Tarot Blog Hop: Respecting the Tarot

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I finally did it! I figured out how to join the Tarot Blog Hop. Hallelujah, praise the Lawd. For anyone not familiar, the Tarot Blog Hop is a round-table where, eight times per year, Tarot bloggers from across the internet all tackle the same Tarot-related prompt. This is my first time participating in the TBH, and I hope it shall be the first of many. Our prompt: “Respecting the divinatory arts, with an emphasis on Tarot”.

This is a fun and interesting prompt, and I considered taking it in a number of directions. Our wrangler, Morgan Drake Eckstein, suggests the following:

We all have rules, habits, customs that are our ways of showing respect to our divination tools–things that we do that seem to increase our connection (therefore, our accuracy) with our divination tools. We also know things to avoid doing … [Y]our mission this Tarot Blog Hop is to discuss how you show respect to the Tarot … and things that you have learned not to do. It can range from smudging the deck periodically to elaborate rituals like the Golden Dawn uses, from not using the cards until the dinner table is clean to well, whatever it is that you do.

Now unfortunately, I can’t write about the ways I cleanse my decks, because I don’t cleanse my decks. I don’t do any kind of smudging or blessing. When I get a new deck, I will thumb through it and look at each card individually, I’ll shuffle a fair bit, and I’ll perform a deck interview spread before I do any other readings with it. However, I don’t think that practice stems from “respect” for the Tarot, or at least not in the way this prompt is meant. It’s purely pragmatic. I look at all of the cards because I usually buy a deck having only seen a selection of sample images online. I shuffle because duh. And I do a deck interview to get a sense of how a deck reads, before I have to test that deck’s mettle against more serious questions.

In fact, the phrase “respecting the Tarot” struck me as a bit odd the first time I read the prompt. The fact of the matter is, I had never really considered the need to respect the Tarot. A Tarot deck is just a pack of cards, albeit cards that contain a codified body of esoteric wisdom (and are often painted with pretty pictures).

Don’t get me wrong here; respect is still an integral part of my Tarot practice. It’s just not necessarily respect directed at the Tarot itself. What weighs much more heavily on my mind is my self-respect as a reader and the bond of mutual respect between myself and my querent.

lucas_van_leyden_-_fortune-teller_with_a_fool_-_wga12921What does respect mean in the context of a Tarot reading with me? For starters, it means that your request for a reading is honest and sincere. If you want a reading from me, you tell me what it’s about. You tell me what your problem is, or your worry, or your question, and you give me all the information. You don’t request a reading as a joke, or to test my alleged psychic powers. (Spoiler alert: I don’t have those powers.) And you don’t withhold information from me.

I’m just going to repeat that one, because I think it’s rather important: YOU DO NOT WITHHOLD INFORMATION FROM ME.

I understand that people requesting Tarot readings are often asking about delicate subjects. I understand that they are embarrassed, or worried about being judged. However, I Do. Not. Care.

Let’s refer back to point 7 of my personal code of Tarot ethics. It reads:

I am not a psychic. I use Tarot as an analytical tool to help understand your situation, not as a fortune-telling technique, and I have no outside knowledge, supernatural or otherwise, of your circumstances. I cannot provide you with new information or tell you what you don’t already know—all I can do is help you interpret what information is available to you. This means that:

  1. I cannot tell you what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.
  2. I cannot tell you about other people’s actions or motivations.
  3. Context is king. The more information you give me when you request a reading, the more I will have to work with when interpreting your cards, and the more accurate your reading will be.

I don’t pass myself off as a psychic; when I give someone a Tarot reading, I am applying a set of interpretive skills. I build a narrative out of the cards I turn up, and then I work cooperatively with my querent to match that narrative to her circumstances. If my querent misrepresents those circumstances, whatever her reasons, then I can’t do the second part of that process. I can construct a beautiful narrative out of the cards in my reading, but without the querent’s cooperation and feedback I can offer no guarantee that such a narrative will match up to reality.

There are countless ways that any permutation of Tarot cards can be interpreted. I could turn up the same exact spread and read it differently for people in different circumstances. The main themes would remain the same, but the specifics of “This card represents your boss” versus “There’s a holdover from childhood issues with your mother” could be completely different. If someone comes to me for a reading about her marriage, and neglects to mention that her husband has been having an extramarital affair, that changes the reading in a fundamental way. In the best case scenario, that information comes out anyway over the course of the reading, and she has wasted my time and hers by holding back at the outset. In the worst case scenario, that information doesn’t come out at all, and the whole reading is skewed.*

This, to me, is the essence of respect in Tarot. It is about open, unreserved communication between reader and querent. In return for my querent being honest and sincere with me, I will be honest and sincere with her. I will read her question as objectively as I can, looking only at what’s in the cards and not passing personal judgment on her or anyone else involved in her situation. I will keep her reading confidential. I will respect her personal autonomy and her right to make her own choices. And so on. You get the idea. These are the measures of respect I offer to my querents in return for the respect I ask of them.

Welp. There we have it. My first participation in the celebrated Tarot Blog Hop. I didn’t exactly color inside the lines here; I was given a prompt about smudging and I ended up going on a tirade about evasive and dishonest clients. Hopefully I don’t incur the wrath of the Blog Hop gods.

The notion of “respect” is a complicated one. I can totally see how people would have self-prescribed displays of respect for their Tarot cards (that is, the actual physical decks), but that’s not what Tarot reading is about for me. When I read Tarot, my primary concern is with people and the interactions between them. So I suppose it stands to reason that my approach to respecting the Tarot is, likewise, about respect between people.

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*Well, no. The worst case scenario is that a meteor strikes the earth and wipes out all life. But that’s not terribly relevant to the microcosm of my reader-querent dynamic.

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13 thoughts on “Tarot Blog Hop: Respecting the Tarot

  1. There are two ways that a client can instantly infuriate me in a reading, and I think they must be pretty touchy issues for you, too, because you listed both of them in the same order of severity:

    1) Clients who come to my Tarot table with a flippant attitude, and
    2) Clients who like to play “test the psychic.”

    Inwardly, these things burn me up because I put a lot of effort into the work I do and it makes me angry to feel like I’ve wasted my time. Outwardly, I do a lot of smiling and nodding, but I always stress to my clients the same thing over and over: better questions produce better answers. If they choose to withhold information or play silly games, that’s their business, but I will be paid for my time and will not issue a refund when they’re unhappy with the quality of their reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen the need to accord my tarot decks more respect than any other object I own and like, either. It’s less respect, and more, “I enjoy this thing and want to keep it in working physical condition”.

    Nice detour you took here! I’m constantly intrigued by the mixing of rational and (for lack of a better
    catchall word) magical perspectives and practices. Would be happy to buy you a beverage of your choice and chat about these sorts of things!

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  3. We have a very similar approach to Tarot, although people do seem to think I am psychic (despite all my denials). One difference is that I prefer l little or no information when I begin – people often lie or delude themselves about a situation and they can’t be objective, so how can I based on their information. Thus I read first then if the client gives me information, I can refine the context. On the whole, as long as the reading means something to the client, I don’t really need to know the exact details.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said! Life is so much easier all around when people are upfront and honest about what they want to know… Though sometimes it can take people a couple of readings to ease into being able to trust the process… I do have a few regulars who will ask me to throw the cards and tell them what’s around them… but it’s not done in a test the reader kind of way, it’s more about finding a good place to start a brainstorming session and being able to see thoughts that have been in the head appearing in pictures before them…

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  5. I agree with Ania: at the beginning less info means less chances of me being influenced. When reading is done, we can refine and adjust it to the querent’s specific situation. 🙂
    Welcome to the hop, it’s great to have you here!

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  6. oooooh Love it when people don’t colour inside the lines!
    Welcome to the Blog Hop and for your very worthy addition to the Hop 😀

    Respect is a two way process. We respect the Tarot as a tool and we hope that our clients will do the same!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I prefer a rational approach to tarot myself–being rational is not a crime. Analysis is not a crime; whoever thinks rationality subverts intuition is deluding themselves. Humans encompass both aspects quite well.

    One thing with regard to respect: look after your cards and keep them clean, much as you would do with a treasured book.

    I was in a shop once where they had a tarot reader and he wanted to give me a reading, but his deck, a conventional Rider-Waite, was absolutely filthy and he kept riffling it and bashing the cards around–it put me right off, I was cringing because his cards were so dirty and unkempt. Dirty greasy hands make dirty greasy cards.

    I know people sometimes have duplicate decks so they can keep one in good, clean condition for readings. I don’t know if that’s necessary but respect to me means looking after your decks.

    I also find it tiresome when a gang of people get together online and go “Squeee, we must have that!!” and everyone buys this so-called must-have deck and then several people have it up for trade a week or two later. Respect means putting effort into using and familiarizing yourself with a deck. If you don’t like it, fine, but make the effort.

    Liked by 1 person

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