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A Question about Questions

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on June 22, 2010 | Comments (20)

When a querent comes to you for a reading, do you let them ask whatever they want? Or do you work with them to develop a really good, well-thought-out, clear question?

For most of my reading practice, I was the Queen of the Questions. I felt that questions were Very Very Important. They had to be worded just so or the tarot wouldn’t be able to answer them properly. You couldn’t leave any loopholes for the tarot to wiggle out of answering. It sure put a lot pressure on the querent and myself because if we messed this up, boy, were we in trouble

But then, I’ve always been a bit uptight and liked things very ordered. The older I become, the more I loosen up. This fact has significantly affected my tarot practice.

Do not mistake the tenor of this post as implying that working with a querent on crafting a question is wrong or silly. Everything I am saying here is poking fun at myself. Many of my colleagues are artists of the perfect question. There is a reason why we say: you cannot get the right answer if you don’t ask the right question. And it is true that so many times the answer is embedded within the question.

And maybe it’s not so much that I’m getting all loose and groovy. Maybe I’m just lazy and all of what follows is simply justification. I’m sure you will tell me what you think!

These days I do not mold a querent’s question unless I am not clear on what they are asking or they specifically ask me to help them. And even then, I do not stress too much about it.

Ever since I’ve eased into the idea that my role as reader is that of an oracle, I’ve learned to trust the cards more and rely on myself less.

I think of the cards as the divine’s way of speaking with me. And because I think of the divine as a loving entity and a really smart/wise one, too, I trust that it will help me deliver the right message, even if my querent and I screw up the wording of the question. It occurred to me that I was thinking of the universe as a crafty lawyer looking at my question and trying to find loopholes and ways to get out of answering. I was, in the reasoning behind my approach, denigrating the divine.

I was also denigrating the querent. Say the querent asks, “will I get a job next month?” In my old ways, I would have talked the querent into asking something like “what actions can I take to increase my chances of getting a job?” But that is assuming the querent hasn’t already done everything they could. Maybe they have. Maybe they just want to know if their labors will bear fruit. So just answer the question…yes or no. If it is “no,” then I’d suggest adding to the reading to get ideas to change the outcome.

I’m really enjoying this loose and jiggy approach. My readings feel more natural, and definitely more inspired. And I have to say, my querents seem much more satisfied.

But this is just my journey along the path of the art the question. What’s yours?

Reader Comments

Written By Zanna Starr
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 8:55 am

I understand what you’re saying, but I’m still reluctant to try to predict the future with the cards. In your example, if the answer to the question about getting a job is “yes,” are you encouraging the querent to just sit back and wait for a job to fall into his or her lap? Is that a good idea? What will you say when the querent comes back to you a month later and says, “I still don’t have a job. You told me I would get one”? (Or perhaps this will never happen to you. Who knows?)

Written By Beth Owls Daughter
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 9:33 am

First – Yes! Yes! I can so relate to this.

But! I think that the practice spent on fine-tuning questions is incredibly important. And for most readers I know, it is a step that probably should not be skipped.

It teaches us how to show our querent that they are being deeply heard. And it helps to set a clear intention for the reading. Without years of that practice, it is (I think) all too easy for the reading to drift into being all about how “good” or “accurate” the reader is. The ultimate of which (in my opinion) is the ego trip of readers who insist on not knowing anything in advance, for the purpose of dazzling the querent with their amazing skills.

But having spent the years of practice to establish good questions (which in large part is about cultivating really, really excellent communication skills), you can then really begin to notice when the Tarot takes on a life of its own and leads you to those pesky questions behind the questions, or answers the things that neither you, nor perhaps the querent, knew were the REAL issues. This is where it gets REALLY good.

It’s like learning to play your scales, and understanding what the melody and harmony are, and THEN you can riff and jam and improvise and play with the negative space in between.

Might I also (obnoxiously) note that perhaps the more you get loose and easy with your access to the Voice of the Oracle, you might also be getting more comfortable and affectionate towards the High Priestess? 🙂
– Beth

Written By lada
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 9:35 am

as the future looks progressively dim,
I find myself unable to phrase a question,
knowing that uncertainty is my only ally.
I only look for flavors for the day,
hints of possible conflicts in the hopes
that forewarned is forearmed.

Written By Teresa Michelsen
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 10:18 am

I went through pretty much the same evolution, Barbara. A couple of nuances on this – I just have them tell me the story (if they want to) then try to hold the whole image of what they’ve told me in my mind. That whole situation is part of the question – not just the question. In addition, I read how I am most comfortable with. For example, if they ask me a yes/no question, I won’t change their question – this is what they most want to know.

But I will always read it with nuances, like upright cards representing factors in favor and reversed cards representing challenges. I find if you do the whole reading this way, the client will be so interested in that information that they may never notice that you haven’t said “yes” or “no” directly. Basically I feel that they are in charge of how they ask their question and I am in charge of how I do the reading. The only time I’ll ask for a change or clarification is if I don’t understand the question or if it’s outside my ethical boundaries.

And to answer another commenter’s question – I have had the clients that keep track of what you say and compare it to what happens. Usually it works out well, but like all things involving the future, it sometimes doesn’t. I think you just have to be prepared to explain that issue both during and after the reading. I compare it to weather forecasting – sometimes it’s easier to do than others, for all kinds of reasons 🙂

Written By Ty
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

AsI came into witchcraft and tarot about the same time, and learned that spells require precise intent, that carried over to my tarot practicce. I feel you get back what you put in. Not that the divine looks for loopholes, but you need to be exact in what you want- a cake without the right number of eggs or incorrect measure of oil may still bake up, but will it taste right? It’s the same for questions-like the aforementioned ‘will I find a job? this month?’ inquiry- you may based on prior efforts, but why ‘waste’ a reading on that when you can sharpen the question and find out what you need to do to get the job you really want? Sure, you could start general and use cards to clarify details if the reader is reluctant to take charge of their own reading, but for ourselves or for readers who want to be empowered, I think a precise question, like precisely constructed magick, is what gets the desired results- usable information to enable us to transform ourselves.

Written By Hilary
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

I completely understand the refining the question process, but it’s something I don’t do with my querants. If I hear the question, I become too emotionally invested in the answer, and then the information I get from the cards becomes clouded by my own impressions/thoughts/hopes/
answers for them. I ask them to ask the question in their mind, keeping the focus on the question while they shuffle the cards. Usually the cards that appear and their placement will tell me all that I need to know to interpret them. Sometimes I will ask after the reading and before I put away the cards what their question was. Sometimes they volunteer the information themselves.

Written By Barbara Moore
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

Hi Zanna! I think that anyone who doesn’t care to predict the future shouldn’t. And anyone who reads the cards needs to be very clear in their own mind about why they do or don’t and what they believe about the nature of the future. A few comments down, Teresa mentions likening it to weather forecasting. This is how I’ve always thought of it and always explain that to my querents.

Written By Barbara Moore
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

Oh, Dear Beth. This has absolutely nothing to do with that pesky High Priestess. Or does it? 🙂 I am probably swinging wildly from one extreme to another and hopefully sometime before I die, I’ll find a comfortable middle path!

Written By Barbara Moore
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

Lada, that is awesome! Oh…maybe next month we should have a contest. Tarot inspired poetry. Hmmmm.

Written By Barbara Moore
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

Ty, that is a very good and compelling point. Thank goodness our tarot practices continue to change and evolve. I’ll add this to my inner cupboard of ideas and see how it comes out in whatever cake I bake next! Thank you!

Written By Barbara Moore
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

Hilary, wow. Okay. I’m going to try this. Sometime. As I said in the post, I’m learning to trust and rely on the cards more and more. This is the next step. And your reasons…the attachment to the outcome, etc…are things that I do struggle with. Thank you.

Written By Corrine Kenner
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

I like the fact that the word “question” also contains the word “quest.” In other words, every question describes someone else’s secret quest for their own Holy Grail. Questions may signal the start of the adventure, but the real fun comes when we join in the search.

Written By Helen
on June 22nd, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

You said ““will I get a job next month?” In my old ways, I would have talked the querent into asking something like “what actions can I take to increase my chances of getting a job?” But that is assuming the querent hasn’t already done everything they could. Maybe they have. Maybe they just want to know if their labors will bear fruit. So just answer the question…yes or no. If it is “no,”

Then what you are talking about here is straight out prediction – the problem with prediciting ( and don’t get me wrong I do, do it myself at times) is that you have a 50/50% of being wrong or right. Now supposing you say no you won’t get that job and you are wrong, have you not influenced the way the person will think about that? What if you say ‘Yes” you will and you are wrong? Does that answer not influence the action or lack of action the client may then think he has to take/do or whatever. You also say “then I’d suggest adding to the reading to get ideas to change the outcome.”

So if you say No (and remember you could be wrong) by doing this reading are you not really going with the reformed question of what actions can I take in order to try and secure this position?

These are the questions that come up in my mind, and reaffirms to me that as readers we have a responsibility as to how our words impact on the client.

When I do face to face readings I will help the client form a question if they do not have a clear idea how to ask what it is they want to know. I admit to liking open ended question better than the yes no variety simply because of the reason I stated up there – that one has a 50% chance of being right or wrong.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on June 24th, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

Honestly I’ve always tried to par Questions down, my experiance has been people offering up too much information unless I specifically ask them to put a Question in an.. The Issue Is _____,

So say I’m making a pull for Matt, or Cori, or whoever. What I do alot of the time lately is just place a post-it note over the box with “Matt” on the box; then when I pull the reading I just ask Nan to be Matt’s true guide; a lot of the times lately not even voicing the Question in my head, basically I’m assuming if Nan, knows everything she is going to share in the reading about you, she’s going to know what your question is too, and anwser it, or not, as she feels is best. Sometimes if the reading is way off the mark of the Question I will revisit it and specifically ask the Question, but mostly, no. Blessings, BB.

Written By Zanna Starr
on June 24th, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

I have used the weather forecasting analogy in the past and will probably use it again, but I think I will probably continue to use the weather forecaster’s terminology as well, referring to “a strong chance of” or “a very small chance of” rather than a straight “Yes, this will happen” or “No, this will not happen,” which sounds a lot like a guarantee I’m not willing to make.

Written By A'ashemmuti
on June 29th, 2010 @ 7:32 am

I would not attempt to mold someone’s question; if it is vague, that’s ok too. The one thing I really don’t like is when some person tries to be clever, and wants the reader to divine what their issue is, as well as a reading on the subject. While they might view it as a “test” of the reader, I find it to be silly games-playing and a waste of resources. One should not ask a question to which one already knows the answer; that seems disrespectful.

Written By shul
on July 5th, 2010 @ 2:01 am

I liked the weather analogy 🙂

I’m a spiritual care provider.

It is said that a person’s greatest need is to be known and loved.

When ,in counselling, I want to get to the root of things, Tarot is one of the tools I occasionally use for discernment.

And more importantly to help someone get some objectivity- to discern themselves what is going on with them.

Theh question is always, prayerfully, ‘what is going on with {this person}.

I rely on the Spirit to give light to the person/situation.

I draw 3 cards and have the person study the pictures for a bit. I give a brief explanation of the cards, and we talk about what might be going on in their lives with respect to the cards.



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