I’ve recently had a very humbling experience as a professional tarot reader, one that challenged my beliefs but also reunited me with my core integrity and refreshed my understanding of how exactly tarot works — what it does, what it does not do, with a very clear picture of “where” the information provided in a tarot reading comes from.
This experience has inspired me to lay out for you my original/newfound understanding, presented in the form of a three-card tarot reading. Whenever I feel unsure of myself, tarot is always there to get me back on track; this is partly of tarot DOES do.
I can hear you asking “so, what happened?!?” This will be a drawn-out story, which I’ll begin by sharing the only other time someone has told me a reading was outright “wrong:” it was a $5 One-Card Etsy reading, with a long, detailed question and the astrological information for the person being read for and their partner. I truly care about all of my clients, and so against my better judgment, I actually did a big synastry report out of curiosity, drew the one card, and gave her the advice. I knew sending it it wouldn’t be what she wanted to hear, but I felt it was for her highest good; she sent me a scathing review saying I don’t know anything, I’m the worst, I didn’t answer her question, etc etc. I handled it well knowing I answered her question to the best of my ability, and took it as confirmation to listen to my intuition when I know I’m going out of my way/above and beyond.
That brings me to my current situation, which has one similarity to the previous “wrong” advice. Like the other time, this client wanted to know what another person was thinking. They wanted to know what another person had done, what their motivations were, and it began to spiral into wanting to know additonal, further removed individual’s parts in the situation. From the very beginning I tried to assert that Third Party readings are a big no-no; my original pamphlet actually said this:
Truly, tarot is NOT for reading minds. It may seem like it reads yours because it presents to you exactly what is going on with you, but that it is because it IS a reading of the energy presently surrounding *you,* and is a perfect tool for accessing and understanding your own Higher Self.
The “Higher Self” is a fancy word for your intuition, and you can picture it as the ultimate version of you, hanging out above your head, relaxed, with full knowledge of everything that has ever happened to you across lifetimes, a complete and total understanding of your present situation, and a real eye on the future and the direction things are headed. When you come for a reading, our Higher Selves intermingle and the best way to communicate what your cards read is filtered through to me, resulting in the advice I provide. In the same way, when you read for yourself, the images you see in the cards triggers something in your Higher Self and the connection is made between the imagery and your own reality as your minds bends around what you’re seeing and what you already know to be true.
Here is where I will split the tarot deck, asking for the “surface” answer to “what is tarot for?”
The card on the bottom of the deck initially was the 9 of Pentacles, which is so aligned with what I understand tarot to be FOR — for grounding yourself in your achievements, for finding ways to feel proud of all you have earned, and to illuminate where your loyalties are, from a place of healthy self-centeredness. The cut card, which I always take meaning from, is the Ace of Swords — indeed, tarot is meant to show you a fresh way of thinking, to help you look at things in a different way, that allows you to “stab forth” and continue to make your way through life’s wilderness <3<3<3
Ironically, the 9 of Pents was a real “stalker” in that Third Party reading situation — a constant beacon that the client needed to come back “home” to herself, to take back her power, to consider her own needs instead of so completely giving away any shred of agency she otherwise had.
So, what is tarot NOT? 4 of Cups: it’s not going to “give you the answers,” per se — it lays out your options, it shows you what’s true for *you*, and asks you to do the work to lift your head up and see your own reality with new eyes. It asks you to get up from your slump, to see what’s disappointed you, and to choose to take action towards what will fulfill you instead <3<3<3<3
What IS tarot? Page of Wands. A way to re-inspire yourself, to reignite your spark, to remind you that you are your own magic wand! Aligned with that Ace of Swords cut card, it’s a way to find your fire and blast you out of the desert, getting your creativity flowing again and showing you much more there is to learn about yourself and your passions — tarot reminds you that you are a student of Life, and the lessons never cease — the zest you bring to your studies determines how the road goes <3<3<3<3
My best advice for relaying what tarot is and what it is not? III – The Empress. How lovely <3<3<3 Tarot is a beautiful way to find comfort in your reality, to “mother yourself” with some super-deep advice, to connect with your own inner nature and learn more about how to ground yourself within your personal flow. Tarot is a way to identify what and how you love, and is an incredible way to observe and track personal growth.
The Shadow and Higher Self cards are rather tongue-in-cheek; obviously the situation that launched this post was about a relationship reading, and truly, Love is the main topic that people want readings on <3<3<3 How can you read on love if Third Party readings are a no-no? Well, you can read on how to be a better partner yourself, you can read on what would be the ideal relationship for you, you can read on what you can know about how a relationship is affecting you personally… and so on and so forth, as long as you keep the questions centred on you, keep the ball in your own court, and keep your highest intention for the reading being to find out what your dreams for yourself are and how you can make them come true <3<3<3
Above all, that is absolutely what tarot is for: to show you what is working in your life, what is not, and how to make adjustments in order to stay on-track. All summer those readings advised maintaining life outside of that Third Party situation, of maintaining personal integrity, that forgiveness was key to moving forward one way or another… it can be so hard to hear that sort of thing when you truly believe that knowing “the Truth” is all that will set you free… but another’s Truth is not yours to know unless they tell you. You can only know yours, and that is exactly what tarot CAN do <3<3
I had to swallow my pride and admit that I was wrong in this situation — not that I had read the cards wrong, no indeed, as I maintain my trust that what the cards say is 100% representative of hat can be known about the overall situation in the moment. The reason they didn’t reveal “the truth” was because that was not information we were privy to, where that Third Person was not aware of the reading or of the attempt on their psychic privacy. I was wrong to lead my client to believe that was possible; I’m a Pisces who wishes I could just make everyone feel better, and this situation taught me that even the best intentions can do more harm than good. Now I know to firmly maintain my stance on keeping the spotlight on my client alone, remembering that my job is to help them find, regain, and maintain their personal power, all while treating tarot and that precious Higher Self connection with utmost respect.
The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. Illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems, Inc. 1999 edition.