First Things First: Preliminary Courtesies

“We’re all here just to have a little fun
Fred’ll play the fiddle, now we’ll begun”
(from “The Corn Won’t Grow So Rock-and-Roll” by Goose Creek Symphony)

Most face-to-face tarot readers have certain protocols and courtesies they go through between the time a sitter “sits” and the moment the diviner “starts the clock” on the reading. Here are mine, in approximately sequential order. (Depending on how much client-specific “hand-holding” is required, they usually take less time to perform than it does to read this post.)

Physical Point of View: If it’s reasonable to do so (but only after the pandemic is over), I will ask clients to sit next to me at the same side of the table so we can view the cards from a nearly identical perspective. This is particularly helpful when interpreting reversed cards.

First Question: “Have you ever had a tarot reading before?” If the answer is “yes” I skip most of my introductory spiel; if it’s “no” I go through a brief explanation of what to expect, including those aspects (like the ritual “cut”) that I consider to be part of the “theater of tarot” (i.e. incidental elements of the “performer’s art”). I also like to spend a moment preparing them for the possible appearance of any of the visibly “nasty” cards in the deck, particularly Death, the Devil, the Tower and the Hanged Man. (I have a visual aid for this so I don’t have to dig out the cards).

Second Question: “Do you have a specific question or topic to ask about, or do you just want a general life-reading?” In either case, I instruct them to silently concentrate on the subject of interest, without telling me what it is, as they shuffle the deck. (I also have a visual aid with suggested topic descriptions for their consideration.)

Third Question: “How much, if anything, do you know about astrology and numerology?” This gives me an idea how vigorously I can delve into some of the more esoteric correspondences during the reading.

Handling the Cards: I always ask my clients to shuffle the cards themselves because it’s their subconscious awareness I want to engage in the ordering of the deck, not mine. Nobody has declined yet, but if they did I would ask them to cut instead.

Choice of Decks: I like to bring a few randomized decks to a session and ask the client to select the one they find most compelling. European readers I’ve mentioned this to scoff at the idea, but I think it is appreciated.

The “Conversation:” I make it known that I expect the reading to be a dialogue, not a one-sided monologue, and that I want to involve them in the process through conversation and feedback about the cards. I encourage them to interrupt with questions at any point during the reading. I tell them it’s their reading, I’m just the interpreter.

The “Take-away:” I offer them the upfront opportunity to record the narrative and to take a picture of the spread at the end if they want.

I can’t think of anything else that I would call customary practice, but I’ll add to this post if  I do.

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