A tarot reading, when done right, is like unfolding a map to a place you’ve never been before, a place, in most cases, you’ll never go. Landmarks are indicated, easiest routes are suggested, but, the truth is that, though you can tell your client–your querent, as they say–where the path she’s on could take her, you can’t say for certain if she’ll end up there. You read the fragments in front of you and trust, by the flickers of recognition on the querent’s face, that you’re describing something she recognizes in herself.You don’t have to be psychic to be a good tarot card reader, just someone who understands human nature and is a half-way decent storyteller. For this reason, I consider tarot card reading to be the least occult of any occult skill. That’s not to say that I don’t think it’s useful. I think any time someone sits across from another person for any length of time and strives to make a connection to them–to tell them something about themselves and to hear something about that person in return–it’s useful. People want to be known, most people, and they want to understand where they are, how they got there, and where they might be going. Such fundamental questions, one doesn’t need special powers to guess that they’re on most folks’ minds in one form or another.
I’ve been reading tarot cards since college. When I first started, I clung to the little booklet that comes with the cards, turning card then turning pages, flipping around to understand the card’s meaning, as if one could just map a one to one correlation between what was on the page and what was there in front of you. And yet, it doesn’t take very long before you realize that the meanings they give you for the cards are too simplistic, that they don’t match up with what you come to see as the meanings, how you understand them.
At this point, you might search out more books and more meanings and write them all down and map similarities and try to interpret differences in order to come up with one meaning that took all the other meanings you’ve found into account. I wrote my meanings down in a book and spent a great deal of time flipping through it as I was flipping cards, trying to correlate what I saw in front of me with the scribbles I had made in the past.
At some point, and I can’t remember when it was, just that it was probably much later than most folks, since I’m constantly living my life like I have all the time in the world to indulge my fears and to put off actually getting around to whatever it is I’m supposed to get around to, I left the book alone.
I flipped a card and trusted that I could look at the card, my querant’s face, and count on the meaning of that card, for that person, to suggest itself.
Would I be as good a card reader if I hadn’t done all the work of reading about the cards and trying to understand just what, if anything, was the general consensus about them? No. Of course not. But, sometimes, often, in order to get people to trust in what you’re saying to them, you must make the telling of it look effortless and feel slightly mysterious. Like an actor must eventually go off book in order to preserve the illusion that the words are his own, so must a tarot card reader go off book in order to preserve the illusion that the meanings are obscure to most folks, but utterly obvious to her.