Job diary: I’ve been a professional tarot card reader for over 20 years — here’s what my days are like
I got my first deck of tarot cards when I was 18 years old. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by mysterious and magical things. My mother used to read our tea leaves for fun and I was always intrigued by how a few leaves bunched together could tell so much about a person.
When I discovered tarot at the age of 12 after my sister brought home some cards, I was immediately hooked. Now I’m 49, and I read the cards every day.
Some people refer to tarot reading as fortune telling, but I think of them as a tool to divine information about a person’s circumstances. There are 78 cards in a tarot deck. There are four suits (just like playing cards, except the suits are wands, swords, pentacles, and cups; this is referred to as the Minor Arcana) and then there’s the Major Arcana, which are cards that are labelled things like The Fool, The Lovers, Death, and The Sun. These are the ones you always see in movies right before something ominous is about to happen, and is why the cards sometimes get a bad rap. There’s no reason to fear getting your cards read. A reputable reader isn’t going to tell you that anyone is going to die or that you have a curse placed upon you — that’s a scam. In a legitimate tarot reading, the cards that are pulled and the way they are spread out will create a unique message that your reader will interpret.
I learned by reading books and getting my own cards read.
This was, of course, way before the internet. I practiced on friends and family members, initially reading from the “LWB,” (little white book) that comes with the cards. It’s a lot like learning another language. Eventually you get to a point where the cards just seem to talk to you. You develop a rapport with them.
I started reading professionally in the 1990s.
I’m a freelance writer, which is a solitary profession, so reading cards allows me to connect with people. At first, I started out doing private readings and a few parties, but it wasn’t until the past five years or so when I really decided that this was my calling. Now I do more tarot and less writing. I know that when I tell people I’m a reader, the first thing they think of is the stereotype: A neon sign that says “Fortunes Told,” a shiny crystal ball on the table, and someone telling them they can remove a hex for an extra $50. But that’s not how I operate.
I read out of my home in Connecticut and at a few local shops. A basic reading is $50 for a half hour. My readings are all about the here and now. The cards are a tool to help you see what factors need to be considered when making a decision. They highlight opportunities, hindrances, helpers, and detractors. A good reading can validate past decisions and help guide you in future choices.
I start every day by prepping my space, which is a spare room in my house.
Although I’m currently not seeing clients in person due to COVID-19, I still want to make my space as sacred and still as possible, and cleanse it using sage, palo santo (a medicinal wood) or a crystal-infused oil spray. I set up my desk with whatever cards and crystals I’m using that day, and then I do a meditation in order to be as grounded as possible, because often a lot of heavy emotional stuff will come up in readings. I need to be sure that I don’t take on the emotional energy of others.
I always tell my clients that our reading is their time.
They can ask me questions and tell me as much or as little as they’d like. Some people come with a list of questions and others just want to see what comes up. I shuffle the cards and lay them out and one by one I turn them over.
Each card has its own meaning, but the real story happens when you see how the cards interact. Once some messages start popping up, the client will often start to make the connections and ask deeper questions.
The first two weeks of quarantine, I didn’t read for anyone, but then I realized that people needed the cards more than ever.
Clients were reaching out to me with questions like, “Will I get sick?” “When will we be done with this?” and “I don’t even know what to ask right now, I just need something.”
So, I decided to try virtual readings using Zoom and FaceTime. I wasn’t sure if this system would work, because a big part of a successful reading is being able to tap into the client’s physical energy. Fortunately, it hasn’t been an issue at all. Since we’ve all had to adapt to a new screen-centered lifestyle, I think the technology doesn’t present as much of a psychological hurdle as it would have in the past.
Tarot readings have always been popular because people have a need for something less clinical (and cheaper) than therapy, and more objective than just talking to friends. A tarot reading offers a safe space for clients to explore their thoughts and feelings and hopefully gain a little insight.
There is no typical client — I’ve read for kids and grandparents, doctors and lawyers, stay-at-home moms and people who are unemployed.
My clients include those who are completely open to the metaphysical and those who are 100% skeptical. I appreciate their willingness to trust me with their story. I see about 10 people a week for private readings, and try to limit myself to two a day, because the sessions can often bear a heavy energy and I want to be as present as possible for each client.
I also started doing fun, more casual readings once a week on Facebook just to give the cards a chance to breathe. I know how that sounds, but the cards can get weighed down, too. I still have quite a few regular clients that I hear from on a monthly basis. I love getting feedback from people to see how their readings manifested into their lives.
There are a few main questions I always get from clients.
People want to know if they’ll ever find love, if their family members are okay, and what their job situation looks like. I think the hardest part of reading for me is when someone comes wanting a definitive answer, when they ask questions like, “Will I get back together with my ex?” of “Will I land the job?” or “When will COVID-19 end?” I don’t give absolute, set-in-stone answers, because we all have free will and the ability to change our situations at a moment’s notice. I always say to look to the cards for guidance, not answers. My job is to present the options and explore the potential results. The best readings start with the question, “What do I need to know about you and your current situation?”
My ultimate goal with every reading is to make sure the client feels some sense of hope, purpose, or some clarity. The cards may not necessarily say what they want to hear, but at least they can leave with a plan or a direction.
Patti Woods is a tarot reader and freelance writer based in Trumbull, Connecticut. Visit her website, and join her for frequent live readings on Facebook.