General Readings and Specific Readings

Deck Pictured: The Dark Tarot

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.

Deck Pictured: Tarot of the Holy Light

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.

Deck Pictured: The Druidcraft Tarot

General Reading

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.

Specific Reading

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.

My Approach

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.

Deck Pictured: The Thoth Tarot

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.

15 thoughts on “General Readings and Specific Readings

  1. lefthandtarot

    I prefer that all my clients ask a specific question or come to the cards with a strong motivation. I don’t mind doing general readings, and it can be a lot of fun to dig around and just see what comes up, but what I do mind is paying clients getting all pissy with me because I didn’t insist that they ask a specific question, I give them a general purpose reading, and then they whine and gripe that I didn’t resolve That Important Thing that was really bothering them. I also find that clients tend to be more invested in their reading and more willing to take ownership of the message and do the necessary work when I require that they ask a specific question.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That makes total sense. You’re right about paying clients who want the reader to address that One Important Thing, so to ensure the satisfaction of all parties involved, yes, totally agree a specific question reading is optimal. (On a side note, never could understand folks who have that One Important Thing pressed against the tops of their skulls and then when prompted for a question, just say, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t really have a question. Just tell me whatever the Universe wants to tell me right now.”)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very important post, Benebell. Glad you brought it up. I find that a lot of people coming to a reader feel a bit lost and confused, they’re not sure what to expect from a reading, they might not feel comfortable saying “I’m in love with my co-worker, not with my husband, how can I solve this problem?” to a total stranger. They often feel more alright with just saying “I’d like some insight into my love life” instead. Thus a general reading becomes a more specific reading when the cards start to show marital issues and a third part involved etc… And a lot of people might feel stuck with say their career, but they’re not noticing that their love life is falling apart behind their back – in that case a general reading will point that out, while a specific career question might not.
    Overall I like general readings. 🙂 Like you say they give an opportunity for Spirit to direct the reading into the most beneficial area of the querent’s life. The general readings I’ve done I must say have often been the most appreciated.


    1. I do find that most of the time the general reading, without anyone’s prompting or intentions, begins to answer the unasked specific question from the seeker. 🙂 You’re totally right. Another reason I love general readings like you, which I forgot to mention in the original post, is it’s a more accurate “diagnosis” sometimes of the root of the problem. Think health, for a second. Let’s say you are suffering from a skin problem and you’re just fixated on solving the skin problem. You only ask about the skin problem and keep seeking treatment just for that, which is topical. Perhaps the real root issue is an organ issue that’s much deeper, and if you solve the organ issue, then you totally solve the skin problem and more. Likewise, sometimes we think our life problem is XYZ, but it’s really something much deeper than that, which if you can cure the deeper thing, will resolve XYZ, and general readings for me often touch on that deeper root issue. Thanks for your thoughts!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: General Readings and Specific Readings — benebell wen | Lady Dyanna

  4. I don’t really have a favorite – general vs specific. I guess I like a healthy balance between the two. I have some clients who just love general and other clients who only ask the nitty gritty specifics, which I’m cool with. Either way I always save at least one “spot” (if not more) for checking in with spirit and getting some advice for them. I’ve found one of my most popular readings is my “Seven Cup Spread” which is an overview reading of different areas of the client’s life. This is the reading I do at “house” parties where people expect 15 minute readings and I also use it to preview my reading style on my blog for my monthly forecasts.

    A question for you – how do you handle that “health and wellbeing” category you mention? I try so hard to stay away from playing doctor that I will sometimes refuse to read for very specific medical questions. Have you ever had something serious come up in that area and how did you handle it? I ask as my readings have started to venture more into reading people’s energy (aura and chakras) and I sometimes pick up some interesting things (like the time I basically told one of my clients she was either menstrating or should probably see her doctor, luckily she confirmed that it was just her time of the month).

    As always another great post (also enjoyed the last post on promoting your business). Thank you for your presence in this community! Many blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a fabulous post Benebell! Yes, you learn so much in the trenches of doing both Astrology and Tarot mini readings for events like corporate parties, etcetera (For renaissance faires, use an Ephemerus in book form to quickly look up birth planet/light placements). I prefer a specific reason for consultations, but yes, general only for parties, and a timer to make sure people move along as sometimes they need much firmness to budge! 😀 I usually use Astrology for general themes and big picture items that can take awhile to clear, Tarot to deal with things happening at the time of reading, then dowsing with a pendulum to utterly fine-tune everything, and get better windows on timing of things that arise in the session. This last step is turning more and more into a specialty as most of my clients are extremely intuitive with many of the “clairs” and a good amount of those are professsional readers, but have difficulty with knowing the difference between real elements and symbols in their visions, and the timing of the vision of the real stuff. I have claircognizance mostly, as well as a sensing of timing that is uncanny. Because of my healing and reframing skills I have worked on, I learned sometimes the timing can be changed to better suit the client.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Benebell!
    Great post! I have no preference on general or questions. It seems general readings make up over half the professional readings I do. I have a few ways to do it dependent on whether it’s a private reading or a party. Private clients get a choice between, “What you need to know” or “Inspiration / Get Unstuck”. Creative people tend to want unstuck while the general population want to know what they need to know. I always include ways over and around challenges uncovered. It amuses me that general readings usually reveal whatever the client has been trying to ignore about themselves, or a fear they need to overcome. Maybe that’s just the way my intuition points. Also, excellent advice on the cafe reading. I see some clients in the local coffee shop. Often, I’m in a booth across from a local minister who is not amused. That’s makes me smile.
    Stay awesome, Tarosophist of the Year Homie!

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. I really enjoyed this post. I specialise mainly in general readings. I find them more of a challenge and enjoy the fact that a lot of the time I have to flex my intuitive muscles in terms of landing on the ‘right’ interpretation for the sitter. Super informative post.


  9. Cass

    I don’t know if you’ll see this post as it’s 5 years later but this was a really good read. I found a happy medium for both specific and general readings. I shine at general readings because I get to be super in depth and the reading is then directed the way the client needs it to be. I’m glad I found this post as I belong in many tarot groups where beginners struggle with which direction they should go in. Know your strengths. 🙂


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