Some time ago, an issue came up with a client that I think is quite common for tarot readers to experience, and also highlights the stereotypes and preconceived notions of what tarot readers do and are capable of.
The question from the client was: "Is my [deceased] mother hanging around me and is she trying to tell me something?"
I could cringe. But I don't. Actually, my first reaction is an aching sympathy for the lovely woman sitting with me. What a thing, after all, to feel like some sort of burden is unfinished with one's parent that after years and years of having crossed over, this child still feels the responsibility to satisfy or appease her parent.
And it's just as huge for me, as a reader, to satisfy the customer and somehow relieve that kind of burden from her if just a little bit. Turns out, this is the point where I have choices to make.
There's always a point where readers can decide either to take advantage of clients… or they can be honest and truthful and loyal to the client by putting the power of the question back in the hands of the client...
Because this is the point in the unfolding dramatic scene where the reader has the option to take the shortest, easiest route: throw a few cards down, and answer the question affirmatively or negatively—and by inference, steal all that power and authority that the client is flinging at us.
Let me tell you something… not only is that option dishonest, it's grossly hubristic. So many things wrong with that scenario.
To begin with, this client is literally begging to give all of her power away—first she wants to give it all to her long-deceased mother, as though her mother was an entity who was actively causing an affect upon the client's life and predicament. Secondly, she wants to give any remaining power away to me—the reader—as though I'm some shamanic magician able to thwart, or reverse her fortune, or at least calm the ghosts that are haunting her.
I do not throw any cards down at this point.
First we talk.
Turns out, this client was a middle child, with two siblings who by the sounds of it have plenty of issues of their own. This client never really had a great relationship with her mother—or any of her family members—because there was a lot of alcoholism rampant. The client spent years trying to remove herself from the environment, sometimes successfully, but also somehow always being coerced or guilted into coming back—often under the auspices of her mother begging for help in managing or rescuing the other children (her siblings). Now a mature woman herself with no children of her own—the client still seemed passive in her communications and interactions with those siblings, who still clung to her in their own complicated messes even in the absence of the mother who tried to bind them all together.
This is another scenario that many tarot card readers hear from clients all too often: familial ties that bind, even when the ropes are strangling people to death.
Again, this is huge. Lots of tarot readers would start hearing bells at this point… would start reaching for that prepared list of local resources for psychotherapeutic professionals, and thinking of ways to broach the topic of coping with traumatic stress and mental health repercussions (a topic that shouldn't, but often does conjure a lot of stigma in people's minds).
It would be completely fine to go that route--of recommending additional professional services. But I don't do that just yet...
And it's still not time to draw any cards. Instead I decide to confide some things off the clock. So I discretely press the stop button on my phone's time-keeper below the table. And then we start taking stock of the particular gifts that this client has offered to other people over the years:
…the Charity and Sacrifice she has committed to her family's sake—trying to give others some sort of security and peace-of-mind while she lived with the burden of their childishness and selfishness.
…somehow repeatedly having been taken advantage of because she's always been too willing to trust others (others who needed the chance to be trusted, but abused the privilege).
Then I somehow manage to convey this idea: That perhaps she came around to a tarot reader because she was looking for someone that could give her a gift. Frankly, I'm not sure I'm up to the gravity of that task—but, really, it's the concern of the moment every time we're about to read cards for someone, isn't it? So if she's willing, and able to accept something for herself… then let's focus on that. The gift that I have to offer, then, is… that the question gets to focus on the client.
Focusing the question on the client is not groundbreaking at all for a tarot reader—it should be second nature and standard practice. But it may be revelatory for the client…who isn't able to see past her need to always please and satisfy other people around herself.
Let's not ask about the deceased mother, who may or may not be looking over her shoulder in spectre fashion—it's not her mother's time for a reading...
Let's not ask whether the siblings are going to overshadow her peace of mind again with their trivial selfishness—we already virtually know the answer to that based on history...
Let's not focus on my abilities as a tarot reader—whether I can see dead people and convey their messages from the other side—this reading isn't about me...
Instead, let's ask a question FOR YOU that is ALL ABOUT YOU. Instead of giving all your power away to other people, let's put all the power in your hands today...
So I ask her, "If you were a queen in this lifetime, or for a day, or for this hour, what are the dreams that you would have for yourself? What are the treats and luxuries that you would want the world to pamper you with? Who are the subjects and people you would surround yourself with in your court? What are the decrees you would make to rule your kingdom wisely?
Realizing that those are four very distinct questions, it seems easy to build a spread from them. It is decided that we will call these things the client's "vestments" because they are the things that she holds and which adorn her with power in her royal stature—the items that represent and radiate her royal station: the orb, the scepter, the cloak, and the crown.
After the spread is drawn and its many facets and revelations discussed, it is, of course, up to the client to determine how long her rule as queen might last… Will it end at the closing of the reading? Or can she continue ruling her kingdom as she feels would be just?
* Scenarios, persons, and stories have been changed and/or embellished in this post to elicit a theoretical reading, and do not compromise the confidentiality of any specific client or clients.