When the Reading is Done

When I do a reading, I ask the deck a certain set of questions for which the deck provides me a certain set of cards in response. Once I have finished drawing the cards, the deck has “spoken.” If I’ve asked a question poorly or too broadly for the message of the reading, then I will get an unclear card in response, and I will know to draw a clarifier for that card; this helps me understand the card as part of the message the deck has provided. Once I’ve determined that I don’t need any (more) clarifiers, the deck doesn’t need to communicate with me further. Whatever energy has passed between the client and me or between the cards and me while shuffling, cutting, and drawing is then also done; the message has been sent, and now it’s up to me to articulate that message. I might continue to look at the cards while I write or speak with a client, but the deck itself doesn’t open up further because I’ve received the cards that I need to see in order to help the client with their specific situation. It’s for this reason that I don’t draw new cards in relation to a reading once that initial draw is done except when checking back in with a client a few weeks after the initial reading; it’s an extra card at no extra cost just to make sure that things are on the right track.

There’s a practical reason for not drawing new cards, and that’s that it takes time and energy to dig back into the situation and do more work. Additionally, once you say “yes” to “just one card about” it can quickly get out of hand. The result is usually not fair to either the reader, who does significantly more labor for no additional earning, or the client, who receives a rushed, decontextualized, and poorly written interpretation, or sometimes both.

The Emperor knows what’s what, and he’s not afraid to lay down some ground rules. This version comes from the Fountain Tarot, published by Roost Books © 2017.

The Emperor knows what’s what, and he’s not afraid to lay down some ground rules. This version comes from the Fountain Tarot, published by Roost Books © 2017.

If a client or I want another card, it’s usually for one of several reasons, only one of which actually warrants new cards: the interpretation is unclear; the interpretation is not what the client wants to read/hear; the interpretation is missing some key information; or the interpretation is fundamentally flawed.

  • In the first instance, I’m eager to clarify my interpretation, which is an issue of improving communication, not of receiving new information. If my reading is not clear, then it’s hard for my reading to help the client, and that’s the goal.

  • If the interpretation is not what the client wants to read or hear, however, then that’s useful information for the client, and the process of coming to terms with that disappointment is worth a reading in itself. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want is just as important as what you do.

    • For example, you can frequently just flip a coin to help you make some important decisions. It seems an absurd way to make a choice, but I find that once you see the result of heads or tails, you very often know whether that was the “right” result. So if the coin lands as “tails” but you know, once you see “tails,” that you want it to be “heads,” then you have discovered what you should do: you should ignore the meaningless landing of a coin and go with what you know to be right, in this case, whatever heads is.

  • If the interpretation is missing key information, it could be the result of a client not sharing something vital, either by accident or on purpose (but, seriously, why would you waste your money and time by doing that with a paid reading?).

    • If the client only realizes later that some piece of information was important then that, like the “wrong result” of the coin toss, is still useful information and worth the reading itself.

    • If, on the other hand, the client intentionally withholds information, then I don’t feel bad for a bad reading. I’m not a psychic, so if a client doesn’t tell me something that would be important for me to know, then I don’t know what they want me to do about it, say “Sorry, not sorry?” Thankfully, those cases are more often feared than actually experienced by tarot readers.

  • In the last instance of a fundamentally flawed reading, a reading may warrant new cards. Most often in a remote (email) reading, this happens without the client ever knowing, and the tarot reader fixes the problem before the interpretation even begins, let alone by the time the client receives the interpretation. But these are procedural issues which preclude the real “reading” of the cards.

    • For example, once every few dozen readings, I’ll forget to cut the deck and only realize the mistake once I see the cards and they make no sense. When that happens I scratch the old reading and draw again. I’ve also asked the deck the wrong question or asked questions in a different order than the intention I’d set while shuffling. These are all easily fixed in the same way: scrap it and start over.

    • There have been a handful of times when I have used the wrong deck, so I will draw new cards with the proper deck. However, I’ll usually keep the original draw in mind since there was still something special there when I did that reading, and—happy surprise!—the client gets a more thorough reading at no extra cost. It’s fun (in a slightly spooky way) to see how many of the same cards appear in both versions.

  • But every now and again—and it’s very rarely for an experienced tarot reader—the reading will just be wrong. The reader will have misread one of the cards or forgotten something key that the client mentioned to them. In this case, my policy is to complete an entirely new reading for the client because the moment of the interpretation has passed and some key information has been lost. It’s quite likely that a corrected version of that reading will make its way into the new reading as background information, but to me it’s not worth trying to cobble together the old reading when the client deserves a new, best effort from the reader.

These are the practical reasons, but there’s also a more profound and spiritual reason too: the cards have sent a message for a reason.

I don’t think of a tarot deck as a sentient being; they’re just cards. But I do think that there’s something . . . ineffable about the interaction between the cards that I draw and the message that I receive from those cards in relation to the person for whom I’m reading those cards. I might have to sort that message out as I write down the interpretation or talk with the client, but the cards are the cards, and they’ve shown me what I need to see in order to guide the client. I will continue to look at the cards to make sure that I don’t forget anything while I’m writing (it can take a surprisingly long time to write and edit these interpretations), but the message has been sent; if it’s taking me a while to interpret, the message is just buffering. To ask the deck for more information is to say to the deck that what it provided is not good enough, and I find that disrespectful to the process. For me, it’s disrespectful to whatever vague energy of connectedness I feel when conducting a reading. But for a client, it’s disrespectful to the reader. Yes, you pay for a service and you expect it to be good, but you also need to trust that the reader knows what they’re doing and is focused on helping you be the best version of yourself, at least as far as they can guide you to that based on some tarot cards. If you don’t trust them, then why have you hired them? If you’re worried that the reading is not a good use of your money or that the reader is just trying to bilk you, then you should find a different reader. It’s as simple as that. Without that trust in the reader, what’s the point of the reading?