A Piece of My Mind: A Reader's Perspective

By Jeanne Fiorini

For the past couple of years, I’ve facilitated a group called “Readers in Training.” Designed for fledgling Tarot practitioners, this group provides a low-impact venue in which to practice reading skills, test out new methods and layouts, receive feedback on both reading style and content, and share knowledge of the Tarot with like-minded folks. 

As you might expect, many issues come to the surface rather quickly, and not necessarily the ones having to do with card meanings. A particular thread we’ve often observed is the presence of the sometimes unconscious viewpoint of the reader and how it shapes both the reading style as well as the content of the session.

This notion follows up on a point made in last month’s “A Piece of My Mind” article, and touches on what perhaps is the most essential element of any reading, Tarot or otherwise:

A reading will ultimately reflect a Reader’s mindset, worldview, personality, and experience. And so a practitioner will eventually need to develop a belief system that can contain responses to all kinds of client queries. Not necessarily answers, but responses.

A practitioner’s belief system is the ground on which the reading takes place. The composition and texture of that ground will naturally flavor whatever emerges from it. Give some thought to the theoretical questions below, and notice how profoundly your responses would affect both how and what you might say to a client within a session:  

  • Where does the information in a reading come from?
  • Are people ruled by destiny or by freewill?
  • Does God exist? –And if so, does He/She/It have an input/opinion in what we do?
  • To what degree, if at all, do you believe that spirit intervenes in life?
  • To what degree, if at all, are outcomes predetermined and/or unavoidable?
  • Is there a correct, right, and true answer to any given problem?
  • What are the most important things in people’s lives?
  • Is there evil in the world?
  • Why do people do what they do?
  • Is your own basic personality that of an optimist? …a pessimist? …a realist?

Practitioners have a responsibility to the process of Tarot reading to be as clear as they can be about where they stand with The Big Questions, since these things inevitably and in one way or another show themselves to us during work with clients.

In addition to knowing how and what you think about the nature of the world, it’s helpful to know “who you are” during a reading. Naturally, a person’s conceptualized worldview informs what they’d consider to be their role as “Reader,” but have you really and specifically ever thought about that? Are you conscious and intentional about your position as you step into this role? Can you define what it is that you’re there to accomplish? 

Here are some possible ways to think of the role a Reader plays within a session; of course, there are many, many others: 

  • Problem-solver
  • Psychic/Clairvoyant/Clairaudient
  • Listener/Witness
  • Therapist
  • Clarifier
  • Guide
  • Cheerleader

If the cards on the table are the Two of Wands and The Empress, the Psychic’s take on things might be something like, “There are two children who want to come into your life,” whereas the Therapist might say something like, “Do you feel that your mothering energy needs to find a new outlet?” Same cards, different perspectives, different readings. There is no right or wrong response to any combination of cards, but points of view and therefore the ultimate direction of the reader-client conversation can be radically different. 

And then there’s the “Why?” of it. Why do we do readings? What is the purpose of this process, anyway? How does it help? What is the use? Each Reader will come up with the answer on this one for themselves. But once again, it’s helpful to be intentional about what you offer to a client so that you can judge for yourself, regardless of the cards and the ensuing discussion, whether or not you’ve accomplished your goal.  

What do you offer a client?

  • Non-judgmental space for reflection on one's life
  • Transmission of information from "the other side"
  • Informed opinions based on the cards
  • Ministry/Service/Being a witness to another's experience
  • Insight/suggestions based on the cards
  • Channeled facts and information
  • An experience of the Mystery
  • Pointing out the rights and wrongs, the shoulds and the shouldn'ts
  • Clarification/Observations about another's experience
  • Direction/Guidance

If you are a Reader, it’s likely that you’ve identified with several of the above motivators. Of course, there are no patently “good” or “bad” ways to read Tarot, but you need to know what you are providing so that you don’t get caught being—or asked to be—something you’re not. A “Therapist” may not want or know how to relay a message from the dearly departed; a “Channel” might not want the responsibility of following up information from the Spirit with helpful hints about how to proceed.

Clients come to us, most often, in times of distress and confusion. We do not and cannot help them if we ourselves are confused or ambivalent about what we’re doing there. As my friend Josephine says, “Tarot has an identity crisis, and an unfocused or unclear Reader only adds to the mix.”

Next month we’ll tackle a few of the ethical issues that confront Readers.

In the meantime, Reader, Know Thyself. And may the Force be with you.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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