A Good Question

There is a wide range of opinion and much debate on whether any conceivable request can be brought to the tarot. Some say you can’t answer simple “yes-or-no” questions in a straightforward way with it because its answers are too conditional and nuanced. Other believe you should steer well clear of anything that could create liability, particularly medical, legal or financial investment advice. There is consensus that vague questions will produce only vague answers, and multi-part questions are too confusing to receive a direct answer. There is also some concern about how ethical it is to try “reading minds” with the cards. I once created a set of professional reading guidelines for myself, the key points of which I may discuss with my sitters at the beginning of a session if the introductory dialogue leads that way.


My personal belief is that there are few truly inappropriate questions if they are asked properly, but there may well be inappropriate spreads for the scope of the question. Take “yes-or-no” questions. A spread that is too complicated won’t give an unequivocal response, its testimony will come with qualifiers: “Yes, but . . .”; “Not unless . . .” ; “Maybe, if . . . .” To use one of my favorite metaphors, I would no more attempt to pose a yes-or-no question to the Celtic Cross than I would try to “swat a gnat with a sledge hammer.” I will use a smaller spread tailored specifically for the purpose. (Mary K. Greer has a good one on her web site: https://marykgreer.com/2008/06/02/yes-no-advice-oracle/.)

Many readers will have the sitter restate the question: not “Does ‘X’ like me?” but “What can I do to attract ‘X’s” attention?” The first approach runs afoul of two taboos: it’s a “yes-or-no” question, and it amounts to a “psychic fishing expedition,” especially if “X” knows nothing about the querent’s interest. It’s often disguised in more innocuous terms: “What does ‘X’ think (or feel) about me?” – an obvious end-run on directly confronting one’s own unrealistic hopes. This kind of wishful thinking is usually a waste of time for both the reader and the sitter, and belongs in the “for entertainment only” department of professional tarot practice. The second way of casting the question gives the querent something to work with in terms of self-application.

I have no quarrel with shunning questions that can get a reader in legal hot water, but once again, there are “good ways” and “bad ways” to ask them. I would absolutely never respond to “Do I have cancer?” (“See your doctor about that.”) but I would be more kindly disposed toward “What can I do to improve my physical or mental/emotional well-being?” (although the advice may not be any different). Similarly, I avoid financial “shots in the dark.” Rather than tackling “Should I buy stock in “XYZ” Corporation?” it would be more prudent to address “What should I know about my financial position in the near future?” It’s far safer to stick to broad outlines in one’s answers than to seek actionable advice from the cards. After all, few of us are qualified and certified (not to mention insured) as professional counselors. It’s the querent’s obligation to decide how to apply the information received in practical ways, not the reader’s place to prescribe the particular steps to achieve success.

I find the best way to deal with vague or disjointed questions is simply to have the querent focus on a general area of life while shuffling, rather than on a single opportunity or event: romance, career, family, money, health, etc. The reading therefore becomes a kind of “mini life-reading” rather than an examination of a set of discrete circumstances. The question “What’s my outlook for romance over the next month?” gives the cards latitude to work their magic, while “Will I meet someone special at the party next week, and will it lead to another date?” pretty much ties their hands. (That said, I have created a spread for just such random occurrences.)

I’ve given my opinion about “psychological profiling” with the tarot, and specifically  about third-party mind-reading of the “thinks/feels” variety, several times before. Basically, I find tarot to be unreliable as any kind of “psychic barometer” for the thoughts or intentions of another person. Actions are another matter. I generally won’t answer “thinks/feels” questions, preferring to see them asked in an action-or-event-based manner. I may willingly pursue insights from the cards regarding what another person is likely to do in a situation, but not what they may or may not think about it in advance. Even though some experienced readers argue that “intentions” and “actions” are two sides of the same coin and should be equally discernible with the cards, I consider the former to be too much like “psychism with props.” Especially  in remote-reading situations, readers who insist they are “just reading the cards”  will vehemently deny it, but I’m convinced they’re getting their answers clairvoyantly and processing them through their own subconscious when shuffling the deck. No problem with that, of course, but let’s call it what it is.

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