Gifts Freely Given & Divine Work

When starting out as a tarot reader, people typically give free readings to a) practice their craft and b) build up a potential clientele. But even people who aren’t new to reading and don’t need the practice will sometimes do it, often to drive new business or as a way of giving freely of a gift to help others. I do my thrice weekly pick-a-card readings on Instagram (and Facebook), and I also do the occasional free (if very brief) one-card reading through my Instagram story. And while those take work and connection with the internal divine, I don’t really consider them real readings because they can’t look at the individual. They can help someone answer questions for themselves, but they’re a pale shadow of the real thing.

Established readers very rarely give free readings, except perhaps to close friends or family they trust not to abuse the privilege, and even then there’s an urge to make sure that they (and others in the intuitive community) are fairly compensated for their time. The reasons for this are “overdetermined” in that there are many that in and of themselves would be reason enough: first and foremost is that tarot readings are products that some people want to buy, and therefore there is a market for them. At the same, there’s a need to protect oneself from appearing to offer mere commodities, whether mass-produced or bespoke. I believe that a computer program will not offer the same kind of reading as a real person tapped into their own divine power, even if the cards happen to be the exact same. (When taking a computer programming class a while back, I made a basic program to draw a Celtic Cross for me and spit out some basic keyword interpretations. It’s pretty pathetic, but there’s no way even a sophisticated version of it could offer a reading for anything other than self-reflection.) The urge to reject free readings is so strong that the first question in my FAQs and my first blog post on this site are about free readings and how I don’t do them. (I will be updating both of those after posting this.)

But I think this impulse to reject the possibility of offering free readings requires a bit of shadow work, and I’ve been doing it for myself. Why do people fear opening up free readings?

For one thing, it takes time and people’s time is worth something. I know that the free readings I do through Biddy Tarot (part of the agreement to be certified by that organization) take an enormous amount of time, and even then the people requesting readings have paid someone even if it’s not me. I give those readings almost as much time as a paying client, which can be as much as a few hours (even a one-card reading can take up to an hour—mine is a terrible business model). Those who have gotten a large-spread reading know that they can sometimes be more than 3,000 words long, and all that writing and editing takes a sizable chunk of time. And the interpretation of the cards doesn’t stop when the writing starts because new details spark new insights. It’s why I’m happy to offer a live reading for much less than it would cost the client to buy the same types of readings delivered through a written form.

For another, there’s a desire to feel that the reading is valuable. If someone has to pay for a reading, they’re more likely to ask a meaningful question and be invested in the answer. If you didn’t have to pay for a reading, and it came back with an answer you didn’t like, it might be easy to pass aside. You might even turn to another reader and ask them the same thing hoping for a different outcome. There’s also some fear of being taken advantage of or not being taken seriously. Tarot can be seen by some as a fun pastime, rather than anything meaningful or serious. And, to be sure, tarot can be fun and a pastime or hobby (certain locations require that it be listed as “for entertainment only” for goodness’ sake). But for those who take it seriously, a free reading can seem “cheap” in the sense of quality, not just price, and that has repercussions for their own self-worth and the worth of my community’s vocation.

It’s natural to want to be valued and want one’s hard work to be valued, but I think there are also times when it’s appropriate to give back, especially if you believe that your divinatory powers are gifts from Elsewhere. Sure, that is the purpose of the pick-a-card readings, but honestly I don’t like those nearly as much as full readings. And some days I think it would be easier to just do free one-card readings, such as when I foolishly offered a Lenormand pick-a-card. (That was exhausting and it took several hours, but it helped me learn, through a crash course, how to better use my Lenormand deck.) But there’s room to give back without attaching money to it.

The point of all this is that I’ve decided to do one free monthly reading to one of my newsletter subscribers. There are some caveats because the generous merchant of my birthday decan (6 of Pentacles) always gets something in return for his generosity. They are as follows:

  • Only newsletter subscribers are eligible.

  • If you’ve already won a free reading in the past six months (through this newsletter offer or through some other giveaway of mine), then you’re not eligible.

  • You must opt-in each month by replying to the monthly newsletter email saying that you want to participate that month. (If you join the newsletter list late, you can just email me through my contact page.) The first newsletter regarding this will be sent on July 1.

  • I will accept entries for a month from the 1st (when I send the newsletter) through the 7th of the month. The winner will be chosen randomly from an alphabetized list of emails using a computer-generated random number.

  • The reading must be ordered through this website’s store as if placing a normal order, but the winner will have a 100% discount code to use for the purchase. There are several practical business reasons for this, and it’s non-negotiable. It’s also non-transferable, so the winner will need to use the email address that’s on the newsletter mailing list as the email address tied to the order. The order must be placed within two weeks of my emailing the winner with the discount code.

  • The winner agrees that the reading can be used, in anonymized (and modified as needed) form, as an example of that type of reading to be shared on my website. This last point is the major form of “payment” for the “free” reading.

    • If you’re doing a video or phone reading, don’t fret. Whatever I posted about the reading would be from a transcription, not a recording using your voice or image.

I’m excited to be able to offer this, so please let me know if you have any questions! And if you’re not a newsletter subscriber, sign up.