Many site offer free tarot readings online. Some are excellent, some just passable. One of the best was produced by a friend of mine and offered different spreads from a selection of tarot and oracle decks. Unfortunately, the site was taken over by a publishing company who managed to break the programming – so the link (to just goes straight to their list of publications. It’s a shame, as the readings were excellent.

Now, the only free reading service I can recommend is the one run by the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI), where you can ask any question and someone will respond with the reading. It isn’t immediate – in other words, this isn’t a computer-generated tarot reading – but at least you know then that there is a human being interpreting real cards.

A web search is of course another, more immediate option. I haven’t tried any of the services so can’t recommend them. And, of course, there is no comparison to a face-to-face consultation where the reading is private, and you get the benefit of a professional’s intuition.

However, I would not recommend anyone who purports to be ‘psychic’ and doesn’t use cards – I have had quite a few readings from psychics, and almost all were really inaccurate. This may be unfair as I’ve met a lot of people who really were psychic (though they weren’t offering readings). Often those who say they are psychic just project their own issues onto you. A tarot reader has the benefit of the card’s slightly lateral take on your situation – and believe me, they definitely have their own wisdom and often surprised me. I would then check what they said with the client, saying ‘look, the card is saying …, does this make any sense to you because it certainly doesn’t to me’, and almost without fail the client would say ‘oh no, I know what that’s about.’ I’ve come to rely on the cards’ wisdom, and trust it well before my own thoughts on the situation.

Beware, though: there are some extremely unethical readers around. A complete no-no is someone who says that you have had a curse placed on you, and offers to lift it for some exorbitant amount of money. (These are usually (initially) cheap readings from readers in dubious areas like the East End of London.) However, it doesn’t follow that the more you pay the better the reading, as I’ve met some pretty appalling readers charging mega-amounts. An excellent rule of thumb is – when you see them, do you relate to them? Do they look like they’re playing some Gypsy Rose Lee role, with bells and hoop earrings and scarves? Or do they give the impression of being focused on you, and you alone?

Oddly, the same thing applies to online readings. What sort of feeling do you get from the website? Does it look flashy, bells and whistles everywhere, hard sell? Hey, if that’s your thing then go for it. My preference would be for something well produced, with an attractive photograph of the reader and no exorbitant promise (or hidden extras).

Finally, tarot readers are not fortune tellers. Few tarot readers will want to answer questions such as ‘When will my boyfriend and I get married?’ or ‘Will our marriage last?’ ‘How many children will we have?’ Those are questions best asked of a palm reader or astrologer (or preferably not asked at all). Tarot readings are for when you have choices to make, to look at the underlying issues. Or when you want to look at the underlying problems in your life, and get alternative options. Often, what you think of as the issue is completely incorrect, and it’s something else entirely. A good reader will see that from the cards, and be able to offer suggestions of how to solve the underlying problem/s.

And, of course, while the tarot certainly does give glimpses into the future, we need to remember that we make our own destiny.