When Common Wisdom Has No Place at the Tarot Table
I am a very busy professional tarot reader. This means that, in any given week, I have a unique view into what is happening on the planet.
It’s amazing how often personal life events seem to trend. One week, many people I talk to, from all over the world, are dealing with bosses who bully them. The next week, it seems as if everyone is getting laid off. Some weeks, no one seems to be able to make a romantic connection. Other times, everyone is discussing wedding colors and guest lists.
That personal events are mirrored by so many people across the world in short time periods is evidence to me of planetary energies that affect us all, whether they be angelic influence, astrology, social media, or some combination thereof.
As a tarot reader, it is very important that I not let one person’s story influence someone else’s reading. Just because Stephanie, Martha and Ruth all met great guys this week doesn’t necessarily mean that Karen will be equally lucky. Whatever energy seems to be prevalent, each person remains unique and all things remain equally possible. When we step into the process of divination, it is those possibilities we seek, not the trends we identified earlier in the week.
The same thing is true with the history of particular clients. That I have been reading for some people for more than twenty years can be both a help and a hindrance as I try to keep readings fresh, relevant and accurate.
Because I know my longstanding clients well, I can point out patterns, celebrate growth and warn against repeated mistakes. At the same time, I have to be very careful to assume nothing based on my clients’ history. Just because Samantha’s last three husbands have been alcoholics does not mean that she couldn’t meet a decent social drinker in a bar and have a happy relationship with him.
Likewise, It’s a hazard for anyone who gives professional or dating advice to become stuck in idioms and common wisdom. I find part of my job is getting clients unstuck from oft-repeated beliefs and woke to all that can actually be true. I also find that many of my tarot-reading peers are equally stuck in old-school beliefs about jobs and relationships.
For instance, how often have your heard, thought or said the following things?
No one wants to hire older workers.
Once a cheater, always a cheater.
A man won’t respect a woman who makes the first move.
We all hear these sorts of common wisdom idioms. Sometimes, they are based in some sort of truth. However, these sorts of expressions and beliefs have little place at the tarot table.
It took me a long time to learn this hard truth.
When I first started my tarot career, a quarter-century ago (yikes!), I subscribed to some basic beliefs, including:
It is always right to leave an abusive relationship immediately.
A person with a history of substance abuse must be completely sober to be healthy.
A marriage requires love to be successful.
Sometimes, those beliefs would come out in readings, even when those beliefs might not have been completely supported by the cards.
Very quickly, I learned to temper and silence my own beliefs, and instead trust the process of intuition and interpretation that is tarot reading is.
The truth is, regardless of trends and commonalities, every person is unique, every situation is different, and every reading is unexampled.
Most importantly, every tarot client has the right to an actual reading, not a parroting of beliefs and assumptions.
When we tarot pros get together to talk shop, either in person or online, we often speak of specific cards and situations by saying “I always say ________ when I see this card.” Or, “In a situation like ________, I usually tell my clients ________.”
While it is necessary for us all to have some wisdom on tap in our memory banks, I think we need to avoid “always” or “usually” saying something in readings.
There is a place for favorite quotations and meaningful metaphors in a tarot reading, of course. When we find ourselves needing to explain a card or a concept to a client, sharing a nugget of conventional wisdom can help illustrate our point.
My own late mother often participates in readings this way. Sometimes something she used to say really works to drive home a concept.
The problem comes when we say something by rote or opinion, rather than as the oracles we are.
Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin, in their brilliant “Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot”, say that “The oracular moment is sacrosanct”.
If there is one piece of wisdom we should always remember and repeat often, it is that.
The fact that cards have classic meanings but unique interpretations makes tarot teaching and learning a challenge.
We must learn, and teach others, to allow the cards to speak within that oracular moment, and we must be able to listen and convey their messages without filtering those messages through our own beliefs.
We do this best when we are open to the voice of the Universe, rather than bogged down with common wisdom and limiting beliefs.