Saturday, 7 May 2016

Give Your Sweet Tarot Brain a Rest!

There’s so much information out there on tarot. Tarot history, different traditions, approaches to ethics, additional divination tools, reversals/no reversals, intuitive/traditional, esoteric beliefs/none, counselling approaches, jungian theory.....the list goes on. And on. Books, books, books! Blogs, blogs blogs! Podcasts! Workshops! Youtube videos! Follow this reader on Twitter! Get that newsletter weekly from another reader! 

Trying to take in every idea and approach that's out there can be really, really exhausting.

Now, to lay my cards on the table : I’m a professional tarot reader. I know nothing about the Thoth. I don’t read reversals. I personally find no useful link between astrology and tarot (and I promise you that I tried). Besides the occasional celtic cross, I have no regular spreads. I design each spread for each client based on their question, and then I never go back to it. I don’t meditate. I don't own some of the major 'classic' books on tarot. I don’t even have a solid belief in what is actually happening when I read the cards. Is it spiritual, psychological? I’m interested, but for the large part I just don’t care all that much. Tarot works, and that’s enough for me.  

Want to know something else? I get extremely positive and encouraging feedback from my clients.

I do have a love for what is largely considered to be the 'system' of the tarot - the generally accepted Major Arcana meanings, the elements, basic numerical associations etc. I’ve lost count of the amount of tarot books I’ve read, and I’ve immersed myself in blogs, videos, podcasts, you name it - for hours, weeks, months, years. I don't, however, have any tarot 'Bibles". I dip into books, falling in love with some chapters, and occasionally wanting to throw the book across the room when I read other chapters. If you love something as much as we readers love tarot, it’s hard not to want to read a lot about it isn’t it? But blimey, it can get messy.

(Pic : "My personal approach to tarot is to dance with an intuitive, agile cat before each reading, before releasing a deep breath and meditating to a rare Mama Cass 12" record. Once you try this, you'll find that your readings become so much more insightful and you'll wonder what on earth you were doing for all of those years!!")

Recently I became stressed out by all of the literature I was reading, the podcasts I was listening to and the blogs I was reading (okay, I'm still reading a lot of tarot blogs). The hardcore views of certain tarot readers chipped at my confidence and made me feel inadequate; it wasn't helpful. In my view, the best teachers should always encourage you to find your own approach by offering you suggestions, whilst owning those suggestions as  personal preferences (please note I’m talking about reading styles here - good ethics with clients is non negotiable!). If I hear one more tarot reader proclaiming that not reading reversals is “stupid”, I will scream. Who cares if my cards sit upside down or not? It's not how your cards are sitting that's important darling, it's how you are reading them. If reversals help you read more deeply, that's great. Sometimes we study certain things (like I studied reversals), and we choose to reject them. Sometimes we choose not to study certain things (like I choose not to study the Thoth) because we know from the outset that they won’t inspire us. We know to trust our intuition with our readings, so why shouldn’t we trust it when exploring different decks and approaches? If your one and only deck is the Hello Kitty and you have no interest in expanding on that, then good for you. 

(Pics : “The Marseille is the only real tarot!”, “The Rider Waite Smith is the only deck you'll ever need!”, “The Hello Kitty has the richest, deepest symbolism that will stimulate the most intuitive of intuitives!”)

No single, solid approach proposed by any ‘expert’ fits the bill for me.  A while back, every time I thought I’d found my ‘one true tarot master’, they would then proclaim something that pissed me off. That, right there, is the nature of the human being; nobody has all of the answers. Tarot is not mathematics. There is no one, superior approach to reading. I blend a bit of this, a bit of that, and a whole dose of my own approach (which is always changing). One reading can be fairly traditional (that good old celtic cross eh?), and the next might pay no attention to the generally accepted meanings at all, lining up the cards and reading them as one large image, like I've never heard of the tarot before in my life. You can read the cards however you like!

I love both the Rider Waite Smith and Marseille traditions, but I don’t think that any one approach is superior to the other. Blending them together into a spread is fabulous, yet I only seem to read a ‘one versus the other’ viewpoint in books and blogs, and it’s tiresome. Tarot is largely illogical; that’s why I find the fact that it works so fascinating. ‘Logic’ as a 24/7 thing, at times, simply fails us. Why should our approach to tarot be rigid and logical when that’s exactly what we’re trying to dismiss when we read the cards? How can anyone claim that their way is the best way? Doing what feels right for us as individual readers is the only thing that will consistently work. For you, that might mean only using the celtic cross with the Rider Waite Smith deck. That’s amazing. That’s your thing, and I bet you’ll still be doing that differently and uniquely from the next person who uses the RWS and the celtic cross. Don’t let any tarot snob tell you otherwise.

(Pic : Okay, posting Edvard Munch's The Scream is a bit of a lazy and obvious way to capture feelings of frustration. It's good though, innit?)

The Tarot de Marseille and other older decks didn’t come with any guidebook. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn't learn things from tarot teachers and authors - this is not my point. Studying other people’s approaches has helped me to decide what works for me, and what doesn’t. Other people’s ideas (which are often inspired by years of work and study) can help you to take huge short cuts down roads which you might have been travelling already, and they can offer amazing ideas that you might never have come across otherwise. 

If, however, you’re getting to the point where reading so many opposing ideas are starting to stress you out, take my advice and put the books down, get your head back into your other interests for a while, and just enjoy your cards. It’s true that with tarot, you never stop learning. But looking to someone else constantly to get in touch with your own style is a bit like asking someone else what you need to do to become the real you, and any LGBT+ person will tell you how that approach desperately fails. Only you have that answer. Be inspired by others, but don't follow in their footsteps. If it feels messy, then rip it up and start again. The pieces that are left on the floor after a good tidy are the only pieces that you need to keep. 

Love Ste / The Tarot Cat xxx

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!  You can visit my main website here. Miaow x


  1. Yes! There is so much available in terms of intellectual tarot material - much more than when I first started out in the dark ages prior to social media. It's all good stuff, but none of it is necessary to conducting great readings - except maybe the part about preparing for readings by dancing with a cat.

    1. Thanks Christiana, really appreciate you dropping by and saying so! It's a double edged sword isn't it (although personally I do hope there's someone who dances with cats before their readings, I'd book them!)