What you can see? Or what you feel?
A woman is sitting in front of you. She’s petite and has dark straight hair, which is loose and rests on her shoulders. She’s pretty, you think, and is dressed in a charcoal skirt and jacket with a plain white blouse beneath. She notices you looking and with a smile, says ‘I must apologise for how I am dressed .. it’s been a mad afternoon .. I had to rush from work to the child-minder and then sort the kids out before I came here .. I didn’t have a chance to change out of my work clothes’.
Sometimes, we make assumptions. You might presume that this lady has a good job. You notice her wedding ring as she scratches her forehead, so you guess that she is happily-married too. You admire how selfless she is around her family. If you chose a significator for this lady, surely she’d be a Queen of Pentacles, wouldn’t she? Instead, you shuffle up and get her to pick one randomly. She receives the Knight of Wands. That doesn’t seem right, you tell yourself. You usually have a strong connection with your cards, so do you question what you see staring up from the illustration in front of you or do you question what you think you can tell about the hardworking mother-of-two on the other side of the table?
One thing I have learnt is to just read the cards. People often think that readers draw a lot from what they see in a client and use it to form their reading. If only it was that simple. Many times, I have fought against my instinct and what the cards are saying, because that ‘Queen-of-Pentacles-type’ across the table just doesn’t look like the kind of woman who might be disappearing for midnight rendezvous with guys half her age or banking her elderly neighbour’s pension in her own account.
I believe that a good tarot reader uses an equal measure of learned meanings and gut-reaction in their readings. The cards will not let you down if you lay your trust in both. The more confusing the stories which unravel, the more important the message usually is. It is not for us to edit somebody else’s reading or to decide what might apply or what might not.
I read for a woman some time ago. She said she’d been dropped off by her husband and told me that the two of them were going out for his birthday a little later. So when the 2 of Cups and the Knight of Cups turned up in the centre of her reading, I was a little apprehensive about telling her what I saw. Rather than give it to her straight, I tiptoed around it, hoping she’d fill in the blanks. Eventually, she smiled and said ‘There is a reason why these cards have come up .. a young man, who is not my husband, has shown some interest in me recently and I am undecided about what I intend to do’. I’d known that a new romantic relationship was important in her reading, but rather than relying on what I felt, I’d been tricked by what I thought was true, which had initially prevented me from giving the woman the reading she really needed
Over the years, I have learned to never assume that I know a person better than the cards do. I have known people for over thirty years but have still been surprised in readings. ‘Why are the cards telling me that you are considering leaving so-and-so after a fifteen year relationship?’, I have asked. ‘Because I am’ has been the reply.
Trust is a very important part of reading the tarot; if you want to give good readings, you must lay belief in your tool and certainty in your interpretations and not allow your ego to step in. Many people will second-guess spreads because they believe they ‘know’ better, but often, if something is glaringly obvious in a run of cards or you feel a nasty-big-hunch in the pit of your belly, there is probably a pretty good reason for it. Rather than sidestepping and trying your level-best to ignore the elephant-in-the-room, you must find a way to deliver these messages sensitively. This is where reading becomes an art. Nobody wants to be slapped around the face with the truth like a wet fish and in some cases, people might be in very deep denial with regards to a situation. I have found that explaining what a card means in a general manner can be helpful during those times, rather than winking at your client and saying ‘Who’s been a naughty boy then?’ when The Devil turns up in the middle of his relationship reading. The penny will eventually drop, even if it is after he’s left your table.
The thing about the court-cards is that each is just one ‘sixteenth’ of who we are. Every one of us has the potential to be loving or deceitful, a homemaker or a home wrecker. And most of the time, we can be many of these things at the same time. Don’t assume that the 70-year-old next door is getting less sex than you are or that the young mum with the new triplets doesn’t have the time to start-up a new business. That is not for us to call. If the cards tell you something which contradicts what you believe to be true, keep schtum and let the tarot do the talking.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Illustration by Steven Bright