In a recent post,Â PsycheÂ gives some excellent information on how to give a Tarot reading. Specifically, she advises that the information the reader gives should be presented in a manner that is useful to the person receiving the reading.
This sounds like it should be elementary informationâ€”if the information presented in a reading isn’t useful, it’s basically meaningless data. However, Psyche’s idea is actually a rather advanced concept. In fact, it is often one of the most challenging aspects of giving a Tarot reading. The reader has to give up being centered on himself or herself and turn all attention to the client. The reader, in seconds, has to determine how to best convey information so the client is
- not overwhelmed by what they hear and ignores it, and
- affected by what is being revealed, so the client will act on it.
In my experience, the best natural Tarot readers can do this instinctively, and other people wishing to learn the Tarot can learn this through developing their skills at empathy,Â the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Psyche gives an example of this taken from the book, Two Tracts on Cartomancy by Austin Osman Spare:
I was telling a friendâ€™s fortune, and could â€˜seeâ€™ that he would die within a few months. Naturally, I did not tell him so, but what I did advise him was to at once put his affairs in order and that in a few months there would be a very great change in his affairs, of which not much could be said. Meantime, there was great happiness for him, though he was to guard against accident. He was happy for the few months that he lived.
Several years ago I had a similar experience. I was living in San Diego and giving Tarot readings regularly at a psychic fair held every other weekend. An elderly woman, small and bent from age, and with a kindly face and smile, told me her story. She had poor finances. She had been studying the path of a certain guru and had obtained through the guru’s group a roommate who helped pay the bills. She couldn’t exist without a roommate.
But the roommate was very severe and constantly criticizing her for not working harder and advancing faster. It was making her very unhappy and harming her health. Her questions to me were whether she would be getting a new roommate and would her spiritual work pay off?
Divination, Not Fortune-Telling
Before telling what happened, I need to share my approach to giving Tarot readings. I perform divinations. By this I mean through the use of spiritual technology such as the Tarot, I can provide information about the likely future if a person continues on their current path. However, once a person has this information, he or she is free to keep going to the likely conclusion or change and overcome adversity or enhance and encourage something positive. I do not believe in the concept of “fate,” or that something “must” happen. Rather, I believe in free will and the ability to change our futures. If everything is predetermined fate then divinations are irrelevant and magick is impossible.
I look at divinations as being like the advice from a doctor or lawyer. They have specific knowledge and training that I don’t have, but it’s up to me whether I take the advice. Similarly, a Tarot reader or diviner obtains information about your probable future, allowing you to accept or change it. With divination, I might say, “The cards indicate challenges with an ocean voyage next month. If you take such a voyage it could be very dangerous.” This is practical and useful advice. Knowing a sea voyage could be dangerous allows a person to choose to avoid such a journey.
On the other hand, fortune telling works with fate. “You will go on an ocean voyage and the ship will sink.” How useless. If there’s nothing that can be done to avoid that fate, how is telling a person this going to help that person? It may, though, leave them in horror and shock, feeling there’s nothing they can do to escape their supposed fate. Knowledge is useless? Magick is useless? Moving to Utah and staying away from an ocean is useless?
I don’t buy it. I believe the purpose of divination is so we can create our own futures, not just to reveal our fates.
Normally, when I give a Tarot reading, I lay out the cards one at a time. I read each card as it comes up, relating it to the position in the spread and to the other cards that are already showing. At the conclusion I summarize and put everything together.
The cards, for me, always give advice. They tell how a person can overcome difficulties or make good things better. One of my goals as a reader is to give hope for a better future.
The elderly woman I was reading for had her fingertips resting gently on the table as I put out the cards. She’d look at the card and then look at me with what I felt was both agony from her painful, bent body and mind-numbing financial situation, while hoping for a better future. I didn’t want to disappoint her.
When I give a Tarot reading I feel it is vitally important to share exactly what the cards are telling me; the truth and nothing but the truth. Some people equate the truth with being brutal. In another field, a doctor can say, “You’re going to die a painful death” or “We have no way of knowing how long you have to live. There are going to be challenges ahead for you, but I’ll be there, assisting you every way I can.” Both are the complete truth. One is brutal while the other is helpful and gives hope. My approach is the latter.
The first card was the Death card. Normally, this means positive evolutionary change. But reading the Tarot is more than memorizing a bunch of meanings and repeating them. In my experience it requires the use of intuition, attunement to the person you’re reading for, and attunement to the spiritual energies. I did not like what I was sensing.
Instead of reading the card as I normally do, I turned over the next one. And the next. And the next. They were all cards of endings, terminations, completions, sudden change. Although rare, this reading was predicting her physical death. It might be delayed, but it was coming; and it was coming soon.
This was not fate. There was no prediction of a specific method, date, or time of her demise, only that if she followed the path she was on the result was clear. The challenge before me was how to share this information in a way that would be positive and provide hope for a better future.
What to Say
As I wrote above, my ethics require me to share the complete truth. But how could I tell her this information in a useful way, a way that would give hope for a better future? I felt myself beginning to sweatâ€”not perspire, sweat. I looked at the sweet woman and saw that she was hanging on what I was about to say. Knowing that she was on a spiritual path with a guru gave me an approach.
I smiled as benevolently as I could. I told her, “In the next few months your life is going to go through a remarkable change. Everything about your life will alter. You will no longer have to worry about your financial situation and all of your aches and pains will fade away and become unimportant. Spiritually, you will find yourself moving faster and faster on your path, more than you ever dreamed you could, and you’ll feel closer to God. You won’t have to worry about roommates, and you’ll find that you have more time than ever to relax and enjoy being with old friends, especially spiritual friends who can lead you on your path.”
I went on in this direction for several minutes. Every time I looked up from the cards at her she had that same look of hope and wanting more information in her eyes. I think my shirt was almost drenched from the sweat.
After I had finished telling her the complete truth according to the cards in a way I felt she could understand, I asked if she had any questions. “No,” she said, with a look of contentment, “that’s exactly what I thought. I just wanted to make sure. Of all the readers here I was drawn to you. I thought you’d tell me the truth and I believe you have. Thank you so much.”
The woman arose. Now standing a bit taller, she slowly walked out. I believe she had felt she was going to pass over soon, but the lack of confirming information had made her fearful. Now, believing she was moving toward a change that was going to be positive, she was able to face her remaining time on the physical plane with strength and hope for a better, more spiritual future.
Shaking, I had to take a break. A long break.
Many of the readers had seen her during previous psychic fairs. She never showed up at a psychic fair again.