The Different Types of Tarot Readers

The Medieval Scapini Tarot
The Medieval Scapini Tarot

Lumping every professional tarot reader into a single category is not helpful. If you’re seeking out the services of a professional tarot reader, think about what kind of professional you’re looking for. Based on my experiences and observations, here are the different types I’ve seen:


When you think of the traditional practice of tarot reading, you’ll think of the Psychic, the Intuitive, the Empathic, or even the Holistic Reader (the Holistic may be straddling the line between Traditional and Modern–more on that later).

Each one brings a specific style and approach to the practice.

Psychic Tarot Reader. I don’t know what “psychic” means so I’m going to go fast and loose with the term. Some are self-proclaimed psychics and some have been called psychic so often by their clients that they end up reluctantly accepting the term in their title. The Psychic Tarot Reader is someone who, independent of the tarot cards, possesses the ability to see the forking paths we take, past, present, and future. They are able to, with remarkable accuracy, gauge people’s paths into the future and so, in that specific sense, seem to have the ability to see the future. In the alternative, they might be one who has a knack for communicating with other-worldly (so-called supernatural) spirits. Physiologically from birth, these readers have a particular gift, though that gift can be trained and improved (or suppressed). Now, put a deck of tarot cards in their hands and something magical, well, psychic, happens. My only concern with Psychic Tarot Readers is they make up about 1% of tarot readers, if even that, and so from the standpoint of a lay person, differentiating between a legitimate Psychic Tarot Reader and a charlatan is not easy.

Intuitive Tarot Reader. The Intuitive Tarot Reader is also someone who possesses a remarkable gift, though it is a bit different from being psychic. The Intuitive Tarot Reader has this uncanny ability to pinpoint the truth. From somewhere hardly rational, they can help you separate fact from fiction in absolutely the most rational sense. Intuitive Readers are like Swords: they cut away at all the irrelevant underbrush and help clear the path for you toward understanding.

Empathic Tarot Reader. If the Intuitive is someone who can make a beeline for the truth in any situation, the Empathic Tarot Reader is someone who feels exactly what you feel, who can sense energies in an environment and extract accurate emotional data from those energies. Since emotions are our truths, what the Empathic and the Intuitive do aren’t terribly different. They get to the same destination through different means. Empathic Readers are like the Cups (or Chalices). Empathics are incredible spiritual counselors. (That, however, should be distinguished from licensed counselors.) Empathics feel what you feel and because of that, understand you in a way no one else seems to understand you. That mutual sense of understanding can be cathartic and validating and just what was needed to help you move onward.

Holistic Tarot Reader. The Holistic Tarot Reader incorporates other practices with tarot to provide, well, a holistic experience. They’ll bring in numerology and astrology and runes and after the tarot reading, maybe draw an oracle card, or consult the I Ching. They have a sense of what incense can stimulate what, what gemstones and crystals amplify what energies, and generally draw from an expansive body of learned knowledge to integrate with the reading. In terms of how they read cards, they consider the context of the tarot signs and symbols, the esoteric knowledge that such imagery reference, and apply metaphors and archetypes to help you understand the fuller context of your situation. Intuitive and Empathic Readers may also be Holistic with their practice, but not all Holistic Tarot Readers are Intuitive or Empathic.

NOTE: Very few professional tarot readers fit neatly into just one of those categories. Each one will be a combination of the above, though they may be predominantly Intuitive or predominantly Empathic. Psychic Readers tend to be both. However, not all Intuitive and Empathic Readers are Psychic. Hope that makes sense. Also, very few tarot readers are one trick ponies, and so most of them are going to be Holistic to some degree.


Though we live in modern times, most tarot readers today still follow a traditional practice, as set forth above. Yet a few new types have cropped up in the last decade or so.

Holistic Tarot Reader. See above under Traditional. While Holistic Tarot Readers have probably been around since the early ages of tarot reading, a more defined approach with holism in mind did not come about until recently, so I include them in both listings, Traditional and Modern. The modern Holistic Reader may incorporate reiki, for example, or feng shui, or they’ll talk to you about chakras during your tarot reading. Your sessions with them might get heavily influenced by transpersonal psychology.

The Tarot Counselor. This professional is a licensed counselor, social worker, or therapist. The law says this person can get paid for counseling services because said person has received the proper institutionalized education necessary. In addition, the Tarot Counselor is a skilled tarot reader and integrates tarot into his or her counseling work. I don’t know if maybe it’s just the group I hang around or what, but from my vantage point, this type of tarot reader is growing steadily in numbers. The psychoanalytical aspect of tarot reading is becoming more popularly recognized today and looking less and less occult. If you’re looking for a counselor or therapist, consider one who uses tarot.

The Tarot Life Coach. It’s my understanding that life coaches do not need to be licensed or certified, but certainly correct me if I am wrong. Anyone can start a business service as a Life Coach with no required education, training, licensing, or certification (kind of like tarot readers). In a nutshell, Life Coaches help you identify your goals and then help you formulate a strategic plan to accomplish those goals. Then, they’re supposed to be there for you every step of the way to motivate you. Again, the incredible power and utility of tarot is recognized by modern professionals and many Life Coaches work with it to help their clients.

The Tarot Interpreter. The Tarot Interpreter sees tarot as a book, a prophetic text or simply, a tool that reflects that which is in the unconscious into the conscious plane so that such information can become of use. Book or tool, someone with specialized knowledge and a wealth of experience with the cards can read tarot in an optimally precise way. Like one of those TI-85 calculators– any dope can pick one up and use it, but without that specialized knowledge and training, good luck doing anything interesting with one! The Tarot Interpreter works as a translator. You approach the tarot directly, in effect, and then the Tarot Interpreter translates the language (the signs and symbols) of tarot to one you might better understand.

* * *

Tarot professionals will develop their own style of reading and that style is typically a hybrid of some of the above types. I’d say I’m a Holistic Tarot Reader and Tarot Interpreter mix. While it would be nice to see tarot professionals offering key information about their reading styles so that you can discern what type of reader they are, that might not happen. My recommendation is to review the above to figure out what type of tarot reader you’re looking for, and then find one with a reading approach that reflects that type.

Info Galore for the Professional Tarot Reader, from Christiana Gaudet


I had heard her name here and there because, really, who does tarot and hasn’t heard of Christiana Gaudet? Both of her books, Fortune Stellar: What Every Professional Tarot Reader Needs to Know (Juniper Gardens Press, 2010) and Tarot Tour Guide: Tarot, the Four Elements, and Your Spiritual Journey (Juniper Gardens Press, 2012) are essential to any halfway decent tarot library, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing about the tarot info galore she’s provided that is readily available for your consumption. She demonstrates generosity and knowledge and I aspire to be a tarot practitioner like her.

I’ve been watching her YouTube channel during every free moment I have. When I watch her, I get great vibes from her aura, so I watched video after video, disbelieving of the wealth of tarot resources here. No matter what stage of tarot study you are at, whether you just picked up a deck, are still making heads and tails of the Celtic Cross, or you’ve been reading professionally for decades, you have something to learn from Ms. Gaudet.

From her YouTube channel, I learned about Christiana’s Psychic Café, which is an online streaming show that takes place on The Para Encounters Network (PEN) every Sunday at 9 pm. The recorded video is then uploaded on YouTube and you can enjoy it at your leisure from Ms. Gaudet’s channel. I love hearing from professional tarot readers and others in various metaphysical or spiritual practices. Her guests are always entertaining. For the most part they’re incredible, impressive, and I’m in awe. There are a few times you cringe, though, and you watch to learn what not to do. But that’s important, too, so either way, there’s much to absorb on Christiana’s Psychic Café. Coolest yet is when different generations of tarot readers converge.

Then there’s her blog, Tarot Trends, which is all empowering substantive content. Also be sure to subscribe to her weekly e-mail newsletter. Ordinarily I dislike e-mail newsletters to my inbox and the ones I do get I don’t even open let alone read. However, I read Tarot Topics when it arrives because I always know there’s something in there I’ll learn from. Sorry if this little post seems neither here nor there, but I just had to share my latest discovery. Amazing!

The Chinese Have Given the Number 4 a Bad Rep

from the CBD Tarot de Marseille by Yoav Ben-Dov (
from the CBD Tarot de Marseille by Yoav Ben-Dov (

I grew up trained to fear the number 4. In any scenario where I had to be assigned a number, I would sit there praying that the number 4 would not appear in my assignment and dreading that it would. If my seat number in the exam room had a 4 in it, I’d take it as an omen of impending failure.

I’m not the only one. There’s a name for it: tetraphobia. If they’ve got a name for it, it means I’m not alone. The Taiwanese and South Korean navies avoid assigning the number 4 to their ships. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and many other parts of East Asia, you’ll hardly ever see a 4th floor. It’s the 1st floor, 2nd, 3rd, and then 5th. For a race stereotyped to be good at math you’d think they’d know how to count. Hospitals don’t have a 4th floor for sure, and no room number in those hospitals will have a 4 in it.

To the Chinese, 4 means death. 4 means bad luck. 4 means misfortune. 4 means you’re going to suck at life. 4 means you are not a Chosen One. Chosen Ones never get number 4. They get, well, 1. Or 8. Chinese people love the number 8 the way tarot readers love the Ace of Cups or The World card. As for The World card, by most counts it is the 22nd card in the Majors and the theosophic reduction of 22, 2 + 2, is 4 and so take that tetraphobic Chinese people!

I guess back in the day in Chinese grammar schools, the concept of homonyms got glossed over. Everybody there missed the lesson on how a homonym is when two words sound the same but have different meanings. Different. So even though pronouncing the number 4 in most East Asian languages and dialects sounds the same way one might pronounce the word for death, the two words should still retain their different meanings.

Not so to the Chinese. Just because the number 4 sounds like the word for death, suddenly 4 means death. There’s some serious issues with logical reasoning there, which is hilarious to me, because in the Western tradition, 4 means logic, rationality. More on that later.

When I first started study of the tarot, especially when reading with a Marseille deck, numerological associations for the number 4 tripped me up. The numerological association for 4 seemed all too clear: you were doomed. 4 in batons? You’re doomed to fail at work. 4 of cups? You’re doomed to fail in love. You get the pattern. Growing up in the Chinese culture meant I hyperventilated just a little when the number 4 appeared in my life.

Tarot helped me overcome that fear of the number 4. Don’t laugh. I’m serious.


The Emperor might not be all sunshine and rainbows, but it is still a strong card with an empowering message. In western numerology, 4 symbolizes stability, like the four legs of a table or chair, the four corners of the universe, the four elements, the telegrammaton YHVH. 4 is the number of rationalism. Hey, I like rationalism– 44 means great power and physical vigor. 444 is said to be an omen of the Divine’s presence.

When four Fours appear in a tarot spread, there will be peace and order. The Four of Wands in the Rider Waite Smith deck is all about prosperity. The Four of Cups: introspection. Introspection is hardly death and doom. Four of Swords: repose, recuperation; not your preferred state of being but there is a positive message latent in the card–the loved ones awaiting your return depicted in the stained glass window, the secret weapon underneath you– whereas the number 4 according to the Chinese is straight up bad, no nuances.

Those of Life Path 4 are indispensable to a society. They’re our builders, our planners, our architects, the designers of all social constructs. People of Life Path 4 make things happen. Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates are all 4s. Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, J. P. Morgan, Paul McCartney? All 4s with 4s littered throughout their numerology charts.

Even more intriguing is how 4 is so not a big deal even in traditional Chinese metaphysics. Take the I Ching hexagrams. Hexagram 4 suggests naiveté, not death. Hexagram 14 is abundance, validation, all good stuff, like the Four of Wands. Hexagram 24 hints at progress. Hexagram 34 is a powerful, positive omen. So okay, Hexagram 44 is getting a bit darker. Entropy ain’t great news, but still. Hexagram 54 is back to positive again. I’m using the terms positive and negative very loosely here, by the way, as neither tarot nor the I Ching can be characterized with absolutes. And Hexagram 64 is like the Judgement card, give or take huge liberties with the interpretation.

The Four Pillars of Destiny (四柱命理學), which is said to date back to the Song Dynasty, is founded on the idea that there are four components to mapping out a person’s destiny chart. That destiny chart, based on month, day, year, and time (the four pillars) of birth, is supposed to be a playbook of your life. Four for life, people, not four for death!

Understanding quells fears. It is now my dedicated mission to alleviate tetraphobia among the Chinese. Or– okay– at the very least, the Chinese in my arm’s length social network…

A Tarot Reading for the Alameda County Real Estate Market

photo 4

Two glasses of Riesling in and I started thinking psh!— why the heck not? Hubby and I have been house hunting for some time now and we know nothing– nothing— about the real estate market. We both consider ourselves newbies to the Bay Area, California, and for the last few months, shot out offers here and there without knowing a thing about what we were doing. Being the diligent OCD types that we are, we’ve spoken to countless so-called real estate experts, agents, gurus, read all the projections, forecasts, and journals. And none of it is helping or assuaging any of our fears.

Hubby, completely joking, says, “Why don’t you do a tarot reading for the real estate market?”

“Really?” I ask, brightening.

“No,” he says back immediately.

Too late. He planted the idea. I went a little more specific, though. I honed in on the Alameda County real estate market, since that’s where we’re looking to buy.

photo 3

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A Heartwarming Response Piece to a Tarot Reading


Here’s how it went down. Stacey H., an editor over at Best American Poetry asked if I’d like to guest-write for a week. Insecure about having nothing of note to write about, I brainstormed weeks in advance, and only got up to 4 pieces. A week is 5. Argh. I posed the question to myself: As a writer/poet who might be convinced to be interested in tarot if given a compelling enough reason, what topic at the intersection of writing and tarot might interest me? Well, duh. How do I use tarot to help along my writing? I figured I’d try to write about that. Finally. 5 pieces.

Tons have been written about using tarot cards as writing prompts, but that doesn’t interest me too much as a writer/poet. Now… reading tarot for my writing specifically… that concept is intriguing.

Then I had to put the hat of the tarot practitioner back on. Can I do it? Is reading tarot for what amounts to a manuscript (more often than not an incomplete unfinished manuscript no less) being the querent-client something that can even be done? I read for people, don’t I, and in every instance, people who are more or less incomplete, unfinished manuscripts. So why not a book? Oh, for sure, after this endeavor I can no longer laugh at practitioners who read tarot for cats and dogs…

I spent some time thinking about how it could be done, my approach, crafting the techniques to be employed, and how I’d even go about selecting a signifier card for a manuscript, and then reached out to my arm’s length network. Stacey H., the editor, was the first to reply and asked if she could help spread the word by re-posting my call. Go for it! I still kept one eye on my own circle. Then she said she found someone. Oh dear. A complete stranger.

Heck, why not. That is how I “met” Amy G. From our initial terse e-mail exchanges, I couldn’t get a sense of who she was and truly, as she says in her response piece, which I will link later, I didn’t read her manuscript and knew very little about her poetry. In fact, prior to reading tarot for her, I swear I have never read any of her poetry, or writings of any kind for that matter, other than the e-mail exchanges. This exercise was as much for me as it was for her, to see if it could be done, and so I didn’t want anything to cause any sort of bias at all. I wanted to know as little about her and her work as possible.

First, the signifier. Intuitively without even looking at the cards, just going through the archive of memories of the cards in my mind, I gravitated toward the Knight of Cups, but then the Rational Side of me said, “No, that’s not an appropriate signifier. She’s female. The knight is a boy.” However, it just felt right and the more I pressured myself to seek out another signifier, the more wrong every other card felt. So, I surrendered. Knight of Cups it is. Whatever. If she ends up thinking it is ridiculous, so be it.

Once I set my mind and heart to it, though, without direct interaction with her, when the cards were set down, I have to say, I really felt like I was getting to know her. It’s a funny thing to say, especially to the skeptic, but it’s my best way of articulating what happened. I felt her poetry, if that makes any sense, and it was really, really freakin’ beautiful poetry. I made a mental note to myself to look up her work after the tarot reading, because it just felt it would be aligned with what I love to read.

Here’s the tarot reading for her book (plus a how-to on using tarot to read about writing):

It was well after the tarot reading that I got to know Amy’s writing and my feelings were right on. I really do love her poetry and even her casual blog posts at Best American Poetry, posts that are always filled with fire, spirit, humor, truth.

She wrote a response to give feedback on my tarot reading, here:

The universe has a lovely, balanced way of always making sure we’re “compensated.” Now that I’ve been reading some of Amy’s poetry, I get why there was this meeting of the spirits. Her poetry helps to express and validate some of what I’ve been going through in my personal life, and does so in ways I couldn’t have done for myself. Had this whole situation, any part of it really, never taken place, I’m honestly not sure I would have ever had the pleasure of coming across Amy’s work. That was the bargained-for exchange that I didn’t even know I bargained for.

A Review of the Golden Universal Tarot


Imma not even gonna make excuses. I bought the Golden Universal Tarot (illustrated by Roberto De Angeles and published by Lo Scarabeo) because it is shiny. I guess I’m a magpie in that respect. I like shiny.

It isn’t a bad deck. For public readings where complete strangers will be handling my tarot cards, I wouldn’t mind bringing this one. And while that speaks positively of the deck’s versatility, function, and imagery, it also shows it’s not one of my favorites. For collectors, I don’t think this is worth adding to a collection, if one is truly on a budget. Also, for teaching tarot, I would stick with the classic Rider Waite Smith. All that said, for the professional tarot reader who does a lot of public readings and lets their clients handle the decks, this is a great one and definitely worth getting for that purpose.

Golden Universal Tarot

The deck is mostly beautifully gilded (I’ll get to why I say “mostly” in a bit) and per the current trend this past year, the borders are black rather than white. The backs are reversible, so for those who read with reversals, this deck works to that end. The cards are approximately 4.25″ x 2.5″, which means they’re very easy to shuffle, cut, and work with, unlike many of the big, fancy decks that have been released as of late. That is in part why I say this deck is great for public reading usage. Quality of stock, like almost all decks I’ve been coming across in the last few years, is going down from what they used to be in the 80s and 90s but what can you do. Thus, while noticeably flimsier than the RWS decks of yore, it’s not so bad. You’ll work just fine with these. And if it matters to anyone, the box says this deck was made in Italy.

Golden Universal Tarot - snapshots

(Look how shiny the gilded cards are! In the above bottom right photo, you can see my face reflected behind the Magician!)

For those who can’t connect to the classical RWS deck because of its rudimentary artwork, the Golden Universal is a viable alternative. However, I appreciate Waite and Smith’s original version for its symbolism and rely heavily on every detail, the precise coloring of the sky and the clothing worn by the characters, and every little leaf and bird in the backdrop. As a result, working with the Golden Universal means I miss out on some of the details. Some of what seems to be minor changes doesn’t work for me particularly well.

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A Tarot Reader Guest Blogs at Best American Poetry


I am the guest blogger this week over at Best American Poetry and am feeling a bit like a fraud since I’m not a poet, at least not since the angry-histrionic adolescent years of poems about boys who won’t give me the time of day, printed in font size 14 in comic sans or some other curly girly font and center-aligned down the page. Hm, actually in college there was a brief period of doing slam poetry on themes of an Asian Diaspora ravaged by post-colonial ambivalence and cultural imperialism but that period is really best left forgotten too. I am, however, an avid consumer of poetry and have bookshelves at home filled with poetry collections and chapbooks, half of poets you’ve all heard of and half of poets you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m trying to think of when I first learned about the Best American Poetry series, and it turns out I can’t seem to remember a time when I was aware of literature and not aware of BAP. I read it in high school, college, and even recall sending a letter to David Lehman directly one time about a decade ago telling him I felt the BAP series didn’t include a fair representation of Asian American poets. The current series has been much better, I think, about diverse representation.

This week BAP is letting a tarot reader (me) run loose on their blog ( and here’s what’s going to happen:

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