How to do a tarot reading for a loved one

A tarot reading is a uniquely helpful, yet deeply personal experience. So, when a loved one asks for a reading, it can sometimes get a little awkward.

I was prompted to write this post after a conversation I had with another reader. They mentioned that their spouse had asked them for a tarot reading about a sensitive subject. They declined, and their spouse got a little upset with them. Everything’s fine now between the couple, but this reader asked me how I would have handled the situation.

And that got me thinking.

A good tarot reading is personal

A good tarot reading is personal.

Whether we’re talking about a reading being done face-to-face or over the Internet, tarot readings are personal experiences. A person asks a question, and a person does the reading. If the question is sincerely asked, and the person asking is truly invested in the answer, there can be a lot of emotions involved.

If you’ve ever had a tarot reading, or read the tarot yourself, think of some of the questions you’ve asked. In my years of reading the cards, I’ve had questions about break ups, financial hardships, dire medical situations, and everything in between. Sometimes I’ve seen very good news in the cards. Other times? Not so much.

To me, it’s vitally important that both the querent and the tarot reader feel at liberty to share their thoughts and feelings without holding back. I don’t mean to imply we’re talking “brutal honesty,” here. There should be nothing “brutal” about a reading. But honesty? That’s a must.

Even reading for a total stranger can sometimes challenge a reader’s ability to speak the truth, kindly but plainly. How much more challenging might this be if the querent is someone you love?

“Do I have cancer again?”

That’s a question a lot of tarot readers won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, even for a stranger. Now imagine it coming from your ten-year-old nephew.

You can always say no

I deliberately chose an extreme example just now, because I wanted to illustrate a point. You can always, always say no when asked for a tarot reading. No one should ever try to force you into throwing the cards for them. If something, anything about the situation is making you uncomfortable, politely decline. If the person tries to insist, stand firm.

This goes for strangers as well as loved ones.

In my own tarot consultations, I’m willing to answer almost any question that’s sincerely asked of me. However, I also make it plain that I reserve the right to not answer a question if I don’t think it would be helpful or appropriate.

What are your tarot reading boundaries?

The last paragraph I wrote up above is worth re-reading. Yes, I’ll answer almost any question, unless I don’t think it would be helpful or appropriate. Those are my boundaries, and I hold to them.

So, how should you do a tarot reading for a loved one? First, you need to know and set your own boundaries for tarot reading in general.

What kinds of questions are you willing to take on? What are you not willing to consider? Are you willing to read for people under the age of eighteen? Will you read for couples or groups, or will you only do a reading one-on-one? Will you do readings in public, such as at a party or at the bar?

Sit with these questions and really, really get to know your answers to them.

What are your personal boundaries?

Now think about the boundaries you have in your day-to-day life. Think about the conversations you’ve had with friends and family. Think about interactions which have made you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.

If you’re a parent, would you be comfortable having a frank conversation about sex with your kid?

Would you feel comfortable having a frank conversation about death with your parents?

What if the people in these conversations were switched?

Every relationship we have is unique, and each comes with its own set of permissible versus non-permissible topics.

With that long preamble out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the post.

Doing a tarot reading for a loved one

Let’s assume a loved one has asked you for a tarot reading, and you’ve decided that you’re willing to do it. The first thing you need to do is think back over the tarot and personal boundaries you’ve set, and state them clearly. Tell the person what you are, and are not, comfortable discussing during the reading.

I can’t stress this enough. Be upfront and firm (but polite!) about how you’re willing to proceed. Make sure the other person understands, and they’re willing to respect your boundaries.

Once you’re both on the same page, go ahead and begin the reading just as you would any other. During the reading, however, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

Don’t hedge

I read somewhere once that live performers experience the most stage fright when someone they know is in the audience. I’ve seen this happen with tarot readers. People who would normally be able to drop stone-cold specifics for a stranger suddenly start rattling off long lists of possible interpretations. Why is this?

My guess is that either they didn’t really want to do the reading in the first place, so they’re “talking around” it, or…they’re worried they’ll get it wrong and look bad in front of their loved one.

Be bold. Get out of your own way and read the cards.

Be wary of your biases

Let’s say your best friend is dating someone you can’t stand. Let’s further say that your best friend asks you for a tarot reading about their relationship. If you decide to go through with this reading, be very, very careful in your interpretation. A reading like this is exactly the sort of thing which can get you in trouble.

If the cards come up, and you think they cast doubt on the future of the relationship, is that because of wishful thinking on your part? If you think they show a more positive message, is that because you’re trying to be “objective,” but really you’re just ignoring the negative?

And what if the cards really do come up showing trouble? Does your friend know how you feel about their significant other? What will you say to assure them you aren’t trying to break them up?

Whenever we’re very close to someone, they’re obviously a significant part of our lives. We’re emotionally invested in them. This makes it very hard to be objective, especially when it comes to something like the tarot. Tarot relies at least as much on intuition and feeling as it does on the “objective” meanings of the cards.

Keep the conversation going

A tarot reading should always be a conversation between the reader and the querent. Even if it’s done online over email, the reader should ask the querent questions, and the reader should answer any questions the querent has. If you’re doing a reading for a loved one, this becomes even more important.

Don’t let the reading become a monologue or sermon. Ask the querent what they think of each card. Ask open ended questions about your interpretations.

Think back to that relationship example I wrote above. Let’s say the cards show a recent fight between your bestie and their partner. Don’t just ask if they’ve been fighting. Rather, say something like this: “The cards are saying there’s been some real tension lately, what’s that about?”

The more the reading feels like a conversation, and less like prognostication, the better you’ll both feel.

Just one more thing

Reading the tarot for other people can be a challenge. Assuming we take it seriously (and I certainly do), it can test our boundaries, our ethics–even our basic assumptions about the world. When we read for someone we love, those challenges don’t go away, they often become harder. I figure I’ve probably made that clear up above, but I mention it here because there’s another point I want to contrast with it.

The tarot, in my opinion, is a beautiful, miraculous gift. Sure, we know its origins, and we can trace its path through history, but I still see it as something not quite of this world. Coming into contact with the tarot, and becoming immediately enraptured by it, was honestly one of the best things which ever happened to me. At the very least, it was one of the most significant turning points of my life.

If you’ve had a similar experience of the tarot, why not pass that along? That loved one who wants you to do a tarot reading for them? Why not buy them a tarot deck?

Remember, you can always say no, but maybe try saying: “No, I can’t read for you. But I can help you read for yourself?”

Sure, this won’t work for everyone who comes knocking on your door. But you know what? If it does work, you’ll have one more thing to share with each other.

Have a blessed day!

How to choose a tarot deck that’s right for you

Looking to get into the tarot, but aren’t sure which deck to use? In this post, I’ll give you some tips on how to choose a tarot deck that’s right for you.

Is it okay to buy your own deck?

There’s a myth that you should never purchase your first tarot deck, rather it must be given to you by someone else. I have no idea where this notion came from, but it’s been floating around for years. It’s also complete nonsense.

Tarot decks, particularly your first deck, are deeply personal objects. I still use a Rider-Waite-Smith deck for many readings, because that was the first deck I picked up. And whether or not you connect with a deck is far more important than how it came to you. In my opinion, this means you might even get better results from the cards when you choose a tarot deck to work with. Giving and receiving tarot decks is fine, but there’s no reason you can’t just walk into a store buy whichever one calls to you.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

Try to choose a tarot deck which looks nice

Choose a tarot deck which looks good to you.
The Mystic Dreamer Tarot has an art style I quite enjoy, even if I don’t read with it very much.

For me, one of the most important criteria for choosing a tarot deck is whether or not I like how it looks. Do I like its theme? Its color scheme? Its art style? They say looks aren’t everything. I say that if I’m going to spend hours staring at a bunch of cards, I’m not going to choose a deck which I think is ugly.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (to drop another cliché), so behold every deck you might consider and ask yourself whether or not you think it’s beautiful. Do you like dark and moody things? Look for a deck in a dark and moody style. Are you really into colorful fairies? You’ll probably find a swarm of decks which appeal to you.

This might sound like obvious advice, but trust me, it’s not. I know many tarot readers who have decks with art they hate, but they still use them become someone else told them to. I also know many readers who’d probably be happiest with a light-hearted “theme” deck, but are afraid they won’t be taken seriously if they pull it out for a reading.

Look at the symbols

We’re still kind of in the realm of aesthetics here, but look at the symbols and glyphs on the cards. Do they resonate with you? Do they intrigue you?

One way to look at the tarot is to see the cards as a symbolic representation of the world. This means the symbols and themes you see in a deck should, in some way, reflect how you see the world itself. When you choose a tarot deck, you’re choosing the symbolic language you’ll be using for your readings.

If you’re just starting out with the tarot, some of the symbols might confuse you, but you shouldn’t feel especially “put off” by them.

Size matters

Some tarot decks use cards which are about the size and shape of regular playing cards. Others are very much oversized, while most fall somewhere in the middle. Many of my decks are a little over four inches tall by about two-and-a-half inches wide.

Why do I mention this? Because different people have different hand sizes, and some decks are easier to handle than others. A typical tarot deck contains seventy-eight cards. That alone makes them a little more challenging to shuffle than a poker deck. Very large or very small cards can make shuffling even more of a challenge.

Card stock matters

It’s rarely something you can check while you’re holding a sealed box in the store, but what sort of stock are the cards printed on? Is it thin and cheap? Thick and heavy?

I’ve seen a lot of tarot decks which are printed on stock so thin that they rip and wrinkle if you stare at them too hard. I’ve also seen decks where the cards are thick enough that you could probably use them as roofing shingles.

If at all possible, try to get a feel for how thick and flexible the cards are before you choose a tarot deck. I have one on my shelf with thick card stock and edges so sharp that it actually hurts my hands to shuffle them. You probably don’t want that sort of thing in your life. You also don’t want a deck that will shrivel up the first time you sneeze at it.

If all of the above looks and feels good to you, I say go ahead and buy the deck. That said, we’re not quite done yet.

After you choose a tarot deck

When you purchase a tarot deck, think of it as the first date in what might become a long-term relationship. You still need to get to know each other.

Take the deck somewhere quiet to open. Hold it in your hands, and try to remember the feeling you had when you were a kid about to open a present.

Then, open the box carefully, and explore what’s inside. If the deck comes with a booklet, set it aside and look at the cards with only your own impressions to guide you. Let curiosity take the lead.

Once you’ve gone through the deck, shuffle the cards and perform a few, three-card readings.

What questions should you ask? Here are my big three:

  1. What can you tell me about yourself?
  2. What kinds of questions do you like to answer?
  3. Why did you come to me?

Depending on the answers I get, and the overall “vibe” I feel from the deck, I’ll ask more questions and throw more cards.

I won’t try to get a “serious” answer from a deck until I’ve spent several days doing these little “getting-to-know-you” readings. And I’ll never use a new deck in a tarot consultation for someone else until I’ve done several “real” readings for myself.

If all seems well, and we have a good connection, I’ll put the deck into “rotation” and see where the relationship leads. If we don’t connect, I hand the deck off to someone else, and assume I’m just here to help it get to the person it’s actually meant for.

I hope this advice helps you the next time you go looking for a new tarot deck. And if you have any advice for others, why not drop it in a comment down below?

Have a blessed day!

Learning how to use the Celtic Cross

No other tarot spread is more well-known or widely-used than the Celtic Cross. In this post, I’ll tell you how it works, when to use it, and when not to.

What is the origin of the Celtic Cross tarot spread?

In 1909, British poet and occultist Arthur Edward Waite published what would become the most popular tarot deck of all time. Illustrated by the artist Pamela Coleman Smith, the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck came bundled with a thin book written by Waite himself. Called The Key to the Tarot, this book discussed the meanings of each card, and described how to use them for divination. He revised and re-released this book a year later as The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.

Near the back of this book, we get a description of the Celtic Cross spread. Waite refers to it as “An Ancient Celtic Method of Divination.” If you know your tarot history, this claim is a bit far-fetched to say the least.

In truth, Waite appears to be the first person to describe this spread. There are no printed references to it prior to 1909, at least that I can find anyway. It’s unclear whether the Celtic Cross was Waite’s own invention, or if he learned of it from someone else. Either way, since instructions for its use have come bundled with nearly every tarot deck sold over the last century, it’s almost certainly the most-used tarot spread today.

How do you use the Celtic Cross?

Waite’s instructions for using the Celtic Cross spread are fairly straight-forward. The instructions below are mostly his, although I’ve added my own thoughts based on thirty years of working with it.

Setting Up

Waite begins by telling the tarot reader to select a card to be the “significator,” which symbolizes either the person asking the question, or the subject being asked about. Here’s a quote:

“The Diviner first selects a card to represent the person or, matter about which inquiry is made. This card is called the Significator. Should he wish to ascertain something in connexion with himself he takes the one which corresponds to his personal description. A Knight should be chosen as the Significator if the subject of inquiry is a man of forty years old and upward; a King should be chosen for any male who is under that age a Queen for a woman who is over forty years and a Page for any female of less age.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

We’re then told to put this card face up on the table before proceeding.

Personally? I don’t do this. And that’s for a couple of reasons.

First, I don’t find the Court Cards connect with people in the way Waite describes. I wrote an article about this, titled Understanding the Court Cards, if you’re interested.

Second, I think it’s better to leave all of the cards in the deck until we start dealing them out. If a so-called “significator” card is actually relevant to the situation, I trust that it’ll show up without my having to pull it out in advance.

Anyway, at this point, we (or the querent) shuffles the cards while thinking of the question. Then we (or, again, the querent) cuts the deck, and the tarot reader lays out the cards in the following pattern…

The Celtic Cross tarot spread.

What are the meanings of the card positions?

As with most tarot spreads, each card position in the Celtic Cross has a certain meaning. When we interpret the cards, we take this positional meaning into account. I’ve provided a keyword or title for each position in the diagram above for easy reference. In this section, you’ll find the full explanation for each position.

The Subject

This card represents the major influence or situation which the question refers to. It’s the “nutshell” version of the matter at hand, or the central theme of the situation.

The Crossing

This card usually represents the main or central obstacle which is blocking or opposing the Subject. I say “usually,” because if this card is very good, or its nature is very harmonious with the Subject, it may not represent an obstacle at all. It could be a “stepping stone” which can actually be a source of help or assistance. This is especially likely to be the case if it’s also of a similar nature to either the Self or Environment card.

The Basis

This card is sometimes called the “Foundation.” It represents something which has not only already happened, but is likely the main reason for asking the question in the first place.

When I conduct a tarot reading for someone using the Celtic Cross, these three cards almost always relate to the question or circumstance in a very obvious way. For example, in a question about a troubled love affair, I’d expect to see the Two of Cups, the Lovers, or the Three of Swords in some or all of these positions.

When I don’t see any connection between these three cards and the question, I proceed with considerable caution. I also explain to the client that I may not be getting an accurate read on the matter. Fortunately, at least in my experience, this is rarely the case.

The Past

This card represents something in the past which relates to the matter at hand, sometimes in an unexpected way. Many of the situations we find ourselves in today are connected to older events or patterns we’ve experienced before. This card usually shows us the most pertinent bit of history which has led to the current situation.

The Possibility

This is one of the two “outcome” cards in the Celtic Cross spread (the other being outright titled “The Outcome”). It typically shows us the “best case scenario,” or else what the client can hope for if they put their energy and focus toward achieving it.

I wrote “typically” above, because we need to compare and contrast this card with the Outcome card in order to be sure of its role. This is particularly true when the Possibility card appears to be much more negative than the Outcome. I’ll write a bit more about this later on when I discuss the final card in the spread.

The Future

This is an event or influence which will come into play in the immediate or very near future. In many cases, it gives us a good indication of the client’s next, best opportunity to alter the outcome of events. It’s something to keep an eye out for, and to either avoid or take advantage of. Which route we should take depends on the context, and the rest of the spread.

The Self

I also call this card the “Toolbox.” It tells us what the querent themselves is bringing to the situation. Often, this card represents a strength, or a source of aid. Other times, though, it represents an obstacle, or “baggage” the client is carrying with them. Just like the Future card, we need to look at the Big Picture to decide whether the Self is helping or hindering the client.

The Environment

This card is much like the Self, only instead of showing us what the querent is bringing to the party, it shows us outside influences. Again, these may be constructive or destructive to the querent’s objectives or goals. Only careful thought and experience will tell us which.

The Hopes or Fears

The second-to-last card in the spread tells us something about what the client wants to happen, or what they’re afraid might happen.

To be perfectly blunt, I hardly ever find this card useful. Like the first three cards, it can serve as a kind of “check” to make sure we’re getting an accurate read on the matter. Otherwise? The client probably knows what their hopes or fears are, so this card doesn’t give us much in the way of practical aid.

The Outcome

Like the Possibility card, this one shows us one way the situation can turn out. In general, the Outcome is what will come to pass if the situation is allowed to proceed without further interference. Contrast this with the Possibility–that which will come to pass if the querent puts in the effort and work.

When the Outcome card looks much more favorable than the Possibility, it’s a sign that the client should let things unfold naturally. When the Possibility looks better? That’s when it’s time for the client to push for what they want.

When should you use this spread?

Given the Celtic Cross is the most popular spread in the world, you might think it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Me? I disagree. I think there are times when it’s a good one to use, but there are other times when it’s…less so.

It’s excellent when you want to get a detailed look at a situation, including all of the most important surrounding context. For example, it’s my go-to spread when I’m about to do some serious magic to influence a situation.

I wrote an article awhile ago about how I think it’s extremely important to divine before you enchant. My thoughts on the matter haven’t changed one wink, and the Celtic Cross is usually the spread I use before dusting off my altar and getting down to business.

It’s also a good spread to use when you’re faced with situations or circumstances which seem particularly chaotic or confusing. If you’re job hunting, and can’t seem to get your foot in the door anywhere, throw the cards and ask: “What’s up with my job search?” You’ll usually see multiple factors at work, and get a good idea of how to proceed.

When should you not to use this spread?

The biggest advantage to the Celtic Cross is that it uses ten cards, and you get a lot of context. This is also its biggest disadvantage.

Ten cards is a lot of cards. And, in my personal opinion, ten cards is too many for most questions and situations. With so many cards on the table, we can get overwhelmed with information, and that might actually prevent us from getting a useful answer.

I maybe use the Celtic Cross for one out of fifteen or twenty readings. Let’s face it, most questions people ask the tarot are actually quite simple. “Will I get the job?” “Will Sophie go out with me?” “Should I take a gap year or stay in school until I finish my degree?”

For questions like these, simpler spreads with fewer cards work just fine, and usually provide much clearer answers than the Celtic Cross.

Then again, that’s just my opinion. If you have a different one, I’d love to hear it.

Have a blessed day!

Which method of divination should you learn?

I’ve written before about how important I believe divination is to successful magic, but what I haven’t done is to write about which divination method one should use. This is because the answer to that question is: it’s up to you.

In my experience, which system of divination someone uses is a deeply personal choice. Yes, accuracy should be the most important factor in selecting a method of divination, but there’s also the question of feel. When you’re looking for guidance, answers, or knowledge of the future, whichever system or method you’re using should be something you resonate with.

It’s also important to understand that some methods of divination are better suited to certain kinds of questions.

That’s kind of what I want to unpack in this post: which sorts of questions you’re most likely to ask, and which systems of divination might be most suited to answering them.

Asking questions, getting answers

To be clear, regardless of which method of divination we’re looking at, the purpose of them all is more or less the same. You ask questions, you get answers. These questions might be specific, such as: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

Other times, we’re looking for a more “general read” on a situation, such as: “What does the next month hold in store for me?”

The most important thing to remember about any system of divination is that it’s only really useful if it gives you meaningful, actionable answers to the questions you ask. The more well-suited a method of divination is to the question, the better your chances of getting actionable information.

This is why I’ve studied and practiced many different methods of divination over the years. While I do have my favorites, I’m not opposed to reaching for whichever method is best suited for the kind of question I need answered.

With that said, let’s get into it. We’ll look at the kinds of questions we usually want to answer. As you’re experimenting with different systems, consider each of these broad “classes” of questions, and try to sort out which systems are best for answering each.

Yes or no?

One common sort of question we’d like to get an answer to are “yes-or-no” questions. Should I go to the party? Will I get a raise? Should I start looking for a new apartment? These are all questions where we’re looking for a direct “yes” or “no” response.

Unfortunately, many of the more popular methods of divination seem to be almost comically bad at answering direct, yes-or-no questions. For instance, I know relatively few Tarot readers who will even try to get their decks to cut to the chase and answer these questions directly.

In my experience, horary astrology is the best method for getting a yes or no answer to a question.

In horary astrology, you cast a chart for the moment you ask a question, then you follow a set of interpretive rules to determine the answer. You’ll almost always get a definite positive or negative response, along with a fair bit of other, relevant information.

For example, let’s say you were to ask: “Will I get a raise?” You’ll get a “yes” or a “no.” Let’s say it’s a “yes.” You’ll probably get a sense of how large or small the raise will be, as well as a pretty good idea of the time when you’ll get the raise. If it’s a “no” response, you can probably sort out why you won’t get it by looking at other factors in the chart.

The one real drawback to horary astrology (and astrology in general) is that it’s a pretty complicated subject with a lot of nuance. It can take months or even years to get even halfway good at reading a chart.

This might be why the most common divination tool I see used for getting a simple yes-or-no response is the pendulum.

Do a Google search for pendulum divination and you’ll find hundreds of articles and videos on its use, but the main idea is quite simple. Hold the pendulum by its cord and let it hang straight down in front of you. Make sure you start off with the pendulum still, then ask: “Show me yes.” Watch what the pendulum does. After a little while, steady the pendulum again and ask: “Show me no.”

Repeat this a few times until you’ve “calibrated” the pendulum, then ask the questions you want answered.

I don’t do a lot of work with pendulums myself, but according to those who do, it usually only takes a few sessions before you start getting consistently good results.

Either or? Should I?

Another very common kind of question is the “either-or” question. In fact, many “yes-or-no” questions can be re-phrased as an “either-or” one, particularly if you are asking a question that begins with the words: “Should I…”

For example, consider the question: “Should I go to the party tonight?”

That could probably be better expressed as: “Should I go to the party tonight, or should I stay home?”

In a case like this, I find the Tarot to be exceptional. My go-to way of answering such a question is to perform a “three-versus-three” reading.

I throw down six cards. The first three are to answer the question “What if I go to the party tonight?” The second three are for “What if I stay home tonight?” I look carefully at both situations, and choose whether or not to go based on which set of cards looks the best.

Most “either-or” questions tend to be rooted in this idea of “should I.” These are tricky sorts of questions to answer with most of the divination methods I’m familiar with. Horary astrology doesn’t do well with “shoulds,” unless you can honestly re-phrase the question to be a direct yes-or-no.

For example, let’s say you ask: “Should I invest in my friend’s business, or should I hold onto my money?”

Assuming your main interest in asking this question is growing your wealth, the question you’re really asking is: “Will I make a profit if I invest in my friend’s business?”

Horary astrology can answer that question quite easily.

Natal astrology can also help us a bit with “should” questions, although in a more roundabout way. By looking at your birth chart, and taking into account the current and upcoming transits to it, you can get a reasonable picture of which areas of your life are likely to be easier, and which are likely to be more challenging.

For out investment question above, let’s say that you look at your chart and upcoming transits and see what looks like a pretty hairy period of financial difficulties in your near future. You might want to set that “extra” money aside.


Questions involving the timing of events can be among the most frustrating.

“When will I get married?”

“When will I find a job?”

“How long will it take for my business to take off?”

I already mentioned that horary astrology can usually give you a good idea of when events are likely to occur, but using other divination methods to get answers to a “when” question can be tricky.

In my experience, there are two broad approaches to answering these questions, and both come with drawbacks.

The first method involves trying to get a specific time or date, or at least a very narrow range (down to a few days or hours, depending on the nature of the question). This really is a question horary astrology. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never gotten a reliable, specific time with anything else.

Another method you could try is to use Lenormand cards. This is an oracle deck, as opposed to the Tarot, and some people I know have had good success in getting precise timing out of it. Myself? I only use Lenormand on rare occasions, and when I’ve tried to get a time, it just doesn’t pan out. Things might be different if I really took the time to “master” the deck, but I just haven’t.

The second method of getting a time involves choosing a reasonable one as a starting point, and then asking whether the event will happen before the chosen time, or after it. You can then try for a yes-or-no answer, or try to ask a more general question with an eye toward that time.

For example, let’s say you’re unemployed and running out of money. You’ve put in for a number of jobs, have some good prospects. You want to know when to expect a job offer. Let’s pick a time—say, two weeks.

You could simply ask “Will I get a job within two weeks?” Assuming you have a good system for answering yes-or-no questions, you should get the information you’re looking for.

Taking the more general approach, you could ask “Show me what my work situation will be like in two weeks.” This tends to be the approach I take when using the Tarot.

One more thing I should point out is that, when using a system other than horary astrology for “when” questions, I usually get better results when I use “natural” events for timing. What I mean by this is, instead of asking if something will happen before “next Thursday,” I’ll ask if it will happen before “the next full Moon,” or “in the summer.”

Try it both ways and see what happens.


Sometimes you’ll want to know either where something will happen or where something is. These questions both involve the word “where,” but they’re very different, and they usually benefit from different approaches.

To be clear, “where should I move to,” is one kind of question. “Where are my car keys,” is another one entirely.

For the first kind of “where” question, you can usually sort out the answer doing variations on “either-or.” There are also some specific forms of divination which are tailored toward finding places, such as locational astrology.

When you’re trying to find a lost object (or a person, or a pet), again, horary astrology is a pretty decent choice. It can sometimes be a little tricky to find things using horary, because the methods involved usually give you a list of possibilities which don’t always narrow things down satisfactorily. For instance, if you’re looking for your missing cat, you might get an answer that it’s “a short distance to the north of your house, inside or under something.”

Well, that’s certainly a start, but it’s not exactly “sleeping under your neighbor’s car.”

Despite not using it very often, I’ve actually had a surprising amount of success with the Lenormand deck for “where” questions.

For example, maybe I’ve misplaced my keys. Well, there’s a “Key” card in the Lendormand deck. I’ll take out my Lenormand cards, shuffle them, and then look through the deck for the “Key.” If I find it between the “Book” and the “Letter” cards, I’ll go search my desk. If I find it between “Garden” and “Lillies,” I’ll go outside and check my flower beds.

It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the answers you get from Lenormand really can be that literal.

Getting a general “read” on a situation

We’ve covered several different types of “specific” questions, but in my mind, it’s the “general” sort of question or reading that’s the most useful. I find getting my head around a situation as a whole to be more helpful (and easier) than attempting a “surgical strike” for only the specific answer I might be interested in right then.

The answer to “will I get the promotion,” is less valuable to me than “show me my work situation for the spring.”

Astrology is an excellent tool for this, particularly natal astrology. I can pull up a birth chart, check the current and upcoming transits, and get a good sense of how things are going to go. This is especially true when I want to see which areas of a person’s life are likely to go well in the near future, which areas might be more challenging, and how these areas will affect and influence each other.

And, yes, the Tarot is my very next choice. I usually stick with a five-card spread when doing this sort of reading, but for particularly complex or confusing situations, I’ll use a full Celtic Cross.

Another method of divination which can be used similarly (and which I haven’t touched on yet) is geomancy. Put very simply, geomancy involves creating a series of figures using lines or points either drawn on paper or in sand, then arranging those figures into a kind of “astrologically-themed” chart. You then read this chart according to a set of fairly simple rules.

This is far from an adequate description of geomancy, and I encourage you to look into it yourself, especially if you don’t find yourself drawn to the Tarot. Geomancy was one of the most common forms of divination during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, prior to the rise of the Tarot and cartomancy in general.

Finding what works for you

In case it isn’t obvious, even in this long post I haven’t covered all of the types of questions you’re likely to encounter. For instance, I didn’t even touch upon “who” or “how” or “why.” Whenever you’re experimenting with a system, you’ll want to throw all of these kinds of questions (and more) against the wall and see what “sticks.”

As I wrote way back at the beginning of this overly-long post, don’t go looking for one system which will fit every situation. In my opinion, such a system just doesn’t exist.

Instead, you should study and experiment with several different methods of divination, and learn not only how each of them works, but also which kinds of questions or situations they’re best suited to. You should also consider whether or not you personally resonate with a system.

Some people just don’t like the Tarot. Other people find astrology too complex and confusing. These methods work very well for me, but they’re not for everyone.

Good luck on your search!

Do you even divination, bro?

If I could only ever give one, solid piece of advice to a budding magician it would be this: get good at divination. If there’s a more important magical skill, I really don’t know what it is.

Not even meditation ranks as high as divination, in my opinion. That’s because without divination, any other magic you might attempt is going to be unreliable at best, and disastrous at worst.

Into the woods

Think of yourself as an adventurer at the edge of a huge, ancient forest. You have a quest to complete, and in order to do so, you must travel through this forest to the lands beyond. There are many different trails in front of you, but only a few will take you where you want to go. Others loop back around on themselves, or otherwise go off in every direction but the one you seek.

Some of the trails may even be dangerous.

So how do you choose which one to follow, and how do you prevent yourself from accidentally straying off your chosen path?

A wise adventurer would carry a map and a compass at the very least. They’d probably do well to also seek out either a guide, or get some advice from folks who know the area well.

What a wise adventurer wouldn’t do is stumble blindly into the forest, with no navigational aids whatsoever, and just wing it.

Every act of practical magic can be seen as the start of journey. You know (or think you know) where you want to be, so you perform a ritual intended to get you there. But in order to get anywhere in life, you either need to be very, very lucky, or you need to know three things: where you want to be, where you are, and what lies in between.

Books and courses on magic tend to be pretty good at helping with the first and third bits. I’ve seen several well-written chapters on “setting intentions,” as well as many helpful hints on the use of positive or affirming language.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen very few books on practical enchantment which cover the second point. This is a bad thing, because not only does it leave you stumbling in the dark, it also opens the door for one of the more…unsavory forms of magical manifestation.

The monkey’s paw effect

Let’s say you’ve had a rough week at work where everything has gone wrong and you’re worried that your boss is going to fire you. Since losing your job will probably put a serious cramp in your style, you decide to do some magic to save your bacon.

How do you begin?

Some magicians will simply perform a ritual designed to keep their job. If you haven’t already guessed, I think this is the wrong approach.

The right approach is to use divination to first get a read on the overall situation, then to perform subsequent divinations as needed, either to clarify specific points, or to test solutions.

For example, maybe it’s true that “everything has gone wrong” at your job, but is that your fault?

Perhaps your boss has been dropping the ball unbeknownst to you. Maybe she’s been letting things slip because she hates her job and is about to quit to start a new career.

And if she quits, maybe you stand a decent chance of being promoted.

If you were to just dive into a “keep my job” ritual, how might that manifest? Maybe the ritual causes your boss to decide to “tough it out,” and stick around after all.

You keep the same position you’ve always had (you did ask to keep “your job,” right?), but now you have a boss who is growing increasingly frustrated, bitter, and making everyone’s lives miserable—including yours.

Say what you will, but I wouldn’t personally call that a successful application of magic. Instead, it’s what I call the “monkey’s paw effect.”

In 1902, the author W. W. Jacobs published a short story called The Monkey’s Paw. As you can probably guess from the title, the story features the hand of a monkey. This hand has been enchanted to provide its owner with three wishes. However, when you make a wish on the monkey’s paw, it is granted in a hideous, unwanted way.

There have been many retellings of this tale, but in the original story, the first wish the owner of the monkey’s paw makes is for a large sum of money to pay off his house.

The next day, his son is killed on the job in a horrific accident. To avoid litigation or other trouble, the company offers the father a settlement—the exact amount of money he wished for.

You can get into some serious monkey’s paw situations with hasty enchantments. This isn’t because the universe is punishing you or hates you, but because trying to alter a situation without actually understanding it can have unintended consequences.

The best way to avoid these consequences? To rework a phrase from carpentry: divine twice, enchant once.

Some bonus advice

Apart from “divine twice, enchant once,” there are a few other pieces of advice I’d throw out there.

First, I don’t think the specific form of divination really matters, so long as you can work it to get both a general read on a situation as a whole, as well as to dig down into specifics when you need them.

Take a tour of the divinatory options out there and use what works for you. Personally, I find astrology and tarot to be fantastically useful and accurate, and they work very well together.

Second, I’ve heard some people say that a person should never try to divine for themselves. I don’t agree with this. The only real risk with divining for yourself is that it can be hard to stay objective, which can lead to you either seeing only what you want to see, or seeing only what you fear.

This lack of objectivity can sometimes get you in trouble, but I think a skilled diviner is able to spot this out fairly quickly, given a little discipline.

Third and finally, don’t be afraid to consult another diviner when you have to. There will be times when, no matter what you do, you can’t get a read on a situation.

You might be running up against that objectivity problem, or you might just be so involved in, or upset by, the events around you that you can’t wrap your head around what the cards or stars or runes are saying.

When you don’t think you’re getting what you need from your own skills, go get a second opinion. At the very least, a reading from someone else can often kick in the door to your own intuition, and get you moving in the right direction.

(And, yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I do offer Tarot readings myself.)

So there it is, the best advice I have to offer to any aspiring magician.

If you get good at divination, or find a good diviner to work with, your practical enchantments will be much more well-targeted and much, much more successful.

Magical voyeurism

When is it okay to use divination to learn something about a person without their consent?

I kind of touched on this in my last post when I wrote that the question I most commonly ask when reading the Tarot is: “What does So-and-So need from me right now?”

To me, this question is perfectly sound on an ethical level. I’m not asking for any information about my loved one. In fact, they’re not even really the subject of the reading. I’m asking about me, and what I need to do.

But writing about that got me thinking about divination and privacy. And since I’m being drawn to write about divination a lot lately, let’s talk about that.

The topic of this post is part of the much larger topic of magical ethics in general, but since that’s a huge subject and I have many thoughts, I think I’ll just stick to the divination question. We’ll save the Big Discussion for another day.

Can you do it?

Before we tackle the ethics of using divination on someone without their knowledge, we should probably talk about whether or not it’s even possible.

According to some people, in order to get an accurate reading on someone, that person needs to actually be present in some way. For some practitioners, this means physically present, so it excludes any sort of remote or distance reading.

Other practitioners don’t have such a restriction, and they perform readings over the phone or over Zoom all the time. However, they still believe that it’s the client’s presence that drives the reading. In this case, the client is “spiritually” or “mentally” present, not physically.

On a more “metaphysical” level, many diviners believe it is the client’s intention to be read for which opens the reading. That is, until the client deliberately asks a question in the context of a reading, there can be no true divination.

All of these viewpoints firmly close the door on our discussion. If you can’t read for someone without their knowledge at all, the ethics of doing so are moot.

Personally, I disagree with these positions.

It’s my observation that any question sincerely asked will always get an answer, no matter who is doing the asking. Or, at least, this seems to hold true for me no matter which divinatory system I use.

This makes sense when you consider how we go about answering questions involving two or more people.

Last week, I wrote about a hypothetical couple, Alice and Bob.

To briefly recap our example, Alice and Bob started dating six months ago. Before she really began the relationship, Alice came to us and asked if she had a future with Bob. We threw the cards, the cards said “yes,” so she dove in. Now, though, after six months, it seems Bob has reconnected with an old flame, and Alice is worried the relationship will soon be over. We throw the cards again, and her fears are confirmed.

I said in that post that Alice’s first question was really about whether or not she would get into a relationship with Bob, and her second question was about whether or not she would stay in that relationship.

There’s another way to look at both of these questions, though.

Alice’s first question: “Will Bob get into a relationship with me?”

Alice’s second question: “Will Bob break up with me?”

When you look closely at what Alice is asking, you can see that it’s not she alone who is the subject of the reading. When we throw the cards for her, we’re also asking about Bob. And he probably has no idea at all we’re doing this.

Relationship questions, by definition, always involve reading for at least two people. And almost always, at least one of the people involved are unaware of the reading.

If you think of other, common questions, you’ll see this again and again.

“Am I going to lose my job,” is also the question: “Is my boss going to fire me?”

“Am I going to get the role I auditioned for,” is also: “Will the casting director choose me?”

So, is it possible to divine for someone without their knowledge or consent?

Yes. I think we do it all the time.

Should you do it?

If we agree that divining for someone without their knowledge is possible, the next question we have is should we? In other words, is it ethical?

Let’s consider Alice and Bob again. We’ve already covered our example from the perspective of doing a reading for Alice which she specifically asked for. We’ll call that “Situation One.”

Now let’s look at another way this relationship question might come up.

Let’s say again that Alice is a friend of yours, and six months ago, over coffee, she mentions that she met a man named Bob, and they’ve gone on a couple of dates. Her attitude seems to imply that she’s about to make the emotional plunge and begin treating their relationship seriously.

Your interest is piqued, and when you get home, you decide to throw the cards and see if Alice and Bob have a future.

We’ll call this “Situation Two.”

Now, most of the Tarot readers I know won’t even pretend to have an ethical objection to performing a reading in Situation One, but they’ll balk at least a little at Situation Two. Why is that?

The most obvious difference between these two situations is that, in the first, one of the parties involved has specifically asked for your involvement. Alice has invited into the picture, and while Bob may or may not know or approve of it, you still have at least some right to be there.

It’s sort of like when your roommate invites a friend over to your apartment. You might not like that friend, or appreciate the intrusion, but the apartment is just as much your roommate’s as it is yours. Absent the friend engaging in some sort of wildly inappropriate behavior, or some similarly-special circumstance, you probably have no reasonable objection to their visit.

In Situation Two, however, things are different. No one has asked you to be there at all. It’s akin to your roommate’s friend coming over some night, and peeking in your windows without either of you knowing.

This idea of invitation sits at the heart of most of the questions about divinatory ethics. And it’s usually best practice to stick with only those divinations where you can credibly claim you’ve received an invite.

There is another wrinkle to consider, though.

The “kid’s room” analogy

Let’s say you’re the parent or guardian of a teenager. And let’s say they’ve been looking and acting…differently lately. They look haggard, are tired all the time, are losing weight, and have started wearing long-sleeve shirts when they always used to wear tees.

After watching their behavior for a couple of weeks, you begin to suspect that they’re using drugs. And since, like many teenagers, they spend nearly all of their free time in their room, you think that’s the most likely place they would keep their drugs if they’re using any.

So, do you search their room?

This is an ethical problem which many parents and caregivers face. If you believe someone is harming themselves or someone else, and you believe you’re responsible for that person, do you have a right or even an obligation to invade their privacy?

In a divinatory context I call this the “kid’s room” analogy, but we obviously don’t have to stop the comparisons there. Family, friends, partners—I could write a hundred different “what-if” scenarios, but the real question remains the same:

“If you suspect someone may be harming themselves, or someone else, is it ethical to use divination on them without their knowledge or consent?”

Putting magic aside for the moment, many of us are faced with at least one situation like this at some point in our lives. We suspect someone we know has become a danger to themselves or others. And often we are told that in those situations we should appeal to the help of some “authority,” whether that’s the person’s parents, the paramedics, or the police.

Regardless of your intent, taking such a step is an intrusion into the person’s life. You are inserting yourself into their situation, probably against their will, because you believe that doing nothing could be even more harmful.

But what does this have to do with divination?

Simple. If you are faced with a situation where you feel you must materially insert yourself into a person’s life situation without their consent, why not insert yourself metaphysically?

When you’ve already decided to search your kid’s room, throwing the cards can look like small potatoes.

Though maybe it shouldn’t.

Magic versus the mundane

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about the broader subject of magical ethics, but I wanted to close this post by making a brief soapbox speech.

Treating the magical as somehow fundamentally different or more special than the mundane is something which has never made sense to me. And in many ways, it strikes me as kind of dangerous to do so.

If you suspect your partner may be cheating on you, and so you read through their text messages when they’re in the shower, is that really any different than throwing the cards and asking: “Is my partner being unfaithful?”

Is it better? Worse? Why?

Most every ethical question you can raise about the use of divination can be asked and answered in a purely mundane context.

Worried your child is doing drugs? Why not snatch a urine sample from the toilet?

Wondering who the “efficiency consultant” is going to recommend your company lay off? Why not bug the conference room before their meeting with the boss?

Want to know if the cute guy in your class is seeing someone? Why not follow him for a few days, see where he goes, and who he hangs out with?

To me, there’s really only one difference between stalking someone physically versus metaphysically: it’s less likely that you’ll be caught.

Magic is subtle. It’s done “in the dark,” where no one can see you, and it leaves no evidence—at least none which someone could use in the U.S. court system.

John Wooden was an American basketball player and coach, and there’s a quote attributed to him which I think I’ll use to wrap up this post.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

I’m not a fan of the gendered language, but the sentiment is worth thinking about.

Can you ask the Tarot the same question more than once?

One topic I see come up again and again in Tarot books and online discussion is whether or not you should throw the cards more than once for the same question. I say “Tarot” here, but you can raise the issue with pretty much any form of divination, be it horary astrology, geomancy, or whatever.

Most Tarot readers will say “no.”

Me? I say “sometimes.”

Mechanical animals

Right out of the gate, let me tell you when you shouldn’t throw the cards.

Don’t throw the cards when asking the question has become a habit, or has otherwise turned into a mechanical or rote process. In a Tarot reading, you actually need to be open to what the Tarot has to say, and be invested in the answer. Once you’ve asked a question three, four, or twelve times, you can’t possibly care what the answer is.

Consider these two questions:

“What’s the weather going to be like today?”

“Should I buy that new coat I saw on sale?”

Either one of these questions would be fine to ask once, or even once in a while, provided you really want to know the answer, and are willing to listen to it when you receive it.

However, if you throw the cards every day looking for a weather report, you’re going to be disappointed. Wanting to know if your wedding will get rained out is one thing. Wanting the Tarot to play morning meteorologist for funsies in another thing entirely.

Similarly, if you throw the cards every time you see a new outfit on sale, but end up buying it every time no matter what the Tarot has to say, don’t expect the cards to take the reading any more seriously than you do.

If there’s a pair of golden rules for divination it’s these: You need to be seriously interested in the answer, and you need to take the answer seriously. If asking a question more than once is a clear violation of one of these two principles, you’re better off leaving the Tarot deck on the shelf.

The times they are a changing

Let’s say you have a friend named Alice. She’s been on a couple of dates with a man named Bob, and she wants to know if they have a future together. So, she asks you for a Tarot reading.

You throw the cards and see several positive signs. You tell her this, Alice is delighted, and she begins a very happy relationship.

However, six months later Alice comes to you and says that Bob has been a bit distant the last week, and she learned through a mutual friend that he had coffee with his ex a few days ago. She’s worried, and wants you to throw the cards again.

“Do I really have a future with him,” she asks.

Should you throw the cards? Let’s say you do.

This time, things don’t look so good. Bob is clearly getting back together with his ex, and Alice’s relationship is all but over.

Does this reading contradict your earlier one? Not in the least. Back then, Alice did have a future with Bob…almost six month’s worth of a future to be precise. And now, unfortunately, that future seems to be over.

What this is an example of is changing circumstances. While it looks like Alice asked the same question twice, in truth, her second question was very different from the first. Here, let me rephrase them to show you what I mean.

Alice’s First Question: “Will I get into a relationship with Bob?”

Alice’s Second Question: “Will I stay in a relationship with Bob?”

Whenever you’re wondering if you should throw the cards two or more times for the same question, you should always consider whether or not the circumstances surrounding the question have changed so much that it isn’t really the same question at all.

So many ways

One last thing I should probably talk about is consulting multiple divination methods for the same question. For instance, I not only read Tarot, I also make heavy use of astrology, including horary astrology.

Do I ever ask the same question of both systems?

All the time.

Frequently, when I’m using one of these systems to either ask a specific question, or to get a “read” on a specific situation, I’ll get the gist of the answer, but something will be…”off”. Maybe there’s an oddly-placed planet which seems important, but I’m not seeing how. Or there’s a card on the table which doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of them.

I don’t much care for that sort of ambiguity, so I’ll turn to the other method and ask the same question, casting a chart if I had thrown cards and vice-versa.

When I do this, though, I have a very hard and fast rule:

The second reading has to look a lot like the first one, or else I ignore it entirely.

For instance, let’s say Alice came to me with her questions about Bob. I threw the cards six months ago, gave her the green light, and now she wants to know what’s going on.

If I was to do both a Tarot reading and a horary chart for her question this time, I should see the same general situation in each. I should see Alice and Bob splitting up, and Bob going back to his ex.

Different systems of divination each come with their own nuances. They should all provide more or less the same, root answer to any question you ask, but they’ll also provide their own specific details and shades of meaning.

When I use astrology and the Tarot to answer the same question, it’s those little differences in the details that I’m looking for. I’m not looking for a radical new take on the whole situation.

So if I do happen to get two wildly-different answers (which almost never happens), I throw away the results of the second divination and stick with the first.

Sometimes we just have to settle for the answer we’re given.

War eternal

In the interest of full disclosure, I often ask the same question multiple times, even when I probably shouldn’t. It’s the issue I struggle with the most, and trying to restrain myself from constantly “nagging” my deck is an endless fight—particularly when I’m reading for people close to me.

I’ve often had a friend or family member who was struggling with some complicated and disruptive situation, and I’ve thrown the cards asking what I could do to help them.

“What does So-and-So need from me right now?”

That’s probably the question I ask the most. And I’ve sometimes found myself asking it multiple times a week, where “So-and-So” was the same loved one.

In almost all cases, though, the song remains the same. I see the same or very similar cards come up again and again, offering the same advice and support. This makes complete sense, because I’m asking the same question, and the circumstances surrounding the question haven’t changed. I should see the same cards, because I’m asking about the same situation.

In a way, I see this as strong evidence that divination works. I also see it as a reason not to worry too much that I might be getting on my deck’s nerves.

Any question is worth asking, so long as it’s sincerely asked.