What Makes a Bad Tarot Reader?

Learning Tarot 4 Comments »

Tarot reading still has a slightly disreputable reputation. Readers are often seen as charlatans, without adequate training or quality control. As for the idea that bits of coloured card can give people an accurate glimpse into their lives and future is illogical, even a little crazy.

That’s the left-brained, rational, scientific view. Or – is it?

Einstein, one of the greatest scientists ever, was wonderfully open-minded. He understood the role intuition could play, and was awake to the marvelous. In his wake, quantum physicists are proving that the impossible is, in fact, probable, and questioning everything we think of as ‘reality’. They’re even beginning to explain consciousness and the mind through quantum physics, as well as other strange phenomena such as ghosts, telepathy, mediumship, psychic power etc.

This strange, illogical science can probably explain how the tarot works – watch this space for more articles on tarot and quantum physics.

But the intermediaries, the mediums, the psychics, and the tarot readers – their ability, or lack thereof, are what gave tarot its difficult reputation. Having said that, all the readers I know have high ethical standards and wouldn’t dream of cheating, lying, or carrying on a reading when it’s obvious they’re not getting anything right.

But, unfortunately, there are readers who do lie, cheat, say they can lift curses, etc. I heard one at a psychic fayre piling on the flattery so thickly I was amazed that the client didn’t burst out laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she repeated the same thing to the next one. And there were people lining up to see her! Perhaps bad tarot readers just attract bad clients, the sort that want to be buttered up and told that everything is going to be fine…

Talking of bad clients – one gay man pulled out a wad of money from his pocket and began peeling off ten pound notes, placing them on the table. He indicated that this was a bonus for me. I smiled sweetly and continued reading the cards, which were basically saying that he’d treated all his boyfriends really badly and needed to make reparation. When I got round to that, he said, ‘You’re going to be really angry with me now.’ ‘Why?’ I asked, curiously. ‘Because you’re not going to follow any of my advice?’

‘No,’ he replied, picking up all the money he’d placed on the table. ‘Because I’m going to take back my money.’ And at that he got up and left. I was in hysterics, figuring that the tenners must have been a bribe to tell him what he wanted to hear!

If the cards appear just too good to be true, they probably are. Perhaps the reader is flanneling and trying to tell you what you want to hear (without a bribe), or lying about their meanings for some reason – perhaps because they aren’t very good readers! There is one other alternative which I’ve experienced only a couple of times in the forty years I’ve been reading: that you yourself are psychically powerful and are somehow influencing the cards to say what you want to hear.

Back to bad tarot readers. If the cards (or interpretations) are completely wrong, a bad tarot reader will carry on regardless, ignoring the fact that the energy between you is mismatched or missing. A good reader will say ‘this doesn’t seem to be working, is it’ and give you the option to continue, or return your money.

A quick point about being asked questions. Clients often think that the reader is trying to pump you for information if s/he asks questions. But the cards only offer a general landscape, not a specific landmark, so the questions are to see whether different aspects of the card meaning would be more appropriate to your circumstances. However, there are exceptions: I was shocked recently to hear about a reader in the west of London who spent the whole reading attempting to get the client to interpret the cards, instead of doing it herself. Apparently she charged a fair amount for her readings, too. I find this rather strange – if she couldn’t make head or tail of the reading, perhaps she should have offered a refund.

Finally, the reading is about you, no-one else. A reader who starts talking about her- or himself is bad news. You may get a reader illustrating a point from something they’ve experienced themselves, fair enough; but it should be kept to a minimum.

So what makes a good tarot reader? Someone who uses their psychic gifts to intuit through the cards what is going on for you, and what possible futures you have in store; someone who listens to anything you have to say; can put their ego to one side and concentrate totally on you for an hour or so; someone with good life experience and perception. Tarot readers are counsellors, not predictors, who use their cards as a window through which to gaze on your possible future/s. Your job is to walk out into those future landscapes, using the tarot reading to ensure you notice the opportunities to blossom and grow.

Developing Your Own Tarot Reading Style

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When first you start working with the tarot, your ‘reading style’ is probably not going to be uppermost in your mind. You’ll no doubt be concerned about the meanings and how on earth to remember them, or, if you’re an intuitive reader, whether you can trust your intuition and how you’ll find enough to say to the people who ask you for a reading – ‘it’ll take me 5 minutes and then I’ll run out of things to say’. (Actually, that won’t happen; if you make enough of a connection to the cards the meanings will come. You put your mind into neutral and allow yourself to say what streams off your tongue. Even after 34 years I often listen to what I’m saying and think ‘what on earth am I talking about? Is this total rubbish or does it make sense?’ Often it sounds like garbage to me, so I often ask the client whether it makes any sense to them. It’s rare that they look absolutely blank and say it’s total rubbish.)

But to return to style. When I first started researching the tarot I had about 5 books I read constantly, Alfred Douglas The Tarot being the most useful. Douglas’s approach was quite Jungian and that suited me; I’d become interested in psychology at the age of 18 and so references to the unconscious, myth and archetypes rang all sorts of bells, and actually inspired me to start reading into history, mythology, and psychology – I have always said that the tarot educated me. Jung’s personality types – intuitive/creative, feeling- or sensory oriented, or intellectual – made perfect sense in correspondence with the suits (Wands, Cups, Discs/Pentacles, and Swords). My readings naturally had the same slant – they were concerned with underlying concerns, background history and all that entailed, and interpersonal issues, often at work. The readings worked fine, especially using my own deck (The Intuitive Tarot), but I wasn’t sure this was actually what most tarot readers did. So when I began reading professionally, I figured I’d be a one-off, doing psychological tarot – and in fact, I met a psychic fair reader who informed me that she didn’t know what sort of reading I was doing – it wasn’t tarot, she said. It was only when I met other tarot readers that I was reassured: most readers nowadays consider that their readings are more counselling than psychic. Some readers prefer to concentrate on character-readings and past issues, and avoid looking into the future (based on the premise that it’s all in flux and can change without warning). However, I know the cards can, and do, look into the future – often with frightening accuracy. It’s just we haven’t got there yet. Trust the cards – they will be telling the truth; it’s our own vision which is limited.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself psychic. In my experience ‘psychic readings’ contain a lot of the reader’s ‘stuff’, whereas by using the tarot (especially if you get the client to draw the cards), you have a good chance that they will be accurate: all you have to do then is to interpret them. We all have some sort of psychic awareness, but it can exhibit in different ways. Each ordinary sense – sound, sight, taste, touch and smell – is matched by a subtle level, or ‘psychic’ sense. So you might get words or ideas ‘coming through’ (clairaudience), some ‘see’ clairvoyantly; some ‘just know’ things, sense atmosphere or get information on places (claircognizance); some can pick up information from items such as hair or wristwatches (psychometry and psychokinesis). Some can sense energies in and through the body (clairsentience), and the subtle level sense of smell (clairgustant) may well be something we used to rely on far more (animals have far greater olfactory abilities, but we are certainly still able to pick up on sexual pheromones, for instance). Indeed, it may be that all these extrasensory abilities are atavistic – throw-backs to our animal origins, when our lives depended upon what we picked up from the environment. This ‘secondary awareness’ is just about being fully awake. In our polluted, over-stimulated, over-populated world, we have forgotten what life is really about.

Anyway, finally, the most important ‘style’ a tarot reader needs, is to develop empathy. Empathy, the ability to feel someone else’s emotions and reactions, isn’t necessarily inborn. Some have no empathy at all, and they would not be particularly good tarot readers. However, the ability certainly can be learnt: practice by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself ‘how would I feel in this situation?’ And, of course, the more life experience you have the more you’ll be able to understand how others feel.