When you book a tarot reading you likely get that thrill of magic, eagerness for the luxurious specialness that awaits you in that room (or Skype chat or phone call), when all the tingly mysteries of the universe will spill themselves into the cards that the reader will perfectly pull, all for you and you’re precious life.
But as beautiful as that feeling is, getting a tarot reading is not getting a massage. It’s actually more like physical therapy, where you must listen but also give effort, submit to outside guidance, but stay engaged. A tarot reading is an act of cooperation, active participation, with the shared goal between you, your reader, and divine influence, of your personal revelation.
So basically, you should show up to your reading prepped and ready. Here’s my list of 8 steps to best preparing for a tarot reading!
1. Crack open your journal and let it flow.
Most of the time the reason for booking a reading in the first place is inner mayhem. But in my experience as a reader, when clients come to me to wind through the whole wild state of their emotional turmoil, not much gets clarified. I’ve had many readings start off as, “My boyfriend broke my heart, and I want to know if we should get back together,” and end with, “And my whole life is a lie and I think my father never loved me and my real question is how can I manifest more money?” And I totally understand it how this happens. When we open the floodgates, we get a flood. But if you journal before your reading, you’re likely to have a little more control over your true feelings, and you won’t overwhelm your reader or yourself.
2. Get clear.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of how you feel, you can get clearer about what you need. If your boyfriend just broke up you and your heartbroken and you want to know if you should get back together, ask yourself if that’s really the question in your heart. It’s likely that the question is something more like, “This hurts so bad, how do I deal with this?” I’ve done this in my own readings, where I’ve asked something broad and extreme like, “What should I do with my life?” when I really mean, “How can I find my power to do what I know is right?” I’ve walked away from those readings feeling a bit disappointed because I wasn’t really clear on what I needed to process. Go in clear, leave clearer.
3. Make sure to know and respect the reader’s policies.
If you’ve booked directly with a reader, take a good look at their site, or ask them directly about their policies. Some readers are very specific about what they will and won’t address in a reading (health, other people’s emotions, and extreme trauma are occasional no-go zones). Some also have policies about going overtime, offering refunds if you’re unsatisfied, or tipping. Some have limitations on questions or cards. Make sure you know and respect your reader’s requirements and boundaries so you have a stress-free reading.
4. Meditate beforehand and choose a quiet space.
I have done readings for people in all sorts of bizarre places. I’ve done readings for people (both in person and remotely) who are poolside, on their lunch break, hiding from their husband, breastfeeding, just come from a divorce lawyer, and at a dive bar. Once I did a reading that was interrupted for nearly twenty minutes to have a conversation with the gardner. When we’re scattered and not truly present, the reading will reflect that. Sometimes it’s impossible to put everything aside. Sometimes we really must breastfeed the crying baby. But the least you can do is choose the most calming space you can, and get your mind and heart clear beforehand. Put everything else aside and be as present as possible.
5. Have a notebook ready.
Maybe your cards will be direct and familiar, and maybe they’ll be all over the place and calling up all sorts of buried things and it’s completely overwhelming. In these latter sorts of readings, trust that you’ll be grateful for a notebook. It’s also very helpful to write down your questions and focus points beforehand, so that if the reading wanders in another direction, you have a reminder of what you need to get out of it. Oh, and take notes about things that ring in you during the reading. It may feel like you’ll never forget that chunk of wisdom in the moment, but it will likely be out of your head in less than an hour. Tarot readings are fast and concentrated, so take down as much as you can while remembering to stay engaged.
6. Do not “test” your reader.
All the readers in the room will feel me on this one. There is nothing more infuriating to a tarot professional than when you ask the client what they’d like to focus on, and they answer with a dodgy look in their eye, “You tell me.” Yes, tarot is a magical craft that many believe can read our deepest secrets, but everything has its limitations. The Lovers card, for example, can mean new love or old love, it can mean self-love or uniting the opposites inside yourself. It all depends on the context. So if you tell your reader nothing about yourself and your life, expect to get a pretty vague reading of your cards.
7. Don’t be afraid to tell your reader what doesn’t resonate.
It happens. Sometimes the reader gets a card wrong. I once gave a reading that centered around 2 of Swords, the card of difficult decisions. I talked and talked, trying to explain why this person got the 2 of Swords at the heart of her reading, but all my answers were met with, “Um, yeah?” I was worried I wasn’t getting it right, but my client did not have the heart to say so. Before we signed off I was so pestered about this 2 of Swords, I asked her directly, “Did anything I say about it resonate with you?” Her answer was, um, not really, but maybe it’s this or that, maybe it would be clear eventually. I tried one more time, at this point just fishing for any connecting point and then finally she said, “Oh! I recently decided to separate with my husband, but I haven’t told him yet, and I guess I’m having second thoughts.” Boom, there it was. But what was so frustrating is if she had told me thirty minutes earlier, we would have had a lot more time to dive into that, and a much more satisfying reading.
8. Tarot is not a solution, it’s a mirror.
We’ve come to expect tarot will give us answers, but I honestly believe that’s an abusive way of using this incredible tool. Tarot is about reflection. It’s about new perspective, seeing yourself or your life from a new angle, or maybe clearly for the first time. It’s about validating your core truths, and recognizing where you need to grow. So be patient with your reader, they likely only just met you and are trying to navigate some really profound concepts and intuitions. And have realistic expectations. Your life will not suddenly take off with a rainbow trailing behind it the second you’re out the door. Everything is process, and tarot is a tool for understanding and working through the process, not mastering it.