On the morning of my cousin’s graduation party, I received the following text:
“Rosy has a request that you bring your tarot cards? if it’s not the right place and time we get it.”
It was not the right place. It was not the right time. But the fact that my family expressed an interest in my tarot hustle was enough to trump conditions that I’d normally never work under.
“I will absolutely bring them,” I responded. “That’s actually pretty cool.” I went to my tarot box and pulled out my deck. I was uneasy. These are upstanding Catholics, and this is an eighteen year old girl. What if I pull the Devil card? Death? What if she asks me something incredibly personal and I feel a responsibility to tell my aunt about it? What if she wants me to read publicly? How can I tailor my reading style to make sure she isn’t upset by the reading?
I decided that I’d wait for her to ask until I offered a reading. If she forgot, so be it–I could continue to live in that comfortable place where my family didn’t know that I was witchy and woo.
The first half of the party passed without any mention of tarot. I behaved as if I didn’t have my Centennial RWS nestled in silk in my purse. When the cake was cut, the mood shifted–people began to get restless, began collecting their effects into easily accessible piles. Soon, they’d depart. I looked over at Rosy. She was smiling and talking, viscerally thrilled to be moving into the next phase of her life. This is the perfect time for her to have her first reading, I thought. And this is the perfect opportunity for me to pass some wisdom and experience to someone I truly care about.
“So, you were interested in having a tarot reading?” I asked her. She grinned and sat by my side. I rummaged beneath the table and grabbed my deck. I gave it a shuffle. “What would you like to know?”
“How will my social life be in college?”
I laid a five-card spread. As they always seem to do, the perfect cards appeared in the perfect positions. I looked at her to make sure she was ready, and I began.
I gave a high-energy, light-hearted reading. I peppered in bits of my own experience to give form and shape to my interpretation. I let her body language and expression set the tone–when she looked concerned, I shifted my language and approach to make her more comfortable. When she was excited, I matched that excitement and enthusiasm to let her know that I was with her 100 percent. When the reading was over, she hugged me and thanked me and bounded off. I slipped my cards beneath the table, hoping everyone had been too busy to notice. When my older cousin sidled up to me and took a seat, I prepared myself to be mocked. “Can you do a reading for me?” She asked. I exhaled.
“Yes,” I replied. “I can.”
In the world of online tarot, readings are done with no witness. No one’s craning over the cards and reacting with concerned glances. There’s no “that’s wrong”, or “are your serious?”, or “that is so crazy!” in the midst of it. There’s no body language to tell us when a client is feeling uncomfortable, angry, vulnerable, or elated. The distance we have as online readers can help us read the cards more honestly and more in line with our ethical policies and practices. But reading for a client face-to-face can teach us the immense gravity that a reading has on a querent, can put us in tune with the fragility and flexibility of human emotion. Holding space for another is a scared act and it carries with it enormous responsibility. When that soul is present beside you, its energies ripple into your field and affects you. Placed in the spotlight, you begin to scrutinize yourself. Therefore the nervousness. Therefore the reticence. Therefore the sensitivity.
My experience with my cousins was enlightening for a number of reasons, but the most important was that reading tarot–whether in person or online–is an act of love. It is a pledge of service. It is a promise to cradle tenderly and shed a beacon of light on the darkness. It is a risk you take for you and your querent, and as long as the desire to guide burns hotly in your heart, the need to create a safe space to provide that guidance is tantamount. Likewise, you must create a safe space for yourself–a space where it’s okay to be vulnerable, be human, to care.
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