Gilding the Weed

I’m often amused by the earnest claims of professional diviners who trumpet  how “accurate” they are, as if being “right” surpasses being “helpful” in their interaction with their clientele. Since I have yet to see a workable empirical model that everyone can agree on for measuring the accuracy of our readings, much less practice in a rigorous manner, I categorize such statements as simply “blowing smoke,” a form of meaningless self-promotion. (If you’re not familiar with the expression, here’s a primer:

I think it falls within the realm of Shakespeare’s line from King John, as further explicated by G.K. Chesterton in The New Jerusalem:

“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

And Chesterton:

“If we are critical of the petty things they do to glorify great things, they would find quite as much to criticise (as in Kensington Gardens) in the great things we do to glorify petty things. And if we wonder at the way in which they seem to gild the lily, they would wonder quite as much at the way we gild the weed.”

The crux of my argument is that most assertions of accuracy are gauged by how impressed the sitter was with the presentation, not how precise the forecast turned out to be. I don’t know about you, but I seldom hear back from my clients after they walk out the door. Repeat business might be a reliable indicator, but demand where I live is so sporadic that I don’t see enough steady traffic to draw any valid conclusions. The anonymity of on-line reading provides another barrier to really getting to know your clients to the point of having a conversation about results. Since the illusion of engagement masks what is essentially a “one-way-street,” it could be said we are fashioning our self-congratulatory testimonials out of whole cloth. Even though I profess to seek situational awareness and developmental insight from the cards, my reading technique is decidedly more expressionistic than factual in approach and judgment of its validity lies with the recipient, not in any self-serving attempt at fact-checking. I would rather feel that I’m offering a valuable service than grand-standing on the premise that I’m going to be “right” more often than not.

3 thoughts on “Gilding the Weed

    • I’ll try. The “situational awareness” I seek is not mine but the querent’s, so the accuracy of the reading is predicated on how they process the information the cards reveal and what they choose to do with it. The reading might accurately describe a forthcoming probability but the querent may be in denial and refuse to recognize the potential, sitting on their hands and risking being blindsided by circumstances. So at the time of the reading the prediction is bogus in the mind of the querent but relevant from the standpoint of the Universe. I’m not going to try second-guessing the Universe, so I’ll just attempt to give the querent the tools to make sense of the hypothetical situation. From that point they’re on their own. I suppose the answer is “Accuracy in tarot reading is relative and referential, not necessarily absolute.” It reminds me of a soft-focus lens filter in photography. The querent’s engagement can alter the predictive landscape in unexpected and unforeseeable ways; if the original forecast was unfortunate, that can be a desirable outcome. Sometimes you don’t want to be right.


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