Twisted Tales of Tarot: When “Scary Accurate” Gets a Little…Scary (repost)

We’ve all seen those scenes in film and television where the plucky hero or heroine sits down for a tarot reading that is scary accurate!!! (Insert horror music here.) Obviously, the “Chainsaw Murderer in Your Bedroom” card doesn’t come up that often in readings, so our hero/heroine has a good clue that something awful is about to happen!

If you’ve been reading tarot for more than a minute, you probably already know there’s no such thing as a Chainsaw Murderer card, but sometimes readings can get a little harrowing.

The Fluffy Bunny of Fear

Perhaps it’s projection, but I’m pretty sure most readers have good intentions. We’re drawn to the cards, and to the service we can provide to others using those cards. We love the thrill of getting it right, seeing that look of recognition on the client’s face when we’ve hit. Those a-ha moments are what make all the studying and practicing worth it.

If you read cards long enough, though, eventually you’re going to toss down a spread that isn’t all white light and fluffy bunnies. Back in the early 2000s, I once saw a murder in the cards. Not a new one, but as I was reading for a stranger, my mouth opened and I asked, “Was your daughter murdered?”

Now, for perspective, I don’t even watch murder shows on television. I don’t think about murder. I don’t live for the next episode of NCI/SVU/M-O-U-S-E that’s coming up. As a full-fledged empath, watching, reading, even thinking about murder–even fictional murder–is an unpleasant experience I prefer to miss.

When the question came out of my mouth, I literally felt sick to my stomach. I was horrified that I would even say that to a mother. I was even more horrified when I saw the look of recognition on the woman’s face.

That hit we’re always looking for as readers.

I couldn’t touch my cards for weeks after that.

The Scary Truth of Scary Truths

That experience taught me a lot, about myself as a reader and about my obligations to my clients. Until that moment, tarot for me had been fun and games, a cool way of interacting with people and, yes, showing off.

That reading taught me that we are not playing a game here.

If you are going to be any kind of a good reader, you are going to have to go beyond just the surface definitions of the cards. You’re going to have to open yourself up to a world, a universe, that is so far beyond our mundane understanding that it’s difficult to wrap your brain around it.

To be a good reader, you are going to have to trust. Trust your connection with a higher truth, trust your ability to use the information you receive wisely, and trust yourself to share that information with others.

To be a good reader, you are going to need a strong sense of ethics. What information needs to be told? What information needs to be withheld? What is the best way to share that information so it helps rather than harms or frightens the client?

In other words, after a certain point, reading cards stops being a game and starts being a responsibility.

It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Tells the Truth

Kat tells the tale of how she got her first tarot deck from her mom. Jo, Kat’s mom, bought a deck as a lark for herself, did a reading, and had a laugh. Then the reading started coming true and Jo freaked out. She decided she didn’t want anything to do with the cards, and gave them to Kat.

I almost got rid of my cards after that murder reading, too.

For the most part, reading tarot is an amazing, rewarding, and overall fun experience. But it’s not always fun. Sometimes the person you’re reading for is going to be in an abusive relationship. Sometimes, their sick child is just not going to get better. Sometimes, life is not going to be a fairytale.

And you, as a reader, might have to deliver some bad news.

So how do you do it? Are you able to do it? Or would you rather just go back to playing games?

Dealing with Reality

So what do you do when the reading isn’t all sunshine and lollipops? Do you just shut down your cards and turn on the TV? Well, that’s not going to be an option if you’re reading for someone when it happens. Sure, you could lie and say everything is perfect. I knew a reader whose cards lied to her all the time, simply because she refused to allow herself to see beyond her own delusions.

But you’re not that kind of reader, are you? This isn’t fun and games for you, is it? You’re here to do good work, to be of service, to actually help the people you read for, right?

So what do you do?

  1. First, do no harm. Remember the cards are not giving you the complete picture of the situation, and you are not privy to all the moving parts. When reading cards, especially the dire ones, don’t go in there like a bull in a china shop. Remind the client that you are only seeing what’s revealed to you, and that fate is constantly in motion.
  2. Empower. Whether they realize it or not, your client came to you for guidance. Something in them drew them to the experience of a reading, so at least some part of their subconscious mind wanted the information you have to offer. Like any good guidance system, your job as a reader is to provide both information and options. Always remember, and make sure your client remembers, that they have agency in this life. They are able to make choices, change behaviors, give and receive help. In other words, they have the power to create the life they are meant to experience. You are not a god declaring an undeniable fate; you are a guide, helping them chart the best course through the waters ahead.
  3. Encourage. No matter how freaked out you are by a “scary” reading, do not scare the client. It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but there are some readers who really love the dramatic. It gives them a sense of power and importance to share bad news, dire warnings, dark forebodings. Maybe it’s too many horror movies, maybe it’s not enough bran in their diet, but these readers are doing a great disservice to their clients. When something big appears in a reading, scaring the client is not going to do them any good. Stressing the severity of the situation might be needed to get a client’s attention, but as a reader you should always encourage the client to do their very best. Show them the situation. Draw follow up cards. Ask the best course of action, and help that client find their best path through the darkness. In other words, do your job as a reader.

Is It Always Hard?

Of course not. Of course not. Reading cards is fun, especially once you move past the surface and open yourself to the wisdom available to you. Learning to read well is a gift you give to yourself, and a service you give to your community. It’s a great thing.

Like all important gifts, reading well is a responsibility. You have to trust that the information you receive and the information you share will be in the client’s highest good. You have to trust yourself to learn from your inevitable mistakes, to be humble enough to admit when you do not know all the answers, brave enough to tell the truth even when it’s not pleasant, and wise enough to use that truth to guide your client to the best choices in their highest interest.

But it’s rewarding. It’s empowering. It connects you to something that is much bigger than the tiny lives we’re living.

In other words, it’s worth it.

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Peace and Love,


Images are from The Enchanted World of Amy Zerner and Monte Farber.

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