Once you start to get to grips with reading for yourself, and start to feel confident in your ability to understand the cards, it’s natural to look at reading for other people. For most of us, the obvious choice would be our close friends and family. However, this is not always the best idea, which is why I felt that it would be worth discussing.
Now before we get into it, I’m not saying never read the cards for those closest to you – on the contrary, it can be a great way to build on your understanding – this is more encouraging you to weigh up the pros and cons. Personal experience has taught me the hard way that it can disturb old skeletons that are best left in the closet. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Why it can be useful
Just like reading for yourself, reading for somebody you know well can help you learn the language of your cards. Especially if you have a close friend who is happy to play guinea pig; you can easily replicate the exercises we discussed in previous posts for them. Asking questions that you both, or they, know the answer to and working backwards to map out the symbolism of each card you draw can be helpful.
Reading for a relative would work in much the same way, you know them well (in some cases maybe even better than your friends,) but there is such a thing as being too close.
Judging if it’s not appropriate
From personal experience I would caution against reading for family, with the exception of asking the cards for guidance in a reading done for yourself.
Like many people, I have a family that could be considered rather dysfunctional and we all have our own issues that we would like to stay dead and buried. The majority of my relatives aren’t what I’d consider spiritual, or even religious. I’d say they’ve lapsed in their faith at best. So it was a particularly awkward experience when one of my blood relatives approached me to read my cards for them.
My initial instinct was to say, “No, I don’t think that’s wise.” They seemed to accept this, and I went back to what I had been doing and didn’t think about it until they asked me again. Naturally I objected, and tried to explain my reasons, only for this cycle to repeat a few more times. Even being forced to endure attempts at guilting me, “You do it for your friends; I’m family,” and similar things got said.
In the end, for the sake of keeping the peace, I gave in. The reading that I attempted – as I never got to finish it – was the most uncomfortable experience of reading the Tarot that I’ve ever had. The experience stuck with me so strongly that I went as far as to consider giving up reading altogether – after all, I wanted to read to help people – it was never my intention to stir up anything distressing for anyone I cared about, nevermind inadvertently ‘kick the hornets’ nest.
The same warnings I’ve given about being careful about seeing what you want to see when you read for yourself, also apply with close friends and family. It’s not a true equivalent, but it is worth bearing in mind that it’s easy to fall into the trap of ockham’s razor. As we know the querent* it’s easy to assume the most obvious meaning is the correct one. Well, sometimes it’s not. This can be problematic when it touches on ‘forbidden topics’ in a family. This is what happened for me, and now I have a blanket policy of never reading for family.
When reading for friends, close friends, acquaintances or anyone else I make sure they are prepared to accept what comes out in the reading. If they want to ask a sensitive topic, I endeavour to talk it out with them first, without the cards. Tarot, after all, can only advise on what ‘might be’. It doesn’t dictate what ‘will be’ and it’s not a substitute for counselling or any other kind of mental health support a person may need. Now that I am older and wiser, I can see that my relative was trying to use it in that way by using me as a crutch. I sincerely hope that none of my readers ever find themselves in a similar situation.
Preparing to Read for a Friend/Relative
When I get a request from a friend to read their cards, I like to take a short amount of time to mentally prepare for it. There’s always the risk of fallout if they don’t like the reading or the message from the cards.
Luckily I’ve always been something of the Agony Uncle of my social circles, and I’ve found the same approach to listening and advising helps with my readings. I much prefer to do what I call a ‘Zero-Touch’ reading from a photo, to an in-person reading. That being said, I like to use in-person readings as a way to help my friend open up to me. The cards can be a wonderful distraction. As long as there is a mutual understanding that the reading is purely advisory, there is generally no harm in reading for them. Sometimes the act of stepping out of your role of ‘friend’ to ‘Tarot reader’ can create a seperate mental space for both you and them. In this ‘new’ space, they may feel more comfortable to open up about things that they’d usually never bring up.
This is why, ideally, a reading should be carried out in a quiet place, or if that’s not possible then a place where you won’t be disturbed and others won’t try to listen in. If the person you’re reading for wants another to be present, then as long as you are OK with that there is nothing wrong with it. You are always allowed to say no if you feel that you shouldn’t do the reading.
Now, it should go without saying that when reading for anyone, you should treat the subject matter with utmost confidence. After all, you’re being trusted with a secret, even if the reading wasn’t about personal things. Most people who have a reading, don’t usually advertise the fact. Even if you’re reading as a hobby, you should be willing to be discreet.
I think that’s a good place to leave off today, and as always thank you for joining me.
*Querent used here to mean the person you are reading for.
It’s a word I have often come across in works discussing Tarot.