Not every professional tarotist considers themself an entertainer. Tarot work can happen in a variety of venues, and with many different goals.
Over the past two and a half decades I have kept my own tarot career as varied as possible. I love deep, personal, introspective readings. I also love entertaining with tarot.
What’s amazing is that, even when the goal of your particular tarot gig is entertainment, there can still be enlightenment and insight each time you pull a card.
What is tarot performance, versus tarot reading? Tarot performance can include stage-work, that is, doing readings on a stage in a gallery setting. Tarot performance can include doing quick live readings for callers on radio and television. Street readers and festival readers are always “on stage”. Tarot performance can also include working the cattle call at a corporate party with enough attitude that people gather around your table to watch, and be part of, the show.
I am sure that some tarotists reading this are already cringing. Because there is so much fraud and chicanery associated with tarot and psychic work, many readers avoid thinking about their showmanship. They are afraid that developing a good stage presence might be too similar to those who use cheap tricks to take advantage of gullible people, or those who simply don a spectacular costume and give obviously fake readings in a party setting.
I’ve had some occasion to mull over this topic of tarot performance recently. I started 2016 with a very special Psychic Gallery performance in a Unity Church. Unlike tarot stage shows I’ve done in nightclubs, this required a very delicate balance. On one hand, I had to be entertaining enough to keep people’s attention for the two-hour performance. On the other hand, these were spiritual people who were there, not for an entertaining evening out, but in hope of receiving life-changing oracular information.
Let’s contrast that with the gig I did Wednesday night. Like most tarot performers, I occasionally work with talent agencies and event production companies to provide entertainment at corporate functions and large family parties.
This was an employee party as part of a sales seminar. The party had a circus theme. There were jugglers, carnival music, a strong man, and three tarot readers. The other two readers seemed a bit bewildered at the gig. Our clients for the evening were primarily men who had no interest in divination, tarot reading or spirituality. These are people who would never typically have readings, or find value in the process.
My fellow readers certainly gave their share of readings over the evening, but a crowd of people gathered around my table. What was the difference? In the corporate party setting, I do quick, hard-hitting readings, but I do them with a great deal of showmanship. I turn those who try to heckle me into my biggest supporters. I say true things about my sitter loudly enough that his colleagues can hear. It’s all in good fun, and it is fun.
At the same time, I am able to give real advice and insight to those who might not have been able to hear it before I developed that rapport with them.
I think, among some tarotists, there is erroneous belief that tarot reading can’t be both entertaining and deep, or that a reader with showmanship is likely to lack substance.
I encourage my students to develop their stage presence as well as their intuition and card understanding. Here are three simple exercises that can help you find your inner star for the next time you find an opportunity to take tarot to a stage.
1. Practice giving deep, involved one-card readings. The more information you can quickly pull from one card, the more easily you will be able to read in performance mode.
2. Learn ways to interpret the cards in the context of personality. Nothing is more entertaining than having one’s personality accurately described by a stranger in front of one’s friends.
3. Learn to pick out the most important points. Practice by using a large spread, but giving your interpretation of that spread in under three minutes.
Whether performance tarot is happening on a stage, on a street corner or festival, on an FM radio morning show or at a party, it will always have a few things in common. Performance tarot will highlight your personality, and your ability to immediately connect with people. Performance tarot will utilize your ability to read the cards quickly and accurately. Performance tarot will call in your intuition, and allow Spirit to speak through you in ways you might not have expected. Finally, performance tarot will disarm your audience with entertainment, and then astound them with your ability to speak their truth.
Performance tarot isn’t for every reader, but if you think it may be for you, don’t be afraid to use these exercises to help develop your performance tarot skills.