We’ve been having a spirited and occasionally contentious debate on one of the forums I frequent regarding the difference between divination and prediction (if there even is one), and which approach is most suitable for work with the tarot. A side issue is whether the proper role of a reader in discussing difficult cards is to dispense the unvarnished truth at all costs and let the chips fall where they may, or to try guiding the querent along a constructive path for handling the negative energies.
Several factions have emerged. Some believe that “divine intervention” (the underlying premise of the word “divination”) is present during a reading, and nothing should be done to try steering that insight in any particular way. The thinking is that the querent will be on the same wavelength as the divine source and will know best what to do with the information. The reader has no business interjecting personal observations (what I like to call “storytelling” elements) into the testimony of the cards as a way to illuminate their meaning. Unstructured intuition and free-association are paramount in this approach to reading, and any personal wisdom or experience the reader might be able to impart to the proceedings is viewed as superfluous (if not as ethically suspect).
Others feel that tarot is a legitimate “healing art” with a rich storehouse of accrued knowledge, and everything possible should be done with this foundation to empower the querent to make the most of the opportunities and challenges presented. (There is also confusion about what “empowerment” really means, with some mistaking it for “New Age-y” positive reinforcement of an “enabling” Law-of-Attraction type rather than seeing it as simply offering the tools and encouragement for informed self-help: in short, “it’s all good,” so just tell the people what they want to hear.) Rather than raw intuition, the more refined qualities of inspiration, imagination and ingenuity, fueled by a deep understanding of the cards, are often the reader’s most compelling advantage. A forum mate of mine coined the phrase “the intuition of knowing something really well,” which perfectly expresses what I’m talking about. Personally, I find that storytelling tropes like metaphor and analogy can be crucial in bringing the narrative to life, making what may be obvious to the reader more approachable and understandable to the sitter.
A third opinion comes from the avowed “fortune-tellers,” who read the cards as they lay with no creative embellishments and then walk away; there is neither more nor less to the reading than what you see, and nothing uniquely inspirational or psychological that merits emphasis. These readers gravitate toward a more literal, “just the facts” style of interpretation.
I once wrote an article for publication that briefly explores this multiplicity of opinion. I think it’s worth bumping up at this time.