While reading Jonathan Dee’s Fortune Telling Using Playing Cards, I came across a face-to-face reading technique that hadn’t occurred to me before. I seldom look closely at my clients before or during a session because I want to avoid the impression that I’m “cold-reading” them to gather clues that I can then pretend I got from the cards alone. My preferred method of reading – which focuses almost exclusively on the layout – makes that a remote possibility, but the appearance of duplicity is always a risk. Dee suggests watching how sitters address themselves to the cards as they handle them. Since this observation only considers the mechanics of the shuffle-and-cut and not the individual’s comportment, manner of dress or personality, there seems to be little chance for abuse.
Here is the gist of Dee’s comments:
A client who barely shuffles the deck may be impatient, wanting to get on with the reading as quickly as possible.
If the sitter drops quite a few cards while shuffling or cutting the deck it can indicate indifference, ambivalence or a desire not to have a reading in the first place. The same is true if only a small group of cards is taken from the top of the deck during the cut. These are all signs of avoidance showing that the querent may be afraid of receiving the answer.
Sitters who “crowd” the cards by putting their faces close to the deck while cutting or are being overly precise with the cut are either extremely earnest or excessively worried about getting the reading “right.” They are generally quite exacting in their expectations for precise answers.
People who are indecisive and don’t know what to expect tend to cut the cards into several piles (which in my opinion may just be an unconscious delaying tactic).
Those who sit back in the chair with perfect composure during the cut are usually confident they will get a useful answer. They are matter-of-fact and not visibly anxious.
Those obviously disinterested types who barely look at the cards while shuffling and cutting may only be going through the motions when their real objective is to “test” the reader in order to challenge the results.
In practice I’ve had very few sitters who hunch over the cards or are careless in handling them, and I have never knowingly been “tested.” Most clients sit up to the table and concentrate diligently on their shuffling and cutting. I’ve had one or two who were nervous but not to the point of awkwardness or obvious reluctance to participate. This generally forthright cooperation may be due to my own relaxed manner; I’ve been doing this stuff for a long time. Dee’s advice is to consider according the more unsettled querents special care when conducting the reading to ensure their idiosyncrasies don’t unduly influence the process.
I’m not sure to what extent these visual cues will give me valuable information (my suspicion is not much), but it’s interesting that someone thought the “psychology of the shuffle” worth writing about. It seems just about any human foible can be reduced to psychoanalytical terms. I do, however, think that the recommendation I’ve read elsewhere about not reading for sitters who are extremely erratic or obviously distressed is sound; the closest I’ve come to that is someone who was living in his car and smelled so rank the shopkeeper where I was working burned extra incense. But he knew the Thoth deck and chose it for the reading, so he was OK in my book!