CARD READERS

You will find a reworked version of the following text in my new book, Marseille Tarot, were I look at such things as the practice and pedagogics of reading, cold readings, and the implications of reading cards.

I read cards for two types of people: the ones who don’t have a clue about divination with cards, and the ones who do it themselves, or are engaged in what is commonly known as ‘the magical arts’.

The first group is easy. People come in, pop the question, say thank you, and leave. When the first group gets difficult is when the people decide that because of the one reading that you performed for them once upon a time, they own you. When it gets potentially disruptive is when this ‘ownership’ extends beyond your own good self, with people translating your services into the demand that you accept them and incorporate them into your own family and blood relations. All very good, if you, as the reader, actually do extend your services to acknowledging the other in the name of the other’s invoking ‘connection’, ‘familiarity’, ‘heroism,’ and ‘role modeling.’ As it happens, however, I don’t know of many professional readers who are so ready to pay with their privacy for having been elevated to the sky. I don’t know of many professional readers who say to their clients, ‘yes, you’re right to demand ALL of me, since you hold me in such high esteem’. Insofar as not all of us see ourselves as saviors or heroes – and even if we did – we are not bound to letting ourselves being manipulated into what the psychoanalysts have nicely framed as ‘vampirism’.

The second group is more demanding from the outset. And yet it is not always that this group’s demands are always reasonable. As this group is more familiar with forms of divination or the interpretative arts of symbolic language, they are often prone to adding to your reading what they think. This is all fine, for indeed, the act that has the making of the soul in focus is a kind of highly individualized poetry that ultimately decrees that what you see and create for your own soul is and should be of your own making. So, if they insist, ‘this is what I think,’ they are probably right. That is, they are right in having that experience, but it’s not sure that they also right in calling the shots on their own blind spots. Why come to you in the first place, if they already know everything?

Consequently, here is where I draw the line. While, ideally, a reading with cards should enable the subject to see what stares the subject in her face, it is often that the reason why people come to you is because they need more than ‘what I think it means is probably also what I think it means’. I often say that I’m not an ‘intuitive reader’ – whatever that means – but rather a reader who has trained herself in the art of distilling the primary meanings of the cards and according to a specific system, essentializing these meanings to a core understanding, and ultimately, synthesizing these primary meanings into one relevant shot. I always say, ‘please, let us now stick to your question’, whenever I see the subject going astray, well, often because the subject does’t like what she sees in the cards. But is this why people want a reading? To LIKE what they see? That’s not how I see my role, namely, to give them what they want to see. ‘Go to a museum, if you’re in need of an aesthetic appreciation of the cards, rather than assessing the extent to which what you see can help you with your issue.’ That’s what I say.

I often say that reading cards is not difficult, but it requires immense self-discipline and powerful discernment. Say, when experienced readers themselves come to you with their questions, supposedly because they like your style of reading, you don’t give in when they enter a negotiating process. You don’t say things like: ‘Yes, you’re right, this can also mean that. It looks like we’ve been reading the same books on the meaning of cards. How wonderful.’ This happens mostly when the subject is in a state of confusion and delusion, and is desperately looking for the answer that she desires to hear.

IMG_0069But I’m not in the business of saying: ‘Everything is awesome, go ahead with the hopeless plan’, if I have no incentive to do so judging by what the cards themselves say beyond any settled negotiation. I often say: ‘No, the Hermit and the Hanged Man in conjunction do not – and I repeat, they do not – indicate that you are going to make money on this job. Quite the contrary, if you linger on, it will be more and more baffling to you, and ultimately it will constitute not only a waste to time, but also a waste of money.’ It is not for nothing that the Hanged Man is sometimes depicted hanging on his head and with his empty pockets hanging out. So I never agree to nod and say to the sitter, just to be reassuring and empathizing: ‘Yes, you’re right. You’re on such a spiritual path, and how delightful that you’re not like many others. You are a pattern breaker, and you have the ability to see things from another perspective.’ Err, right. The line of such clichés can get very long, and the more I’d continue the more I’d find myself departing from the very focus of the question. Deep spiritual seeking and insight, along with a sense of sacrifice can be all very good, but how is this going to help the person increase her finances? Yet some querents who are in deep denial of what IS will do anything to dodge what IS. They will even trash you. They will even think that you’re some piece of work. The work of the Devil himself – poor devil.

IMG_0067But here’s where you come in. Here’s precisely where you can shine. You stick to your guns, and stay brutally honest. That’s all it takes. You won’t make friends, but then, who said that reading cards is about making friends? Last I’ve checked, in the more academically consecrated circles, such as psychoanalysis, the analyst hardly ever makes friends with the ones she’s offering her services to help. So, why should the card-reading business be any different, when in effect we render the same service – and are even faster in fixing it, if you ask me (and I have a history of going between skills). Well, a quick answer to that would be by following the money. The more the psychoanalyst charges – he has a PhD in it after all – the more serious his advise is. It’s a shame that the card-reading business doesn’t enjoy the same privilege, but let me save that discussion for another time.

HOW TO DO IT

Meanwhile, here’s some advice to readers who have to deal with both, group 1 and group 2, when these groups enter in the ‘being difficult’ mode.

1. It is never about the people themselves. It is about the way in which you are called to the task of answering a question, and how well you can address the question from a completely disinterested angle. It’s about staying close to the question and the cards, not the people who come to you. After all, you can’t befriend them all in that rare and genuine way. It’s about making the distinction between you as the reader and the other who has a question for you. You offer advice, not your life. The other offers her trust on a specific matter, not her entire laundry. Hence, you don’t invent things on their behalf because you can see that they are having a hard time – not even when they entice you to take their side, by often suggesting: ‘Can’t you see I’m having a hard time? Say something encouraging’ – and by encouraging they often mean, ‘don’t tell me the truth’. Your task is to say: ‘Yes, I can see that you’re having a hard time, but this is not about me, and how I can sympathize with you. This is about how I can help you from a neutral, rather than involved position. You get the best of me if I don’t take sides, for how useful is it to say to you, yes dear, your husband is a moron. How sad for you’? For me, telling the truth is the highest form of respect and love that I can offer the other.

2. It is never about falling for praise – only so that you can then be ready to hand over your soul on a plate to whoever will claim it. It is about staying honest in the face of dealing with self-deprecating subjects for whom it is often all about control. If they can’t control their lives or the ones close to them, they will find a way to control you, because, hey, that’ll make them feel better about themselves. Some subjects are also very good at projecting all sorts of fantasy scenarios that often include establishing a ‘cosmic’ connection with you only so that they can take power over you. Or else they are very good at projecting all that is wrong with them unto their ex-lovers, ex-readers, ex-children, etc. (As a psychoanalyst of Lacanian bending I could launch here into a very nice lecture on transference, but I’ll save it for another context.)

3. It’s never about other people’s anger and their acts towards you or others. You are not called to be impressed with their swinging moods – now they love you, now they hate you. If subjects decide that you have done them a disservice by not siding with them, by not being ‘supportive’, it is best for all parties to part ways. The greatest wisdom is in knowing one’s place. Being in the business of reading cards should not be about losing your own sense of balance, or about participating in what irritates the other. It’s not about channeling their anger. That’s not what empathy is.

4. It’s never about saying: ‘Yes, it can also mean that,’ when it’s clear to everyone involved – if honesty is present – that that’s just not it, but hey, let us serve ourselves the ‘staying positive’ attitude as that will solve all our problems on earth. It’s not about being positive. It’s about being truthful. And how can we be truthful? Look at the cards. What do they say? Don’t look at what they ‘mean’. Look at what they say. Look at embodiment. You got the Papesse, the High Priestess? Well, good. Take a seat. Take a book and start reading. Leave it be. It’s all right to know more than the others and not always have to say so. Take a breath and stare into the void. You got the Emperor? Excellent. See that scepter? That’s power. Grab it woman – or man. Make a plan and realize it. Don’t ‘think’.

IMG_0068

5. It’s never about negotiating ‘meaning’. Everything means something. And everything that means something already can also mean something else at the same time. All experiences of one thing can mean something else than what the general public takes that thing to mean. Don’t negotiate and don’t bend the ‘meaning’ of what stares you in the face. Tell your sitters: ‘See that Hermit taking steps back from the world, work, and all public engagement? Well, how about you do the same? How useful is it to be spiritual about a plan that doesn’t pay for your bills? Take a step back, and get a sense of what you really need. Don’t insult your own soul by pretending that you’re not good at surviving unless you get to sell crystals, the only thing you’re good at, but which unfortunately interests no one.’

6. It’s never about second-guessing the other. The role of the reader is to constantly assess where her position is vis-à-vis her task, namely that of reading the cards. Not the future. Not the other. Not the other’s troubled issues. It’s never about sympathizing and doing nothing about it. It’s about offering real help. Sympathizing is also an act of ‘doing’, but as far as I can tell, empathy has gone inflated these days. A lot of people ‘mean’ a lot of things, while only a few are ready to ‘do’ something. What’s an opinion good for, if you can’t back it up with evidence from the cards?

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T LIE

Now, get out there. Stay honest. Demand honesty. And read some cards. And if hell breaks loose, just say the following: ‘I did my best. I did not get involved where it’s not my place to get involved. I resisted being manipulated and drained of energy. I resisted losing my balance simply because others have a problem with their own mental balance. I know exactly what my job is, and I perform it exquisitely. I’m good at reading the goddamned cards.’

§

P.S. If you want to know about my take on love and truth – some people may be under the impression that these are mutually exclusive for me – see my follow-up post, Truth in Cards, or scroll to the comments. Some questions made me clarify some points, which I did in a rather poetic way that even sounds like a manifesto. I may upgrade some of that stuff into a post of its own.

§

Note on the cards:

Visconti Sforza, Il Meneghello, Large-cards limited edition, No. 689, 1996.

Jacques Vieville (1650), reconstructed by Roxanne Flornoy.

Jean Noblet (1650), Tarot de Marseille, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy.

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11 Comments

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  1. rohinibabe@aol.com July 9, 2014 — 5:34 pm

    Camelia, Thank you so much for this marvelous post! Maralyn

  2. Jeff Rundquist July 9, 2014 — 7:18 pm

    Thank You for your words Camelia. It is always refreshing to hear from the courageous.

    • I don’t know about courageous, Jeff. I just keep it simple. I listen to the question, and look at the cards. That’s all. I never deviate from that. For me the art of reading cards is not to ventriloquize ‘meanings’, but to see embodiment in the context of the question. I have sharp ears, sharp eyes, and a sharp tongue. I stab. But as they say about cuts, sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to get things moving. If that’s courageous, then sure. Most people enjoy my cutting through it, cutting through them, and I often witness some beautiful work of transformation. But some are too ensconced in their own self-deprecation which they, however, put forth as self-importance. Unfortunately for them I have a way of seeing right through it. I call people’s bluff. I help them to see what they’re doing to themselves. I suggest gently why I don’t fall for it. Why others don’t fall for it. I say, ‘no,’ and ‘no,’ and ‘no’ again. I say, ‘no, that’s not it. Take it or leave it.’ When some decide that I’ve just ruined their lives, and then they do something drastic, I just make a note of it. A note that confirms why I’m right. Why I’m right in insisting. Drastic measures don’t impress me. They merely disclose how deeply disturbed the others are. I’m a tower of condensed coolness when I read cards. I’m like death that doesn’t warm. I’m your worst nightmare. But guess what. It’s precisely in this coldness that I get to see clearly. I don’t get hot tempered. I’m not interested in winning anything. I’m interested in seeing clearly. And that’s about it. That’s what I get my money for: Seeing things clearly, not standing in people’s corners, making decisions and plans on their behalf that they end up neither following nor honoring. I hold the business of reading cards in the highest regard. This practice of old is not a frilly thing made of elastic. I’m not politically correct. I’m not nice. I read cards. Period.

  3. SOME COMMENTS LEFT ON FB:

    Arnell Ando: I can really appreciate your perspective Camelia and your practical and clear approach. I must confess part of the reason I don’t do many readings any longer are issues you state in your article…people who become too dependent and lose an ability to steer their own way (makes me uncomfortable and feel trapped, while knowing that it won’t end well). Or those that want to overide my understanding of the reading and try to convince me that the cards are as they ‘want to’ view them… On the other hand, with more healthy minded clients & friends I am empathic and have a tendency to want to incorporate their views into the overall meaning (combine their hopes for their future with my own understanding of the reading). For on one level I do think that if they believe a certain destiny awaits, that they could either be dilusional or may be halfway there by sheer will (so who am I to stand in their way?) I do respect your no-nonsense views but must admit to being more open to the client’s perspectives if they seem able to view themselves in a more objective, therapeutic way. Case by case…
    1 hr · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Indeed. Here I was referencing the ‘problem’ groups, not the people with a decent amount of common sense. I’m fortunate enough to have very rewarding exchanges of the kind you mention, and from which I also learn something. But with the ones who insist on ‘know it all’ and ‘have seen it all’, after actually acknowledging that they don’t know it all, and that you’re ‘probably right’, and hence are also in need of revising the ‘know it all’, there’s only one way for me to go. And that is not called ‘tolerance’.
    59 mins · Like · 1

    Arnell Ando: I totally agree…I got burned out by these types of clients and am very particular who I do readings for anymore. The ‘sticky’ or ‘picky’ personalities are so draining on psychic energy. You & I are on the same page with that. Thanks for sharing the essay, I got a lot out of it.
    56 mins · Unlike · 1

  4. Huzzah! Fantastic advice and I’m glad I scrolled down to see your later words as well. Thank you for the post!

  5. who was it that said:
    “there are two types of people in the world..
    those who divide other people into two types of people and those who don`t”
    ?

    comical epiminidesian paradoxes aside, camelia, it seems a very limited perspective on people.
    I have to ask
    can all your your clients really be neatly shoe-horned into one of these two categories?

    and do you find people and their stories and dramas to be as predictable as that?

    • Phil, first off, if there’s something that I’ve learned from reading cards for people is to never ever make any assumptions about them, their drama, and their stories. I enjoy them all as they come, and I address them with the utmost attention that I’m capable of. Which indeed brings me to point two: all my readings are the result of extreme self-discipline in the art of neutrality. It is this which enables me to cut to the chase, cut the crap, and see through whatever needs to be seen. This is what I get paid for. This is what I’m very good at. It takes me exactly 30 seconds to figure out what I’m dealing with, and another 30 seconds to form an opinion about what needs to be done. It’s all in the cards, of course, but what I have trained for is to see things instantly. People are not predictable in the sense that one can stupidly declare that one knows everything about their lives, but they are pretty predictable in the ways in which they generally approach their issues. And why, simply because they are all culturally pre-conditioned. Only rarely do I come across people who pose a really fascinating question. But I don’t see it as my call here to assess whatever people ask from an aesthetic point of view. But, if I were to state a fact, or even a preference, then I’d say that the rarely interesting is indeed very rare.

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