Today a post about the importance of the question. In all of my posts so far, I’d be surprised if I found one in which I don’t say it straight out or at least suggest it once more: never read cards without a question, lest you want to be all over the place. Some would argue that the presence or the absence of the question is in fact the very thing that distinguishes between fortunetelling and card counseling. According to popular belief, you can’t possibly be a good fortuneteller if you can’t even guess who knocks on your door. There’s a popular joke about the gypsy who, upon hearing a client approaching her parlor, she yells: ‘who’s there?, with the consequence of having the man turn away with these words: ‘if you can’t even guess that…’ According to this view, fortunetellers will not need a question because that would be risky business. What if the client will approach the cards with suspicion? You can’t have that. Lord only knows, there’s enough dealing with people who have no respect for the cards or the business you’re in. You’d better get that high percentage of true prediction, or else…

Card counsellors, on the other hand, insist that no predictions must me made. A question may be posed to focus the cards, but I know some Tarot readers who actually prefer not to have a question. So a different kind of tactics in employed. ‘Cards are transformative, not predictive,’ they say. At the end of the day, however, both groups deal with cards. And as far as I’m concerned, if both groups would just read the cards and nothing else, there would be no reason for us to make any distinction between fortunetelling and counseling. In reality, however, there’s disdain. ‘Fortunetelling is poisonous,’ I often hear. ‘Card counseling is not,’ I also often hear. We are back in kindergarten. Although I like to think that I have a pretty good idea of what’s what, and I don’t waste time with defending anyone, I thought of asking the cards about all this. So I formulated the following question:

What is the difference between fortunetelling and card counseling?

otto tragy

And now to the actual reason for this post – because of the way in which the cards fell on the table. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of reading cards may think that they got an answer just by looking at the card in the center. ‘Fortunetellers and card counselors are enemies,’ some might exclaim, invoking the deadly allure of the 9♠. But not so fast. Given what we know of the age-old battle between the common fortunetellers and the posh esoteric folks, we might be tempted to go with that, but if we go back to the question, the crucially important question, we realize that something entirely different is at stake. Let’s do a pedestrian reading to see  what’s happening.

I use for this the same approach as always: read the trios horizontally, vertically, in an X, and then dance. The question is at the back of my mind constantly, even as I go about the cards in such a way that may not, at first, indicate that I seek to establish a relation between all the sentences. The sentences must all address the question, first, in what I call the direct/subtle way. This is the way in which we are direct about the suits and images but subtle about the way in which they relate to the question. We dance through our senses. Then the sentences must address the question in the universal/specific way. This is the way that gives us insight into how we might formulate our master sentence at the end. This is the way of asking: Can we apply this insight universally, and is it specific enough?

Again: what is the difference between fortunetelling and card counselors? – and here remember that I’m not interested in hearing that the two factions are enemies, no matter what that 9 of spades might suggest on its own. I’m not here to get derailed from my question just because my jaw has dropped.

The cards

Same tools (8♣) different approaches (6♠ J♣).

The Q♥ first stabs, then gives you want you want to hear.

The path of money (6♦) is both bliss (10♥ and disaster (10♠).

. . .

The community follows the Q♥ (8♣ Q♥ 6♦).

Discarding the wrong ways is a painful must in order for fulfillment to occur (6♠ 9♠ 10♥).

But delivering what people want to hear is fighting an army that will always win (J♣ 9♥ 10♠).

Hence, all cartomancers must be mad to be doing what they’re doing (8♣ 9♠ 10♠), yet their messages pays their bills (J♣ 9♥ 10♠).

. . .

The surprise card 7♥ tells me this: ‘gimme that old time religion.’

The conclusion

There is no difference between fortunetellers and card counselors. Both groups deal with cards. If they predict bad things or give bad advice, it’s because they both have missed something. If they say good things, well done to them. If one approach is poisonous and the other sells wishful thinking, it has nothing to do with reading cards. The cards are never wrong, but the agendas involved in reading cards may be. So can the approach to the cards be. The method in itself is never wrong, but the way in which it is applied may be wrong. So here we really begin to see how that 9♠, a ‘no’ card, simply emphasizes this fact: no difference.

About cutting to the chase, it’s never a question of ‘which cards’ but rather, ‘which approach?’ This is in response to those who also wonder about the difference between reading with playing cards, tarot cards, and oracle cards. It’s all in the method, not the tool. If the reader sets out with the intent to cut to the chase, then she will. If something else is going on, she’ll address that too. A skilled reader will always know what’s what, and when it’s called to deliver either the one (supposedly more practical reading) or the other (supposedly more psychological reading).

In other words, blaming one group for being money-driven, when the other group is also money-driven is just not very convincing. Blaming one group for being all-loving and empathic when the other group also sells dreams is not very convincing either. What gives this away is the wonderful corner of the bottom right-hand cards. 2 nines and 2 tens intercalate. It is here where the dance is. A very structured dance. Changes over fulfillments. Bad change spills into great happiness. Good change spills into disaster. You get your wish, but you can’t go anywhere. The wheel of fortune at work tells us: ‘no difference.’ What goes up comes down. Then up again. And down again. Reading cards is a dance with color: black and red, red and black, and a splash of medieval or baroque extravaganza in the face cards.

I don’t even want to say, ‘I knew it.’ I just want to read cards the cards’ way, not the culture war way. So mote it be.


Note on the deck: Otto Tragy Jugendstil Spielkarte, Ver. Strals. Altenburg, 1910


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12 thoughts on “NO DIFFERENCE

  1. says:

    Camelia! Right on!

    I completely agree with you! If you can get the client to focus on a question your result will be much more useful because the cards will give a more precise lense.


  2. cameliaelias says:


    Fortune Buchholtz: I would agree albeit with a different framing. I would say both “counselors” and “fortune tellers” can be extremely harmful in that they arrogate power to themselves.
    9 hours ago · Like · 1

    Camelia Elias: Yes, but that would not answer my question. As I suggested, looking at the spades and where they are positioned, we may indeed conclude that neither are good. But my intention was not to pass any qualitative judgement, but rather get a sense of the concreteness of this particular difference. Self-proclaimed powerful fortunetellers and counselors are not any better than ditto psychotherapists and stock brokers, all in the business of speculating and forecasting.
    8 minutes ago via mobile · Like

    Aurora Díaz Fernández: There is no difference because both styles informs the client about something they don`t perceive for themselves. The cards are mirrors of something the client haven`t notice and should take a look at. I do not advertise myself by these “names”. Just said I`m a card reader or interpreter. I work with questions, and always use a timeline to explore situations, always like to see where they come and where they are.
    48 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Aurora Díaz Fernández: And there are another king of readers that claim to be spiritual messengers or have a special “gift”… This for me, is ridiculous. Cards are just metaphors.
    43 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Aurora Díaz Fernández: Camelia, just forget to mention that your reading was first-class.
    37 minutes ago · Edited · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: That is awfully nice to hear. Thank you, Aurora.

  3. Markus Pfeil says:

    Dear Camelia, a very well posed question. And answer. I would say also, “Discarding the wrong ways is a painful must in order for fulfillment to occur (6♠ 9♠ 10♥).But delivering what people want to hear is fighting an army that will always win (J♣ 9♥ 10♠). ” Also says: The difference between fortune-telling and card-counselling is: “One is satisfying the clients ego or your ego respectively. Read the Cards”.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Indeed. One should think that ‘read the cards’ follows a self-evident truth. But does anyone want to hear the truth? Ha. Perhaps the great truth of the 9 of spades here is that truth hurts. You tell the truth and people will take offence faster than you can say, ‘zowie.’ You will not be ‘popular’ any more. What the spades tell us here is what Oscar Wilde used to say: ‘everything popular is wrong.’ In other words, if there’s no difference between fortune-telling and card-counseling it’s because both can tell the truth. It’s up to the practitioners to make sure that they don’t deviate from the path. Therefore, in order for fulfilment to occur, one has to ditch personal agendas, and become as impersonal as a cold blade. What I most resent in the card world is all the reassuring: ‘we’re all great, we’re all doing fine, we’re all geniuses.’ All true, but upon closer inspection, we see that most of those who deliver such statements suggest the following: ‘yes we’re all geniuses, but I’m a slightly bigger genius than you are. I’m also slightly better, and therefore you have to follow me without ever questioning my authority. We all know everything because we are the ones who know ourselves better than anyone else, but I still know a few more things that you don’t know, etc. etc.’ And that is the point where I want to say to myself: ‘make yourself as unpopular as you possibly can, and see where that’ll lead you’. Amen to this path.

  4. Markus Pfeil says:

    Amen. Or as we say: Awen (which is slightly more holy than amen….:-)) You hit the nail on the head here. Truth hurts. Furthermore it hurts if in a reading you do not see it at once. And it is always easier to construct a nice smooth reading based on things you know or your ego suggests than to spend time in the face of a client working out what the cards say. Also our intuition loves to construct coherent stories and ditch the truth in the cards if it generates an undesirable conflict. Therefore, Awen to the unpopular, boring and horrible truth trionfing over the smooth fairytale with happy princess.

  5. cazadoradesignos says:

    Camelia, the card interpreter shows the answer with the most wiseness , but the truth should only emerge from the client. The thing is, how is the message delivered… there must be a lot of manners to deliver the same message.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      As they say, there are many ways to the one truth. What I’m saying is that in this dance we do with the cards, ourselves and the clients, the only reliable partner is the cards. Clients have a way of deluding themselves, and the reader can suffer from blind spots. It is for this reason that I say, ‘read the cards, and nothing else.’ It’s the safest. It takes, however a lot of courage to do that, as, in places, it also means that one has to be prepared to face one’s own limitations.

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