There are times when a tarot reading can feel mighty disappointing. Perhaps we wanted the bright flash of new information, or hope from interesting places. Why is a reading telling us what we already know? Why might we need to hear a confirmation of what we know is true? Why are we getting reruns when we want a sneak peak on what’s to come?
What is going on here and why does it matter? And, why might we feel let-down when this phenomenon occurs? What is going on with tarot and within ourselves that might feel like we have been had?
First, note that a reader telling you things you can instantly confirm (while boring) is the mark of a good reader. It takes far more skill for a reader to confirm what we know than it is to make up some malarkey about what may or may not happen 5 years from now.
It is frighteningly easy to give predictions in the long term that are impossible to verify. While the sitter is waiting for a husband with a first letter of “J” to show up 4 years from now the sitter will be long gone in most cases.
However, a reader who is talking about immediate issues: the micromanaging boss, the still living-at-home adult child, the husband who has been distant — these things, while they may be “what I already know” can be instantly confirmed for accuracy. Recapping known and salient information takes far more skill while illustrating that the tarot is in fact speaking to the sitter’s life and not just making up a bunch of baloney.
Secondly, there could be a mismatch between expectations and the experience being offered by the reader.
Sometimes a “what I already know” experience means that the expectations of the sitter are different from the type of reader they have hired to conduct the session.
Historically, there has been an expectation for a showman style of psychic experiences. People have been trained to expect the ‘Big Reveal’, “OMG how did she know that?!” If we have an expectation that this style is the norm, that we’d be wow’d with information about the mystery of our lives, then a reader who is verifying known information may not live up to expectation. Does that mean the reader is bad or perhaps just a bad fit for what the sitter wanted?
“Don’t tell me about the fact that I have not dated for five years, when will I get married, though?!” We might expect to be told about a future date while the reader is confirming known information. Is tarot just for future predictions, or can we allow that it is looking at a person or a situation more holistically? Often, this has to do with the reader’s style and approach to sessions.
It is important to research what the tarot reader does and how she does it. Read her reviews; what do they say about her reading and intuitive style, these are often clues to see if her style is a match. Just like with any other service practitioner, it is important to find out if the provider will meet our base expectations before we buy.
Can that idea just die, please?
There is an oft-repeated drumbeat in the tarot community that goes like this: “You shouldn’t charge for your gifts.” The reasoning behind this statement varies but it usually boils down to two arguments:
The first is spiritual in nature. The idea is that if you have been given the spiritual gift of reading tarot, then you should not monetize it. Your tarot reading should be freely given because your spiritual ability has been freely given to you.
The second argument usually has to do with accessibility. Many readers find it a hard square being caring healer with a pay wall.
I am going to respond to both.
The Spiritual Argument
No one really knows where this whole ‘you shouldn’t charge for your gifts’ thing comes from. But I suspect that it has Judeo-Christian origins. Jesus walked into church one day and cast out the money changers. He made it clear that commerce and spiritual activity are kept separate.
Most churches are free to attend and there is typically a legacy of charitable works for the poor. That being said, I don’t know any full time religious figure that doesn’t get paid. While nuns take a vow of poverty, they are also fed, clothed, have generous health insurance plans, and are taken care of in their retirement years. Same goes for Rabbis, Priests, Imans, and Buddist monks. By tithe, charity, food in a begging bowl, or by contributions all of these people who do spiritual work are paid. They should be paid. They should be taken care of as they care for others. To expect that a spiritual worker just labor for free seems like we don’t really want them to be taken care of in. The days of Manna falling from Heaven ended a long time ago.
Lets talk about the “gifts” aspect of the argument. Say that you are an incredible psychic. You are able to find buried treasure and speak the name of future kings. But what makes you different than having the gift of mathematical ability, or the gift of a great literary mind? What if your gift is that you kick a ball really well? Do we not as a society pay people who have these varied talents? Then why would those who have an ephemeral ability be any different?
Why do we shroud intuitive abilities behind a wall of superstition and rules that actually binds our hands from serving more people?
Here is the fear: that if you do monetize your intuitive talents, then some force (you know the Force out there, somewhere) will take it away from you. Where does this superstition come from? I am not sure, but it is old. And it isn’t true. It is just another random old superstition that isn’t based on anything real, or even helpful. It is operating from a (usually) uninformed and un-examined belief that the Universe has some kind of score card wherein some abilities are ok to charge for, but not these.
I ask you, why?
The second argument usually comes from people who feel squeamish about charging money for their services. Often, they have a background in education or nursing where they were not experiencing the direct transaction of money for their efforts.
They taught (or took blood pressure or whatever) people and those people were helped but almost mystically they saw a deposit in their bank account every two weeks. They often have a disconnect with the economic machine underpinning all of that to make it happen.
Let me just add that I know that person well, because I was once that person.
This lovely person who decides to build a tarot business feels at odds with charging people directly. The guilt is usually tied to underlying and often un-examined feelings around money, access and privilege. They assuage that guilt by creating systems such as sliding scale payments, or charging so low that they cannot support themselves with the work. They don’t want to “read for rich people.” They want to be a friend and helper to all.
This sentiment does not square well, however, if you are trying to become a full time reader so it boils down to this essential question: Do you want your readings to financially support you, or do you want your readings to be charitable contributions? Of course there are shades of nuance here but this is essentially a philosophical reflection. It is challenging to hold both arguments and make them work. Here is why:
As a self-employed person I have to ensure that each reading is priced so that I am able to pay my bills, my health insurance and my retirement contributions in addition to the business expenses that go into running a business. Oh, also I pay twice the amount of taxes, yay self-employment!
While I may only be paid for the actual hour I am reading, it has to be enough to cover all the other things that I am doing to keep the business afloat (writing this article, bookkeeping, emails, newsletters, class creation and so on). This is a different economic standpoint and often one not understood by people in muggle (your standard wage earning) jobs. The economics of direct service self-employment looks nothing like a salary or even an hourly wage earners.
So every month I need a minimum amount to keep my business and my life afloat. But also, (caveat here-every reader is different) I have a finite number of reading sessions in me each week. Once I cross over that number my accuracy, compassion, and insightfulness begin to tank. I do not want to give bad readings because I am exhausted so I have to throttle the amount of readings I can do.
Therefore, it is a dance between what I am physically capable of, what I need to live, and business costs. These calculations directly inform what I charge in an hour and also how many hours I will schedule in a week.
If I add sliding scale payments that essentially means that I will make wealthier people pay a higher amount to cover the lower cost of the person who cannot. Or, I have to read for more hours to make up for discounted sessions.
Honestly, I do not feel comfortable being the person who makes that economic determination for others. I do not want to politicize my work in this way.
Because I only have a finite amount of readings in a week I need all of them to pay my bills. But charitable contributions I do give. I give financially monthly to nonprofits that do work that I believe in. I volunteer for a local wildlife rehabilitation center and I also volunteer weekly for Meals of Wheels. I volunteer in ways that allow me to give back, don’t contribute to reader burn-out, and as a bonus, I gain new perspectives because I am giving in different ways. I am only able to give like this because of the career I have. Just like anyone else who has a muggle job and volunteers in their spare time.
I think there is no real direct correlation between your special aptitudes and those being the aptitudes you need to give away. In fact, the time you spend volunteering by using skill sets in other areas will only enhance what you have monetized. I am a better reader when I spend some time outside of the tarot booth doing other things that feed my heart and help others.
There is more than one way to give.
In conclusion, I think it is such a beautiful sentiment in the tarot and intuitive communities that so many struggle with the idea of monetizing their time and capabilities. We are labeled as flim-flam con artists and people of the worse repute when in actuality, most of us want to give and be of service.
I think this is the right problem to have because it speaks to an underlying ethical and moral code that is needed in this world. But, I also think there are ways to examine how we want to read, who we want to read for, and whether we actually want to make a living doing it.
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“Yeah, but when is he going to come? What month?” She breathed as we poured over her cards. Admittedly, the prediction looked good. Knight of Cups was galloping into the Sun while Ace of Cups and 2 of Cups danced around him. This is what I call a home run reading.
My client had been single for years. Together, we built a relationship as we read past the detritus of bad men through her 20’s to finally land at the doorway to her 30’s. “Can you tell me anything more about him?”
The cards were decidedly mum on the details, “No, I am sorry, I cannot see anything other than what we already covered.”
“Do you know how I will meet him?” she asked, anxiety beginning to build. I took a long, slow breath, “Again, there is no more information besides what is here, yet, it looks like your drought will come to an end and something loving is coming your way.”
About a year later she returned. She was still single. She had forgotten all of the details that the reading included about her: start getting out more, go online, stop fixating on that married coworker, work on your self worth, stop texting the toxic ex. She had just zeroed in on what she wanted to hear. The one piece of information that would make her feel better and not all of the attendant pieces of data that would lead to that very future becoming possible.
So why do people do this? Why do people want the date on the calendar, the full name, the exact and excruciating details without any thought about their place in making them?
In a word: anxiety.
When I get a client that overly fixates on the ‘final and complete answer’, when they are intolerant of ambiguity, grey-area, when they forget about their part in this, then I know it is anxiety talking and not really them.
But even when anxiety is presenting: spitting out rapid-fast questions one after the other in a frenzied pace, and looking at me expectantly; It is not my job to indulge their anxiety.
Tarot can be in fact be dangerous if placed in the wrong hands. It can be commandeered to act as a ritual for anxiety reduction which then just reinforces the pattern. We can see this whenever we have the urge to read over and over again about the same question, or if we feel like we need to see just one more psychic for a problem on our minds. If we allow anxiety to take over, tarot readings can in fact exacerbate rather than relieve.
Anxiety reduction rituals by their very nature increase the anxiety cycle.
Underlying belief: “I fear being alone.” (usually some trauma event where abandonment was in play)
Triggering Event: “He broke up with me.”
Anxiety is provoked: Intense discomfort, emotional chaos, i.e. the freak out. “I will always be alone. No one wants me.” etc.
Introduce a Ritual: Get a tarot reading, “Will he come back?”
Reading says yes- anxiety is reduced. Reading says no- get another reading.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If we use tarot to speak to the fears presented by anxiety: the what, the who, the how, the why, and we do not use tarot to target the underlying belief, (so we can begin dismantling the anxiety cycle) we as readers are inadvertently making things worse.
And I am not here to make things worse.
But, I will play the difficult role of not catering to the temper tantrum 5 year old which is the anxiety presenting. My job is to resist the desires of anxiety so we can speak to the wisdom below. I work to dismantle the underlying belief-set and do readings that open-up the trauma that started all this in the first place.
So for you readers out there, when you get that tough client who is demanding, sharp and full of clearly unattainable expectations, I ask you to see that as the anxiety. That is the fear and pain from something deeper. Breathe into the difficulty, and dive deep. You don’t have to indulge them. In fact, it is better if you do not.
For you clients out there, be deeply suspicious of readers who are telling you what you want to hear. The walk in reader who doesn’t push back at all but redirects the problem to something outside of your control (curse, past life work, $500 candles, whatever) they are using YOUR anxiety as a manipulative tool to part you from your coin. Don’t give in to the discomfort that anxiety is forcing on you, sit with the discomfort, allow a good reader to take you on a journey that, if you do, can honestly shift your life towards what you actually want by giving you the tools you need to change yourself.
The other day I got an email from my love lorn client. It is her in a white dress with her family and friends around her. Her knight had indeed come, after she made the changes and was patient. And she is happier than any prediction I could have given her. But of course we know that the happy ending is rare. What we can get to are happy moments in a river of a life meant to be challenged, to learn lessons, and to evolve.
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