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.
What 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:
- I cannot tell you what happened in the past or what will happen in the future.
- I cannot tell you about other people’s actions or motivations.
- 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.
*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.