This post is for anyone who reads tarot for others, either professionally or casually.
This post is about some of the most difficult moments we encounter at the tarot table. That is, moments when we see our client’s grief, moments when we must suggest that our client’s perception of something may not be accurate or helpful, and moments when our client exposes an aspect of their personality or belief system that we ourselves find distasteful. There are certainly other difficult moments that might happen in a tarot reading, but we will leave those for another day.
Obviously, when dealing with many of these sorts of issues, a good tarot reader will strongly and firmly suggest counseling, therapy, or other mental health services. Very often we tarot readers are the first line of defense when it comes to emotional well-being. We can’t diagnose or treat our clients. We can help them see and normalize the fact that they might need treatment and encourage them to get it.
Holding Space for Grief
It is good and healing for readers to offer hopeful perspectives. Readers who see danger and despair at every turn and insist that their clients are in denial if they don’t see things this way can do real damage. At the same time, toxic positivity is pretty damaging, too. A good reader will not sugar-coat. However, a good reader will have difficult conversations with finesse and a delicate touch.
Very often, though, the most grievous things we see at the tarot table are not future potentials, but real tragedies which have already occurred. We may work with a client who has suffered a recent loss, or who has just received a devastating diagnosis.
A good example of a card that can let us know such a thing has occurred is the Five of Cups. This image often shows a person grieving over three spilt cups, when two remain standing. There are times this card can suggest a poor attitude, a victim mentality, or crying over spilt milk. Yet, over the years I have learned that when we see grief at the tarot table, whether in this card or others, we must acknowledge the pain rather than minimizing it. Accusing a person of being negative before we discover the circumstances is a newbie mistake no good tarot reader wants to make.
Some clients will be victims of their own spiritual bypassing and refuse to acknowledge their grief. When that happens, we can’t be pushy, but we can suggest that a time might come when they will need to experience their grief. Some of what we say in a reading may not be helpful initially. Sometimes pieces of a reading will stick with the client and be recalled at the right time, long after we ourselves have forgotten the reading.
Some clients will be holding on to a story of grief and loss from which they refuse to heal. In this case we need to acknowledge their pain before we offer strategies to help them move past it.
When clients are in real grief, we have to be careful to not minimize what they are feeling. When a loved one is recently deceased, we need to hold space for their pain and loss. We cannot offer comfort until we acknowledge how hard the process is. We cannot give clues for the way forward until we help them feel strong enough to walk that path. We cannot offer messages from the deceased without acknowledging that, while a mediumship experience is comforting, it is not the same as enjoying a meal in person with a loved one.
Many tarot readers are empaths. We must be able to experience a client’s grief with them without taking on so much that we impair ourselves, or let it stick with us after the reading is over.
Managing the energetic aspect of the reading is super important when the reading contains grief and sadness. We do that by having good psychic protection techniques in place throughout the reading process.
Holding Space for Truth
We see a lot of denial, anxiety, and fantasy at the tarot table. Many times, people come to us with a particular story. Over time I have learned to pull cards to check in on everything a client might tell me that could possibly be subjective. For example, ‘My boss hates me’, ‘My husband is a good man’, ‘I’m not very smart’, ‘I know this is the right relationship for me’, and so on.
Sometimes people build their entire life on a belief that turns out to be false. Sometimes they discover that belief is false in a tarot reading. When we are about to disturb the belief structure upon which a person’s life is currently built, we have to be very, very sure and very, very careful.
When we do this correctly the client ends up feeling free, empowered, and hopeful. When we humans lie to ourselves there is always a part of us that knows we are lying, even if it is deeply buried. For example, if my client believes her husband is a good man, but I see in the cards that he is behaving inappropriately in some way and the client confirms what I see, a golden opportunity presents itself.
“So, you and I both agree that you are abused in your marriage. If this is true, how does hanging on to the idea that your husband is ‘good’ help you?”
Once disabused of the story that her abuser is ‘good’, the client is free to decide how to best move forward. Then, we can pull cards on all the possibilities that are now accessible.
Imagine a client who believes himself to be less than intelligent. His understanding of his career and relationship possibilities are limited by that belief. The cards that you see in the reading tell you that your client is quite smart. The hard time he had in school was for reasons related to his environment, rather than his abilities. You can ask questions of the cards to help you build a case to your client that offers logical examples of his ability to learn and to process information. Now you and your client are free to explore new possibilities for his future.
The tarot techniques that work best in these situations involve asking many questions of the cards. Allow both logic and intuition to guide those questions. Use as many cards as you need in order to clearly find the information that will help you help your client best.
Holding Space for Growth
We don’t have to like all of our tarot clients. We don’t have to share the same political views, or the same taste in music or fashion. It is inevitable that we will find within some of our clients severe personality differences or character traits that we find distasteful.
It only makes sense to gently point out these areas of concern if you determine that they are negatively impacting your client’s own experience of their life.
For example, you might notice that your client is overly talkative and then discover they are having problems at work because of their communication style. At that point it might make sense to use the cards to explore why your client is so loquacious and to give them ideas on how to make changes.
Your client’s homophobic comments might understandably make you angry. Yet, it may not be helpful to enlighten them about your opinion of their belief system. However, you might see in the cards that their attitude is hurting them because it is hurting their relationship with a family member. Then, you might be able to pull some cards to help them find a different way to process what they have so far refused to understand. When you are able to do this, you can make a lifelong difference for an entire family.
We may not always like or enjoy our clients. Yet, we can hold them in compassion, and hold space to help them find a way to grow.
Very often, people seek tarot readings because they are going through difficulties. We tarot readers must be prepared to hold space for people who are not at their best. We need to be our best selves when others are at their worst. By doing so, we can offer the opportunity for healing, and a hopeful way forward.