While a good Tarot reader can give you some incredible insight into your life, one of the most important things about a reading is your approach. When you're looking for some guidance, remember that few things matter as much as the question you ask.
When my clients sit with me, they're often a bit confused about what would be the best subject for a reading. I've been given several different options and told to pick, or given no options and told to simply explain what I see in the cards. Some clients even give a list of everything on their minds, even when those subjects aren't closely related.
I totally understand the confusion. There are all kinds of readers, and a bunch of different approaches. I've had readers that used an all-purpose spread to cover every possible subject in twenty minutes. I've had one who immediately began talking to her spirit guides, and only drew a single card in the last few minutes. (I confess I felt a little cheated by that one - I had paid for a Tarot reading, not a channeling!) It's easy to assume that because a lot of Tarot readers work with psychic abilities, or simply with their intuitive response to the cards, that they can pick out what you need to know just by glancing at you.
But in my experience, the best readings come from having the best questions: questions that are clear, focused, and open to a lot of different information. So here are five basic tips for asking the best question for your reading, and receiving the best results!
1) Make your question clear and specific.
If you ask me about money, there's a lot of things that could come up: your position at work, your spending habits, the results of any financial windfalls. If you ask me about the results of your business in the next six months, I'll be able to focus my reading and give you a lot of specific, useful advice via the cards.
2) Don't be afraid of not covering everything.
Most Tarot readers will read for as a little as fifteen minutes to as long as an hour. Not only is that usually time for more than one spread, and a detailed heart-to-heart about what your reading shows, but the issues in your life can be intertwined. Talking about your relationships will lead to a look at boosting your communication, or raising your self-esteem. The cards have a real knack for revealing what's hidden and bringing it into the light, so if you need to see what the real issue is, don't worry. It'll be there.
3) Don't ask about other people.
If you're asking about your relationship with another person, that's fine. But if you just want to know how they're feeling, or what's going on in their personal lives, that's not so easy. For one thing, some readers believe it's a breach of ethics to read for anyone other than the clients who've consented to it - that includes celebrities! And more importantly, there's no guarantee you'll get the answers you want. Any reading about another person will still be through your eyes, with your perspective. It might miss important details, or be clouded by your energy and bias. Try asking about your relationship with the person, or what you need to know about the situation.
4) Don't limit your possible answers.
One of the biggest things I see newbies to Tarot do is limit the scope of their answers. They'll ask a yes-or-no question, or they'll be looking for a specific result: "Will I get a boyfriend?" But part of the beauty of Tarot is how many levels and shades of meaning you can find in a reading. Depending on the spread and what cards you draw, the cards can reveal what's hidden, show different options, or tell you when you're headed for an unpleasant result so you can change your tune. The 'how' and 'why' are so much more important than the 'what' in a good reading. One of my favorite templates for this kind of question is "What do I need to know about...?" That way you can stay as broad or specific as you like, while leaving your reading open to all the detail that's possible for you.
5) Timing isn't always important.
There are definitely Tarot spreads for what will come in a specific amount of time, and how specific it can get depends on the reader. But personally, I like to keep questions of timing in a reading open-ended. The future can always be changed by our actions, so the longer you project into the future with a reading, the less accurate it has the chance to be. Tarot should be an active experience, where the path you take towards your goals is informed and enhanced by the reading. Rather than asking when something will happen, I like to ask what I can do to help bring it about, and then trust that the universe will send it to me in its own time.
Be open to all the possibilities, and your reading will surprise you by the depth of the information it will give - and all the new insight it'll open up!
The Star is one of my favorite cards. And I'm always pleasantly surprised that it doesn't have more people resisting it like The Tower, or giving it layers of meaning like The Devil or Death. It's a card about faith, hope, and Divine guidance, and yet everyone's as delighted to see it as me.
Okay, I know that sounds ridiculous. Why would people be opposed to the promise of good things to come?
Well, hope is a challenging thing. Hell, the President of the United States made it a campaign topic. It suggests the Divine or angels, an end to struggle, the light at the end of the tunnel. That's tough sometimes. When you're sad or overwhelmed, being told there's a way out can be frightening. It suggests changes that might be large and just as scary. It asks for you to take risks, make adjustments, and be ready to entertain second chances.
The Star follows The Devil, a card about being trapped by harmful patterns and self-defeating behaviors, and The Tower, a card about breaking down the crumbling foundations to rebuild new things. It's a hope that emerges from tough, painful circumstances, a guidepost that points the way home. And the beauty of The Star? Is that all of these things are steps on the road to something amazing. The World, with its completion of a cycle and feeling of having it all, is only four steps away.
In a way, The Star is a lot like a good Tarot reading. If you're feeling confused, lonely, or just plain in need of clarity, it can show you the road ahead. It can give you new insights on how you change your life. It's been delivered to you at a time you can handle it, when you're capable of making the change - but the change is up to you. It's a responsibility that is purely in your hands.
And making that change yourself, as scary as it can be, will make the conclusion all the more powerful and satisfying.
This week's deck is the Tarot of Prague by Alex Ukolov & Karen Mahony, a collage of photographs from Prague's art and architecture. I love the pensive, thoughtful look of the figure pouring the jars, and the little stars captured in the water. Divine love and new possibilities are wellsprings that never truly run dry, not if we know how to access them. But we do need to remember to take a drink.
Why do I love Tarot?
Because Tarot is about stories. It's about creating a life where you walk with wanderers, magicians, and kings. Where you see the big, powerful themes of your life, and the small but poignant scenes that make up who you are. Where you're able to review your life's story and see how you want it to be told.
Because it's about possibilities. Because I can take a look at seven cards laid out in a pattern and see myself reflected back at me - parts of me I'd never considered before, and options I'd never imagined. Because when we're bogged down by too many choices, or by a sense of being overwhelmed and lost, we're able to illuminate our path and see one direction where it might lead.
Because Tarot is art. It's taking 78 ideas, 78 moments from life, and seeing the myriad ways those images have evolved and changed from person to person, theme to theme, artist to artist. It's seeing the unique lens through which each deck views our lives, and then learning about yourself through which images speak to you.
Because the world needs magick. Because we're
magick, and the sheer power and beauty of peering into the unknown and calling up what we find there is something we're never too old for.
Want to command the elements with the Magician? Harness your creativity with the Empress? Tarot Journeys: Of Mentors and Magic Wands
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The card for this week is the Ace of Wands, and again it's reversed, showing a lot of blocked energy in terms of focus, drive, and creativity. The things that are blocked in our lives are often the things we most need to unblock and learn. To me, that's why one of the interpretations of Tarot reversals is to pay special attention to the card and bring it into focus in your life.
The deck this week is the Forest Folklore Tarot, a deck by illustrator Kessia Beverley-Smith that draws inspiration from the New Forest in England. All the Wand cards in this deck have the same blonde, dainty fairies as shown in this first card -- which is interesting to me, because I'd have taken that kind of coloring for an Air fairy, and I've seen horses used to represent Earth. Associations are often so subjective, which can sometimes make them hard to navigate when you're using them to perform magick, or even to inspire you personally. But they can also lead to some really cool outside-the-box thinking.
Because I look at that image and I see a very powerful, spirited, free animal standing as a backdrop over the very beginning of the Wands cycle, a small light of inspiration and spirit that will soon grow and increase. I'm going to be starting a group read of The Fire Starter Sessions soon, and I'm really excited to see what changes it creates in my life and my business. I do have dreams and visions for my life, visions I want to create - but it's so easy to get our way blocked by the fear and the overwhelming choices. We don't know how to just keep moving forward in a continued exercise in growth.
But the beauty of the Ace is that it'll soon expand into two, three, four wands crafting the foundations of active and inspired life. The trick is to keep that spark ignited, to keep moving forward and not be crushed by the overwhelm of it all. I had something told to me in a dream once, that I've kept with me forever since:
"Don't worry about where you are right now. Just keep going."
Well, aside from the "hero with a presumably hopeless cause" thing, they're both archetypes.
From Anansi to Merlin, from Don Quixote to Jack Sparrow, archetypes are characters that are larger than life—broad "types" that everyone can know and relate to. Famous figures like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spoke a lot about archetypes because they say a lot about human nature. Through the way we tell stories, we learn a lot about what's important to us, and how we view the world we live in.
Archetypes become blueprints that we all can relate to, drawing us in based on how we live and what we want for ourselves. Few people feel they're exactly like Batman, Gotham City's brooding guardian, or that they have the roguish charm of Han Solo. But they can reflect on the powerful images those characters create when they're looking for inspiration about the kind of person they'd like to become.
Tarot may have started as a card game. But the figures in that game—the Emperor, the Chariot, the World—are all images of ideas we can connect and relate to. This makes it a perfect tool for self-discovery. The way we tell the story of our lives is powerful stuff. When we choose the stories we tell ourselves and the world, we decide the images that help us reflect on our lives.
Tarot's Major Arcana is where the most archetypical figures dwell. The Major Arcana provide images of many different figures and settings along a long road to self-development and enlightenment. The ideas about what they represent have changed over time and they're still changing. But finding out what those images mean to us tells us a lot about who we are.
Try this exercise to take a look at the archetypes that inform your life:List three of your favorite characters from any story. Movies, comics, mythology— nothing is off-limits. If you want to list a religious figure you believe literally exists, that's completely fine too. Remember, we're looking at the stories that inspire us and help us grow.
Now look at your list of three figures. For each character, list the qualities that draw you to them the most. I'd suggest at least three things but you can keep going if you like.
When you've created your list, look at the characters and qualities that you've written down. Spend some time thinking about them. Are they male or female? Heroes or villains? Do you relate to them because of things from your own life? From the lives of people you love? How can you use their stories to inform and transform your own life?
This blog post is an excerpt from my new course, Tarot Journeys: Of Mentors and Magic Wands
. The course takes a look at the first six cards of the Major Arcana, and how they can serve as guides on our personal journeys. If you like what you see, give the course a look - and sign up to my list! I'll be sending regular updates about Tarot Journeys and all my other offerings, including a free giveaway coming up soon!
One of my favorite bits of advice about using the Tarot for daily guidance and growth comes from the book "Tarot Journaling" by Corrine Kenner. The book is a really extensive guide to using Tarot cards as a prompt for daily journaling, one of the best ways I know to both learn the cards and gain some insight into yourself.
The advice was this: if the card you draw doesn't seem to fit you or your situation, start writing about that. Write about how it doesn't fit you at all, about how it was a mistake to draw that card. Write about why you can't possibly learn from it. By the end of your writing, you'll see why it was the card you were meant to draw all along.
When we perform divination for ourselves, we're all at the risk of seeing what we want to see. We draw another card "just to be sure", or interpret things in the broadest possible terms. It's one of the reasons even Tarot readers get readings from others: sometimes we just can't be objective about our own situation.
But when our purpose in reading is to spiritually delve, to see what we can dig up within ourselves, it's important to understand that there really are no accidents. There are many, many paths to the heart. Sometimes, in discovering what doesn't feel right, you can make room for what does. Sometimes in asking the wrong question, you stumble how it leads to the right one.
It's an excellent lesson for life as well: don't wait for it to be the "right" moment. Keep going, do the work, and the road will lead you to the answers you're meant to find.
A lot of people look at Tarot as a way to go deeper into their own lives. That's what I do: helping people shed light on the patterns and energies in their lives, giving them a better look at where to go next. But what I love about the cards is they can be so versatile. Sometimes even a day-to-day question can get you strikingly specific results.
The time I couldn't get in touch with a friend, for instance, so I consulted the cards and drew The Moon (needless worry) and the Four of Wands (a celebration). She was at a festival that day, and couldn't get to her phone. Or this weekend, when my computer was being an absolute delight, and I hadn't heard from my tech support forum of choice for hours. The Magician told me I had the tools I needed to tackle it myself, and while I didn't fix everything, I did manage to get my Internet back online.
Of course, it's probably not always going to be effective if you rely on a deck of cards to tell you what to have for dinner tonight. But it makes for an interesting way to flex your reading muscles. Part of being an effective reader, after all, is letting your intuition stretch you just beyond the classic meanings of the cards into a new mode of thinking. (How would you use the cards to decide what's for dinner? Six of Cups means a favorite childhood meal? The Tower means something spicy with bold flavors?)
It's not good to let Tarot do all your thinking for you, of course, and it's an easy trap to start relying on it too much. Ultimately everything should rely on your own decisions and common sense. But give the Tarot a spin for an unusual question sometime, and see what muscles it flexes in your mind. It just might surprise you.
Have you ever encountered something that just makes your eye start twitching and your fingers start drumming? The kind of thing where no matter how much you try to practice non-judgmental bliss, it can sometimes just get to you? Here are a few things I've seen in Tarot that get under my skin.
1. "Gypsy" fortune teller acts. First of all, "Gypsy" is actually a really insensitive word. A lot of people don't know this, so don't feel horrible if you used it up to now or anything. But it's a big-time slur in Europe, and it isn't even accurate, considering it was used to refer to the Romani people because they "looked Egyptian" and no one could be bothered to ask them for the facts. Kind of like "Indians" referring to Native peoples in North America.
The actual semantics aside, if you're reading Tarot more for the entertainment than the counseling angle - and that is totally fine, seriously, as long as you make it clear that's what it is - then you can probably find a sparkly costume to do it in without an accent and the words "cross my palm with silver." Come on, guys. There are like six stereotypes that plays on, and not enough people know what they really refer to.
2. "Bad" cards. People who are reading for themselves tend to do this. A reversal is "bad". The high Swords cards or the Tower are "scary". The Star in the "what to watch out for" position means "you are heretofore advised to throw yourself into a pit of despair and never be optimistic again."
You can read everything super-literally if you want, and I get it if you want the cards to just serve up a slice of truth: "No, the job probably isn't on the way. And also you should probably look out for the bolt of lightning that's going to shake your world up. Just warning you." But I feel like I'm watching a mime box himself in. The problem isn't how you're reading, when you do it this way, it's how you're responding to what it says. I honestly can't, in my heart of hearts, believe your inner guidance and a hand from the Universe is simply saying "Your life will suck right now."
Why is there going to be a bolt from the blue, or a feeling of total despair? You're never helpless in your life, and rarely does anything just happen to you, so determine what's going to show up in your world and decide how you want to feel about that. Adjust circumstances accordingly. Maybe you're not supposed to get the job because there's a better one on the way. Or the sudden, painful revelation will lead to you reinventing your world in a way you'd never have been able to before. Tarot is never just about things happening to you. It's about looking at the road you're on, where it's leading, and if you want to change direction.
3. "They're doing it wrong!" Yes, before you ask, I see the irony here. But seriously, I can't stress this enough. Yes, there are close-minded ways of catering your reading to exactly what you want to hear, or responding to your reading from a place of fear. And that's not good for your learning, or what you get out of reading Tarot. But I'm talking about the methods you pick up and the teachers you choose. There is no end-all-and-be-all as far as that's concerned. The only way you could possibly be "doing it wrong" is if you learn one way, stop there, and refuse to learn anything else. The more information you gather, the more you can decide for yourself what's worth doing and how.
But, here's the real reason for this one: even if you work for years and decide the best way to learn or teach or read the cards or whatever else, please don't be a jerk about it. I have seen a few Tarot experts and instructors call each other out, often by name. I've seen them get judge-y for having a different opinion, teachinga certain way, charging a certain amount of money. I can't think of anything that turned me off faster than watching a seminar from an instructor, and listening to them smugly outline how their teaching was superior to someone else's book.
Everyone learns differently. Everyone responds to the cards differently. Don't limit yourself by stereotypes, by fear, or by inaction. But most of all, don't ever limit someone else by telling them there's only one way to tap into the cards. Tarot is far too elaborate, magical, and full of potential for that.
For this week I think I'm going to bring back something I haven't done in a while - a weekly card draw to provide a focus for the week. There are a ton of Tarot blogs out there that give you a daily drawn card, so I'm going to give it a little twist - not only am I going to be waxing melodic on one card each week, I also have a list of random scanned decks I'm going to pick from, to give a different flavor to the cards. I really love looking at different decks, comparing the artistic choices made and seeing what each interpretation says about the card drawn. And comparing Tarot art is a great way to keep your readings fresh and full of variety.
This week we have (ack!) a court card, the Knight of Wands from the Tarot of the Witches by Fergus Hall. There's really no good reason to call this Tarot of the Witches, because it has pretty much nothing to do with witchcraft save the stereotype that you have to be witchy to use Tarot. If anything, you're probably going to recognize this deck from the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, where it was featured, probably with no small detail spared for accuracy. (That was sarcasm, if the lack of tone made you confused for a second.)
I've seen people call this deck the ugliest they've ever seen. I have no idea why, honestly. It's surreal and out of proportion, but so is Picasso. I don't know why the same dark-haired gentleman seems to feature in every card, as if he's just changing his wardrobe, but that's a style choice to me. The deck might not be the best first pick for a novice, but it strikes me as a fun piece of work I might want to add to my collection, and to use with clients if I'm feeling "mysterious" that day. There definitely is an aura of the otherworldly to it.
The similar format to all the images does make it a little hard to look at this card from an artistic level. But one thing that stands out to me with all the Knight cards in this deck is the way they're a bit top-heavy, rounded in the shoulders and barreled in the chest, a little too big for their horses. I first learned the court cards through Joan Bunning, who actually made the Knights the easiest to learn. They're the unstable teenagers of the court cards, the best and worst extremes of the things their suits embody. A Knight of Wands type is someone very fiery, passionate, and take-charge who hasn't yet learned to balance that energy. Often they tend to be quick on the draw, have a strong temper, or go up in flames. A "top-heavy" and off-balance Knight only seems appropriate.
For this week, look at how you view your passions. Do you have an all-or-nothing sort of stance about the things you love? Do you put too much energy in and burn yourself out? Have you not been careful with your passions, and gotten yourself in trouble? Take a good long look, and think about how you'd direct your energy in an ideal world of your own making.
I know I stress a lot about Tarot being a tool with no one right method, and how the magic is in you. Today I thought I'd put up a really great YouTube video I found by Jeanne Fiorini of TarotWorks.com, who talks about some of the traditions and superstitions behind Tarot - and how really, like I keep emphasizing, it's a set of tools meant to bring out your inner wisdom.