By Sarah Taylor
In summer 2007, a couple of months after the birth of my son, I decided to demonstrate my commitment to my tarot reading, and my re-commitment to myself (having been fully immersed in matters family for the past year), and ‘go pro’.
I can see why I did this — I was keen to start re-asserting myself in the adult world and put my slowly developing tarot skills to the test. Nevertheless, it was also a fragile time for the very same reasons.
As a new mother, it was daunting re-entering the hard and bustling quotidian from the dreamlike limbo of feed-burp-sleep-play. I felt like I had to re-acquaint myself with the English language, having spent so much of my time communicating non-verbally. Even my clothes seemed ill-fit for purpose: rather more elastic than I was used to — rather more material than I was used to, come to that. Just walking down the street took up all my mental and emotional faculties. I felt like a rabbit in the headlights.
Having limited theoretical or practical tarot knowledge, I was primarily armed with my intuition, which was strong, yes, but inflexible and undisciplined. Crafted in childhood, it had served me very well indeed — mostly as a means of knowing when and how to pass under the radar when the shit was hitting the fan. It had helped me to see things that seemed completely bloody obvious to me but apparently eluded the adults around me. I could read my parents’ feelings like a book.
At the same time I learned it was dangerous to admit to this; I couldn’t even afford to admit it to myself fully. My intuition was more of a secret weapon than a tool. Thus, I was able to bring that honed sense of insight into my tarot reading, but the downside was that I had used it to learn how to avoid, subtly control or redirect circumstances rather than how to address or confront them directly.
And so I found myself embarking on my first professional reading with a questionable sense of self-confidence and what felt like a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-(elasticated)-pants intuition.
My client was hand-picked for the occasion.
He arrived on time, having driven two hours along a notoriously busy route for the hour-long reading. So — no pressure. He was well-dressed and his speech contained, but there was a clipped quality to its edges that stood in contrast to the rather lazy, warm day that was happening around us. I didn’t feel warm at all, and I don’t think he did either.
We sat down at the table I had prepared for the occasion and I asked what had brought him to the reading. He began to relate the events that had befallen him since he had moved into his current neighbourhood: disagreements that had led to fights, and now he found himself in the unenviable position of not being able to move, not least because he had just moved there recently … to escape a similar set of circumstances in his previous neighbourhood.
I could feel his frustration — but what I felt most was the expectation that the reading was going to solve this for him. That part of me that was keen to solve problems for people (let’s call it Sarah’s inner Knight in Shining Armour), was at the ready, cards in hand.
I shuffled and laid the ten-card reading out, one card at a time. Confusing. There were no cards that showed anything other than a single figure. There were no cards that indicated a conflict with others of any nature. No Five of Wands, no Five of Swords — not even a Two of Swords. And then it dawned on me. He was his problem! His nightmarish circumstances were a hall of mirrors for something going on inside him, which he was projecting onto those around him. It also explained why, by moving, all he had done was change the backdrop to the same drama.
I looked at him. Looked down at the cards. Looked up at him, looking at me. Gulped. And realised that I wasn’t going to tell him the truth — or not the full truth as I saw it, at any rate.
“Have you thought about staying where you are and sorting it out?” I semi-squeaked.
“No. Why would I do that?” he replied.
“Because I get the sense that no matter how many times you move, you’re always going to encounter the same thing.”
“But I want you to tell me how to get out!”
His frustration was understandable. His nightmare might have been self-created (like all nightmares), but he didn’t see that. I did, though, and I was holding back that information — in part because I didn’t trust myself, but mostly because I was scared. I wanted the reading to be nice; I wanted him to like me. Instead, I had become one of his god-awful neighbours: uncooperative and unaccommodating. He had become my parent around whom I felt I needed to duck and dive. The rest of the reading was more of the same; I found myself talking in circles, doing everything to avoid the hot-spot at the centre that I had learned would burn me. Sheesh.
I remember I was wearing black, and indeed the session did die a death, and there was no way of resuscitating it. He got up to leave, and asked me how much he owed me. I told him. He put the money on the table, along with the final verdict: “I really don’t feel like I should be giving this to you, but here it is.”
And fair enough. He shouldn’t have. Not because I didn’t tell him what he wanted, but because I didn’t give it to him straight. He deserved no less than that, even if only because he was paying me to do so.
There endeth the Cautionary Tale of Sarah’s Misguided Inner-Knight and his Less-Than-Magnificent-Initiatory-Quest. Or was it ‘less-than-magnificent’? It, and other similar experiences, have served me well in one thing at least: try to avoid shit and you step in it anyway.
I’ve learned not to be afraid of saying it straight, and not to be afraid of being wrong. Um-ing and ah-ing is a form of shadow-boxing. It interferes with the ability of a reading to shed light, in the same way that light can change when we put a filter in front of it, or can be diverted entirely if we choose to block its path. (Actually, is it really a fear of being wrong — or is it a fear that the tarot is wrong? If that’s the case, why would we want to believe in something that’s lying to us anyway? That’s a question worth asking all by itself.)
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I just said to him, “The cards are pointing to you as the one who can change — not your neighbours, not your location.” Who knows? Is it relevant anyway? It didn’t happen. Sometimes shit happens instead; sometimes it can be our greatest teacher.
If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread.