Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just The Facts, Ma'am

I didn't have any idea how the cards actually worked or if they worked, but I wanted my friend to read them for me.  I think I was probably the most unremarkable querant she had ever had.  I didn't even want to look at the cards.  They were just meaningless pictures to me and held no significance to the reading.  The predictions were what I was after!  I figured she was the reader, she could tell me what they meant without my having to see them.  So, since we were just hanging out at her house,  I got up and walked around and didn't even care to see which card was what when she went through them.  As a reader, would that irritate you?  I think it would have baffled me early on as a reader, but now I understand.  Querants are as individual as anyone and some want all sorts of descriptive talk about the cards, their symbolism, references to the image, the figure's position and so forth.  One client of mine interrupted me once during one such descriptive reading I was giving to say, "Are you going to read the cards or am I?"  She didn't care for all the reasons for the interpretation, she just wanted me to get to the point.  Remembering my pacing around the room during my first tarot reading, I understood her desire and quickly reined in my flourishes and stated the meanings.
I have an affinity for all the aspects of the tarot images and so want to share all the depth and richness therein that I sometimes forget not everyone gets as excited as I do about the position of the Hanged Man's legs or the scroll on the High Priestess' lap.  Some readers might even refuse to do a reading for someone who doesn't want to look at the cards.  So many use the images as Rorschach cards or Jungian archetypes to help the querant arrive at their own conclusions, their own reading.  While that is a legitimate use of tarot and one of its purposes, I can assure you that had someone asked me those types of probing questions of me at my first reading, I would have sensed their pseudo-psychology and handed out a healthy dose of attitude.  I might have retorted just as my one client had, "Are you reading the cards or am I?" 

Since my reading practice is primarily online, there is a lack of immediacy where I can even point out a feature on a card.  I also want my clients to know that I am not just making shit up, at least not where their reading is concerned, and I am basing my interpretations of their cards on legitimate, sound, logical, even traditional meanings of the tarot.  Since they are not in the room with me, how do they know I even shuffled a deck or pulled any cards for them?  If I don't directly associate what I am saying to a particular card, then I could just be pontificating with my own common sense, which is fine, but not what I'm paid to do.  So I really think this kind of descriptive association is more or less essential to a good email reading.  But when a reading is live there seems to be less need for many clients to get into the details of each card. 

I'm not knocking anyone's reading style at all.  If one's reading style is more cooperative in nature where the client's impressions of the card images play a strong part in the reading, that's wonderful.  I've done many readings this way and they work quite well with the right personalities.  Others just want to cut to the chase.  I find the latter are folks that really aren't that interested in the cards themselves, but rather feel they are paying a professional for a service rendered and thereby are the due recipient of that service.  Nothing wrong with that.  The reading isn't about me, anyway.  It isn't about showcasing my talents or being a teacher or even a guide.  The tarot reading is about the cards and the querant.  Period.

During a large gathering of tarot aficionados, one reader stated that she felt there was a natural evolution to reading and while one may begin with divination and fortune telling, it grows up into a spiritual practice that pretty much leaves that "immature" stuff behind.  The cards are then used solely for delving into one's spiritual state and nothing else.  I started to feel my "bad self" get irked, so I left the room for a smoke lest I say something that might offend the woo woo.  What I wanted to say was a hearty, "Bullshit!"  Tarot cards are non-limiting by the very nature of their archetypal images which embrace the whole of humanity's experiences, emotions, growing pains, and dynamics.  Why limit their use to one area of self?  The spiritual is important, no doubt, but we still gotta eat, pay the rent, have sex, wash dishes, fix a broken whatchamacallit and deal with noisy neighbors.  There's an entire suit in tarot, the suit of Pentacles, that deals with all this mundanity, in fact.  Will I get the job?  How can I make more money?  Which school should I attend?  Does so and so like me? Where is my lost watch?  All of these are genuine questions we can ask of tarot and expect a valid  answer.  Doesn't mean you'll get one, but you probably will.

Not every reader is a good tarot reader for every client.  There is definitely a personality and style meshing that has to occur.  Today, I would want a reader to tell me how she arrived at her conclusions from the cards, not because I want to critique her reading, but because I want to learn and maybe her insight into a particular card or arrangement of cards can bring me some additional insight.  If I went to a reader who just told me what she thought the cards meant without explanation, I'd probably raise an eyebrow askance.  I'd be thinking, "What do you even need the cards for if you were just going to pull that out of your underwear?"  But see, that's me, the tarot card lover, talking.  Twenty years ago, the me-querant in my friend's living room, just wanted to be told what I would be doing a couple miles down my future road.   So even my own clients have sometimes changed in their own approach to the readings.  They sometimes feel the need for more explanation and detail and other times not so much.  Within reason, I want to be able to accommodate their needs and adjust my reading style to suit.  Of course, if we don't mesh, we don't, and there's no adjusting for that, they just need another reader. 

This accommodating way just may be a feature of my Libran personality and may not be as easy for everyone.  There are some readers who simply have a "signature style" and that style is the very reason people seek them out for their readings.  Much like someone who favors Dior over Lauren, for example.  It doesn't make Lauren any less or Dior any more, it just makes them different.  It's pretty important, I think, to discuss your expectations for a reading before you pay for it, but so few people realize they can do that.  I don't mean the $5 reader at the table in the coffee shop, you can pretty much expect you get what you pay for -- and many times be pleasantly surprised you got a lot more.  I mean the reader you sink $100 or more into an hour's tarot time with them.  Most of them call themselves "tarot consultants" so that alone should give you a clue they might have something a bit different to offer than the lady with the neon palm reader sign flashing in her living room window.  But just because you pay more doesn't mean you get more if what you get isn't what you thought you were paying for.  Most reputable readers encourage discussion before hiring so everyone understands, at least generally, what to expect.  

So what's tarot for?  Is it for delving into spiritual? For fortune telling? Predictions? A guide? A Magic 8-Ball? What do you feel the primary purpose of a tarot reading should be?
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