Skill Level: Advanced
Today’s installment of Sightsee the Tarot will walk you through the choreography of a five-minute party reading and some incredible tips on choreographing party readings, straight from one of the most renowned tarot professionals in the country, Jenna Matlin. But even if you’re not interested in being a pro reader, mastering the five-minute party reading is a great skill to have.
Since footage for this video was filmed after 10 pm, I didn’t have any human bodies to be my extras. =) Hence, our little stuffed friend Q-Ball is the stand-in.
I wrote up a quick book review of Have Tarot, Will Party here if you want to learn more about the book.
Post-edit, I realized I didn’t cover everything I wanted to cover (and certainly nowhere close to covering all the juicy bits in Matlin’s book!), so this companion blog post is my personal add-on to the video.
Way before I wrote Holistic Tarot or was active in the online tarot community, I did party readings at sorority and fraternity events, for non-profit fundraisers, and literary events (author discussion panels, poetry slams, etc.)– funny enough something about tarot and the literati go hand in hand.
So to dovetail on the great tips from Have Tarot, Will Party, here are some more thoughts.
Seriously? A five minute reading?
Yes! This is a really great skill for every pro tarot reader, even tarot enthusiasts to master.
Sure, whether a five minute reading is appropriate or even desired depends on the party, the scenario, and obviously, the terms of the contract you negotiate with the party host. Oftentimes hosts will want 10 or 15 minute readings per person, but you also need to set realistic expectations for your hosts. More often than not, the host has no idea what’s reasonable and what’s not for a tarot reader to achieve during a 2-3 hour, even 5-hour event. And Matlin has a whole section in her book on how to train your host. =) It’s wonderful.
I personally find that the 5-minute party reading comes in to play when a host has invited you to read at a 3-hour party with about 30 guests in attendance. It’s simple math, but math the professional tarot reader has to do to negotiate the initial contract terms.
Ask the host how long the party is and how many guests will be in attendance, i.e., how many individuals are you expected to read for. Whatever she tells you, add 3-5 more to the headcount just in case you get a non-stop talker, or what Jenna Matlin calls a “won’t-leaver.” This is called contingency accounting. =)
Whenever you’ve got just a couple hours to read for a couple dozen people, opt for the five-minute reading. By its construction a five-minute reading will keep the tone light and succinct, which is the kind of reading you need to be delivering in that kind of party setting anyway.
In a party reading setting where there are people bustling around and you’re not always guaranteed what the setup is going to be like, how private or not private the reading space will be, you have to learn how to assess the environment immediately upon arrival and then know how to set the expectations for all present. This can be in the form of a quick 3-minute intro after all guests have arrived and you’re about to get started on the party readings.
Matlin recommends bringing a stack of little disclaimer squares, something like quarter-sheet print-outs for party attendees to read so they know what to expect, what you can and cannot do during these party reading sessions, etc. Remember: in certain jurisdictions, you want to cover your butt and add that express disclaimer about all of this being for entertainment purposes only. Yeah, that’s still a thing in some regions.
If you buy a copy of Have Tarot, Will Party, you’ll get a passcode and access to a protected area on Matlin’s website where you can download lots of really useful templates, like what to put on those little disclaimer handouts.
First, read the room
You’re going to be off to a great start if you, the tarot reader, can mirror the vibes of the room.
Immediately upon arrival, as the tarot reader, the first thing you read is the room. Whatever the vibes the room is giving off are the vibes you should try to give off.
So if it’s boisterous, high-energy, and humorous, even a bit silly, then that’s the energy you should give off, too. If folks are a little on the uptight side, overly polite, and you can sense emotional distance between everybody, then you, too, are going to want to give off a more conservative vibe, but then be a bridge and warm up that vibe with empathetic smiles and twinkling eyes. If you read the room and sense that people are going to be more open to spirituality, then you have a lot more thought space to go in that direction. If everybody is here to get drunk and have a good time, don’t get too emotionally heavy with the reading. This is where preparation is key. If you see something very serious in the cards in that moment, how will you navigate that situation? The pro tarot reader will be ready.
You can even literally read the room, as in like do a tarot reading for the party atmosphere. As you’re setting up, dial in to the party atmosphere and pull five cards. Use that for reference when calibrating the style and approach for the readings to come.
Are photos okay?
In my experience, I get asked so repeatedly, “Can I take a picture?” either of the cards on the table or of me that I’ve just made it part of my routine to prop up a little sign on my reading table that says “Photography okay” or, if it’s not okay with you, then “Photography not permitted,” or signage to that effect.
As a pro reader, my demeanor is always encouraging of querents to take photos of their readings or if they want selfies with me, I always accommodate. If I’m looking under the weather that day, I might make a jesting caveat that sharing photos is conditioned on it being photoshopped and filtered beyond recognition. =)
Sample five-minute readings
In the video episode, I didn’t get into filming examples of the actual reading part because (1) since this episode is for the advanced reader, I assume you already know how to read the cards better than me, and (2) I try really hard to keep these videos as short as practically possible.
Post-edits, however, I thought it might be helpful to do a written add-on (this blog post) for those who do want a couple examples of actual five minute party readings.
For some case studies, here are actual party readings for two of my close friends (names have been changed). I don’t know about you other tarot aficionados, but I find when your buddies know you’re a tarot reader, every time they come over for afternoon tea or a potluck, you end up slinging cards. So without fail, if it’s a gathering of friends and I’ve brought my cards, I’m gonna be doing readings.
Abner: “Could you tell me what’s up ahead in my career path?”
Since Abner is asking a work/career related question, we go with the right-most card pile (element Fire). In Have Tarot, Will Party, Matlin shares that her approach in these types of reading settings is to pull five cards and just read narrative style, free-form, so that’s what I’ll be doing, too, with the personalized tweak of the four card piles by topic thingie (briefly addressed in the video and something we’ll delve further into once we get to the Sightsee the Tarot episode on Paul Foster Case, so stay tuned!).
Here I’m not using Key 0 from Spirit Keeper’s Tarot as a significator, but instead, just treating it as you would any Key 0: The Fool card in the tarot deck. So here, it’s just The Fool card and read exactly the way you would read any Fool card in any deck.
Remember. This is not a deep-dive into life purpose or some meditative exploration of the querent’s soul contracts. You gotta keep it quick and punchy. Five minutes.
Me to Abner: “I see someone who is a money manager or someone who works in finance, though the current job you’re holding down isn’t one that’s fulfilling you, not to mention I see why: it’s holding you back. You’re capable of so much more. Staying where you are preserves that financial security that’s so important to you, but if you’re willing to venture out of your comfort zone just a bit, and even consider developing ideas or plans for your own business, I see you as a very successful entrepreneur.”
Betsy: “Will I find love this year or next?”
That would be the Water card pile. I pull it down, throw five cards on my reading cloth, and go.
Me to Betsy: “It’s rough going for the rest of this year, I think, but there’s a lot of joy to be found in your independence. I see you mastering talents you’ve left dormant for way too long. There’s a greater purpose for why you’re single right now, so enjoy the moment while it lasts. This is a time to discover more about yourself. To answer your question, Betsy, the ending to this story is a happy one. Check this out [show her the Ten of Cups card]. This is the last card I pulled for you. I like to call this the happy family card. Plus, it’s right next to the Sun card in tarot, indicating success. I see you happily married and this marriage is going to be that of a power couple. So like I said, the Fortunes have got you covered. The road ahead looks good. You’re going to be happily married and successful. So enjoy the present while you’ve got all this time to focus on yourself.”
As covered in the video, Matlin offers some great ideas for party favors. It may not be a bad idea to sweeten everybody’s experience by leaving a bowl of candy out on your reading table. I’ve found this to be a bad idea when in California, though. Everyone here has given up sugar apparently.
You can wholesale source little tumbled crystal quartz stones or rose quartz stones on the cheap, which you can touch up with a bit of reiki, if that’s your thing, and leave out a bowl of stones with the sign, “Reiki-charged crystals. Please take one.” If the party is a manageable size, then that’s what I opt for. Plus, you can work the overhead costs into your reading fee.
Another favorite party favor idea of mine is an oracle card the querent can actually take home and keep. But this might just be case-specific to what I happen to have access to. I’m one of those impulse shoppers who can’t say no to a bargain bin clearance sale, so when those happen– you know the publishers I’m talking about– and you can get like 30 fluffy oracle decks for $3 each– I do. And then never end up using them for anything. Except this! =)
Mix a bunch of those fluffy oracle decks together for a giant stack of random oracle message cards and as a parting gift, have each guest take one off the top. (I find that letting them shuffle the deck and pull a card reading-style is going to take too long…so it’s more efficient to just have them take from the top.)
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In last week’s episode, we worked through a tarot mandala for prosperity from Mary K. Greer’s Tarot for Your Self. Next week we’ll be revisiting the tarot mandala, this time from Rachel Pollack’s perspective from Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.
But psst….be on the lookout for a bonus April 1st Sightsee the Tarot installment. 😉
By the way, this July, 2019 in Rhineback, New York will be the Masters of the Tarot conference at the Omega Institute, headlining both Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack. I’ll also be one of the speakers, along with Michelle Tea and Terry Iacuzzo. Check out the details of the conference by clicking on the banner below!