“Reading by Intention”

There is a common belief that “good intentions” are all that is necessary to obtain constructive insights from a tarot reading. Learning and experience are optional as long as the reader’s heart is in the right place, a manifestation of what I think of as the “It’s all good” mode of prophecy in which no contrary (not to mention negative) thoughts are allowed to flourish. It is aided and abetted by the “There are no bad cards” assumption (or is it delusion?) and the “free-for-all” (thanks to tarot author Tony Willis for that phrase) that is the purely intuitive approach to reading the cards. I’ve never understood why anyone who wants to become a caring and helpful diviner would “whitewash” the problematic evidence in a spread that includes less fortunate cards by dismissing any potential consequences of that nature that could arise in the situation. “Good” as a virtue wouldn’t exist without a countervailing vice (“bad”) and the relative “badness” in the prediction must be put into perspective rather than merely being denied.

As a reader, my intention is to be both truthful and sympathetic, which leads to a style that casts difficult cards in their most useful and productive light while also not dodging their darker implications. It becomes as much a matter of skillful “presentation” as of honesty and precision in the interpretation. I “intend” to forewarn the querent with cautionary tidings derived from my fairly deep knowledge and long experience with the cards, fostering an awareness that originates in their own subconscious through their “communion” with the cards during the shuffle. The relative “goodness” of my motive is immaterial when it yields something that seekers need to hear in a way that allows them to act intelligently in the matter.

Empowerment is a valuable concept to bring to the art of divination, but the noble aims imposed by an idealistic reader’s high-minded scruples can turn that into an overly simplistic misdirection that plays to the sitter’s fondest hopes rather than to the sober reality of the forecast, and thus encourages (“enables”) a less-than-optimum response. One of the most whimsical and sarcastic indictments of this kind of plangent positivism I can think of comes from Monty Python’s “Happy Valley” sketch:

“Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lay in a valley far, far away in the mountains the most contented kingdom the world has ever known. It was called Happy Valley, and it was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because wise King Otto had had them all put to death, along with the trade union leaders, many years before. And all the happy folk of Happy Valley sang and danced all day long, and anyone who was for any reason miserable or unhappy or who had any difficult personal problem was prosecuted under the Happiness Act.”

I have yet to tell a client that events will “hang them by the neck until they cheer up” if they don’t “tenaciously frolic away” in the “Happy Valley” of tarot optimism, but the thought sometimes crosses my mind whenever the Hanged Man appears.

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