“White On This Side”

Being an “action-and-event-oriented” tarot reader reminds me of the “Fair Witnesses” in Robert Heinlein’s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land: they were absolutely incorruptible observers who could be called on to help assess the truth or falsehood of any situation. If you pointed to a white house and asked “What color is that house?” they would reply “It’s white on this side.” They would not “assume knowledge of the color of the other sides of the house without being able to see them. Furthermore, after observing another side of the house (they) would not then assume that any previously seen side was still the same color as last reported, even if only minutes before.” It sounds like a dodge to me but it symbolized utter fidelity to the visible facts of a matter.

Those of us who “just read the cards” and don’t try to get too creative with our intuitive inclinations furnish much the same kind of insight. If we’re being prudent, we don’t offer imaginative assumptions about what the cards might mean to our querents’ circumstances, we just report what we see and let them decide how to process the information. I call it “showing them the target and giving them the ammunition,” but I stop short of advising them how to find the range. They must still do the work to make the most of the information received from the reading. It’s not my job to do the thinking for them, nor the heavy lifting of trying to align the evidence with their expectations.

Circumspection can be especially crucial with the cards of the Major Arcana, some of which have dire connotations. Trying to put a “happy face” on every one of them strikes me as an abdication of our duty as “witnesses.” I’ve read advice in tarot books insisting that we must leave every reading on an upbeat note regardless of the testimony in the cards. I won’t go quite that far, guaranteeing only that I will exit on a “constructive” note. Something useful can be made of any of the cards as long as querents are willing to meet it head-on, they just need to know what to watch out for and where to start. For that reason I will sketch out the general implications of a less-favorable card and carefully observe how they connect the dots to their own awareness of the situation. Based on that interaction I will steer the reading along the lines most conducive to enhancing their provisional understanding to see if they reach any kind of epiphany (the hoped-for “Aha!” reaction that rewards an interpretive “bulls-eye”).

I believe we owe querents an opportunity to sort things out for themselves by imparting our introductory comments as a way to jump-start the process but never putting words in their mouth. While I appreciate their confirmation of the accuracy of my observations, I don’t prompt them for it since I don’t want to feel like I’m talking to a bobble-head doll. I also avoid being put on the defensive by querents who ask “Are these good cards? Are they bad cards?” My standard answer is “They are the necessary cards for your present state. Your subconscious chose them when you shuffled the deck.” I could also add “Only you can see the other side, the one that’s hidden from me,” but that would be putting them on the spot since many of them aren’t ready to bear witness to their own shortcomings and want them pointed out by the impartial arbiter in the cards.

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