NB: This post was written with the express permission of the querent.
Friday, June 30th, 2017, I was given the opportunity to read for the girls’ friend A—. It was a lovely experience. I had been told the Wednesday before that A— wanted a reading, which is my daughters’ code for “We want A— to have a reading.” Immediately after being told that, I began to see an older female in my mind whom I believe had been close to the young man. That was the impression that I received. For two days, she appeared in my mind to tell me how much she loved the young man. I was quite glad of it as I have recently experimented with spirit communication to questionable results. I hate questionable results.
This reading promised to be different, so when Friday came, I was quite enthusiastic. Not only did this chatty shadow of a woman show the promise of an interesting reading, but I do not really know this young man. (My oldest kids are almost twenty at this point; I don’t vet all their friends anymore.) Generally speaking, when my children’s friends have received readings from me in the past, the readings have been performed in the living room on the coffee table amid the din of teenage giggling and sideways glances. I am generally fine with this communal reading environment as it often eases other people into having readings who would not have thought to do it otherwise. The theory is sound: “If the fortune-teller man opens up the gates of Hell in this room full of friends, at least we will all be together in Perdition’s flames.”
This night, however, with the woman ready to speak, the environment seemed more intrusive. The four girls in the room, my two daughters and two other friends, were spectators of youthful curiosity rather than friendly concern. Previously, I had selected Crowley-Harris’ Thoth tarot (“the big guns”), and I gave the deck to A— so that he could choose his significator. After going through the entire deck, he chose only a single card with which he resonated, the Seven of Coins, Failure. I asked if he had read the cards as he had gone through them. He responded that he did not even notice that there were words on the cards. I smiled at his nervous and naïve honesty, but the girls howled. It was at this point, significator chosen and spirit primed, that I decided to move venues. A— and I went to the empty kitchen to finish the reading with loving, but definite instructions that we were not to be disturbed.
Over the course of many years, one thing that I have noticed is how accurate a person’s
choice of significator can be. When using any of the Rider-Waite-Smith family, she is certainly going to choose the Three of Swords, with its skewered heart, to represent her seemingly jinxed love life; however, when using a Marseille-type or Marseille-inspired deck, which I consider the Thoth to be, I am still struck by querents who choose non-illustrated pip cards for their significators. I tell those for whom I read to choose a card to which they feel drawn, and almost without fail, those pips are surprisingly accurate descriptions of the querents’ current situations or emotional states with regard to the reading. Alone now in the kitchen, I asked A— if he would like to change significators or if Failure–deceptively beautiful in Lady Harris’ mélange of purples—was appropriate. He agreed to keep it.
A— and I begin earnestly in the quiet of the kitchen. Keeping his significator to the side, I spread my reading cloth, laid his Seven of Coins slightly to the left, and shuffled the cards. Some books and various authorities on card reading will tell the reader to give the cards to the querent for shuffling “so that the querent’s vibrations can be on the cards” or some such nonsense. Not to sound selfish, but MY vibrations need to be on those cards so those cards can talk to me. Additionally, tarot cards are generally larger than regular playing cards…and, let’s just call it what it is, tarots are far more expensive than regular playing cards. I have tried to let others shuffle my cards, but given these factors, I get too nervous about people possibly mishandling expensive cards as they awkwardly shuffle their way into a nice game of 78-Card-Pick-Up.
Choosing the significator is what the querent gets to do. Period. So I shuffled the cards as I concentrated on A— himself, asking the cards as I shuffled to give me the information that I would need to perform the reading and give him some advice with which to move forward in his life. This is all I ever ask unless the querents ask specific questions, which they very often do not. The conversation usually goes something like this: “What issue would you like to discuss as we look at the cards?” “I don’t know…I just got up the courage to sit down, and now my mind is a blank.” I also keep in mind the type of spread I intend to use, in this case, a Celtic Cross variation.
Long ago, I read instructions which said something to the effect of laying out the ten cards of the cross face down and reading them as the cards are turned over. Occasionally, I will read one position at a time, but I never lay the cards down first when I do that. The reason is this: I read court cards either as other people or states of the querent’s mind, so I never read court cards alone. If I were to lay out ten cards face down, I wouldn’t know where the courts were. As I lay down every position, if a court card falls first, I lay another card atop the court to give me some context either for the relationship of that person to the querent or for the querent’s state of mind in relation to the situation indicated by the second card. If another court card is drawn, I keep going until a court card no longer shows. The most I have ever gotten is four court cards plus a context card. When that many court cards are lying next to each other, a reader can be sure that the querent should focus more on him or herself because there are many outside influences or many people vying for his or her time.
In the first position of the reading for A—, the card I laid atop the significator was the Queen of Swords. Since this is a court card, I laid another card beside the Queen: the Knight of Swords. Again, a court card, so I laid a third card: the Six of Cups, Pleasure. Often, I will stop at the first position and describe the situation. If the querent does not recognize the situation, I may reshuffle and begin again. In this case, I described the two people as I believed them to be: Swords personalities, together, whose pleasant experiences were based more in memory, in the past (the aforementioned Six of Cups). With a combination of stereotypical masculine terseness and tarot-virgin trepidation, he said only that he understood, so we continued. Things went along smoothly until we reached the fifth position, above the significator. I am often perplexed by the fifth position and usually read it as “other information.” Many books call that position “goals,” but having lived my life rather aimlessly, I don’t understand the word and how it relates, so I tend to read these cards simply as extra information. In this case, I decided that the purpose of these cards was to give A— his message. The first card was the Queen of Cups, whose veiled face and cup-nature was a lovely nod to the woman who had been communicating with me. Beside her was the Queen of Disks, whose physicality was a marked contrast to the emotional nature of the other queen.
I spoke to him of an older woman who gave me a grandmotherly or even great-grandmotherly feel. I told him that she had passed and wanted me to tell him how much she had loved him and how proud she was of him. He was “hers.” She wanted to remind him that he was not, as he perhaps believed, a “failure,” and related some things that she had called him. He said that he recognized her description immediately and the words she had used. I then asked if she had died when he was six or seven since she kept showing him to me at that age, but alas, he is a man, and she had only passed a year and a half ago. I believe that she was showing me how cute she thought he had been as a boy, but in any case, it was a delightful experience, and she seems to have been (and I suppose still is) a sweet lady. He also recognized the other queen, a former girlfriend. All in all, good to this point.
Positions 7, 8, and 9 were acknowledged and interpreted to my and the querent’s satisfaction, but the cards in the sixth and tenth positions did get my attention. The cards were the Six of Disks and the Three of Disks respectively. The cards were an interesting mirror of each other, and both were in positions of possible future. Since coins can represent possible jobs, I wanted to give the young man a sense of areas where he might succeed, especially given his rather telling significator. To give him some advice, I needed to know something about these cards, so I did something I have been learning to do as I have become more and more intimate with the cards: I asked for more information. I went “inside,” for lack of a better term. “What do these cards mean?” I asked myself. Almost immediately, I see cars and hear traffic. I said nothing. I know that I am not in my town, but am not sure where. Traffic is not a job…well, not his job, in any case. I relax a little bit and say to the cards, or to myself, or to the Universe, “No, more specific.” The view moves almost as if I am a drone hovering above a busy street, and my vision moves to a restaurant. The querent is young, but I don’t see him as the waiter-type. “No,” I thought. “More specific.” My view goes inside the restaurant. I see neon and wood and bottles. Bingo.
I say from nowhere: “A—, do you drink?”
“What?” he responds, embarrassed.
“I’m sorry… are you familiar with alcohol?”
“Yeah,” he offers timidly, “I might drank a little too much ever’ now and agin.” I laughed, and said, “I’m sorry. What I meant is, have you ever considered bartending as your career?” Finally, eyes open and interested, he says, “What?” I repeated that I see him working in a bar, and I wondered if he had ever considered it. “Holy crap, man,” he offers in his charmingly ridiculous drawl. “I was jus’ talkin’ about that, like, two days ago.” I was relieved. He was astounded. At that point, I had to ask him what he had recognized since he had been painfully silent during most of the twenty or so minutes that I had been talking. He never stopped me to tell me that I was wrong or off base, so I had simply kept going. He smiled and told me that he had dropped out of college and effectively failed a comprehensive military placement test twice, after which he was released from his military obligations. These were his failures and had been weighing heavily upon him. I told him that maybe they were not failures, but proof that he should do something else. I was an English teacher and am now in sales. I would also have failed a test that was not in one of my fields. He then told me about the woman, not a great-grandmother, but a great aunt who had just adored him and whom he recognized immediately from the language. He then mentioned the first position: the two swords people and the Six of Cups. His mother and her husband were in the process of getting a divorce, pleasant memories, not pleasure in the present. He admitted there was very little that I had said that had not been “spot on,” and I was certainly pleased to hear it.
I am forever learning to listen to the cards and to listen to myself. Trusting one’s self can be the hardest part of reading the Tarot, but I do find myself growing more and more comfortable getting into a certain reading mindset, remembering the sacred nature of the act. I can feel myself slide more and more effortlessly into that space, that rhythm. All movement—even when it feels backward—is progress. Thank you again, A—, for the opportunity to read for you.