This past weekend, I was out with my best friend and some other friends. I had recently told my best friend (who is basically a sister to me) about my taking classes with a coven. Religion never really comes up in our discussions, as it doesn’t play a major part in our relationship, but she was curious and asked me about my beliefs and such. I mentioned that I read tarot and oracle cards, and offered to give her a reading sometime.
Her reaction surprised me somewhat. “I’m kinda scared, I don’t want to know the future like that.” She explained a little more, saying that she didn’t like the idea of cards being able to tell the future or that cards have power. I started to smile. I reassured her that most of the preconceptions she had about tarot are not entirely accurate.
It’s amazing to me sometimes how much stock a person can put into a tarot reading. The day before the conversation with my friend, I had helped my old Pagan Student Union on campus do a tarot reading event (and by helped, I mean I sat in the back and offered moral support, since I was ill). But I got to observe and watch as people lined up at the door and waited their turn, and I watched the hesitation, the uncertainty, and even hints of fear on their faces. Some of them clearly felt they were taking their lives in their hands almost, or felt as if we could tell them absolutes about their future. People seem to think that because a tarot reader can see a possible future it means that we can see the future in the cards, and that’s just not necessarily the truth.
From what I’ve learned (and I grant you, I’m only at about intermediate level at reading cards), a good tarot reader will acknowledge that the reading is good for only about 3 months out. 3 months. That’s how far a reading can “see” into the future before the future changes or branches off. The future is also not absolute. What people seem to forget when they get a reading is if they don’t like something they see in the cards, then they have the option to go try to change it. Now, some things are more difficult to change than others. But that doesn’t mean that if the tarot reading says you’re going to have a really bad breakup with your boyfriend that you have to have a really bad breakup. Armed with information, you can try to end it more amicably or even try to repair the relationship before it breaks. A tarot reading is not a certainty, just a likelihood.
I’ve been read by a professional, who was very good. She was accurate on everything she told me, but her reading also went only 3 months into the future. Everything after that was speculation on what might happen, and she stressed that fact when imparting that to me.
The fact that people react to tarot with either unthinking belief, fear, or outright denial is a result of a lack of education, lack of belief, or from superstition. It seems strange that people don’t know more about tarot, given all the information out there about tarot cards, but it’s true—most people still think that the Death card in a reading means they’ll die, that the Devil means they’re possessed or wicked, or that the Tower is complete physical destruction like a personal apocalypse.
I see it as my job to be reassuring during a reading. If a card like the Tower comes up, I’ll do my best to find any nugget of positive news that I can so that the person isn’t walking away with doom and gloom. I also take the time (if I have it, which usually I don’t at an event like the PSU event) to explain the cards, give a little more information so that the person understands why I’m saying what I’m saying. I also most definitely point out that my reading is only good for 3 months, if I’m reading the future. That doesn’t apply for the cards that look into the past or present, of course. Basically, I’m saying do as much as you can as a tarot reader to help the person you’re reading understand and not spread misinformation. The more accurate information there is out there, the better people will react and the more open they’ll be when around tarot or when discussing tarot.