Here is the procedure for a Question Tarot Reading. (See also a step-by-step outline.)
Setting the Mood
Your first step is to create a conducive mood.
Lesson 6 offers some suggestions on how to set up a pleasing environment. You can try these ideas, if you like. Focus on what will make you feel comfortable and secure.
When you are ready, sit down on the floor or at a table leaving some empty space in front of you. You should have your tarot cards and your question written on a piece of paper. (See lesson 7 for how to write a question.) At first, a full reading will probably take at least thirty to forty minutes. Try to arrange your affairs so you won't be interrupted. With experience, you will be able to shorten this time, if you wish, but it is always better to feel unhurried.
Begin to relax and still your mind. Put aside your worries and concerns for now. (You can always get them back later!) Settle fully into the present moment. Take a few deep breaths, relax all your muscles and feel the quiet as you turn away from the outside world. Take as much time as you need for this calming process.
Asking Your Question
When you feel centered, take your cards out of their container. Hold them cupped in one hand while you place the other hand on top. Close your eyes and bring the cards into the circle of your energy.
Now, make an opening statement, if you wish. Some possibilities are:
Next, ask your question, either from memory or by reading it. Be sure to say your question exactly as you wrote it. One of the mysteries of the unconscious is that it is very literal; the cards you choose will often reflect the precise wording of your question.
Shuffling the Cards
Open your eyes and begin shuffling. It is important to shuffle the cards because this is how you sort through all the forms your reading could take and arrange at a subtle level the one you will receive.
There are a number of ways to shuffle the cards. Each method has its pros and cons. Choose one that is most comfortable for you. Certain methods mix the cards so some are right side up (upright) and some, upside-down (reversed). If this is your first reading, do not worry about reversed cards. I will explain these in lesson 17.
Concentrate on your question while you shuffle. Focus on the overall intent rather than the details. Don't strain to stay fixed, but do keep the question in mind as much as you can.
Cutting the Cards
When you feel you have shuffled long enough, stop and place the cards face down in front of you with the short edge closest to you. Cut the deck as follows:
It's best to regroup the cards in one quick motion. Don't try to figure out which pile should go where. Just let your hand move where it will. The cut is an important finishing step that marks the end of the card-arranging stage. Once you have regrouped the cards, the pattern of the reading is fixed, and all that remains is to lay out the cards and see what they reveal.
Laying Out the Cards
Follow the steps for the spread you have chosen. If this is your first reading, use the Celtic Cross. (Before actually laying out the cards, read the next step, "Responding to the Cards.")
When all the cards are laid out, take a moment to respond to them as a whole. Do you get an overall impression? Do you have any new reactions? Jot down some of your thoughts, if you wish. Don't worry if you can't remember all of them. Just as with dreams, you will recall the most important. Try not to get too involved in your notes as that can break the flow of the reading. You simply want to capture a few ideas quickly.
Analyzing the Cards
In the beginning, use the section about individual cards for help. Later, you can examine the cards on your own, but you may still find this section useful. (I use it myself from time to time!)
Begin your review with Position 1 and proceed in position order. Here are the suggested steps:
When you've considered each card, look for relationships between them. Apply the principles of interpretation. (These are covered in lessons 11-18.)
You could ponder a reading for hours without running out of insights, but, of course, this isn't practical or desirable. Do try to spend some time, however. Your reward will be equal to your effort.
Creating the Story
At some point, you need to pull everything together. I call this creating the story. (See lesson 18.) Your story will help you understand your situation and give you guidance for the future - what you have been seeking all along.
I recommend that you create your story spontaneously. Once you have finished your card review, let that analytical approach go. It's no longer appropriate. Your story will be more authentic if it arises freely from within. When you feel ready, simply begin speaking your story, saying whatever comes to mind. Use any notes you have to help, but don't focus on them too much.
I encourage you to tell your story out loud. Writing is too slow, and just thinking your ideas is too vague. Your story will gather strength and power as it is spoken. If you begin to ramble or lose your train of thought, don't be concerned. Simply pause, regroup and start again. As you practice, you will get better at speaking on the fly. You may want to tape your story. When you play back the tape, you will be amazed at what you hear. You will truly feel you are your own best tarot reader.
Writing the Summary Statement
Your story is done when your words slow down and stop naturally. Your next step is to distill the main theme of your story. What is the
essence of your guidance? Ask yourself these questions:
If you have not already done so, write down the cards you selected and their positions. It is easy to forget them. Then, clear the deck to remove all traces of the energy patterns of this reading. I clear a deck by scrambling the cards together gently. It reminds me of erasing letters in the sand with a sweep of my hand. You may enjoy this technique as well, but any shuffling method will do. Take a few moments now to clear your deck. Make sure the cards are face down or turned away from you. Stop when you feel you've shuffled long enough, and gather the cards together. Your deck is now ready for your next reading.
Before putting the cards away, hold them again for just a moment. Place your deck in one hand with the other hand on top, and close your eyes. Say what you feel you have learned from this reading. Express your gratitude to your Inner Guide for helping you via the tarot cards. Gratitude is a wonderful sentiment. It provides the ideal frame of mind in which to end your reading.
When you began, you initiated a cycle. You created meaning in the form of a reading, and now you have completed that cycle by returning the cards to their resting state.
Using What You Have Learned
The reading proper is over, but the inner work is just beginning. Your goal is to integrate what you have learned into your life in some way. If you don't, your tarot practice will remain a beautiful pastime with no power to help you.
Decide on one or more actions you can take to put your guidance to work. You can reinforce what you're doing now or make some changes, either radical or minor. Specific actions are usually more helpful than vague plans.
If you are keeping a journal, write down what you intend to do. Commit only to what you know you will actually carry out. I know how easy it is to lay out some cards, look at them briefly and then never think about that reading again, especially when your reaction is less than positive!
As the days go by, think about your reading and how it meshes with your life. Ask yourself these questions:
Using what you have learned in a reading is probably the most important step - and the most difficult. It involves moving beyond playing with the cards. When you actually commit to integrating your tarot insights into your life, you have realized the true and lasting benefit to be gained from the cards.
This is my ideal tarot session, but, to be truthful, I don't always follow it. Sometimes I linger over these steps, sometimes I neglect quite a few of them. I encourage you to adopt whatever procedure suits your interests and needs. If you don't enjoy the cards, they'll just gather dust on the shelf. The details aren't that important; it's the intention that counts!
Exercises for Lesson 8