Amongst the many myths and fables that surround tarot is the idea that, to receive a tarot reading, you must be “a believer”. Often, when reading at psychic house parties, I will hear about Uncle Joe, who really wants to experience a tarot reading, but is admittedly skeptical. Sometimes, the hostess will tell Uncle Joe that it simply can’t be done; that I can only read for those who believe.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am somewhat uncomfortable with the words “belief” and believer” when it comes to tarot. I love reading for people who love tarot. However, reading for people who call themselves “believers” can sometimes be tricky. Occasionally I suspect the word “believer” can denote not only someone who is open to the process of tarot reading, but often, someone who will take the message of the cards with the same literalism that fanatical fundamentalists use with scripture.
James Wells wrote a blog post about the difference between believing in tarot and using tarot. In it, he suggests that he doesn’t believe in his stove, but uses his stove to cook his food. For him, and for me, the same is true with tarot.
The fact is, I welcome the opportunity to read for someone who is skeptical about, or ignorant of, modern tarot reading practice.
I’m not sure how the idea of dividing potential tarot clients into two groups – “believers” and “skeptics”, first emerged. I am sure that sticking oneself into either category could be quite limiting. Between the two, I am often happier reading for the skeptics. Those who firmly identify themselves as “believers” sometimes leave their logic at the door. I am terrified that a prediction of a wonderful upcoming relationship might cause a believer to indiscriminately hook up with the first bum that comes along!
Often it is in the psychic party experience where we find ourselves reading for skeptics. That makes sense because those who wouldn’t venture to a reader’s workspace may, for fun, sit with a reader at a social event.
From a marketing perspective, this is a valuable point. If we professional readers pull new clients only from the group of people who are already bought in to tarot, we limit our reach significantly. Any time we read for someone who wouldn’t normally seek out a reading we have the potential of building brand-new business.
Recently I worked a party where a few skeptics were included amongst the open-minded seekers. My concern in working with skeptics is that they enjoy their experience and feel like it is money well-spent, same as with those who know and love the power of tarot. I must confess, I really thought two of these skeptical clients went away dissatisfied. Later on, I discovered from the hostess that they were both blown away by their readings.
In addition to the reminder that a client’s post-reading reaction is not always the best way to judge your success, this experience solidified for me a few truths about reading for skeptical people. While these are certainly generalizations and may not be true about every skeptical person who comes to your table, you may find these observations help you the next time you find yourself sitting across from a skeptic.
First, we need to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical of a tarot reading. Between psychic scam artists, well-intentioned but poorly-skilled amateurs, and people who are waiting for the spaceship to land, our field really can be choked with crazies.
If we can acknowledge that fact at the outset of a reading, we achieve two things. When we say, “It’s better to be skeptical than gullible” or “I’m glad you are skeptical because that means you are bringing your rational mind to the reading” we are disempowering any negative effect their doubt might have on our confidence. Secondly, when we tell them we are not bothered by their skepticism, the energetic distance they have tried to create with us is significantly diminished.
I think the reason that people say one can’t perform a tarot reading for a skeptical person is that the skepticism can shake the reader’s confidence.
That skepticism sometimes comes across as doubt and ridicule – energies we tarot readers have often faced from family and friends, and don’t necessary appreciate. We need to be careful to not let our skeptical clients trigger that negative reaction in us.
Worse, often skepticism causes clients to deny what we see, even when it’s true. That shakes our confidence even more.
For example, here’s what happened at the recent party.
Early in the reading, I said I saw a job change.
My client said no, neither a change to her current job, nor a new job, seemed possible or desirable.
I shrugged and moved on to talk about other cards. She was equally negative to the next things that came up in the cards, including a change to her household and a change to her husband’s job.
Then, she mentioned she was hoping for a promotion in her own job, and that would be her biggest question.
I said, “You mean like the job change I saw for you in the beginning of the reading that you denied?”
I said it with humor.
It was clear that her basic skepticism of the tarot process had caused her to say no rather than think about what I was saying and decide how it applied to her.
I was able to go back to the beginning, give her information about her upcoming promotion, and then continue on to tell her about the household changes (her adult daughter was moving back in) and her husband’s job change (his company was being sold).
She never apologized for misleading me, and never thanked me for the reading. It wasn’t until I spoke with the hostess that I discovered that her pale face and tight lips as she left the table did not come from anger.
Her reaction was surprise and fear. She was shocked at the efficacy of the tarot reading, and didn’t know how to integrate that experience into her world view.
Very often, we view skeptical clients as rude. They do sometimes come off that way. However, if we respond with understanding, confidence and humor, we can usually deliver a decent reading.
Over the years, skeptics, hecklers and non-believers have turned into some of my most loyal friends and clients.
Perhaps it’s not important for our clients to believe in the process of tarot reading, or in our tarot reading skills. What’s important is that we, as readers, have confidence in those things.