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
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.
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!