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Tarot and sharing bad news

By | January 1, 2008 | Print This Post | E-mail This Post | 1 Comment

Earlier we looked at the role of “accuracy” in tarot, particularly in comparison to fortune-telling (see [cref 21]). A key point to take away from this is that, in reading for a client or even for oneself, the main goal of any divinatory reading is to provide information that is useful to the querent.

Whether or not the future is set can become irrelevant when the cards clearly foretell disaster for the querent. When the cards spell doom, deciding how to relate that can be tricky. Changeable or not, it’s rarely something a querent wants to hear, and depending on who the querent is it can be more detrimental to share this information than not.

Consider the following case, reported by Austin Osman Spare in a brief essay, “Mind to Mind and How” (reprinted by Fulgur in Two Tracts on Cartomancy):

I was telling a friend’s fortune, and could ‘see’ that he would die within a few months. Naturally, I did not tell him so, but what I did advise him was to at once put his affairs in order and that in a few months there would be a very great change in his affairs, of which not much could be said. Meantime, there was great happiness for him, though he was to guard against accident. He was happy for the few months that he lived.

This is a drastic case, and it matters little whether or not it is objectively “true” – it is instructive nonetheless; the cards don’t always describe “nice” things.

Naturally, had Spare plainly stated what “seen” it would have greatly alarmed and upset his client, and likely make him miserable for the time that remained. There are some things that tact can’t solve and where no amount of delicacy in describing what has been seen is possible.

There were a few options available that he could have considered.

Spare could have refused the reading – even after laying out the cards, claiming a headache or some more mystical malady that would have incapacitated him, preventing him from continuing the reading. Alternately he could have reshuffled the cards, saying the message wasn’t “clear”, rather than describe what the cards told.

However, for such a drastic reading, neither of these would have been particularly useful for his client. His affairs may not have been put his affairs in order, and may have simply carried on as usual and not even considered living life with an eye for happiness had Spare not specifically suggested it.

Reading for another is quite a responsibility, and – more often than we’d like – the message they relay isn’t always about a new relationship just around the corner or sacks of money arriving in next week’s post. Sometimes it is about divorce, losing one’s job, discomfort – and, yes, even death.

The story Spare related represents a fair presentation of the reading with an eye to providing useful information, if not strictly an accurate depiction of what the cards described. It is in handling these difficult subjects that a reader really begins to understand the nature of hir responsibility to hir client.

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Psyche is the editor of and the curator for the occult resource, Psyche also operates a tarot consultation business, Psyche Tarot. She has been published in The Cauldron, Konton, Tarot World Magazine, among other magazines, and her essay “Strategic Magick” appeared in Manifesting Prosperity (Megalithica, 2008).

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  1. [...] the turning of the year bringing questions of what’s to come, January opened with a look at sharing bad news in tarot readings, as well as the myth of “bad cards”. January saw several new book reviews, news items [...]

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