#110 Rissa Miller: Smoke, Tealeaf and Tarot Readings
Johnny Burke: Welcome to Closer to Venus. I’m Johnny Burke today’s guest is Rissa Miller. She’s an editor, herbalist storyteller, and a seer doing both Tealeaf reading and Smokescrying . Today we will talk about her unique divination practice, as well as how her past lives have influenced her current path. Rissa, welcome to the program.
Rissa Miller: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Johnny Burke: Excellent. I love it when people are excited. Herbalist, storyteller, and a seer. How did you find yourself on this path?
Rissa Miller: It’s been a lifelong journey, to be honest with you, and all of those things fit together in my story. I can tell you that this is a path I started probably in a past life. But I do have childhood memories of learning about herbalism of playing with the heritage set of Tarot cards that I have that were my grandmother’s and mother’s and now mine. I can tell you for sure that tea has always been a part of my life. Absolutely.
Johnny Burke: So you believe that you had this type of practice, in a previous life, in a previous incarnation?
Rissa Miller: One of my past lives that I remember I was gathering herbs in a forest and it’s a very distinct memory. I can feel the basket on my arm. I can feel the plants under my fingertips. It’s a very sharp memory.
Johnny Burke: Did you have an idea of what century it was or even maybe what decade?
Rissa Miller: I can feel myself and I know I have a corset on in that memory. So that spans almost a thousand years that women wore corsets. But, it was during that time, from the clothing, I would guess 16 or 1700s.
Johnny Burke: Okay. All right. And the memory, you remember a lot of details.
I do hear that quite a bit. Why do you call it a divination practice?
Rissa Miller: It’s always evolving. That’s why I call it a practice. I think that someone who does divination is always learning, is always in a process of evolving with their divination art. To me, it is most definitely an art. When I do tealeaf reading or smokes crying, there’s always a physical drawing as well as the vision that comes through from the medium.
I did three readings yesterday and I can tell you I learn every time something new about my cards, something new about my tea, and always something new about people, how they receive their messages, how they manage their feelings and emotions around a reading. There’s always a learning curve every single time.
Johnny Burke: You’re pretty confident in your practice, especially since you remember it from a previous incarnation, which sounds like it was about 400 or 500 years ago. You have three different types of readings, tealeaf, smoke, and tarot, and we’ll get into all three of them individually. How do you determine what type of reading to give someone when they come and see you?
Rissa Miller: most people know what they want when they contact me. They are very familiar with tarot and they’re comfortable in that space, or they. Hilarious this may sound; they’ve seen Harry Potter and they want to do a tea leaf reading because they had them in the movies and books. They were also in the Outlander books as well.
That’s just a bit of free advertising for those of us who do tea leaf reading. And I am super grateful personally. But definitely, folks are familiar with tasseomancy from those media outlets. Then I would say someone who wants smoke, they are usually someone who’s very adventurous, who is very spiritual, who has already experienced other kinds of reading.
Occasionally I get someone who will contact me and say, can you direct me to what might be good for me? I usually in that case, will ask them what their astrology sign is if they know it. And I will let that guide me towards smoke, which would handle air and fire or tea, which would handle earth and water.
Johnny Burke: So astrological signs are a kind of a guidepost too. If someone doesn’t know what they want, based on that info, you can give them a suggestion.
Rissa Miller: Absolutely. Yeah. It, I have found over the time I have done this, that different mediums resonate more with people born under particular signs. It’s a very unscientific survey, but it’s just been what I have observed over the years.
Johnny Burke: It makes perfect sense to me. Which one of these, modalities did you actually learn first? Or should I say relearned? Because I’m sure you did that before many years ago.
Rissa Miller: Tarot came into my life first because it was a family practice, but I didn’t embrace it first. I knew it. I was familiar with it, and I didn’t grow to appreciate it until years later. I would say that I fell in love with tea first.
I remember being 16 years old in this life, and my mom for the holidays gave me a container of loose tea. Nowadays it’s no big deal. You can get loose tea at most major groceries. But 30 years ago it was a specialty item, and it was a really fantastic gift. Unfortunately, the little metal tea ball that it was supposed to be held in, broke in the cup and the tea just became loose in my teacup.
I guess it was a moment when destiny intervened because as I drank the tea,
I noticed the leaves sticking to the side of the cup and they looked like shapes to me. I immediately saw a cat, I saw a basket, and my mom said, that’s a really old divination practice. You should keep looking. And I did, I started keeping a notebook of the things I saw of the different shapes and, it was before we had easy access to the internet and there were notebooks available in the library where I grew up on tea leaf reading.
So I developed my own system of reading symbols. I had no guide, so I used my spirit guides to show me the way through the cup, through the symbols, and I just made notes. I made drawings. That’s how the drawing practice started too.
I would just draw what I saw in each cup.
It did go through a phase where I think many spiritual people do, and I became skeptical of everything. Probably from the influence of those around me. Not my family, but other people. I put all of this back for a little while and focused on just the facts. I found I missed it so much and I thought, I need to give back to being myself. And if these people aren’t with me, that’s fine. They can go their own way. ,I pulled my tea cups back out. I pulled my tarot cards back out, especially the old deck that had been in my family for so long and re-found my way into trusting the messages that came through for me.
Johnny Burke: Seems to me that spirit guides are ubiquitous, whether I talk to a medium, an intuitive, someone who has past life memories, a practitioner I interviewed a past life, a hypnotherapist that specializes in past life regression, and he didn’t experience spirit guides, but his clients did pretty often.
So, question about the Tarot, because I do believe many people will dismiss it as a parlor game, like a Ouija board. Obviously, you think there’s a lot more to it than that. What can you tell our listeners about that practice where it actually has some, substance? can it tell the future? can it tell the sitter, your client, something about themselves that maybe they were not aware of?
Rissa Miller: 100%. That happens almost every time I read for someone. As far as telling the future, I don’t necessarily think that’s what my divination practice is about. Yes, we absolutely occasionally get hints of the future in divination. What I like to tell people is when they come to me, what’s going to happen is they’re going to see a very articulate reflection of where they are right now, and that means both light and shadow. I always emphasize that because it would be lovely to do a reading for someone that was all good news, and occasionally I get to deliver those. I was so fortunate I got to do one last night for someone and, it was delightful to hand a young lady an all-positive reading. However, it doesn’t matter what medium you’re using, if it’s tarot cards or runes or your medium, it doesn’t matter. There’s always a shadow. We have to have it to complete who we are.
I was a photographer for many years, for over 20 years. That was my profession. And shadows define the light. You have to have them. They’re an essential part of a picture. They’re an essential part of a drawing. And it’s true divination. So when you’re looking at your past, which sometimes divination brings up frequently, I see messages about things unresolved, sometimes about past lives. Smoke is really good for that because it’s so ethereal. There’s always this part of the past that almost everyone has something they haven’t quite put to rest yet, and divination will frequently shine a light into that shadowy corner reminding them this is your baggage. This is the challenge that you still need to think about.
So your question about Tarot being like a parlor game. The history of Tarot is that it was a parlor game. It came from the 13th century in Italy, and it was originally a parlor game. It was not used for divination until the late 17 hundreds when the spiritualist movement started. So it does have that history hanging over it, right? Spirit boards too. Spirit boards came into being like a Ouija board. Spirit boards happened during the spiritualist movement, and they were definitely an instrument of fraud for some people.
No matter what tool you’re looking at whether you’re talking about a scrying mirror or any other divination method, it depends on whose hands it’s in. If you put a set of wrenches in my hand, I couldn’t fix your car. That is not my area of expertise. A tarot deck, tea, a mug, a set of runes. They’re tools. They have to be in the hands of a practitioner who understands them, has a relationship with them, and has enough faith in themself to use them properly. Practice helps too.
Johnny Burke: I’ll bet it does. A word about the spirit boards, Ouija boards for instance. Not for the amateurs. The impression I get from it is that it’s like a portal to trouble if you’re not careful.
Rissa Miller: The story that was told to us in the 1970s by filmmakers. Originally spirit boards were used by all mediums. They were a tool, just like a tarot deck. You can use tarot decks to speak to the dead as well. I would say that it’s one of those things that if you put fear out, you will get back something to be afraid of.
And if you put confidence out, you will get back a clear answer. There’s a great expression. If you stare into the abyss long enough, sooner or later it stares back.
That’s true with any form of divination, any mediumship. I think that if you invite trouble, you’ll get into trouble.
Johnny Burke: We definitely don’t want that.
Rissa Miller: That’s true of the living as well.
Johnny Burke: We definitely do not want trouble. I bring that up because many of the people I talk to, especially the mediums, really stress the need for protection because there are apparently beings out there that are not so nice and that’s just not some fairytale.
Rissa Miller: I would absolutely agree. One of my favorite side jobs is I’m a ghost tour guide and there are absolutely negative entities that show up on ghost tours like shadow people, and things like that.
Johnny Burke: Shadow people; that came up a few interviews ago. Crystal Anne Compton. She talked about that and spiritual attacks and again stressed the need for protection.
Now, you mentioned a few moments ago that you can use the cards to speak to the deceased as we like to call them. Can you give us an example of how you would go about doing that?
Rissa Miller: Sure. Absolutely. So a lot of divination has to do with intention.
If you intend to speak to someone specific, that’s simply who you ask for. At least that’s how I work. You don’t always get who you want, but you frequently do, especially if it’s someone your seeker has a strong connection to. I have absolutely done readings where deceased pets came through, where deceased family members came through, and it has been very evident almost immediately to the seeker that’s who was speaking to them. Sometimes the cue is tiny.
I have multiple decks that I will use to read.
A young lady recently chose one, and the minute the card turned over, there was a ladybug on it, and that was her recently deceased father’s nickname for her. She immediately knew he was present by the ladybug. That was the first message the cards gave her. She was 100% sure that everything they came after was from him. I felt pretty confident about it too because the messages that came in that reading were absolutely the father that loved his daughter that was still trying to guide her and speak to her from the other side that was not just her dad, but in her own words, her close friend. So that’s how that reading felt, that’s how it went, and it completely resonated that way for both my seeker and me,
Johnny Burke: The messages that come through is that through claircognizance? clairvoyance? Is it similar to like a mediumship reading?
Rissa Miller: Similar. Yeah. I would say that tea and smoke are even more, open-ended than tarot, but basically, I trust my spirit guides to give me the information I need for each individual seeker that I am working with. As long as I maintain that level of self-trust, it’s there every time. It’s the only thing that can really break it is doubt. I feel like I have occasionally had seekers come to me who was given a gift, and the gift is like a gift card to come get a reading, but it isn’t really a match for them. and I almost immediately can tell that they’re skeptics or they don’t really want to be there, or there’s some barrier, some wall they’re putting up between me and the reading and it’s almost palpable. You could almost feel it between you and the person. So when someone is not open, and it doesn’t matter how strong of a message is waiting for them, I frequently can’t reach it because they won’t energetically allow it. It’s like you were talking about boundaries against dark entities. There’s all kinds of boundaries you can build.
Johnny Burke: I imagine there is. You actually describe yourself among other things as a seer. It’s not really something we hear about every day. What exactly is that?
Rissa Miller: It’s an old-fashioned word, and it’s another word in the category of psychic. But I feel like our society has attached a lot of baggage to the word psychic. And Seer is much more old-fashioned and it’s right in the same vein.
A seer is someone who can see through the veil, who can see the other side and bring you back clearer messages.
Johnny Burke: That’s very similar to a medium. It seems to me that there’s some kind of an intersection. I’ve been told all mediums are psychic, but not all psychics are mediums. More often than not I hear that it’s either correct, or it’s yes, you’re in the ballpark. Obviously for every rule, there’s exceptions, but does that sound accurate?
Rissa Miller: It is interesting you ask that. For a long time. I resisted the label medium, and it was mostly because of tv to be totally honest with you. I feel like mediums are portrayed in a very specific way, and I didn’t want to be grouped into the,
Johnny Burke: like with a turban around their head.
Rissa Miller: Definitely one cliche. Yeah.
Johnny Burke: very much a cliche, but yes, I can see where there’s a lot of negative associations actually with both because unfortunately there is some fraud. But I think a lot of it, at least from what I’m, told is, its activity from well-meaning people, but their skills are just not quite developed and they leave themselves open to criticism because they probably should not be practicing until they become certified or they can commonly bring forth something evidential where it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Not everyone can do that.
Rissa Miller: No, not everyone can. I feel like there’s a lot of I’m going to say testing that goes on. Even, with the seekers who come to me, they’ll test and want specifics from me. And with the tea and smoke, it’s actually very easy to pull specifics because they take their own form. There’s no edge to that. It literally can be anything. When it comes to reading cards, you have to really trust your intuition because the cards have their own set meanings, whether they’re right side up or inverse. There’s 78 cards in a tarot deck, and each one of them have if you considered both the upright and inverse meanings, dozens of possibilities.
But then sometimes the message isn’t in any of it. The example with the ladybug; the ladybug was part of the drawing on the card. It was nothing to do with the true meaning of the card as far as quote-unquote definitions. So that’s one of those moments where have to truly trust yourself enough to move within that reading, to move with that seeker in that moment. It has been my experience that the details are always there, you just have to trust that you’re getting the right message at the right moment. I’ve even had people’s names spelled out in tea. I have seen things that are specific.
Johnny Burke: Spelled out?
Rissa Miller: The example I’m coming up with in my mind right now was a woman named Jill, she was the ex-wife of one of my seekers and he came to me for a tea leaf reading at an antique shop only because he said he saw it advertised and wanted to try new things. He was a big tough looking guy and not my normal tea leaf reading client. I sat down with him, he had his tea and the name Jill popped right out at me and I said, do you know someone named Jill? And he became very emotional, he said that’s my ex-wife. She left me because I was an alcoholic two years ago. I’ve since cleaned up, but I have no idea how to talk to her. And I just found out she had cancer. So the name Jill was spelled out in the cup for a reason, and we delved further into the cup and the other messages.
I had a touching email from him about a year later that he had followed the guidance in the cup and they were friends again getting to know each other it was going great and she was also healthy again too. He had helped her get through her cancer treatment.
Johnny Burke: Okay. Let’s talk about smoke scrying, because I’ve never had any discussions about that. It seems to be similar in dynamics to the tea leaves, but I think you explained this to me a while back that the spirit guides, or whatever that energy is, can actually influence the smoke. Is that true?
Rissa Miller: 100%. So smoke scrying is actually one of the most ancient forms of divination available to us still, as human beings. as long as people have had fire, they’ve had smoke, and people have been looking for messages in smoke and fire and ashes since that time. So it is incredibly old. It was actually practiced they believe by the Oracles of Delphi as well. Smokescrying is gazing into smoke and seeing the pictures that form. It does move very quickly, and you have to pick a spot where it’s not going to be influenced by say, events or, air conditioner, open window, things like that. You have to have the right atmosphere. I’ve also found it’s much easier to see it in front of a black background or something very dark. Technicalities aside, smoke moves fast, and it takes incredibly specific shapes. Faces come out, letters come out, and it moves really quickly. I have often taken pictures or videos during sessions for people, and then when you examine them again, you see even more, in real-time. Someone recently asked me how many opportunities for new clients, significant new clients will I have this year? And this smoke instantly split into three streams. It just answered that fast.
Johnny Burke: Three. Three new clients?
Rissa Miller: Three significant new clients.
Johnny Burke: Three significant. It’s interesting to know that smoke has been around pretty much since the beginning of time, it’s not surprising that might be the most ancient practice Let’s go back to your past life memories. Every time this comes up, I am always tempted to ask were you able to access the in-between space? The space in between incarnations.
Rissa Miller: I have not walked in it that I remember, but I have seen it when other people have passed. What I have seen looks like a big open meadow. I have seen it more than once. It a sunny, open place that I have seen, and I spoke to another psychic about it, and he said that it is the same for him when he is accessing spirits that are between lives. He called it Summerland. I always call it the meadow.
Johnny Burke: Summerland?
Rissa Miller: That’s his name. It’s better than the meadow, but to me it’s the meadow. And I have seen animal spirits there, I have seen human spirits there.
It is an incredibly calm, peaceful place. And it almost seems like a version of a place to wait and rest. The souls there are regenerating, they can still watch, and they can still see you and they can still interact from the space of the meadow, but when they are in that space, they are also resting to come back.
Johnny Burke: I’ve heard it referred to as the resting place among other things. and also a place where soul contracts, and agreements are made; you pick your family, you pick your parents. Contrary to that old cliche, you can’t pick your parents- actually, I’m told that you actually do. You may not get the parents you want, but you get the parents you need to learn.
Rissa Miller: Right? Right.
Johnny Burke: You’ve gotten distinct intuitive impressions that these things do exist. It’s not a fairytale, it’s not wishful thinking. And you also mentioned that when the spirits are in that place, they can still see us. And did you say, interact with us?
Rissa Miller: I think so. I think that spirits interact with us all the time in large and small ways. There’s an unawareness that is caused by a lack of self-trust and a lack of trusting our own intuition. But I believe it happens, nonetheless. I feel like these little signs and symbols seep through all the time. Whether or not we’re paying attention is another thing, but I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve had so many people share with me these stories and experiences. They can’t explain away that they’re just too coincidental to be a coincidence. And I do have a background in journalism. That’s my inner skeptic – in journalism, they would tell you, there are no coincidences. You just have to find the thread.
Johnny Burke: There are no coincidences.
Rissa Miller: You just have to find the thread. I feel like these interactions still happen, some people feel them, some people sense them, and some people are very aware of them. Then a lot of people, even as they’re witnessing them, they decide to write them off. They decided, oh, that couldn’t be, that’s not right. That’s not possible.
Johnny Burke: Have you ever sensed one of these spirits- I don’t know if you do online readings. I’m not really sure if you can do that.
Rissa Miller: No, not at all. Online readings are actually my largest category.
Johnny Burke: So in other words, if there were someone with me or some entity with me right now, you’d be able to sense it?
Rissa Miller Maybe, I don’t feel anything with you right now. I’m sure there is somebody there, but I’m not tuning into them. I have definitely had that happen during readings. I’ve had it happen a lot beforehand. I have actually even seen entities before I go to a reading and then I see a picture of someone, oh, this is my relative who recently passed, and I say, he was here earlier. Here’s the message, or sometimes I’ll say there was somebody here wearing, a green ball cap and they were sitting slouched in a chair really tall. And they’ll say, oh my gosh, that was my nephew. He died in an accident. He always wore the green ball cap. Things like that.
Johnny Burke: So when you have those kind of images and messages, speaking of our inner skeptic, how do you explain to somebody, it’s not just you reading someone’s energy or even reading their mind?
Rissa Miller: I can’t explain that away honestly. I could be reading their energy. I could be tuning into their thoughts. Some people are incredibly loud thinkers. I actually prefer to read for people. I don’t know. I don’t read for my close family, and I don’t read for my, closest circle of friends and family because I know too much about them. I would absolutely interject my own feelings into a reading for them. So when I’m reading for strangers, I don’t want to know anything about them going in unless they have a question they want me to focus on. Sometimes even that isn’t the reading they get.
I get a lot of questions about romantic life and career, and sometimes the answer that comes back is, actually, before you get into your next relationship, you need to do X, Y, Z thing for yourself. Or before you leave this job, you need to tie up these other loose ends or get more education or whatever the cup or cards or smoke might tell me. It’s always what I convey. It’s often not what people want to hear, but I can’t always explain it, that’s where the trust comes in. That’s actually been probably my biggest lesson in this lifetime is learning to trust myself enough to believe my intuition.
Johnny Burke: Speaking of your intuition, when was it that you discovered that you had past life memories, to begin with?
Rissa Miller: When I was a child. I actually have very clear memories of it from childhood. So it’s been my whole life that I have remembered certain lifetimes.
Johnny Burke: When you were a child, do you remember ever seeing any kind of spirit beings or anything like that?
Rissa Miller: Oh, definitely. More than I do now. I absolutely did, and I was very lucky that when I explained to my parents that I, remember dying, or I recently saw a man in a hat walk through the wall. They didn’t judge me. They accepted it as it was and said, we’re sure you did.
Johnny Burke: in your bloodline, because you mentioned that the Tarot was a family business- did you ever have any evidence that maybe your mother or anybody in your family before had this kind of ability?
Rissa Miller: I have no doubt that someone did. Unfortunately, so many members of my family are passed that I can’t ask directly. I would say that I have ancestors that my part of my spirit guide team that I talk to regularly and that guide me through my readings and my life. But unfortunately, I don’t have any hard data.
Johnny Burke: r It’s very hard to have something at hand that’s actually tangible. The subject of spirit guides comes up a lot. So what is it like to recognize one of your spirit guides as an ancestor? That’s someone you never met, right? Is it just a feeling or how did you determine that?
Rissa Miller: I knew for a long time and, it was actually another medium that verified it for me, which it was quite validating to have someone else say, by the way, this other spirit guide looks like this. And I’m like, yep, I know exactly who she is. In that way, I did get external validation- it helped a lot in giving me more confidence in my ability to seek her out when I need her and speak to her.
Johnny Burke: Okay, to sum up, your past life memories shape your current practice in a way that gives you a tremendous amount of experience for one person. Is there any other way besides the memories that it bolsters your work and perhaps makes it a little bit stronger?
Rissa Miller: I do have all of this past life history with what I do, including with herbs. I would say that the plants, the tea, and incense that I use for my smoke, all of that is part of the memory, using the plants, and having a relationship with them. Yes, all of that is, part of my past. It is ingrained in my blood from a long time ago. I fully embraced it in this lifetime as two of the lives I remember dying by betrayal. They’re the other two life memories from past life memories that I distinctly have. I started this life with very little trust in people.
So it has been a big challenge for going into this lifetime to learn to believe that I knew the answer, that I could trust myself and could trust my own judgment of people since I had suffered these betrayals in past lives. I think that accepting that’s where I was in those lifetimes and then coming forward with the lesson has been incredibly beneficial to all of my work, all of my day-to-day living. Collectively, they belong to my ancestry and spirit circle as well, so that I don’t have to live through the same mistakes in this life that I did in those past lives.
Johnny Burke: I guess the significance there is you’ve learned from another life where you’ve learned from the mistakes, so you don’t have to repeat them again in this life, which again, makes your practice truly unique. Your divination practice. Anything else about these topics that you’d like, our listeners to know?
Rissa Miller: I think the big takeaway I would love to share with your listeners is to trust their own intuition. I think so many people hear the little nudges that come through, the little twitch in your gut, the feeling in your shoulders, that’s your intuition. It’s talking to you and it’s usually right, like 99.9% of the time.
I think that society as a whole would be great if we all learned to have that level of self-trust. Collectively.
Johnny Burke: Good point. totally agree. Rissa, thanks for joining us today. great information. very interesting. How can our listeners find out more about you online?
Rissa Miller:I am at TeaandSmoke .com