I’ve been observing dozens of professional tarot readers conduct their readings. The observations prompted me to think about the practice of describing the tarot cards to the querent (or seeker).
For example, if a seeker asks whether she will find love in the coming year and you the tarot reader draw Key III: The Empress, which of the below better reflects your response?
[ A ] . “I drew The Empress, the card of fruition. Venus rules over this card. The Empress is a sign of love, fertility, and family. See the laurel wreath on her crown? That symbolizes your victory. The Empress is also of the Earth. Seems like not only will you find love, it could be one that finally grounds you and brings a sense of stability in your life. The number 3 here suggests to me that all good things will be amplified this year. 3 is the number of creativity. The stars on her crown symbolize hope, and there are 12 of them, which suggests creativity and artistic expression. The 12 stars also symbolize the 12 constellations of the zodiac. There might be something karmically fated about the love you will meet this year.”
[ B ] . “Yes, it seems you will be having quite a fruitful year in love. You may even meet someone you end up marrying. It’s going to be a plentiful year of romance for you, and, by the way, a year filled with creativity.”
Method A takes longer because you are identifying and describing the card first before interpreting it for the seeker. It also got me wondering: how many seekers really care about the cards? Are they requesting a reading to learn the names of the tarot cards? Does knowing that you pulled a Seven of Swords or Nine of Pentacles really mean anything to them? Or do they just want the answers to their questions?
If, however, you subscribe to the notion that the signs and symbols of the cards are the language of the unconscious and as a tarot reader, you are just an interpreter, then by providing the signs and symbols to the seeker, that person might be able to get more from the meaning than you were able to see. So why wouldn’t you provide the signs and symbols on the chance they might see something you didn’t? Any bilingual person understands this concept on an intimate level.
As for Method B, it is more direct. It answers the seeker’s question right away, which I have to assume is what most seekers want from you–a straight answer. I wonder if they really care about the elemental dignities of The Empress, the planetary influence, or what the empress depicted on the card is wearing.
I’ve observed both methods in practice by professionals. I’m inclined to prefer Method A, but I can’t be sure if that’s only because I’m a tarot reader myself. If I knew nothing about tarot and simply wanted a divinatory answer to my question, would I really care for Method A? Or would I prefer that you, the tarot reader, go for Method B? “Venus– constellations– Earth, what?! Just give me a yes or no, dammit!”
Per my observations, and do keep in mind the sample size I am working with to base these conclusions on are really laughable, it seems that those who approach tarot from a psychic-medium-intuitive angle are going to talk directly about the meaning of the cards as they interpret them for the seeker and may only gloss over the name of the cards. They focus on the clairvoyant aspect.
Those who approach tarot from a more psychoanalytical perspective are going to be, well, more analytical. The card name will be given, with signs and symbols explained. They might prefer the seeker to be actively engaged in the reading process, and so even though the reader will offer his or her interpretation of the cards, the seeker is also encouraged to look at those signs and symbols and find personal meaning.
Here’s how I see it. Hubby and I were someplace together once and I noticed a hawk perched on top of a fence, seeming ever out of place, with a gaze fixed steadily at us. Hubby and I both made eye contact with the hawk and I swear a shared moment passed between the three of us. Then the hawk flew away. The Hubby saying to me, “Over there is a hawk. I bet you it is an omen. This is what I think the omen means.” is entirely different from me seeing the hawk personally and being a direct part of that shared experience. Sure, Hubby can then ruminate about what he thinks the omen means with me, but that direct, personal connection I had is equally if not more significant.
Thus, as a tarot reader, I always share my cards with the seekers.