We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

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?


  1. I loved this post! Ah, tarot readings can be used for many purposes - and clients come for all sorts of reasons so there is no "right answer" as a tarot reading is individualized. I use it for predictions, spiritual insight and sometimes for emotional work. Tarot will always give you what you need when you need it - and sometimes it may not be what you think you need! I'll always be fascinated by how these cards "work".

  2. Awesome discussion topic! I've been reading professionally for over 20 years, and every reading is unique, just like every client, which you point out. Some really want guidance, some want to know exact details with predictions, and some just don't know what they want. :-) I think a good reader can gauge the client and provide a reading that meets the needs of that client. At least, that's a good intention to set at the beginning of a session. :-)

    Love your blog--so glad Barbara Moore pointed me in your direction. :-)

  3. I confess that it does annoy me just a bit when clients ask questions that could be answered by a Magic 8 ball. I do free readings on line for the American Tarot Association and most of clients I get want either a prediction of the future or information about what someone else is thinking, doing, or feeling.

    I remember putting a great deal of thought and intuition into a reading for a client who then responded: "If I wanted to be analyzed, I would go to a shrink. Please give me a Tarot reading." Obviously he had a specific thing in mind and I had not provided it!

    I think Tarot readings can be whatever the client and reader want or need them to be. I feel it's important for readers to explain what they will and will not read about.

  4. I agree that the cards are essentially different for everyone depending on what they need at the time. Having said that, I think I probably have a particular "style" of reading which veers more towards the spiritually/emotive end of the spectrum, e.g. this is how you (the querent) are going to feel about this situation or how are you going to grow and what will you learn from this experience.

    But when I need a reading for myself, I really want to be "off" in a sense. I don't want to be working. There is a reason that I'm going to another person and that is because I want to, essentially, take my own personal filter out of the equation.
    In most instances, I have found it to be a mistake to let the reader know that I also am a tarot reader - most of them want me to participate and help read the cards myself which was what I was trying to get away from in the first place.

    There are so many different decks out there, and even if that reader uses the same deck as you they will have completely different skills and knowledge and talents in regards to the information they get and pass along.

    So, I think it just comes down to navigating that first interaction and trying to get a clear sense of what the client needs from the reading and trying to head that direction (or sometimes, acknowledge that you are not the right reader for that situation).

  5. Anonymous2:57 PM

    I see a Tarot reading as help from a wise friend. One that answers your questions honestly, that help you consider the other side of a situation. Sometimes I just like a preview of what is coming up. When I go to someone else for a Tarot reading I like to just relax and let the reader do her job. Sometimes if the reader is using a deck I am familiar with I may ask how he/she came to a particular interpretation ( if that is not clear to me). As always thank you for a great post.


  6. I think we get tired of certain kinds of readings, though, and try to steer our clients toward what we feel is a "better use" of the cards. We need to be careful when we do that unless we've very clearly set forth our reading approach ahead of time. We're likely to get slapped back with just the kind of retorts Zanna and I have experienced.

    Shannon, I totally agree with just sitting back and getting a reading. I do need to just allow the reader to read. I still want to learn, though. :) So even if I don't reveal I'm a reader myself, I will still want to see which cards meant what to them.

    Anna, honest answers is totally what we get, right? Sometimes rudely so! But that always makes me laugh, so it's ok.

    Rose, I agree completely, that one should try to adapt to the client, but that's a bit easier for someone of my nature. Other readers are not so adaptive or have tired of adapting and that's ok, too, as long as they are clear about what they offer. The ones I know that do this are quite clear about what to expect during one of their readings. Sometimes it takes someone trying a few different readers before one finds a good fit.

  7. Excellent post. I am a novice reader, just reading for friends and they are quite indulgent of my style, which is to talk A LOT. I´m sure if I were to turn professional at this point, I would get clients asking me to cut the crap and get to the point.

  8. I echo the thoughts shared by many of the comments in terms of the diversity of Tarot reading styles, approaches, and needs of clients.

    GINNY - I agree with the "Truth in Advertising" approach to promoting one's readings. That is why I started calling my work "Tarot Counseling" around 17 years ago. I didn't want people thinking I was a psychic or fortune-teller, etc. for it isn't my style.

    I'd like to respond to the first question..."So what's tarot for?"

    For me, Tarot is a book of wisdom reflecting not only the details of day-to-day life, but, more essentially, the deep spiritual experience of living. Working with Tarot enhances one's intuitive awareness, allowing pathways into the dream realm and other dimensions. Thus, the purpose of Tarot is to assist those interested in transcending the surface of existence to merge with the ancient and classical philosophical and spiritual wisdom of unitive consciousness.

    I study Tarot as a wise book of life, much like one may read the Bible, or other resourceful spiritual books.

    Thanks for the stimulating post and comments!
    In Spirit, Katrina

  9. I really enjoyed this post; you bring up some points that I honestly hadn't considered...

    I think that sometimes I do find the more 'spiritual' tarot readings to be more 'meaningful', and I think that sometimes when I get someone who just wants the gypsy fortuneteller approach I try to bring them around to my style or preference for reading the cards. I can do the gypsy style, but it always feels a bit forced and fake to me; it doesn't feel like what the cards really want to be saying, like I'm layering an interpretation over their voice...

    I wonder if that makes sense or if it sounds like I'm being a pretentious snot. :P To be honest, when someone wants a gypsy style 'tell me the future' reading, I use a deck that I don't have a deep relationship with -- that way I don't get caught up in my personal ideas of what each card 'really means', and can use the image on the card more directly.

    Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your post, and it made me think. :) So, thanks for that!

  10. I think only you can decide whether or not you think you are psychic. Start keeping a dream and vision journal, and go back to it often. You'll start to see a pattern, noe way or the other.

  11. Ah yes - I've been there too. I once carefully explained to a client why 'will x ever happen?' isn't such a great question and nudged her into more of a present-tense you-are-here kind of question. Then I did a perfectly good, intuitive, thoughtful, insightful (etc, etc) reading. And then the client said, 'Yes, but I really only wanted to know whether it would happen.'

    I don't 'nudge' any more. There's no earthly point in answering a question someone really isn't asking.

    I do tell a lot of stories, though. Sometimes I start with that direct answer, and then create an 'open loop' - I'll be explaining why it's like that, the hexagrams will show you a picture of what's going on, and you can see how that picture looks to you...

  12. loved this post! Ah, tarot readings can be used for many purposes...helps us allot..Sometimes we are in critical situation and we are not able to do anything but it does not mean that you can not do nothing just hear your inner voice you will get the answer...Sometimes tarot give us a right way to walk


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