How Do You Know When You Are Ready?

So, how do you know when you are ready to go from being a tarot student to a tarot reader? Kind of in the same way you know when you are ready to fall in love. It’s just something that comes from inside, a certain level of confidence and self esteem mixed in with a good dollop of humility and willingness to give of yourself.

Just to be clear about one point though- you are never not a tarot student. If you fall in love with cards and with reading you will spend the rest of your life learning about cards and reading. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles I’m afraid. There is always something else to learn about cards, reading, people, yourself, you get the idea. If someone tells you they know everything there is to know about tarot they are quite simply, lying. No one knows it all. No one knows the “only true way to read cards” or “the quickest solution to all your problems” and most especially no one is 100% accurate. Avoid like crazy anyone who swears they are. We are human. We have bad days. Believe me, there is no such thing as 100% accuracy- just ask any weather man!

If you are waiting until you are perfect at reading cards before going out there and giving it a go, you will be waiting forever. It ain’t gonna happen. But don’t let that stop you. We all learn best by doing. My advice is to start small. Start at your local market offering very small readings- like one to three cards for less then $20. Then work your way up. Different areas have different going rates for readers based on all sorts of things like the local economy, what type of people live in your area etc. Shop around and find out what your local rate is.

If you are very new and not very confident yet start low then work your way up. What you want to get to is a regular client base. Once you find that you are having more people calling you then you can reasonably handle, up your price per hour or reading (or however you are choosing to charge).

There is no magic sign that lets you know “this is the time to start doing this for a living”. Chances are you won’t be making much of a living from it in the beginning- it will simply be a hobby or sideline. Because being a reader is so much about reputation it does take some time to build that reputation, so it isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It is an awful lot like being an author- there are a few very famous names who make millions, but most of us simply plod along, doing it more for the love of it then because it’s financially lucrative. Having said that, don’t let the lack of riches stop you from giving it a go.

You are ready when you know you are. How do you know you are? Well, only you can truly answer that.


Long Distance Readings

It is possible to do long distance readings or indeed, readings where you don’t even know who you are reading for. Sometimes, the best readings are the ones where you literally don’t know a thing about the person receiving it. My theory about why this works is all a bit quantum. If the physics is a bit much, think of it as the universal truth that we are all connected. You always get the right answer at the right time. The only thing that stops that from happening is our own over analytical minds. The beauty of long distance reading is that it is much easier to take our tendency to make even the tiniest of judgements out of the equation.

Some of the best readings I have both given and received have been with no more information then a question and a username- not even the persons real name! It’s scary when you have literally nothing but your intuitions and impressions to go by and you do run the risk of going down the completely wrong path, but when you do get it right it feels amazing. As a sitter you know that the answer you have been given is based on nothing but actual intuition and messages, and as a reader it’s confirmation that you really aren’t just making it all up. Believe me when I tell you that even the best of us occasionally wonder.

To give you an example of how this works I’ll share a personal story with you. I joined in with a group exercise one day online revolving around passing on messages from passed loved ones. Now generally I don’t do talking to dead people, even though it’s something of talent within my family (they have all denied it being of a certain generation of European background, but it’s definitely there)- the reason being that it just creeps me out (my apologies to genuine mediums out there I do respect what you do, but I just don’t feel terribly comfortable doing it myself). But at the time I was curious to see if I could do it, so I joined in. I was paired with a lovely lady who’s name I can’t for the life of me remember at this point. We didn’t have anything to go by except the screen name of our partners- no background, no question, nothing- and the assignment was to simply see what would come. So I sat there, quietly, waiting to hear something and a little bit afraid I would see something I would rather not. I don’t remember actually hearing anything but after a while it was as if I had a new memory of a conversation I’d just had. I jotted down all the relevant points on my notepad feeling for all the world as if I was making it up, wondering if my partner would be able to relate to anything that I had picked up on. It turned out she did. I thought that I had picked up on just one of her uncles but she said the details I related came from two of them and they were all accurate and all relevant. You could have knocked me over with a feather I was so surprised by her response. The moral of the story is that if she had been sitting in the room with me at the time I would have unconsciously been paying more attention to her response then to what I was picking up on. I would probably have tried to tailor what I was ‘hearing’ into something I thought she would recognise. Because she wasn’t there I had to rely simply on what I was getting. And it worked.

Having said that I don’t really believe that long distance reading always works. There are of course many people out there who want to make a living out of fortune telling who are unscrupulous enough to take you for a ride. I suggest staying away from anyone who charges by the minute and then draws out the reading, or those “call now!” kind of numbers. There are far better places to find reputable and good readers at much fairer prices, but more on that at a later date.

Some readers can work long distance with nothing but a name, others need more information, like a photo or something personal. This isn’t strictly necessary but it does help the reader connect emotionally and psychically to the sitter- gives them a link if you will- and allows the reader to read with more confidence. If you happen to find the perfect reader but they are on the other side of the world from you, don’t worry, they can do their job just fine from there.

Fortune Telling Vs Reading Cards

Fortune Telling, getting your cards read, seeing a psychic is there a difference? Fundamentally no, I don’t think there is. The only difference is semantics and how we see ourselves. There is a difference in perception about each kind of reader, depending on your culture.

Psychics stand on top of the food chain as it were, perhaps because of famous people like John Edward, Allison Dubois and Gordon Brown being called psychics, though they are in fact mediums- they focus solely on passing on messages from the dead. Most people believe they have a higher level of integrity. There is also a perception that their messages are some how more pure, or accurate, that psychics are somehow super gifted people who’s words we should heed with alacrity. Overall, psychics have a good reputation bar a few. The big excpetion to this is of course the skeptics. It is worth reading what the skeptics have to say because it’s always worth having two sides of the story. The skeptics save the worst of their vitriol for psychics and mediums because they are in the spotlight and because it boils down to the psychics word vs the skeptics. But that’s a subject for a later day.

Card readers have slightly less authority in the general population. Perhaps because there aren’t any super famous ones. I sometimes get the feeling that card readers are the poor cousins of psychics. Maybe that’s because the general population feels that if they knew the meanings of the cards they could do it too (they can!). From the outside it doesn’t look as if you need a special gift to be a card reader, you just need somewhere to learn it. Which is true.

Fortune tellers have the worst reputation. We are associated with charlatans and gypsies and have a reputation for saying what the person wants to hear so long as we get paid. When people think fortune tellers, they think dark, dingy hole in the wall shops, full of smoky incense and an old woman clattering with heavy jewellery. They think Hollywood stereotypes of scary women who freak people out. It’s because of this dodgy reputation that card readers, whether oracle or tarot, tend to dissociate themselves from the term.

Fortune teller is a general term which includes other forms of divination than card reading. If you can read tea leaves or palms or scry or whatever, you are a fortune teller. In a nutshell though- card reading is fortune telling.

What psychics, card readers and fortune tellers have in common is a fundamental understanding of archetypes, human nature and a deep trust in their intuitions. Everyone gets flashes of insight, gut feelings and true dreams from time to time. Some true psychics really are very gifted but in the same way that some people have stunning singing voices but all of us can learn to sing. Even those truly gifted benefit from training, practice and discipline.

Fortune telling itself is as old as humanity and has had many ages. Sometimes it’s been viewed with respect, sometimes it’s been persecuted (usually because G*d ‘said’ so) but it has never really died out because it’s in our nature to be curious, especially about the future. In many places it has had to go underground because it is actually illegal to be a fortune teller, though thankfully this is changing in most places. You may have noticed the legal disclaimer on professional readings which says “for entertainment purposes only”, fundamentally, this exists because despite this being the 21st century, some people still consider fortune telling to be evil. In the modern world fortune telling is dressed up with a depth of understanding about human nature. We are more self aware now then at any point in history, so our explorations into the mysteries of the future also involve explorations into the mysteries of ourselves.

Most card readers don’t like to consider themselves fortune tellers because they feel it limits them, that it takes the power out of the hands of their sitters and leaves it up to an unchangeable fate. Which can be quite true- hence my mission to clear up as many misconceptions about fortune telling as I can and reclaim the term as it was meant to be.

When people go to a fortune teller, they think that what that fortune teller says is set in stone, but when they go to a card reader, they expect advice and options. No matter what we call ourselves, a good fortune teller, card reader, or psychic will leave you feeling better then when you walked in. It is our role to help you, give you options, help you anticipate the pro’s and con’s of your actions and of those forces outside yourself that you have no control over. A good reading, no matter who gives it to you, empowers you.

So is telling fortunes any different from reading oracle cards? No, I don’t think so. The methods may differ but the heart of it is the same. Most readers, psychics and fortune tellers just want to help.

Asking the Same Question Again and Again and Again

We all do this. Honest. It’s not something to be ashamed about. If you are reading cards (or getting your cards read) in the first place, you are probably the sort of person who’s not very good at just letting stuff go and waiting and seeing. We want to know what happens next or we wouldn’t bother trying to see the future. We were the sort of kids who were shaking the Christmas presents trying to work out what they were, or constantly asking ‘why’, ‘are we there yet’ and ‘what happens next’?

So as a consequence, when we have a burning issue we tend to ask about it repetitively. We get very creative about wording our questions-

  • Will we get back together?
  • Does he still love me?
  • Will I see him at the event?
  • Will he call me?
  • Should I call him?
  • Is he my soul mate?


All variations on a theme- and I’m sure there’s many more. There isn’t anything wrong with this. Will it be helpful in actually seeing the future? Probably not, but it does make you feel better- it gives you a sense of control over a situation where you have no control. It at least makes you feel like you are doing something.

There are a few of traps to watch out for.

  • Don’t get too hung up on the answers you get to any questions that you have a deep emotional involvement in. That is, take it all with a grain of salt. Our emotions are very powerful and can sway the reading and coupled with our less then 20/20 vision when we are very attached to the outcome such readings can be less accurate.
  • Don’t keep reading till you get the answer you want. You’ll just confuse yourself and get more disappointed. It’s tough, but learn to understand the answer you have before you just do it again.
  • Give yourself time. Let enough time pass before you ask again about an issue that is very important. 1- you need time to allow events to develop (think of it as a good stew) and 2- you really do need time to understand the reading you have.


The trickiest part of this is recognising when you are doing it. If you read the list above and thought all those questions were really different and worth asking all in one sitting then chances are you are going to get very confused readings. If you do want to know all those things do a bigger or more general reading- if you do specifically want to know those things pick one or two at the most and leave it at that. Do another question a week later.

The best advice for when you get into that burning need to know frame of mind is to take that as a cue to do some self work. Do some readings centred around what you need to know to grow spiritually, that sort of thing. The more obsessed you get about outside influences/ people or situations the less in control of your own life you feel and the more of an off putting energy you put out there. It’s the single best way to slow down the very progress you want to make. It makes your energy desperate which blocks growth and development.

Lastly, don’t be too hard yourself when you fall into the trap. As I said, we all do it. It’s not the end of the world. The best thing to remember is that “this too shall pass”. Believe it or not, you won’t always be in the frame of mind that makes you want to read repetitively about a certain subject.

Can Intuition Be Taught?

Yes and no.

Yes, it is possible to strengthen and learn to work with the intuition you have. No, no one can teach you to work your intuition like they work with theirs.

As a bottom line I’d be very suspicious of any courses that charge you hundreds of dollars to use something you were born with. Some books can help, but only in as far as they can put into words something that you already know and unfortunately most are rather wishy washy. To tell which books are helpful and which are wishy washy open the book up to any page and read about a paragraph. If you find yourself nodding and saying to yourself, “hmm, that makes sense,” then it’s a good book. On the other hand if you find yourself not understanding half of it or wondering what on earth they are referring to then it’s most likely a big pass.

To learn to work with your intuition you need to start by acknowledging you have one. Too many people assume that they need some kind of special training or power to sense things. I think this comes from so many of us being conditioned from a young age to respect authority and give our power away- to make someone else responsible for our lives. Sometimes this can come from religious upbringings but it can also come from very authoritarian parents or bad childhoods where our power was taken away from us at a young age.

There is a simple reason why people have always said “to go with your gut”. It’s because we do feel our most primal intuitions physically. We feel sick to the stomach at the thought of a bad, scary or dangerous idea, or butterflies in our tummy when we think of something exciting. I have, however, met many people who literally don’t feel these sorts reactions. Through either childhood trauma or the nature of the person, they have found themselves disconnected from their physicality. So step one in learning to use your intuition is learning the signs your body gives you. Starting from as simple as how does it feel when you think about giving yourself a treat (hmmm chocolate…) to how it feels when you think about confronting your boss over a difficult issue. A solid grounding in your body’s natural responses is essential if you want to learn to use your intuition.

Once you are pretty sure you know your body’s language it’s time to move on to testing it on other things. We all sometimes practice run conversations in our minds before we have them. Try writing down what you think happen before a conversation, first with just your intellect then by stopping, breathing deeply, settling yourself down so your attention seems to come from around your tummy and jotting down the ideas that come from that state. Then afterwards go back and check how you did.

There are thousands of free and easy exercises you can try. I’ll be posting more on those in the coming weeks, for now I’ll just leave it at one final point about intuition. The only way to learn to use your intuition is to use it. I can describe the mechanics of riding a bike, but they only way to really learn to ride a bike is to hop on and give it a go. Sometimes you’ll fall off but so long as you keep on getting back on and trying you eventually get the hang of it. Learning to use your intuition is exactly like learning to ride a bike. Get on. Give it a go. And keep on trying.

To Reverse or Not to Reverse

I generally don’t read with reversals but I don’t have a problem with those who do. Personally, I think there’s more than enough meaning going on with 78 cards, the combinations and positions in spreads without throwing in reversals as well.

My advice is to avoid reversals if you are a beginner. Wait till you’ve well and truly got the hang of each and every card before trying it. The problem is that a reversed card doesn’t just mean the opposite of what the card is supposed to mean. It can mean that the energy is blocked, or twisted or  damaging in some way.

Every now and then in my readings a card will come out reversed even if I haven’t deliberately turned any cards in my deck. When that happens I’ll leave it and take particular note of it. Sometimes it’s just inexperienced shufflers (some of the decks are way too huge to shuffle comfortably unless you have King Kong’s hands), Sometimes it really is the way the cards want to be read.  

I do have a lot of admiration for those who can read reversals well, but I think it’s unnecessary. Before you look at including reversals in your readings make sure you know how to combine the meanings of your cards, how they relate to each other and what each card means in relation to the position in the spread you’ve chosen.

Tarot: Myths and Misconceptions

There are a few things I know a lot about. Tarot is one of them. It never ceases to amaze me that even today there are many myths, misconceptions and general scepticism surrounding the subject, so I’m hoping here to bring tarot out of its gypsy clad, incense covered closet.

I’ve been reading tarot cards for fifteen years, and one thing hasn’t changed in all that time. When I tell people I read tarot cards I will get one of two reactions- “Oh I don’t believe in that stuff,” and “Can you do me?”.

The first group amuse me. These are the people who very often follow up their statement of disbelief with the question, “what if it tells you something bad?” The second group are sometimes harder to deal with as they often assume that tarot readers walk around with their cards (which a lot do) and are ready to do free readings for strangers at the drop of a hat (which a lot aren’t). They can sometimes get quite persistent. Quite frankly, this is bad manners on the same sort of level as asking a total stranger how much money they earn. I highly recommend you don’t do it.

One of the main myths surrounding tarot is that it can predict someone’s death. It can’t. You may get a reading from an exceptional reader who can psychically pick that sort of information up but these sorts of readers are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. In and of themselves tarot cards can only tell you what you already know at some level.

There are many forms of divination: oracles, I Ching, runes, omens, to name but a few, but tarot cards are different in that their main usefulness comes not from their ability to predict the future but from their ability to allow the reader to examine themselves.

Tarots strength lies in it symbolism. In its ability to speak to our subconscious and bring out those things we try to keep hidden from ourselves. I describe it as being able to give you the long view- for example, we sometimes get so close to our own situations that it is as if we have a newspaper pressed up close to our face- all we see are dots and blurs- tarot allows you to pull the metaphorical newspaper away so that you can see the whole picture again. The beauty of this is that symbols are deeply personal. A crow can mean three different things to three different people yet at the same time still retain enough universal meaning to be relevant.

One of my favourite misconceptions is that the actual cards themselves are in some way mystical or magical or need to be treated with some kind of special deference. They are pretty pictures printed on cardboard. Sometimes good quality cardboard sometimes rather cheap and nasty cardboard but, at the end of the day, cardboard none the less. It’s the images that are special. And tarot is not the only thing that uses the power of imagery; its just codified into a system that can be learnt with tarot.

My least favourite misconception is the one where tarot is the tool of the devil and that they are evil and will somehow turn any user evil. Seriously, does this even need refuting anymore? I won’t start because then I’ll end up ranting, suffice it to say that the sort of people who say this are the sort that I choose not to waste my time with.

The last thing I wanted to cover was readers and readings. Readers are people too. You have your good, bad and ugly in tarot readers like you do anywhere else. And tarot readings can vary in price from $5 to $150 (generally if your paying more than that your reader should be some kind of celebrity or you are being ripped off). A few general guidelines:

  • If you are getting a reading and feel uncomfortable, pressured or like nothing the reader is saying makes sense, get up, walk out and don’t pay.
  • If a reader tells you that you have a curse and must pay $XXX to get rid of it get up, walk out, don’t pay and call the police. This is illegal and it gives decent readers a bad name.
  • A good reader will reiterate to you that no future is set in stone. Anything about the future that you don’t like can be changed. To my mind, this is the point of tarot reading- to see if you are on track to getting where you want to be and if you aren’t, doing something different to get there. Any reader who is convinced that such and such event will happen and nothing can change it probably isn’t worth going back to.
  • A good tarot reading will leave you feeling better and more optimistic about your future than when you walked in. If it doesn’t then chances are you need to find a better reader.

There are probably more myths and misconceptions, but I think I’ve covered the main ones. If there’s something about tarot cards or readings you would like to know feel free to ask. I’m happy to answer any and all questions- except the “will you read for me?” question. The answer to that is no- but I can steer you in the direction of good people who will.

Originally Published on Rusty Lime 3rd May 2008