Who’s Driving Here?

I find it curious how much hand-wringing goes on in the tarot community over how the client sees the physical arrangement of the cards on the table. Should the cards appear upright or reversed to the reader or to the sitter? Should the cards be read from left to right according to the perspective of the reader or that of the sitter? Should the cards be turned over so the reader sees them from the correct angle, or is the sitter’s viewpoint more important? Don’t look now, folks, but the majority of people who sit for a tarot reading really don’t care and they usually don’t know what they’re seeing anyway. They’re mainly interested in answers and insights, not visual logistics. They’re in a highly suggestible state and it’s a rare individual who wants a tutorial on the intricacies of interpretation at that particular time. They’re confronted with a kaleidoscope of colorful bits of cardboard and may experience sensory and cognitive overload if they examine them too closely. So most don’t try, even though they may be intrigued by the patterns. In my experience, they are there to listen; seeing is a secondary consideration.

I lay the cards so they are readable from my vantage point, since I’m the one doing the reading. I may single out a card for the querent’s close attention but I always put it back the way I found it. To banish any doubts about whose perspective is the most relevant, I try to have my clients sit on the same side of the table as me so we see everything from the same orientation. Mostly, they’re gazing at me as I speak; I’m the one looking at the cards and pointing things out to them. This is one of the best arguments against accusations of “cold reading:” I’m not looking closely enough at the client to be able to draw clues from their appearance or mannerisms that can be passed off as psychic revelations. My full attention is on the reading.

I make no pretense about being a psychic anyway; the cards are speaking directly to the client at first, not me. They will always respond to the sitter’s subconscious state of mind during the shuffle and cut, but once I lay them on the table the responsibility for examining them passes over to me. While it’s true that highly experienced readers will have internalized the images to the point that they barely have to look at the cards, having the visual prompts arranged for optimum scrutability is still a good idea.

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