What’s the hardest thing about being a tarot reader? The answer might surprise you.

In My RoomIt usually happens at public events, like launch parties or artsy flea markets. I’ll have a little table set up, offering tarot readings, and someone will sit down, throw some cash on the table, and say, “Let’s see how good you are.”

“Pressure’s on then, huh?” I usually joke. What else can I do? I’m certainly not going to get my back up or go on the defensive, but of course these readings always start off on a strange note.

It is common for people to test out tarot readers and other intuitive workers. There are a lot of reasons someone might do this: Maybe they’ve had some bad experiences with readers before and are cautious.

Or they could be skeptics, but they’re on the fence with their skepticism, wanting to believe but not fully prepared to trust the process yet.

And yes, sometimes they’re just plain out to get you, though I find this to be the rarer of instances.

But the toughest readings to do are the ones when people expect parlour tricks. Here’s just a sampling of some of the questions I’ve been “tested” with:

“You’re psychic, right? Tell me where I’m going tonight.”

“Can you tell me what happened to me on April 12, 2009?”

“I want to know about my relationship, but I don’t want to tell you anything about it until I hear whether you’re right or not.”

As a tarot reader, I always hope that people who come my way are entering into a session with an open mind.

When we can both be comfortable, it’s easier to establish a connection with the cards, as they will pick up on what kind of energy a client is bringing with them.

If someone is coming in with suspicion or ulterior motives, or feeling like they need to be guarded or secretive, then it sets a different tone for the reading overall. Just like any interaction – whether you’re meeting a friend for coffee or settling in at work for the day – your mood and mindset will affect the energy around you.

But being tested isn’t necessarily what I find hardest about being a tarot reader. Because usually, most people eventually get comfortable, and once the reading starts, they open up. After all, everyone can benefit from a reading – even skeptics.

What I find most difficult is the root of this mistrust, and that, in my opinion, comes from the word “psychic.”

It might sound funny hearing that from someone who reads tarot for a living, but hear me out: It’s a loaded word, and one that unfortunately brings a lot of baggage. It’s rife with stereotypes, presumptions, expectations, and outrageous claims.

I find the word psychic to be so problematic that I only attach it to my work if a client chooses to describe me as such in a testimonial.

And if you check out other tarot readers and other intuitive workers, you’ll find I’m not alone in leaving the word “psychic” off to the side.

History hasn’t been kind to psychics, and unfortunately, the psychic industry has bitten itself in the butt more times than I care to count. As I talked about in last week’s post, some Toronto psychics are currently being called out for fraud.

And of course, it doesn’t help that people have been misled by psychic hotlines and individuals into believing that winning lottery numbers or soul mates are just one call away.

When the word “psychic” comes up, it’s common for us all to have different assumptions about what this means, and how such gifts might manifest.

For some people, they might imagine that clear, crisp visions are coming through for a psychic. Others might just assume that there is a certain level of knowing, that names and places and dates and times are instantly available to a reader.

There is something magical about the idea of psychics. It’s tempting to think of intuitives as oracles who can summon precise information on command, or who can somehow know what you’re thinking or see your entire past, present, and future.

And it’s also tempting for some people to get upset when readers can’t perform the way they expect them to (unless readers have made outrageous claims to support such expectations – in that case, they’re on their own).

Often, the power that is sometimes assumed about psychics is much greater than most readers are capable of. But that doesn’t lessen their power or their gifts; there is validity in it all, but it’s important that we talk about how these messages come through, and how they might manifest in a client’s life.

That way, there can be a better understanding of how readings work, rather than unrealistic expectations that someone who is doing a reading is going to get right into someone’s head and know everything about them for all eternity.

The fact is, magic is usually very mundane. It happens in the everyday; it might be come through as a small symbol, like a butterfly that lands on your shoulder, or in a comment from a stranger on the street. It’s rare – though not impossible, of course – to have otherworldly experiences on a regular basis.

But there are readers who want to lure people in by making them believe otherwise.

One thing that often happens to me in readings is that I don’t know why certain messages are important to the person in front of me. I just know that the cards really want me to deliver them, and as I start talking them through, a client might say, “I was just thinking those exact words earlier today.”

But again, I might not know what impact that message has on that person, and that can be because it’s not my place or my business to be in their head that way.

It might not be the dramatic reveal that some people expect when they go into a reading, but that’s because intuitive workers are not stereotypes. They are experts in their own intuition and the tools they use to access it, whether it’s tarot, palm reading, runes, spirit guides, or any other tool of their choice.

Clients can test a reader, but can a client really know whether the psychic they are seeing is reading a card wrong, or not receiving the right message from a guide?

Messages can come through in single words, jumbled sentences, or a simple image, and a reader has to puzzle it all together to relay those messages they are receiving and put them into context.

Sometimes, the messages that come up might not be what a client wants to hear at the time, or they can come up in a way that isn’t very clear in the moment, but becomes so hours, days, or even weeks afterwards.

Does it mean the reader is wrong, or unskilled if they can’t answer a question? Not necessarily; it could mean instead that for whatever reason, that’s there is other information the client needs to know right then.

One of my favourite testimonials from a client doesn’t start off as a rave review. Instead, it begins with his hesitation about the reading I gave him. He says he left feeling that what I had given him was all very general, but a few months later, he realized our session had predicted things he never saw coming.

It’s great feedback because it encapsulates that mundane quality I’m talking about: Just because it doesn’t feel significant at the time doesn’t mean it’s not important to pay attention to.

And just readers might not always know why a message is important for you to hear, they might not always know how an event will manifest in your life. This is another area where disappointment can sometimes come up for clients; a change could be on the horizon, and yet they want to know what it will lead to.

“If you’re psychic, aren’t you supposed to be able to tell me?”

Well, maybe, though we all have choices in how we approach changes and challenges. Sometimes readings will feel very introspective; the word “psychic” can make us feel reactive in that it can imply that life simply happens to you, rather than through you.

Tarot, astrology, and other modalities won’t tell you what to do; they can only make you aware of what’s on the horizon. You still have free will in it all.

This is something I especially notice in astrology; two people can be born with very similar charts, and yet the influences of their planets will manifest differently because they are individuals with separate personalities, souls, and paths.

One might end up a CEO, and the other a stay-at-home mom – two very different lifestyles, but they might experience similar life-lessons or transitions at the same time, though both will navigate them in their own ways.

And that’s something to always remember when seeking a reading, whether you’re looking for psychic predictions or some additional support from tarot, astrology, or anything else.

Messages can come through in many different forms. When clients are willing to enter with an open mind and allow readings to unfold as they may, and allow for intuitive workers to deliver those messages in their own style, then readers and clients can give and get so much more out of each session.

Until next time,

Liz xo