How to Ask the Tarot a Good Question
Following on from Alana’s excellent post in December about what kind of reading service should someone choose, this article is looking at how to ask a good question when consulting the Tarot, or indeed any other divinatory system.
The Tarot has many levels; it is often seen first and foremost as fortune telling, a little bit of light-hearted fun even, yet it is very much deeper than this.
I have been reading the Tarot (and hands) since the mid 1970’s. For me, the Tarot is a counselling tool to help the Querent (the Seeker) to see the possibilities, pitfalls or position regarding their situation or area of concern. It can give them the opportunity to voice what is on their mind to someone who is non-judgmental and unbiased and for them to focus on the matter at hand. Sometimes when you say what is on your mind, it actually diminishes and puts it into perspective.
To get the best out of the Tarot, it should not be treated like a psychic guessing game. You would not go to a doctor and ask him or her to guess what the problem is, without telling them something of the nature of the ailment would you? So should it be when consulting the Tarot; do you want help or not? I once told a client (who had already told me he wasn’t going to tell me anything), that I was not surprised that he was having issues if his refusal to open up to me was indicative of his lack of communication with the other people in his life.
But how do you ask a good question? I always ask my face-to-face clients what they would like to know about today. This starts a conversation and generally makes the client think about what is going on around them, and to relax too. Many people are nervous about what you might tell them. Very often the question asked is not necessarily the real problem. I do however, ask them not to tell me too much either! A Tarot consultation should be a two way dialogue at each stage of the reading, not a life story.
The free readings that we offer at TABI do pose several problems. One being that what is written is only two dimensional and not always what is actually meant. Many Querents ask questions to which there is only a Yes/No answer; the “Does he love me?” type, which I am sure we are all familiar with. By changing the wording to, “What do I need to know about my relationship with him?” the cards are then able to expand on the message, which might be “Yes, but not enough to leave his wife!” Brutal, but true.
With face-to-face readings, you can ask for clarification immediately should a card appear which does not seem to fit in with the nature of the question. Also, with face-to-face readings, the Querent can see the cards in front of them too. Depending on which deck you use, in particular if you use the Rider Waite Smith or a RWS influenced deck, the Querent can see images on the Minors which will often spark a feeling or reaction from them about the card. This can have its advantages, but also there are disadvantages; think of how some people react when Death or The Devil cards appear! I personally use an Italian, Tarot de Marseilles influenced deck where the Minors are just 4 Chalices, 2 Batons, 7 Swords etc., with not many clues to the meaning. Even the names on the Majors do not give much away, except to an Italian-speaking Querent of course. But I digress!
Some Querents just want a ‘General’ reading, which can fall into the realms of fortune telling,
but very often when you get into the reading, there are various concerns or deeper questions that come to light. This is where the two-way dialogue is helpful, to get the Querent focused.
As a Free Reader for TABI, we are not able initially to ask the Querent for clarification about something, except should there be any query with the question they have asked. I recently had a Free Reading request, where the Querent had asked about ‘perusing’ someone, which turned out to be a typo and it should have read ‘pursuing’ someone.
Another aspect of our Free Reading service is that we offer readings to people all over the world and of course, English is often not everyone’s first language. We can contact the Querent to clarify what they mean and that you have understood them, or suggest that the question is put in a different way; the “What do I need to know about….” rephrasing does tend to work well here. I do remember one lady who was adamant that her question was not rephrased (putting this in capital letters!) which meant that a) she had asked the same question before and had had the wording changed and b) had not heard what she wanted to hear about it anyway so thought she’d ask again, but you can’t please everyone all the time can you?
So to sum up then, firstly the question should not be one where the answer is only ‘Yes or No.’
Secondly, the question ideally should be worded, “What would I like/what do I need to know about….?” or similar phrasing. However, even this can be misconstrued; as we all know the Universe gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want!
The messages from the cards might not be what you are hoping to hear either, and I have found in many years of reading that a muddled question gets a muddled answer too. I have on occasions, asked my clients if they are sure that the question they have asked is really what they mean. So if in doubt, do get clarification.
And one final interesting snippet – there is a tradition in Italian Tarot, that should The Fool be the first card laid in a reading, this suggests that the question asked is not the right one and perhaps needs to be rephrased or changed.
Happy reading folks!