The issue of general readings versus specific readings is pertinent to most divinatory forms, whether we’re talking tarot, astrology, the I Ching, or even in terms of configurations for feng shui analysis. Rather than frame this post as general commentary, I want to talk about my personal approach, and since most of the divinatory work I do for people are in the modes of tarot and astrology, that’s what I’ll focus on.
Let’s start with my definitions.
A general reading is when a seeker doesn’t have a cogent, cohesive question to present for divination, but just wants insight for moving forward at the particular juncture point the seeker is at. For example, a seeker sits down in front of a tarot reader and the reader simply begins casting cards and reporting back what the reader interprets from the cards. Another example is a solar returns or birthday chart reading in astrology. A reading service such as a twelve-month forecast is also considered a general reading. In theory for a general reading, any subject matter that comes up in the reading is game.
A specific reading is when a seeker has a question in mind that is narrowly tailored and will require a direct, responsive answer. For example, the seeker wants to know about romantic prospects up ahead, or which career path to take, or which of three possible office site locations would be optimal for setting up a business. Here, even a broadly-cast inquiry such as “just whatever comes up that’s money related in my life” is an inquiry I’ll tuck under the category of a specific reading.
One more point before we proceed. To debate which is better, general reading or specific reading methods, is absurd. Readers also come with different strengths. No reader is all-powerful. Some excel at the general reading. Others excel at the specific reading. Play to your own strengths. That’s all there is to it.
In my professional opinion, as a reader it’s to your advantage to master the art of handling both general and specific. If a seeker wants a general reading, the practitioner isn’t going to pressure the seeker toward a specific question. A seeker not having a question to ask shouldn’t be an impediment to you giving a quality reading. If a seeker has a specific question in mind, the general practitioner will answer that specific question.
There are, however, readers who specialize. Thus, if you specialize only in specific question readings, then as a professional reader, you’d say so. If you specialize only in general readings, then once again, you’d say so. You can absolutely narrow the work you’re willing to do to either general readings or specific readings. You don’t have to accommodate both, but as a professional reader, I think it’s just good business sense to learn how to be a master of both.
In your personal repertoire of tarot spreads or divinatory reading methods, you’ve got to have one go-to general reading spread or methodology. That way when someone comes to you for a reading but doesn’t have a question, they just want to connect to that divinatory energy, then you can and will.
In tarot, I’ll do the First Operation from the Opening of the Key and, listening to Spirit, navigate the reading in real time based on what Spirit is telling me per the results of the OOTK. If you’re like, “Um, what in the what are you talking about?” then I’ve released via YouTube the first video lecture in a series on Learning the OOTK that you can watch. If mastering the OOTK is of interest to you, then may I recommend my course, currently offered as a legacy course through the Tarot Readers Academy, “Learning the Opening of the Key,” which you can enroll in any time here. Psst… once you’ve mastered all the operations of the OOTK, you can personalize, mix and match, and use any of the techniques of the OOTK to work for you in either general or specific circumstances.
Alternatively, design a general reading spread that has designated card positions for the top subject areas people are concerned about. Designate one card position for professional and career matters; one for domestic affairs and interpersonal relationships; one for health and wellbeing; one toward achievement of soul purpose; and so on. Read up on various tarot spreads that master tarot readers have devised that cover general readings and either adopt one of those spreads or create a personal variation from what you learn from them. Commit that spread to memory so it’s always with you and you can use it on any seeker at any time.
When I’ve been tasked to do “cattle call” marathon (to me) readings, where I’m at some big event sitting at a table for several hours doing five minute tarot readings one after another, I actually go the route of general readings only. I don’t take specific questions in those cases, especially if it’s a promotional scenario where I’m giving out the readings for free. Here’s why. It’s been my experience that some–of course not all, but enough–querents have no idea what to ask or how to ask it and it ends up taking all of five minutes for them to spit out their damn question. By then a whole bunch of time has been wasted and the line for readings is just getting longer. So for those short, punchy, cattle call tarot events, I only do general readings.
General readings in astrology are easy to navigate. I just look at which astrological houses contain the most planetary action with the most significant angular aspects and focus on those corresponding areas of life. Then I zoom out and touch on the popular subjects, i.e., love, career, money, health, and personal spirituality.
A fail-proof easy technique for staying on point in a specific reading is to repeat the question and then incorporate keywords from the original question into your answer. When doing specific question readings, I will repeat the question and regurgitate keywords the seeker said when presenting the question throughout my own reading of the cards more for my own benefit than anybody else’s. Doing so helps to keep me anchored to the question at hand and become the railings that prevent me from veering off track.
In tarot, another fail-proof technique is to custom-design a tarot spread just for that seeker’s question. Listen to the question, then use the keywords to designate specific card positions. Thus, the spread itself is designed to answer only the seeker’s question and nothing else. Each specific question reading gets its own unique, originally designed tarot spread.
A common issue that comes up in specific reading requests, which most readers will be familiar with, is when the divination nudges strongly in a different direction and your railings aren’t working because an unseen divine energy feels like it’s pushing you off the tracks. What do you do? Here’s what I do.
I pause, check in with the seeker, and tell the seeker what’s going on. “Hey, I know your question is about whether or not to relocate cross-country for that doctorate program, but I’m getting some strong hits right now about your love life. What do you want me to do? I can shut that off and we can proceed with focusing on your specific question about schooling or we can explore the love life thing a little more.”
Then you just listen to your seeker and do as instructed. Here’s what I do.
If the seeker says screw the love life stuff I don’t care just tell me about the doctorate program, then I literally flip the “love life” cards face down and set them aside, reshuffle what cards I have remaining in my hands with a focused intention on the specific question, and then proceed with the tarot reading, using the power of intention to keep the reading “on track.”
If the seeker says, “okay, tell me about my love life,” then I give that nod to Spirit and open the flood gates for whatever comes through on that front.
In my readings, I like to account for both general and specific. To me, a general reading is an opportunity to listen to Spirit. It’s practicing stillness and receptiveness. It’s acknowledging, “Okay, I need some advice and insight, so instead of talking, I am going to listen.” And then you listen. It’s kneeling before Spirit and acknowledging openness to what Spirit has to say to you, irrespective of what you think you know or what you think you want to know.
Nonetheless, life is about balance and for me, the path I always choose to take is the Middle Path. Kneeling before Spirit all day long doesn’t achieve material progress. You’ve got a book you want to get published that isn’t going to write itself while you kneel before Spirit. Or you’ve got a business to run. Or a promotion at work to seize. Or a fulfilling love life to live out. Or a family that needs you to be present. And some days we need to hear what that inner voice has to say about how to run our business properly, or how to get that job promotion, or find love. That’s when specific question readings make sense.
Divination is about acknowledging first that we have free will but second, that we are not all-knowing and there is a higher power, even if our view is that “higher power” is just an inner voice too timid to speak out unless we first silence all the other voices. At its most mundane explanation, divination is the process of silencing all the other voices so that the inner voice can speak.
What’s Your Approach?
Do you specialize mainly in general readings or specific readings?
What are you thoughts and feelings on doing general readings and on doing specific question readings? What’s your preference?
If I came to you for a general divinatory reading, what’s your approach? How about if I came with a specific question?
Crafting well-formed answers to these questions for yourself helps you to be the best reader you can be. If you’ve been struggling with general readings, then may I urge you to do a boatload of general readings for folks and continue doing general readings drill-style until you no longer feel insecure about general readings.
One way I got started early on to hone my craft and really experience all varieties of querent interactions was to spend a Saturday afternoon or holiday at an accommodating bookstore or café doing free readings for complete strangers. Buy some ten cent poster board, use colored markers to write out “Free Tarot Readings” or hell, even “Free Psychic Readings” if you feel so inclined, and tape it to the edge of a table. Then use the next few hours of free readings to practice, say, marathon-style five minute general readings with no question, or prompt the strangers to ask you a question for you to answer, or only do a couple readings that day and practice long, in-depth readings on those strangers.
Personally? Okay trigger warning, snottiness up ahead, but personally, I would go so far as to say a tarot reader shouldn’t even think of going professional until you’ve done just that or some close variation of that kind of reading experience. That kind of reading experience teaches you more in a couple of hours than what you can learn from some premium online Tarot Business 101 course. It’s under pressure. You’ve got to be time-conscious. There are almost always skeptics standing close by, listening in, crossing their arms, smirking at you while you do the reading for someone. You also learn (fairly quickly) about your own energetic limits and the absolute necessity of grounding and shielding (it’s pretty theoretical when you just hear about it from pros who try to impart their wisdom on you; it becomes painfully relevant when you start feeling that toxic energy pile up in real time). The diverse range of people you get to read for also can’t be beat. I found over the Internet, you do get cultural and international diversity, but personal energetic frequencies of the querents seem to stay within a certain, consistent range. On the other hand, for in-person readings in a mainstream public space, you get personality diversity and the energetic frequencies of such querents truly begin to run the whole gamut.
Oops. Veered off topic. As usual. Would it be an authentic blog post by me if it didn’t veer off topic? Sigh. Okay, general and specific readings. The techniques you use to approach general readings differ from the techniques you use to approach specific question readings. Once you understand them as separate and distinct, you can isolate practice and perfection of both. A seasoned pro is going to master both. However, what that mastery looks like and the techniques employed will differ greatly from reader to reader. You’ve got to figure out your own signature approach.