A couple weeks ago at the Denver Tarot Meetup, the group was divided into pairs to practice the techniques our presenter taught. I ended up being paired with someone brand new–which is my preference so I can help them out, even though this time it happened by chance. He was nervous and shuffled his deck a bit and then said, well, would you like to start by reading for me? I laughed and said, I don’t need the practice! He said that he had only done two readings before and didn’t know what he was doing.
Our fabulous presenter, Brenda Hardwick of The Light of Nature, interrupted and asked him not to say that he didn’t know what he was doing but to say that he was a good reader. He hemmed and hawed and she insisted. Finally she got him to say, “I’m just a beginner, but I’m okay.” I think this was a great strategy to help him get his footing before reading for me. People have said that I can be intimidating! But even when you’re reading for yourself or a forgiving friend, insecurity can undermine your best efforts. Here are some tips for building your tarot confidence.
Experience Builds Confidence
It’s a catch-22: you don’t have any confidence because you haven’t done many readings for others, and you don’t want to risk reading for others because you don’t have any confidence in your readings. Just do it. Read. Make mistakes. Tell people you’re a beginner–they’ll understand. But more importantly, when you risk making the mistake, you stand to gain the reward of those who say, “Wow, how did you know that?” or “That’s exactly right!” And yes, these comments can come for absolute beginners.
So how do you get experience? Read for friends. Join a meetup (like the Denver Tarot Meetup!). Swap readings with online friends in tarot forums and groups. And if you feel ready, try my tips for on-the-job tarot training.
Be Confident in How You Present Yourself and Your Reading
Brenda’s insistence that our fearless reader state his confidence out loud before we began was a great start. I have found for myself that it can be a challenge to say something that I don’t believe to be true. If boldly and fearlessly proclaiming, “I’m a good tarot reader!” is more than you can manage, try something positive that you are confident is true: “I love reading tarot!” or “I find tarot fascinating!”
Even the “merde technique” can work in a pinch: my college ballet teacher said that when preparing for a difficult step like a triple pirouette, we tend to tense all our muscles anticipating the challenges of the action. But if we say “oh, merde” before we start, we relax and then execute the technique perfectly. So even a hearty, “Well, let’s give this the old college try” or “Nothing ventured nothing gained” will get you underway without your shoulders tensed up around your ears.
Ask for Feedback
Incidentally, the reading that the meetup participant did for me was great–I asked for a course of action to achieve a specific goal, and he gave me some great insights and added to my to-do list. I would have liked to tell him how the reading was relevant for me and express the importance of the things that he said, but he never stopped talking, spurred on by nervous energy. The presenter called the exercise to a stop before I could say anything other than thank you.
When you first start reading for other people, the spotlight’s on you–too bad it always feels like an interrogation light. You start sweating and squinting and are convinced that they’ll never believe a word you say. But you’re not reading for the cops! (Well, you might be, one of my first clients at a new office I had rented back in the early nineties was a cop checking to see if I was committing fraud. He didn’t say a word, but I saw it in the cards. More on that another time!) Chances are you are reading for a perfectly nice person. Stop periodically and ask if the reading makes sense. It’s just polite! And might give you some helpful perspective. In addition to simply asking if they understand, I also say things like, “What do you think?” or “How does what I’m saying relate to your situation?” or “What’s relevant and what’s not in the cards so far?” When you realize that your random comments about Harry Potter have a personal significance for the querent, you’ll start to trust yourself, your intuition, and your process.
Have Confidence in the Cards
One of the biggest fears new readers have is that they will say something negative that will dissuade their querent from pursuing a goal or precipitate a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. It can be fun, although a little disheartening, to see someone contort the meaning of a clearly negative reading to produce an optimistic answer.
At the meetup, I had asked a money question and my reader turned up the Five of Pentacles as the first card. He took a nice twist with it, reading it as people who needed my help–people who would come to me for readings, increasing my income. But the basic meaning of the card is loss of money or resources–Material Trouble. I had just read for myself and had drawn the Seven of Swords (showing a thief sneaking off with his loot) as my first card. About ten days later, I had some money stolen (no worries, I worked a couple extra days and made it up easily plus some!). Here is a brand-new beginner who had only done a couple readings before, and he pulled a card that clearly showed me losing money before getting the increase I had asked about.
So should he have told me? No. Or at least, not necessarily. For one thing, I knew saw what the card meant. For another thing, it’s okay to hold back bad news if there’s no way around it or out of it. But what if he did say it? Maybe hearing it out loud from a disinterested third party would have shook me up enough to actually get the money to the bank. And maybe not. This is a hard one for new readers, and even experienced readers have trouble negotiating these choppy waters. Sometimes bringing it up in a gentle way can help. “Are you anticipating any extra expenses?” or “Occasionally this card can represent the loss of money–better to be conservative with your budget now” can be gentle warnings that preface a more generous interpretation.
Be Tarot Confident!
The cards are not trying to trick you. They want to communicate with you. They will not speak to you with the symbols you haven’t learned yet. They don’t understand our squeamishness and discomfort over some subjects. They just show us the story. Read it, follow the thread, say the words that match the images. Lose your own emotional preferences and be prepared to head out of your comfort zone. Ask the cards to show you truth, compassion, and clarity and then disengage from your concern for the querent. Naked honesty leads to tarot confidence.
How Did You Find Your Tarot Confidence?
What helped you build your tarot confidence? I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions in the comments!
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.