One of the big things that emerged from my recent reader survey was just how many of you struggle with making that leap from reading tarot for yourself to reading for others.
The move from reading alone in your bedroom, just you and your journal, maybe some reference books or websites, and all the time you’d like to take…to a conversation.
As in, like, real people. Sitting in front of you. Live. EEEEEK!
Okay that doesn’t actually look scary.
I completely get that. Because you know what? After years of reading tarot, four of those providing readings by email, three of those reading professionally…I still break out in a sweat at the thought of giving a face to face reading.
Does that sound ridiculous?
It’s not scary all the time. There are certain tarot-y friends (hi Bridget!) with whom card slinging is just part of our regular hanging out, fuel for our discussions. But most of the time. With most of the people. I’m more awkward than you might think, expressing myself verbally doesn’t come as easy as it does to some, and I tend to stumble, rush and fret.
What’s the problem? Oh gosh, where to start?
- I worry about being judged.
- I worry that the other person won’t get what I’m saying.
- I worry that the other person doesn’t get tarot at all and is secretly thinking ‘what a load of rubbish’.
- I worry that they will expect me to deliver some kind of bolt from the universe that will change their lives forever.
- I worry that because this is what I do for a living they think it will be the best reading they’ve ever had.
This open thread is for those of you who find any of this familiar.
For folks who really want to make that leap, but are terrified to get their cards out in front of another human being, for whatever reason that may be.
This is an open thread post, which means I’m gonna offer a few suggestions, but then it’s over to you! My ideas won’t be right for all of you, so please, please add your ideas in the comments below. What barriers stand in your way? How have you overcome them (if you’ve managed it)? What tips can you offer the shyer readers among us?
Last time we did this, I asked “how can we make time for tarot when we’re super busy” – your responses were awesome!
Here are my suggestions…
Make yourself do it
You know, like feel the fear and do it anyway. This is literally the only thing that works for me. It’s kinda like my whole approach to life – jump in the pool and then you’ll have to learn how to swim. Put yourself in a position where you just have to follow through. Because every time you do it, it gets a little easier.
Have a few simple spreads up your sleeve
One thing I realised pretty soon after I started doing event readings is that most people – especially if they’re not especially familiar with tarot – don’t need you to dazzle them with some special made-up-on-the-spot spread. Save your Celtic Cross for your best mate and a bottle of wine, or for next year when you’ve totally gone pro and have clients coming for hour-long sessions. What works best for me in most situations are simple three-card spreads.
Here are my favourites:
- Three cards – simply lay out three cards in a row, no position.
- Two card cross – lay one card, then another horizontally crossing it. You have the situation, perhaps what the querent wants or what they’re struggling with, and then (more on this in the Alternative Tarot Course, and on this Autostraddle post). You can always pull a third card for additional information or advice if the querent wants to go a little deeper.
- Past, present, advice – three cards in a row again. Lay the centre card first and explain this represents the current position. Then the card on the left, indicating the past, the context, or what has brought the querent to this moment. Lastly, an advice card on the right – a suggested ‘next step’ or way to address any issues brought up in the other cards.
Simple one-card readings
This can be a totally non-threatening way to have a little fun with tarot and your mates, and it’s something I do all the time. Keep your deck with you in your bag, so that you can whip it out when it feels like a good time! Spontaneous tarot is always fun.
So let’s say you’re in the pub, chatting with some mates. Offer people a quick one-card reading, by shuffling your cards and handing the deck around so everyone can pick one. You can offer your own ideas about what the card might mean, and encourage everyone else to add their interpretations, too.
Work on your boundaries in advance
It’s especially important to have boundaries in place when reading for people you know (and strangers, too). Here’s a post about how to establish boundaries and why they’re important.
I also asked folks in the Alternative Tarot Network for their thoughts:
I’ve gained confidence in reading for others from reading for acquaintances or friends I’m not very close to. For one thing, they are people I trust to give me honest feedback. It helps that I have a fairly good idea of who they are, but it’s also helpful not to know them *too* well because then I am less inclined to let knowledge of their life and situation influence how I read the cards- I can rely more heavily on my intuition.
I also love doing readings for characters from literature/movies/tv shows. I did a reading for Season 4 Chandler from Friends and it was ridiculously accurate, and fun, of course, imagining how the reading would go!
For me, the biggest challenge about reading for other was definitely fear. Reading for others scared the unholy crap out of me for a long time. What helped was journaling about why I was scared and digging into what about reading for others caused me so much fear. I used the question “Why does reading for others scare me?” as a prompt and wrote out everything that made me uncomfortable.
Dissecting that fear made it easier to confront it. It made it easier to see the fear objectively and to notice what fears were founded and which ones weren’t.Journaling also highlighted areas where I could actually do something about the fear. In my case, one thing I worried about a lot was not knowing what spread to use, so I came up with a general go-to spread that I could use for most questions and build on for more complex questions. That way I could release the fear of not knowing what spread to use since I had that planned out already. This helped reduce my overall fear to more manageable levels.
Also, eventually I had to just decide that my desire to read tarot was greater than my fear and to just to do it despite feeling scared, even though my hands might be shaking. The more I read for others, the less scary it became.
The Tarot Parlour
I found it easier to start reading for others online, rather than in-person. Online I could take as much time as I needed to and I could look up what I needed to in the LWB when I blanked. That’s not an option in-person and losing that crutch was scary.So I’d do one-card readings in a livechat for people, and if they wanted 3-7 cards I’d PM them with it within a few days. Usually their reaction would let me know if I was correct or not. After doing that for a while I started getting the courage to branch out to a few select friends.I still enjoy doing exchanges and I feel that they’re very important to help folks learn, although I’m more likely to give them a reading back as part of my feedback. That way they can have a demonstration of how cards can be strung together to tell a story, too.
The key (for me) to getting over the fear was to trust myself. Just write out the first thing that worked and then send it off – and then go back a day later and think about “well, why did The Lovers mean choosing to embrace [option] rather than to go at it alone…?” (for example). You can’t do that sort of critical thinking while you’re reading – it just won’t work – but it’s still important to do. It just needs to happen in its own time and space.
So knowing that that time and space would be provided allowed for me to tell it “no! We’re going to criticize the reading tomorrow, brain. Now’s not the time!” and that gave my intuition a chance to spread its wings. I believe that this is also what is meant by the ego self trying to barge into a reading but I’m not entirely sure.
I joined a musical circus and would read for about 20 different people every night 🙂 When all you have is 2 minutes to improvise a reading, you don’t have time to build up the confidence – you just do it!!
Reading online or over skype has also improved my abilities (and probably keeps my cards in better condition). I had a roommate studying abroad in Ireland and I would do readings for her – without having someone in person, you can’t pick up on their nonverbals, so you really have to listen to the cards.
Ace of Sneakers
Over to you! What are the particular barriers that hold you back in reading for other people, and/or what ways have you found to overcome this? Let us know in the comments!
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.