Marseille Tarots have a rich history, a unique artistic style, and layered symbolism. Yoav, (who sadly passed away last year) was a modern master of this tradition. In this book we have a record of his knowledge of not only the cards themselves but also about reading the cards. Whatever style of deck you use, you can probably pick up some surprising insights from Yoav’s work. Here he talks about the questions asked during a reading:
What is the Question?
Many Tarot books attach much importance to the explicit formulation of the question. It is as if the cards were somehow obliged to answer the exact wording of the query. But as I see it, even if the querent comes to the reading with a clear and precise question, we should regard it only as a starting point. People are not always self-aware enough to know what exactly it is that troubles them. And even if they are, they don’t always feel free to reveal it right away during the first minutes of a meeting with a total stranger. In other words, the question that the querent presents at the beginning of the reading is not always the real question, which we are supposed to answer in order to help him.
That is why at the beginning of the session I prefer to let the querent present his story as he chooses, listen to him and maybe ask some questions of my own when something seems strange or unclear to me. Eventually we may arrive at a focused question and spread the card in order to answer it. But we may also just describe the situation, open the cards and see where they lead us. While the querent is speaking, I pay attention to the way he presents things and interpret it by the rule that everything is a sign. If the querent starts out with a long and detailed story, perhaps the first thing that he needs is just someone to listen to him. If the story is complicated and winding, he might be avoiding the real problem and trying to hide it behind a cloud of details. On the other hand, if the querent declines to give us information or challenges us to find out by ourselves what is the matter with him, we should note his closed and defensive attitude and understand it as a need to protect himself. We will probably have to work hard to gain his confidence, so that he may allow himself to bring down his defenses.
We should be suspicious of an all-too-clear and explicit question, as it might be just a cover, hiding the really essential point. For example, a person may ask how he can improve his situation at work or with his life partner. During the reading, the question may come up as to whether at all he wants to remain in his present job or relationship. Of course, in such a case we are not supposed to give him a definite yes-or-no answer, only to open him to new insights on the subject that he can later process with himself. In another instance, a querent may tell us about a business problem, but the reading may show that a family complication is bothering him and not letting him devote his energies to his business. In such a case, the real question is what to do about the family complication.
Many people come for a Tarot reading expecting a fortune-telling session, as if the cards are to say what will happen to them. So they may ask a question about future events: When will I get married? Will the business succeed? Will the quarrel end? Taking such a question at face value and giving them a definite answer is usually not productive. Right or wrong, an optimistic prediction may lower the motivation of the querent to make an effort as he may believe that success is guaranteed. A pessimistic one could also lower his motivation, this time because he may think all is lost anyway. The point is that such questions are formulated in terms of the future only on the surface of things. It is a language in which the querent expresses his present fears and concerns about the future. It is important to calm fears when they arise. But the real question, which has practical consequences, is not about the past or the future but always about the present: what can the querent do now in order to improve his situation?
The querent’s reactions at the end of the meeting should also not always be taken at face value. Sometimes it happens that people tell me things like “You didn’t tell me much that was new,” or “I didn’t relate to the message you conveyed.” But a few months or years later I meet them by chance, and then it turns out that the reading was meaningful and occupied their thoughts for a long time. In such cases one can hear things like “I didn’t understand at the time what came up in the reading, and only a few months later did it dawn on me.” It is important to remember that the prospect of real change always arouses real resistance at first. The significant test is over time, after the querent has digested and worked out what came up in the session. Thus, the criterion for a successful and productive reading is not whether the querent comes out from it with an immediate feeling of satisfaction. Rather, it is whether in retrospect he considers it as having been a positive and helpful experience.