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Recently a student and I were discussing ways to begin a tarot reading. I’m not talking about invocation or creating sacred space. I’m talking about the very first thing you say to your querent after you begin the divination.

Some of us begin divination looking at only one card. Others prefer to take in an entire spread before speaking. Regardless of reading style, we all must begin the reading somewhere.

When musing about professional tarot reading, one of the things that always strikes me is that our job is impossible to prepare for. Sure, we can rest, we can shuffle, we can put on a pretty dress. Yet there is never anything to prepare us for what might come up in a reading, and we should never try to anticipate how a reading will go.

Regardless of what we know about the cards, despite how psychic we may be, at the beginning of every reading we know nothing, and we have to say something.

Some readers simply begin with a description of the first card laid out and proceed in a card-by-card fashion. Some clients prefer this method, and sometimes the cards that appear in the spread beg to be read that way.

While card-by-card reading isn’t my favorite technique, I firmly believe that every reader should be able to give a great card-by-card reading. The benefit of the card-by-card technique is you always start with the first card, so you always have a clue about what your opening line will be.

The first sentence in an oracular session is important, I think. That first statement can put the client at ease or make your client more nervous. That first sentence can strengthen the energetic connection between you and your client or cause the client to resist connecting with you.

The reason I don’t love card-by-card reading is that it limits what my opening line will be. My favorite way to open a reading, and the way that feels most authentic to me, is to lay out the opening spread and take in the cards, and the energy, for a moment.

This can be a terrifying moment, because it is an unpredictable blank space that we are under pressure to fill. Yet this is also a moment full of magick, and full of promise.

If we can embrace that blank space without fear and open ourselves to the Universal wisdom that flows through the cards, and through us, we will find the best way to open the reading, every time.

Sometimes I begin with a laundry list of things I see going on, in no order of importance. Sometimes there is a specific department of life that seems amiss. Sometimes there is a general energy that comes off the spread, and that is where I start.

I think the important points are these. First, the way we begin a reading affects the energy of the entire session. Second, we need to have in our toolbox a variety of techniques for opening a reading. Third, there is immense pressure in those first moments to say the thing that will create the best energy for the reading to proceed. We do that best when we welcome the scary blank space and trust our intuition and the cards to fill that blank space with wisdom.