemed like a stretch, but Elliot opened Athena’s Oracle – named for his favorite goddess – on Milwaukee's East Side in 2000.
“I tried to sell incense and books and candles, but people didn’t want to buy that from me. They just wanted readings,” says Elliot.
Elliot operated the business for five years, and learned a lot in the process.
“My pricing was too low. I didn’t know about boundaries. I was drained,” says Elliot. “It really took over my entire life.”
At the same time, Elliot was struggling with people's reaction to his business. Despite his dedicated clientele, he was constantly confronted with people who were questioning his work, and it took its toll.
“I got a lot of feedback from people that what I was doing was scary or weird or a scam. It was the '90s and Miss Cleo and her faux Jamaican accent were what people thought about Tarot at the time. It was just a bad time for Tarot, and I struggled a lot,” says Elliot. “But that’s also when I committed to music.”
The oboe years
Elliot found his way to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on Milwaukee’s East Side where he received a scholarship to take lessons. His teacher suggested he apply to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of Music and so he got his GED and received a full scholarship.
But deep down Elliot knew, although he loved music, he was also trying to escape Tarot because he thought, maybe, the naysayers were right. And he thought he had more to prove to win love and respect from others and, more importantly, himself.
In 2010, Elliot moved to Iowa City where he lived and studied for a decade. During this time, he received his Master’s, PhD, and met and married his husband.
“Iowa City nurtured me. It was a nice little bubble. It was therapy in so many ways,” says Elliot.
Elliot's musical success was immediate. After getting his doctorate in oboe he accepted a professional orchestra job with the Quad City Symphony. He was invited to perform a solo concert at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.
“And that’s where everything fell apart,” he says.
Elliot completed the concert, but says he was struggling with what was most likely a panic attack, and colleagues after the concert said he seemed, for the first time, nervous on stage.
“I realized at that moment that this life wasn’t for me. I always had to be perfect. It’s like being an Olympic athlete. It was 20 hours a week whittling a reed, and 30 hours of practice and I just couldn’t do it anymore,” says Elliot.
To clear his head and contemplate his next career move, Elliot went to Delphi, Greece, home of the ancient oracle, and a place he had always been drawn to. Early in his visit, he went to the Temple of Apollo, where the ticket seller asked him who he was and where he was from.
Elliot thought about saying he was an oboe player, but instead he surprised himself by saying, “I’m Elliot. I’m a Tarot card reader.”
This statement caused great interest in the community and before long, Elliot read the cards of many Delphi residents. After impressing them with his magickal and intuitive abilities, he was invited to a private concert by a master of the ancient Greek oboe.
“It was like a dream. I said, ‘I'm an oboe player, too. I have one in my hotel,’” says Elliot. "It was surreal."
That evening, Elliot played his oboe alongside a Greek oboe master, under the moonlight and in front of a small crowd of people.
“There was a woman," says Elliot, "Zoe, whom I had met earlier in the day and she was doing the I Ching – throwing coins – and said to me ‘this is what Apollo wants you to know: Apollo says that you were the master of knowledge but now you’re the fool and you have to relearn everything again and that’s why you came here.’”
Elliot returned home and was certain of one thing: he was an oracle before he was an oboe player – and he needed to keep reading and sharing the Tarot.
“I got home, and I said to my husband, 'I need to do my Tarot',” says Elliot. “He’s an IT guy and said, ‘You’re going to need a website.’”
In 2020, Elliot and his husband returned to Milwaukee, moved into a St. Francis duplex owned by his sister and her husband, and took care of his mother who was in the final stage of pancreatic cancer.
“It was strange returning to Milwaukee after a decade. I felt like Rip Van Winkle,” says Elliot.
With the help of his husband and his friend Theresa Reed, Adam started a website. Every day, he drew a card and wrote about it in his blog. With every entry, he focused on encouraging seekers to look beyond the same few words to describe the card’s meaning and to think about how the card could improve their self image.
“People see the 10 of swords and right away they think: 'oh, that’s bad.' But I help them to see it’s more than that. What exactly is it that’s stalking them in the shadows? What are they not facing? What are they not letting go of? And furthermore, what is starting to peak through the shadows and show them the way forward. These potent symbols on the cards are the same archetypes we drew on cave walls for thousands of years. And pictures speak the language of our inner selves. So when we take ourselves outside of our problems and literally put our cards on the table we can see ourselves as part of this mythic narrative that’s been going on forever. The cards speak to people’s higher selves and I’m there to redirect them to their inner wisdom which will then do all the work for them,” says Elliot.
Today, Elliot manages his website, provides dozens of virtual readings every week, works on his second book, and happily, is not playing the oboe. He now plays the harp, just for fun.
“I was trying so hard to be legitimate, to be the perfect oboe player,” says Elliot. “When I took a step back to find out who I really was, I was still a Tarot-reading kid from Milwaukee. And I finally said to myself ‘You don’t have to be a doctor. You’re good enough.’”
To read more articles in the "Hold My Broom" series, go here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.