Monday, October 27, 2014

How I Read Tarot

I spent some time with other magicians this weekend.  This has become a rare treat in my life (although, hopefully, that will change soon.  I've been putting A LOT of effort into this aspect of my life.)  Among other things, we did a few tarot readings for each other.  That reminded me that the way I read tarot is a little differently than the way other people do.  So, I thought I'd try to write about that.  The most important part, is that I think of a reading as a conversation between the questioner and the cards, mediated through the me and the cards.  Except for at the very beginning, I don't often use a traditional "lay" where each position signifies something.  Instead, I converse with the cards, asking questions, and then pulling cards to form a narrative response.  My interpretation of each card is based partly on the kabbalistic symbolism and traditional meaning of each one, but also on the narrative contained in the picture.  I usually read with the Rohrig tarot, which has very detailed, symbol-dense, emotionally evocative pictures.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  After more than a decade out of print, you can now buy decks directly from the artist.  However, this method will work with any deck (although it's harder when the pips don't have pictures); use your favorite.

The system described below is for an issue that the questioner would describe as "complicated"; one that touches on many aspects of their life.  For a straight-forward question/problem, I wouldn't do all this.

1) Shuffle the cards, while asking the Divine to speak through me to provide clear, insightful, inspiring, useful advice.
2) Part way through shuffling, ask the questioner to carefully formulate a question in their mind, and then blow it into the cards, the way you'd ask a pretty girl to blow luck into your dice before rolling.  I explain it to them just like that.  (Hermes taught me this trick.  It works very well.)
3) Shuffle the cards one more time, then ask the questioner to cut.
4) Deal one card.  Briefly describe the card's general meanings, and any special symbols that jump out at me.  Ask the questioner if that seems like a fair significator of their question. Remind them that it might not summarize the whole issue, but rather indicate a key "point of attack".   If they do not consent to the significator, ask them to tell me their question out loud, or as much of it as they feel comfortable.  Reshuffle the cards, then have them blow and cut.  Try again.  If it fails three times is a row, then I just apologize and quit.
5) Deal cards to the left, top, right, and bottom of the significator to represent the Earthy, Airy, Firey, and Watery aspects of the issue.
6) The Earth card generally represents home, family, and money, but sometimes also physical health.
7) The Air card is often career (especially for students, teachers, engineers, writers, and other mental types).  It can also be an indicator of what the person thinks about the situation.
8) The Fire card talks to a person's Will.  It's sometimes about sex.  For magicians, it's often about their magical practice.  For artists, this is almost always about their art.  If a person has a "calling", this is where you'll hear it.  
9) The Water card is about emotions.  In my experience, it's nearly always about a person's love life, but sometimes about their relationships with other people, or about other feelings.  I often get cards related to loneliness here.  Whether this is just me projecting my life onto other people or a deep problem in our society, I don't know, but it seems to me that a disturbing number of people ache with loneliness and purposelessness a lot of the time. (in my experience, which is overwhelmingly reading for people at a similar "stage of life" as I am.  Namely, 20s and 30s, single or with young families, usually early career or still "finding themselves").

The reason I do this broad elemental "overview" of what's going on with the person is that it helps me get the "lay of the land" of all the things going on related to the question, and can help bring to light the ACTUAL issue at play, which isn't always the one the person thought it was.

The questioner often wants to jump in to provide more details while reading these four cards.  I usually ask them to wait until I finish all four.  Otherwise, it's VERY hard to not try to cold read them, which screws it all up.  then you end up telling them what they want.expect to hear, which is almost never what they need to hear.  I also remind them that, so far, we're just investigating the issue as it stands, not looking for any advice on what to do about it or predictions about how things will play out.  Sometimes, it will be clear that they want to focus on one of the elements; often not the one that I would have suspected.  Sometimes the reading needs to touch more than one or all the corners.

If the reading is going to focus on one of the elements, then I move the 5-spot to somewhere that allows me to "build" out of that corner (sometimes that means spinning the whole 5-spot around).  I lay down cards one at a time, and build a narrative that explain what can be done about the issue in question.  If a card doesn't make sense to me, I ask for clarification (or confirmation, if it's surprising), and then pull another.  I keep going until I'm satisfied all is done.

I'd like more practice reading "from afar".  If you'd like a free reading, please comment below AND message me on facebook.


  1. Oh I'd love one! and also a second part for your Crucible post. :)

  2. Cool. Send me an email at academy23 at gmai