I’ve heard those words, preceded by a slightly petulant “I already knew that,” out of my sitters’ mouths more times than I care to remember. I’m always baffled by people who, seeing plainly that the tarot is capable of accurately describing a past that is unknown to the reader, can be so unenthusiastic about giving it half a chance to reveal the rest of the story with equal precision. Although they sought the reading, maybe they really, truly don’t want to know? My most recent episode involved a woman whose cards showed that she had endured an acrimonious break-up with a man. She brushed me off with the above verbal slap and grilled me about her near-term future. But when I told her that there was most likely another partner in the wings, and that her “ex” might even try to make a comeback, she thought that was pretty funny and scoffed at the possibility. I’m almost positive she told the shop owner where I worked that I couldn’t read my way out of a wet paper bag. I never heard what happened because, as with most walk-in clients, I never saw her again. But the 8 of Cups figured prominently in her reading so I reckon she travels around under her own private rain cloud. I told her not to let the person come at her from that angle by preying on her vulnerability. More snorts of laughter, this time rueful, which made me feel a little better about her attitude.
Credibility is something we must pride ourselves on if we hope to avoid the taint of fraud, but our reputation is only as secure as the next satisfied sitter. Short of being so vague that any pronouncement we make could be seen as plausible, this kind of risk comes with the territory and there’s really no help for it if we intend to impart the much-heralded “empowerment” and not merely furnish entertainment (or, as in my example, “comic relief”). I just read the cards as I see them, no more nor less, and I’m not trying to measure up to anyone’s expectations. (Telling people only what they want to hear is the “kiss of death” for honest divination.) But I try to provide a complete experience, enjoyable as well as informative, since live tarot reading is as much a performing art as a counseling one.
I strive to present my observations in rational language that gives the sitter something to chew on while I’m cuing up my next comment, and hopefully that generates some dialogue. This can often be stimulated by drawing parallels between the testimony in the cards and common cultural, social and historical experiences shared by most people of a similar age. It can be an icebreaker and conversation starter when the reading threatens to lapse into monologue. If I can get the sitter to actively engage in sorting out the jigsaw puzzle of ideas and fitting the pieces into his or her personal perception of reality, I’m less likely to be seen as an oracle and more as a facilitator. My aim is to make my clients understand that it’s their reading, not mine.
It stands to reason that a spread like the Celtic Cross, which lays the historical foundation for the predictive part of the reading, will cover ground that is familiar to the sitter. If it doesn’t do so in some detail, I count it as a partial failure. I take it as a compliment when I hear “That describes my current situation perfectly,” which gives me confidence that the rest of the reading will be on-target. Examining the root cause of present circumstances, to the extent that the querent is able to recognize it (and, more importantly, willing to acknowledge it) in the cards, amounts to setting the stage for the next act. Telling sitters something they already know is a good thing as long as it doesn’t stop there and both parties see it as a validation of the eventual outcome.