As I gear up to teach my 4-week Tarot course Reading Tarot for Others (classes start May 1st & registration will be closing soon!) I’ve been thinking about what makes a really good Tarot reading. And of course that lead me to reminisce about what makes a bad Tarot reading!
I’ve had lots of readings over the years – Tarot, tea leaf, palm, astrology, mediumship, etc – but only ONE reading stands out as being the absolute worst reading I’ve ever had.
So pull up a chair, grab a drinkie-poo and let me tell you all about it…
I was at my high school’s graduation celebration and I was 17 years old. This event took place at the local rec center and there were all kinds of activities going on in various rooms – a Tarot reader was set up in a little private room upstairs and you had to put your name on a board if you wanted a reading.
When it was my turn, I walked into the room and it was like walking into a mystical and magical cave! This Tarot lady went all out on decorations – she’d hung beautiful scarves from the ceiling and had lanterns and string lights glowing, so her reading space looked like an Arabian tent!
The Tarot reader appeared to be in her mid 20’s and was all decked out in goth garb. So it was obvious this chick had a flair for the dramatic.
I had just started dating a new guy and I was all excited about where things were headed. Plus, I was starting college in just a few months.
So the Tarot reader lady shuffles the deck, lays the cards out and then gasps in shock and horror as she turns each card over.
Ten of Swords…..GASP!
King of Cups….tsk, tsk!
She acted like she’d never seen these cards come up in a reading before. It was ridiculous.
She then proceeded to tell me that basically, my life was a total disaster and it was only going to get worse.
“All I’m seeing is alcoholism – on both sides of your family. Alcoholism, alcoholism, alcoholism!” she said as she made karate chop motions with her hands over the cards.
This wasn’t actually true, although I’m sure there’s at least one or two alcoholics in my lineage.
Then she said “stay away from alcohol!!! It will ruin your life!” which I guess isn’t bad advice, but it seemed a bit over the top.
When I asked about my new boyfriend she shook her head and let out a big sigh. “He’s going to be abusive, violent, controlling and psycho. Get out now while you still can!”
While I was totally disappointed by this answer, it actually turned out to be somewhat true. He turned out to be jealous and insecure and began phoning me 50 times a day and making a big deal if I didn’t answer it right away. But none of these behaviors were present when I got the reading, so the reading just felt “off” at the time.
She then said a bunch of other stuff – none of it good. I don’t even remember what it was, just that it was all warnings of impending doom.
I left the reading feeling crestfallen and shook up. I didn’t really believe everything she’d said but I felt overshadowed by this feeling that my life was just going to be a series of disasters and disappointments. Thankfully, I was able to shake that feeling after a few days. But still, it was a shitty experience.
Let’s analyze this Tarot reading!
What mistakes did she make? What did she do right? And how can you (and I) avoid giving crappy readings like this one?
What she did right:
1) She created a mystical atmosphere – I loved the vibe she created with her decorations and private space. Even the goth costume was an interesting bit. However, none of this really matters if the reading itself is terrible. But it was a nice touch, nonetheless!
2) She was technically pretty accurate – most of the info she got from the cards was bang on (except the part about my entire family being raging alcoholics). However, it was how she delivered that info that made the reading a disaster.
3) She didn’t shy away from giving important information in an upfront style. You can’t accuse this lady of sugar coating things! If a strong message is coming through the cards, by all means it should be shared with the client.
What she did wrong:
1) She was overly dramatic and acted all horrified by the cards that showed up. This made me feel like my reading was unusually negative and that there was something wrong with me.
Professional Tarot readers should have a certain level of calmness and unflappability during readings. It’s okay to act intrigued or even surprised by some cards, but don’t act appalled.
2) She was overly pessimistic and seemed to only focus on the bad news. Whenever a reading has “bad news” it’s important to follow it up with something positive or empowering, even if that means drawing the final card from a warm fuzzy oracle deck. The reading should never end on a sour note.
3) She gave no guidance as to how I could improve things. It’s fine to “tell it like it is” and all that, but don’t just tell someone their life is shit and then send them on their way. What will be helpful? What should be focused on? How can things be changed for the better? These are the questions to focus on after any difficult information has been revealed.
4) She focused entirely on my future and not what I could do NOW. The whole reading seemed to revolve around things that would happen later on down the road, without touching on the present moment and what I could do NOW that would best help me (well, apart from the avoiding alcohol bit).
How could it have been better?
If I were doing this reading, here’s what I would have done differently…
Delivering Difficult Info 101
Whenever you say something that you know your client probably doesn’t want to hear, follow it up with something constructive or positive.
This isn’t about throwing in a bunch of uplifting mumbo jumbo, it’s about making the reading a worthwhile experience. You’ve delivered the difficult info, but now what? What’s next?
For example, when she said “your relationship is doomed, get out now!”, she could have followed it up with instead of focusing on this relationship, focus on this… or here’s how to attract a good relationship…
Avoid Being All Judgy
As a Tarot reader, it helps to have a heard-it-all/seen-it-all kind of air to you. Don’t clutch your pearls when your client tells you they’ve been cheating on their husband for the past 20 years. Act like nothing shocks you. Not only does this put your clients at ease but helps you stay open minded to different ways of seeing the cards.
When this Tarot reader told me I descended from a family of hardcore drunks, she could have done so without the wide-eyed gasps and flailing hands.
Focus on at least ONE positive thing
This is especially important when a reading is heavy or intense. In my reading, the reader didn’t say one good thing, she was all doom and gloom! This left me feeling totally crummy afterwards.
But what if you can’t find anything good to say? Sometimes this happens. In this case, you have a couple options.
Option #1: Ask the cards what can my client do to best take care of themselves? No matter what card comes up, you’ll be able to put a positive spin on it.
Option #2: Draw a card from an uplifting oracle deck like Animal Allies Oracle Cards by Jessica Swift or Self Care Cards by Cheryl Richardson.