A Storyteller’s Perspective

I’m fond of saying that I much prefer face-to-face sessions to online tarot reading and have written a number of essays about it in the past, but I haven’t fully explained why I feel that way. Obviously, it’s about the stimulus of spoken communication and the need to think on my feet as I do it, but for me it goes beyond simply trying to help clients sort out their issues in a “live” interactive setting. I was once an aspiring writer of speculative fiction, both sci-fi and fantasy, so the appeal of extemporizing about the future has always been a strong driver for my interest in divination of all kinds. I don’t consider myself a professional counselor, “armchair psychologist,” or ad-hoc “life coach,” just a spinner of yarns using the images on the cards that may “resonate” with the sitter’s own subliminal awareness of the situation, something I make no claims about being able to penetrate psychically; the communion between the sitter and the cards during the shuffle lays that out for me to interpret. I firmly believe that querents know best what their reading is about, at least subconsciously, although they may not grasp it yet and must have it pointed out to them by the reader based on the testimony in the cards (ideally eliciting the so-called “Aha!” instant of revelation).

There is a popular impression that telling stories with the tarot is too much like entertainment to be taken seriously. In my opinion, reading the cards is unquestionably a performance art, one that speaks most eloquently in the vivid symbolism of the raconteur. Trying to painstakingly (and drily) deconstruct the “textbook” meaning of a card when the sitter can’t connect with it can be completely overshadowed by a well-crafted anecdotal narrative, the kind of inspired, imaginative account that I find the most rewarding as a tarot reader and therefore the most effective in presentation. At a cultural, historical, social and conceptual level we often share a great deal of common knowledge and experience with a sitter who is local and not half-a-world away at the far end of a text exchange, and this can be mutually folded into the reading as a way to forge a bond of comprehension that might otherwise escape us.

There is something immensely gratifying about being able to dig deeply into my storehouse of remembered cultural lore and come up with freestyle “pearls of wisdom” that precisely convey the import of a particular card within the context of a specific reading, and more importantly make perfect sense to my client. It may not relate in exactly the same way to any future situation, but at the moment it admirably fulfills the conditions set forth by that card in that position of the spread. Once the sitter’s imagination has been engaged, and with the introductory tale as a kind of scripted “storyboard,” the more formal meanings for the card can be infused into the storyline by fitting them bit-by-bit into the plot with the sitter’s concurrence. The interpretation moves from the general or universal implications of the allegorical content to personally relevant specifics that can give the querent detailed situational points to ponder. The idea is to both entertain and edify the individual, first with narrative “flair” and then with the more literal “nuts-and-bolts” of the reading.

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