Tarot Taboos

One of the perennial topics debated on the tarot forums is whether we as readers have (or should have) any inviolable “taboos” regarding subjects we prefer not to touch in our practice. Typical examples include those involving the intentions of “third-party” individuals who are unaware of the querent’s interest in them; predictions of death or other major calamities; and  premonitions of marital infidelity. Apart from a  constitutional aversion to meddling in affairs that might entail legal liability, I have a “thou shalt not” caveat or two of my own, mainly centered on the methods I use to conduct my readings.

In most cases the usual taboos are of no concern to me, since I don’t need to understand the sitter’s question in advance (this is the Golden Dawn/Aleister Crowley approach. also suggested by Eden Gray ); my clients focus silently on whatever they want to know and the cards answer directly to that unspoken desire via the shuffle and cut, as subsequently deciphered by my interpretation. Obviously, on-line remote reading where I have to shuffle the deck for a distant sitter is pretty much out-of-bounds for me, since it strays perilously close to becoming a psychic fishing expedition. My belief that subconscious induction is the operating principle behind “how tarot works” demands that the sitter handle the cards.

I try to stay away from mind-reading forays of the psychological profiling variety that are aimed at determining what some absent (and often oblivious) third-party “thinks or feels” about the sitter. Of course, if I have no inkling of the question, the sitter will get whatever response they induce into the cards based on their subconscious foreknowledge of the future; if they strongly suspect that “X” has no reason to love them (or even think about them), that’s most likely what they’ll see in the cards. I like to avoid catering to “wishful thinking” if I can, but self-delusion on the part of the sitter is always a possibility. The Buddhist tenet of self-actualization through disciplined mental focus – imprecisely translated into Western popular thought as “we create our own reality” – must always be kept in the forefront of any exploration of future trends. This is where an interactive dialogue with the sitter during the course of the reading is vital to success.

An excessive amount of intuitive guesswork, often necessary  when the size of the spread is insufficient for the scope of the inquiry, also makes me uneasy. For example, doing a “life-reading” with three cards doesn’t work well for me; I like larger layouts for most purposes.

I’ve decided, after more than a year of experience with public sessions, that 15 or 20-minute readings don’t do justice to my reading style, so I’m edging away from doing them. Half-an-hour or 45 minutes is a more comfortable fit.

Finally, I won’t consider any question involving matters that fall within the purview of licensed professionals, specifically those seeking medical, financial or legal advice, or soliciting any kind of therapeutic intervention for which I’m not trained and certified as a counselor.

There are many hazards waiting to snare the hapless beginner or careless expert who hasn’t recognized the rational limits on what the tarot (or any method of divination that isn’t purely psychic) can be expected to accomplish with the tools at hand. Even stretching the intuitive faculty to its breaking point won’t always compute an answer that has even a remote connection to the emerging truth. The life of a human being is  much too capricious and contrary a beast to be neatly foretold in a handful of symbolic images, regardless of how compelling the message seems to the reader. The biggest taboo of all may be reading too much into the cards.

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