What to Expect from a Tarot Reading

Sometimes you just need advice from an unbiased source.  For some people that means turning to a tarot reading.


Tarot readings typically involve a private conversation between a reader and a client.  Usually the client picks the cards out of the deck, and the reader creates the spread and interprets the cards.  Most face to face readings last between 30 and 50 minutes.  Traditionally a reader and client meet in person for the reading.  Since the age of blogs and Etsy, readers like me have also been offering their services digitally.

When you are thinking about getting a reading, the place to start is to shop around for a reader that fits your needs.  Each reader is unique in their approach to the cards.  For example some people bring in astrology or crystals into their reading.  What is most important is to make sure that the reader’s delivery jives with you.  Do you like someone who is blunt but tactful, or do you like someone who takes their time and walks you through the reading?  Do you like someone who is open to questions, or do you like to listen and take in the advice?  Be honest about your needs, especially if you are looking to establish a long term relationship with a reader for regular readings.

Something else to consider is whether you would like a face to face reading or one online.  In person readings occur either in a shop or in a residence and the reader and client usually have a conversation about the reading in real time.  Online readings occur either through email or on video messaging and the conversation about the reading happens over a longer period of time via email.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both.  Online readings are more private and tend to be cheaper.  I have also noticed that if a person really likes to think about their reading, then online readings tend to work better for them because there is already an expectation of open communication with the reader because of email’s flexibility.  In person readings are great for extroverts and if you want a reading straight away (in most cases).

When your budgeting for a reading, there are a few things to consider.  To be blunt, spending more than $90 is a mistake unless the reading is attached to a service that warrants a higher price tag, namely counseling, or is part of a larger experience like a spiritual retreat.  Most professionals charge somewhere between $35 – $60 for a half hour of their time.  Digital tarot readings are are typically less money, around $20. Also, remember to plan for a 10% tip for a face to face reading.

When you are having a reading done, the reader will probably use a spread to organize the energies and the cards.  Some spreads are elaborate and some are very simple. The most popular is the Celtic Cross.  Ask your reader if you can take a picture of each spread so you can reflect on it later.  When the reader lays out the cards, your intuition might go off.  Feel free to share the insight with the reader as they will probably use it as part of their interpretation.

During the reading itself, my best piece of advice is to have an expectation of getting answers to your questions and problems, but do not expect a specific answer.  If you really want to know if that hot guy from marketing is going to be the love of your life, then expect to be disappointed.  The reading is all about you and your energies in your life.  The reading may indicate that there’s a new guy on your radar, but it is really all about you and what your vibe is about your love life.  Also a good rule of thumb to have is that tarot readings cover roughly 6 months of your life.  Anything beyond that is unreadable because life changes too much.

I also want to be clear that often you will get answers you do not like or expect.  I want to stress that tarot readings use cultural archetypes to channel answers from source energies (Goddess, God, the Dao, the Force, etc.).  The reader is using their divine connection to interpret the cards for you.  They are not your friend or mentor.  They have zero stake in your life.  They are going to be as honest as possible about what they are getting from source and what the cards mean.

Some of the cards, such as the Devil, the Tower, and Death in the Universal Waite deck, freak people out.  Remember that these images are metaphors.  The cards are not indicating your actual death or a haunting from the Christian devil.  Have a little flexibility and creativity in looking at these cards.  For example the Death card means change or ending.  Are you about the graduate from school?  Are you about to get married?  Are you about to retire?  Look at the whole picture that is your life, not necessarily the picture on the card.

Now how do you know if you have had a bad reading?  A few indicators are:

  • The reader cuts the reading short for no reason.
  • The reader does not seem to know the meanings of the cards or cannot answer your questions about specific cards.
  • The reader is rude or uses language that makes you uncomfortable.
  • The reader aggressively tries to pressure you into buying other products.
  • The reader asks about very specific details about your life, such as a social security number.
  • The reader makes an unwanted sexual advance.
  • The reader is not open to your insights into the spreads.
  • The reader does not let you ask questions.
  • Your internal bull shit meter goes off hard core.

If it is a live reading and the reader is part of a shop or larger organization, in most cases you will be able to get your money back.  Online readings or readings performed by a freelance reader will be a lot trickier to get a refund.

After your reading, it is valuable to reflect on its message.  If you journal or do any sort of reflective work, use it to work out the reading and how you are going to apply its wisdom going forward.

© Ariadne Woods

Interested in a tarot reading? Or want to read my new ebook, Little Book of Herbs? Check out my Etsy shop!


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