On Being Read to

ColinCampbellCooperFortune Teller1921
I have a hard time understanding card readers who have never been to an unknown card reader (that is, someone who knows nothing whatsoever about us) in order to sate their curiosity. I sometimes read for people but don’t charge – so I’m off the hook as far as value for money goes. But those who charge and have never experienced a real live reading, where – I feel compelled to ask – is your curiosity? It’s like being a butcher and never having watched a butcher at work. It’s like being an actor and never having watched a film or been to the theatre. As I write this, I ask myself, I may well have got it all completely wrong; surely all card readers must at some stage have done this – gone along, paid, sat silently, listened, analysed and picked up tips? Watching YouTube videos doesn’t count (too generic). Nor does having a friend read for you (too much vested interest or hidden agenda; your best friend may well want that relationship to flounder. They often do.) I am referring to silver crossing the palm of the reader who knows nothing whatsoever about you.

I love having anonymous readings. For all kinds of reasons – and least of all is the plan to catch someone out. It’s not about that. I first got interested in tarot at the age of 13. By 15, I had had my first reading from a psychic who read with playing cards. This was the early 1980s when life was still fun and nobody had anxiety attacks over a 15 year old going to a stranger’s house for a tarot card reading, least of all my parents. The psychic in question also used to do palmistry at school fetes and saw murder and suicide and (understandably) didn’t utter a word. For my first reading, she dealt a cheap pack of poker cards onto a teak coffee table (no spread cloths, no amethysts), gaze into the mid-distance and words just tumbled out. I’m not sure she even looked at the cards. There was an element of the superb about her; she seemed to go into a sort of trance. There was certainly no numerology or elemental associations. Stuff just came out. I shall never be able to read like that, I concluded listlessly, back home, contemplating my Grimaud Etteilla and its elaborate pairings and keywords (“Tartar Horseman”, “Cup of Balthazar”) which meant nothing in my 16th year. Perhaps only card number 1, “Chaos” in the “hormone” position might have made some sense to me.

Then, years later, after I had got back into tarot with a vengeance, I had another reading. I was on my way home and stumbled across a small metaphysical fair with a few tents that had readers in them plying their wares. I went into a tent to ask the price – general reading, 10 euros – and with time to spare and curiosity getting the better of me, I sat down. Mostly it’s other readers’ tools that fascinate me; he used a Majors only plaid-backed Rider Waite Smith deck with French titles (though he wasn’t French). He got me to shuffle, then he fanned the deck out, I had to choose seven cards which he arranged in a horse shoe, some reversed. There were some very non-specific observations; nothing that made any sense to me particularly. Or rather, it could have been a reading for anyone. I nodded politely, because I’m like that. Then he got out a pendulum, dangled it over each and every card and came out with some very concise home truths. After three or four minutes, the reading was over and it was enough. No endless reiterating, rewording or needless verbosity.

During all this time, of course I would read for myself but I valued others’ objectivity. I’m also curious as to how they fill the time. How long is a reading? How long is a piece of string? Will they venture into gentle, soothing platitudes and ask me to draw an Angel card at the end thus render everything risible that came before? And I love looking at the tools and accessories; the deck (do I recognise it? Do I yearn for it?), the bag, reading cloth and how cumbersome their rituals are. I have had to clutch at someone’s wrist while they drag a pendulum over fanned cards. Another reading which I experienced had the cards laid out upon a brown doormat on the table. In another more memorable reading I was asked to think of a question to which I promptly replied “yes, where did you get your spreadcloth from?” I love the fact they have no idea that I have three decades of experience with tarot. In a more recent reading, I was shuffling the Majors and the reader scrutinised my shuffling and asked me if I was experienced at this. I said no – just years of playing cards. Then later, after the reading, I admitted I knew a little. Because one can never resist doing one’s own synopsis of the cards. And I have found that it is this which we invariably take away from the reading. We may sit patiently through another reader’s interpretation, but later, back home, the dust having settled, the cards are seen (for me anyway), with hindsight as what we ourselves think of them. Therefore, I suppose ultimately I have to question the value of someone else reading for us. I drew the 10 of Swords as a clarification card at the end of a reading recently; don’t even try to give it a positive spin for me. I know what it means in the context of my life. I know why the High Priestess has come up twice in the same Celtic Cross position in the last two readings. But it’s all fascinating and helps us learn. If I ever decided to read for other people and charge (don’t see that happening, I’m fine with the day job) I think I would have a pretty good idea of what not to do, what not to say. I have seen baroque card-drawing rituals kill a substantial amount of valuable reading time. I have also had a reading with all the cards face up and me having to choose cards to represent my past, present and future and verbalise why. If it had been tarot, it would have been a hopeless exercise as the cards are so engrained in my thinking, but it was an unfamiliar oracle deck and a fascinating exercise. This wasn’t a reading as such (I had a Celtic Cross afterwards), just a fun psychological exercise.There will be more occasions when I willing offer myself up as querent and there is always so much to get us thinking. Anyone who hasn’t played at being the shuffling, ill-at-ease client (who really knows nothing) in front of strangers, doesn’t know what they are missing.
Magna2

About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
This entry was posted in Random Reflections, Tarot Cards and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to On Being Read to

  1. It is always good for any professional to be a student or receive services that he or she normally gives, in order to learn what it’s like to be on the receiving end, indeed! Thank you, LeFanu!

  2. raggedpoet says:

    There are not many readers about in my town and when we have a fair they cost an arm and a leg. I have had non Tarot readings though and so called *cold* psychic readings, the cold readings have been a tad fishy, classic learned stuff. I have had a Tarot reading, but I was in a mess at the time and can remember nothing! I literally got snapped up and dragged into this tent, emotions spilling everywhere. Next time I find one, I will let you know how it goes! Nice deck btw!

  3. sapienza says:

    I loved this post! Le Fanu, your writing is wonderful and your storytelling, as always, has taken me on a beautiful little journey. Thank you.

  4. bethnoir says:

    I’ve never had a reading, I’m sure it would be interesting though. I enjoyed your post🙂

  5. Seu texto é interessante e corajoso. Gostaria de ler sobre suas ideias do que não se deve fazer em uma leitura de tarô. Mas talvez seja pedir demais, abusar até!

  6. SJ says:

    Hi! Love this post. I also try to have a tarot reading when possible. It’s interesting what others can see and how they interpret the cards. Every reading I’ve received has always validate my own readings, which makes it seem like a waste of money, but there is value in a 2nd opinion. I’m am wondering about the deck at the end of your post now. I love the look and feel.

  7. Oh, I love your blog so much! Going to other readers the past 20 years has been pivotal in my own tarot journey. I am only now beginning to read professionally and I learned much of what, and maybe even more importantly what not to do by these experiences. It was a random, spur of the moment, phenomenal reading that set me on the path in the first place. During the years I was also searching for the “why” as much as the “how” of tarot, I knew it worked and the more I studied the cards the better the readings became and the deeper my fascination of how it all worked grew. Other readers gave me glimpses into their beliefs and workings. Some readings astounded me, others were upsetting, not the actual message but the readers who in a multitude of ways represented the kind of reader I never wanted to be. My goal is never to mislead or trap another reader, I always hope to gain wisdom from either the actual reading or the reader themselves. Most of the time I do add my thoughts and let them know I have a working knowledge of the deck but only towards the end because I want them to read me objectively. There is only one time that I couldn’t hide my disappointment, the guy was just making things up on the fly about future predictions (that I never asked for) and when the 8 of swords (which may be my least favorite card to see) was all sunshine and rainbows because he read “exclusively intuitively” I literally laughed and was done. I myself use tarot to examine the here and how, its a great psychological tool to help you truly live in the moment and get past all of your own mental BS so you can recognize the true root of the issue at hand. That being said, I have been to readers that absolutely awed me with their gifts and I won’t discount anyone’s talent just because it’s outside of my tarot belief system. I think that any tarot reader who doesn’t get readings from others is really missing out on insight and experiences that could help them on their own tarot journey.

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