Tarot Reading: Who's in Charge, Anyway?

By Jeanne Fiorini

You know that expression about having kids, the one that indicates that if anyone really thought about it before doing it, none of us would be here? Sometimes I think the same is true of taking on the Tarot …what were we thinking?!?

The long and winding road of Tarot study has been both honored and reviled in this and other articles over lo these many years. I’d like to think that the abundance of resources available to students of all levels might help with some of the difficulties intrinsic to our fab friend Tarot, but I’m not so sure that’s the case.

The following note came through my inbox at the YouTube Tarot Tips site this week, a comment from someone I don’t know, someone who, for the record, is not a student or client. I think you’ll agree that this person makes some good points:

I recently was at an event and observed a couple of Tarot readers all working on the same reading. The interpretations were so very different that it made me wonder why I am trying to learn the Tarot because it seems like any interpretation is possible. So “it depends on the reader, it's all intuition” vs. “there's some learning to be done.” 

It made it feel like working with Tarot is not a legitimate way to understand or explore the world. It's basically just a projection of the readers' needs, wants, and experiences and isn't focused on the querent at all. It was my initial reaction to feel discouraged, but it won't stop me from studying the tarot. It's an amazing tool and I've had a "knock your socks of reading" done for me that was so helpful and perfect it seemed spirit must have guided it in some way.

I’m not being socially savvy when I say, “I’m so glad you asked this question!”  But please give me a minute to decide where to begin to tackle the various issues brought up here ….

I guess the first clear thought I have here is that any reading that is basically just a projection of the readers' needs, wants, and experiences and isn't focused on the querent at all is no reading at all. That’s just someone listening to their own voice (either the inner or the outer one) and isn’t worth the oxygen used to get out the words. 

A reading is a conversation, not a diatribe. A good reading makes a connection to the client’s reality and allows for a development of the thoughts and ideas that the cards convey. Fortunately, it does sound like our commenter did, somewhere along the line, have a reading experience with genuine connections to heart and soul; “knock your socks off’ doesn’t happen without it.

Despite the diatribe warnings, we do have to admit that the reader’s perspective does play an important part in a good reading. A session can’t be about the reader’s needs and wants, but is, and can’t help but be, informed by the reader’s experiences. 

To some degree, this is what you’re paying for: that particular reader’s world view, that person’s “life experience,” not to mention their skills, capability, and history with the Tarot. Every single session with the cards builds on and enhances the information from those sessions that came before, and a reading will be a different (though not necessarily better) experience if it comes from a novice reader than from a person with 10 years of looking at card combinations under their belt.

We also must admit that it is true that many different interpretations are possible from any given set of cards. This is a challenge to the person learning the art of reading Tarot. This is where intuition comes in, where the importance of the question comes in, and where, in working with others, the focus needs to shift from the reader’s perspective to that of the client. 

This is where we need to ask questions such as: “What parts of this story resonate with you?” “Is what I’m saying making sense to your life?” “Does this sound like what’s going on for you?” “Are you connecting this interpretation to matters that are important to you?”

Unless you’re sitting across from a real stickler who is just there to bust your chops, some of these answers had better be “yes.” In any case, here’s where the conversation really begins. A reading happens in the context of a person’s life, and is only going to have significance if the querent recognizes places of resonance between the cards’ messages and their own experience.

The final point regards the commenter’s observation that Tarot is an either/or proposition; "it's all intuition” vs. “there's some learning to be done.” Here’s a place where I prefer the both/add solution.

While there are those people for whom reading Tarot is a natural gift and there are those people who never should have picked up a Tarot deck in the first place, most of us will benefit from some Tarot book learning to give structure to our intuitive abilities. (Yes, everyone has intuitive abilities; we don’t need to go there.) 

To understand the system helps one better understand how to work the system. To be familiar with the mechanism helps one understand how the various pieces create a working model. To be solid in the foundation allows for a strong building to be built. Enough analogies? 

So who/what is in charge of a Tarot reading? The reader needs to know what they’re doing but it’s not their job to control the session. The client/student/querent can’t be in charge since their job is to be receptive yet discerning. Conscious intelligence isn’t in charge, or else one wouldn’t be at the Tarot table in the first place; nor is intuition in charge because without a clear thought intuition’s voice is muffled.

It boils down to the “Round Table Effect.” All participants must bring the entirety of themselves to the quest: conscious knowing, discriminative thinking, emotional intelligence, intuitive receptivity, book learning, life experience, willingness to hear with the inner ear, readiness to expand awareness beyond what is known.

Tarot reading -- it takes a village!

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