Live Tarot Reading & Staging a Fake One

Psychic Line phone readings are a baptism of fire and a shock to the system. Nothing can actually prepare you for it. The best thing you can do when you opt to be a professional tarot reader using this medium is to apply for a position and then log on to their system and go for it.

Callers will have expectations of you before you even open your mouth.

  • There is no distinction in their mind between you being a tarot reader or a psychic
  • They expect you to have all the answers
  • They expect you to tell them what to do
  • They expect you to be able to tell them about their problems in 3 minutes flat or they’re outta there*

*On psychic lines you have between three and five minutes with a caller before they are allowed to hang up (and not be charged) and try someone else if they feel you are not the reader they are looking for or gel with.

After you’ve checked their date of birth and bill payer permission, invariably you’ll ask how you can help. Nine times out of ten they’ll say they want a general reading. Which nine times out of ten is a lie. They’re testing you, to see if you know you’re stuff and if you hit on any of their problems in your opening assessment of their reading. Often, they also think they can hide from you certain things they’ve done, are doing or want to. The cards don’t lie though and you will pick up on it.

All this fun begins with the dreaded General Tarot Reading. It’s cold reading at its best and worse.

Now, you know nothing about this person – you’re not a psychic, nor a medium and yet you have 3 minutes to convince them you know the score. You deal out your cards and have to hit the ground running.

The General Tarot Reading

Your first few times reading this way will leave you with sweaty hands, a raised heartbeat, a red face and quite often tarot card amnesia. What the hell are you supposed to do? What the hell does the Justice card in the Heart of the Matter position mean anyway? Why is Death crossing it? Oh my god, I can’t remember anything…..

Yes, it happened to me, plenty. But you get through it and if you bomb, you put it down to the baptism of fire. And as my Dad says, you dust yourself off and carry on.

So how do you begin a general tarot reading for someone you don’t know, who is testing you and simultaneously either lying to you or deliberately concealing information?

There are number of methods, most notable, the opening two cards of the Celtic Cross Spread, the Heart of the Matter and the Crossing Card. This always tells you what is troubling the client, but it’s not the only place you can begin a tarot reading. You can begin with position seven, the You position, or what you’re (the client) is bringing to the situation.

This card immediately gives you insight into how they’re feeling/acting/responding etc. The 5 of Cups here could have you saying, “oh dear, you’re feeling a sense of loss… and so on”. This is what I call a Time Injection, it gives you time to scan the cards and it can also be an Ice Breaker because you’ve now empathised with the client and nailed one problem in seconds flat.

Sometimes that one sentence opens the flood gates and you might not say anything else for ages because you can’t get a word in edgeways…

Other times, they may just agree with you and see what else you may say. Looking at the Root Cause or Recent Past can help you determine where the issue arose. If we find the King of Pentacles in the Recent Past, we could say to them that it involves a senior male, or a man of importance in their life.

The Justice card crossed by Death now looks horribly like a divorce or legal case going against your client.

But let’s not get hung up on details just yet, we could equally have nice cards in the opening positions that make us wonder why our client is feeling and experiencing a sense of loss. We could have the 3 of Cups crossed by the 6 of Wands.

Tarot Tip – understanding the true nature of the crossing card
Remember, the crossing card is an obstacle and therefore seen in a negative light no matter how cute the card is, in the Crossing position, it’s showing its shadow or reversed side. With these two cards, we could say that they recently got engaged and were celebrating with a party and he didn’t show up, or he left, or he got so drunk that he ruined the party leaving her feeling very confused and upset about their future together.

There could be a million possibilities and that’s the problem with a general reading in a cold situation. You will sometimes call it in the wrong way, not entirely as the cards never lie, it will only be your interpretation of the events and while the cards can mean any number of things even in groups, without any confirmation from the client that you’re on the right track, you’ve got no option but to stick your neck out and call it as you see it.

Being true to yourself in that situation is listening to your intuition and trusting the process. Often you’ll be so close and close enough that they’ll come in and correct you and you can begin a dialogue from there.

The Small Details

Apart from the meaning of the cards themselves, when you allow yourself to get into the reading, you may find yourself saying things to the client that you have no idea of why or where it’s coming from. That would be your intuition; spirit guides, your connection to divinity and some say your higher self. These off the cuff things you say are often the clinchers in general tarot readings, and even specific question tarot readings.

Looking into the card for symbols and other clues is often all it takes to bag the reading. The direction of the eyes of a princess card looking at a prince card; the physical position of people cards in relation to each other – are they facing each other or looking in the same direction? Is one looking to the future and one looking to the past? These are called Directional Dignities and can be extremely helpful in any reading and work very well with the unusual layout of the Celtic Cross.

Repeating Patterns

Numbers, shapes, colours, people, astrology – anything that shows itself across more than one card is reinforcing the message of that symbol and shouldn’t be ignored. You don’t have to tell the client this news directly, you can just say that you’re getting that message very strongly.

You can also tell them that the number seven is repeating itself here, does it have significance for you?

This does two things, it gets them involved in the reading and it also helps feel part of it too. Once they can relate to it, they can see themselves in it. You will also have bagged yourself another brownie point and your client will now think you’re awesome. It’s plain sailing after that.

Do You Make Future Predictions?

If you work a phone line, yes – it’s what they’re paying you for. If it’s a free reading for the ATA or Tabi, most likely their code of ethics will forbid it. If it’s your private client, your own code of ethics will dictate what you will do.

What you can do is be ambiguous and suggest that the cards aren’t clear on that, or they’re showing more than one possible outcome. This does a couple of awesome things for you (and them), it gets you off the hook but most importantly, it gives them choice when they probably didn’t think they had any. It also helps them be responsible for their own future – something else they probably never thought about and all the while you never once said you weren’t going to predict.

Now, if the Death card and the 10 of Swords are present in the Outcome and Crowning position (Potential Outcome), it’s most likely that you can see it’s not going to work and being ambiguous isn’t going to cut it.

My own feeling here is that we need to be careful that we don’t remove all options from the client. We must remind them they always have a choice, no matter how bad the outcome might look, they can choose not to go down that road at all – again puts them in the driving seat. I also haven’t mentioned other cards in this section, but they may also show us where they can change direction ahead of Death and the 10 of Swords.

We must also remember that sometimes the client knows the situation is a bad one and they just want confirmation so they gain closure. Telling it like it is, no matter how grim it may look, is sometimes part of the job. Again, during the reading, you can remind them they have a choice about their future and if they want to explore that now, you’d be happy to. You can also tell them they can come back for another reading when they’ve absorbed that information and feel ready to look to the future.

Staging a Fake Live General Reading

If you work mostly online, your tarot readings will be done on the phone and via email (though you may also consider using Skype/Zoom/Facetime). Most often, the client won’t be physically in front of you. This has benefits in many ways – not having done your hair is one of them…. However, it’s nice in the early days to at least pretend we’re talking to a physical person and a very simple way to replicate that is by using a doll or teddy bear as their stand in.

Sit your furry friend either next to you or across the table from you and just pretend they’re a real person. That includes actually speaking to them and answering them. Yes, I know they won’t say actual words, but you might on their behalf – I know that one to be true…

So Ted in place, take your Rider Waite deck in hand and ask Ted how you can help him. He’s going to ask you for a general reading. So you’re going to shuffle and ask Ted while you’re shuffling to think about his life and focus on any problems or issues that you would like the tarot to address.

Tarot Tip – Language
When we talk in those terms: the tarot says, what the tarot is showing me/you, what you would like the tarot to address, I’m sorry the cards aren’t clear about that… it removes the responsibility from you if they’re not hearing what they want to hear. The cards are doing it, not you. This is not a cop out. People on psychic lines have a very different way of looking at this and framing it. The client will then begin to talk in terms of, “what are the cards saying then?” as opposed to “what do you think I should do?” They will likely refer back to that way of speaking though and you must always counter with “what the cards are showing or telling you.” If they talk in terms of “what are the cards showing you?” then you know they believe and you’re halfway there.

When you feel prompted to stop, lay out a Celtic Cross spread with your cards (or your other tarot spread of choice).

I’ve talked in terms of seeing a full spread of cards in front of you as I think it gives you the best insight into doing a general reading. Dealing the cards out one at a time works better in a face to face situation, particularly with a specific question. It’s personal preference though and you will find your own preferred way of laying down the cards and beginning reading.

Using the methods I discussed before, pull out what you consider is the key information and give Ted his general tarot reading. Pretend you have 3 minutes to grab one piece of information that will be relevant to Ted’s situation. You will feel a little pressured and possibly frantic, but don’t worry, that is quite normal – the aim of this is to give you that experience before you ever go live so you have some idea of what it will be like initially. It does get easier and you won’t panic the more you do.

Don’t ignore your intuition and if you want to say something that you’re not sure where it’s coming from, say it – it’s always important.

At this point, it’s worth noting that it will begin as a general reading but may develop into a subject specific reading if that’s what the client was really intending. If they really wanted a general reading, look for cards, or groups of cards that signify work, money and relationships. Stay away from health readings.

Live Tarot Reading Exercise

The following is part of an exercise I give to my tarot students when they are preparing to go live on a psychic line:

Do one of these fake readings every day a week and if you can (or within your own time frame), record the whole reading using voice recording software either on your computer of mobile device. When you have finished, and you will have this reading done in minutes because you will be rushing and anxious, write the key points of the reading down, the cards, the positions they fell in and what you felt was the main gist of the reading. Don’t write tomes, just a paragraph will do. It’s just for your benefit, though pointing out repeating patterns or certain things that grabbed your attention will also be helpful – directional dignities etc., do this in bullet point format. We’re only looking to see what stood out to you in the reading and where your eyes were.

With the cards still in front of you, listen back to the recording, painful as it may be for you to hear yourself, and note how you think you sounded. It will be really easy to be harsh on yourself here but try not to be judgmental, overly critical, personally cruel or self-flagellating. The idea behind listening to yourself back is to see where you did well and where you can improve. How you used language and where you may want consider different words.

Finally, write one more paragraph about how the experience was for you, and please also consider your own code of ethics. You don’t have to formulate it now, but jot down some pointers for yourself about what you think is important in a tarot reading, your role, your client’s role etc.

Most importantly, have fun!

Header Image: Rilapa [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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