“Assume the Position”

Those who have been in the military may remember this command, but here I’m repurposing it in divinatory rather than disciplinary terms. I’d wager that most diviners don’t think too much about the “mechanics” of their readings once they settle into a groove. Many of the subtle touches we apply to our reading space become habit through long repetition, often stemming from something our mentors told us “way back when,” or from our own awareness of dramatic stagecraft. We may light candles, burn incense, play soft music or set out crystals to create a mood conducive to subliminal communication or simply to soothe our clients. But I like to think of mechanics in the sense of dynamics: what can I do that will offer the sitter the greatest sense of immersion in their experience of the reading?

One of these measures involves orientation to the cards. The common assumption of the reader/sitter relationship looks something like this:

Tarot Reading.jpg

The sitter is positioned across the table from the reader, who lays out the cards and talks about them; the visual experience for the sitter is secondary to the narrative one. (Although from a reader’s perspective we may as well acknowledge that our side of the table sometimes feels more like this.)

Comfy Chair.jpg

I kept to this face-to-face orientation for years. But sometime during the last decade I realized that I often point to symbolism in the cards when explaining them to sitters, drawing their attention to some significant feature. I’ve typically turned the card around so the client can view it from the same perspective while I talk, but this has the effect of creating an awkward interruption in the continuity of the reading and breaking up the seamless visual flow of the spread. Because I use reversals, it can also take some of the “edge” off of the presentation. This may seem more than a little anal, but free-association can be compromised when the image has to be inverted for the sitter’s benefit.

I now have the client sit approximately next to me during all of the steps of the process, from shuffle to final summary, so we can view the cards from the same angle as they’re dealt and read. In this way the narrative unrolls smoothly as an organic whole and I can more effectively explain each card within the context of its neighbors. It may be a very minor adjustment, but it just “feels right” to me.

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