I picked up the Tarot back in my college days – like most other things, from a college friend. I bought a deck and a book of instructions, and quickly learned how to do a layout and reading.
Basically, you let the “client” shuffle the cards while speaking or thinking the question, then deal them out in a prescribed ten-card Celtic Cross layout. Each card can have several meanings depending on whether it’s upside down or not, what position (in the ten) it is, and what’s around it. The idea is that they tell a cohesive story, and as the reader it’s up to me to determine what that might be.
I’d practiced doing readings for my school friends and myself, and those were mostly OK. Still, it’s hard to say whether the was anything to the “mystical nature” of the cards because I knew what the questions were and knew the people involved.
So I started trying cold readings for people I met in the cafeteria, and asked them to just think about their question rather than say it out loud. I had many misfires where the cards didn’t make sense – the mystical explanation is that I wasn’t in tune that day. Still, more often than not I could figure out the general nature of the question and intuitively pick out the relevant meanings.
So I was working in Manhattan in my first Honest to God Real Job, and the subject of fortune telling somehow arose. I casually mentioned being able to read tarot, and one of my associates begged me to do a reading for her. So I brought my deck (and my book – it’d been a while) and we gave it a go.
She didn’t want to say the question out loud, and I was fine with that. She shuffled the cards and I laid them out and did a quick once-over.
So the first card had several potential meanings, but nothing definite. I moved on.
The second card also had several potential meanings, some of which were common with the first.
The third narrowed the meanings further, as did the fourth. At this point I’d still not said anything.
Finally, there was too much coincidence to ignore, and I could always apologize after…
“Are you having an affair?”
“OMG!!!!”, she exploded, “How did you know?!?”
The cards can be a bit spooky sometimes…