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Tarot Beginners

Be the Reader You Are (and Don’t Stress About What You’re Not)

This sign stands outside of Mirabai, a New Age bookstore in Woodstock, New York.


I have to think of it this way. I read tarot before him. I read tarot for him. And I read tarot after him.

My ex was a tarot reader. He was quite good at it. He was not my first boyfriend to read tarot, but there was something about his readings that were so scarily accurate that I was in awe.

Consequently, when it was mutually realized we were both readers, we agreed to exchange readings. He read for me. And when it came time for me to read for him . . .

. . . I was reduced to tears. Absolute mental breakdown-worthy tears.

I don’t know why I thought after he read for me that I was suddenly incapable of doing a reading for him. I don’t remember panicking while he was shuffling the cards. I don’t remember panicking when I took the cards back from him and started to lay them out. It was when I was done with laying out the cards that it kicked in. The thought: “Oh crap, now it’s really my turn.”

And I started to cry. That first reading was horrible. I don’t think my first reading for a stranger was as bad as that reading. Oh, I’m sure I was accurate. It was the feeling that went along with it, the “I can’t read as eloquently as he just did.” That first reading I did for my ex he walked me through, point by point, card by card, and at the end prompted me with, “What does it all mean altogether?” The reading was like pulling teeth or taffy, the information exchange like molasses with sharp shards in it.

I don’t blame my ex in any of this. I blame myself. He was an intimidating guy, and his tarot-reading was no exception. But I let myself be intimidated by another reader. Therefore, the fault lays with me.

A few years after this, I started reading professionally. During one of these “out of the tarot closet” readings, I read for an acquaintance who admitted after the reading was finished that she was a tarot reader, too. I thanked her profusely for telling me after the reading and not before, since my nerves would have been shot “reading for a reader.” After that, I silently told myself that reading for readers was “too hard” and vowed to avoid it when possible . . .

. . . and then two months ago I was at Readers Studio, surrounded by fellow readers. Not reading for another reader at a tarot conference is impossible. It is a part of the learning process. You take classes at the conference and then you immediately apply them to help absorb that new information. Compounded by that were threats from people to read for “heap big tarot readers” (see The Tarot Apprentice Speaks for said threats), furthering amalgamating my already paralyzing fear of reading for readers. At Readers Studio, you are reading for readers right from the get-go with the Foundation Reading. Theresa Reed (who just happened to be sitting next to me at the start . . . coincidence? Absolutely not!) and I paired up. I wanted to tell her about my fear of reading for readers, but just from the look on her face I could tell it was a bad idea. Theresa could see right through me, look at my fears, and know what I didn’t realize until after Readers Studio: all of this “I can’t do this” self-flagellation was and is bullshit.

In short, you cannot be another reader. You can try, but it simply won’t work. Readings that should come easily will suddenly be nightmarish and hard if you so much as attempt to read like someone else. The tarot senses the bullshit and those cards that you have come to know as your friends transform into monsters from under the bed.

I’m not an eloquent reader. Much of the time when reading I curse, am pretty blunt, and rarely tint the world rosy when that’s not what I’m seeing. I try not to beat around the bush and frequently dive right into the core reason as to why you’re coming for a reading. I use words such as “asskickery” to describe the suit of Swords.

I’m not particularly slick like my ex was when reading, but I have my own style, and that’s okay. You have your own style that makes your readings special. Don’t let your specialness be overshadowed by your own fears. Be your own person. Be your own reader.

4 Responses to Be the Reader You Are (and Don’t Stress About What You’re Not)

  1. A Girl Called Woo says:

    Too bad you didn't read for Ciro!!!! ;D

  2. The Tarot Lady says:

    I think you are a fabulous reader and you cannot even begin to imagine how accurate you were for me. I was speechless. So stop this insecurity bullshit and know this: YOU ARE AN AWESOME TAROT READER.

  3. Tarot Broad says:

    Hilary, this was a fabulous article. Thanks so much for writing this. I suffer from similar issues – and I've been to every Readers Studio. I've let this paralyzing self-doubt hold me back for too long and I'm still working on it. But I completely understand where you're coming from. ;D

  4. Hilary says:

    A Girl Called Woo—Hardy har har. Very funny, funnypants.

    The Tarot Lady—What are my fears? Bullshit. I get it now. I'm just trying to put it out there for other people. I don't want readers to make my same mistake and hide their light under a bushel out of fear of doing something "wrong" or the classic "I don't interpret X card the same as X person… that means I suck!"

    Tarot Broad—And thank you for reading it! Self-doubt I think is something that never goes away. You have to play the game of psyching your own ego/self-doubt/naysayer out. Acknowledge it, and then tell it to piss off. 🙂

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