I am writing this in Vienna’s tenth district, sitting inside a good friend’s combined studio/guestroom. A week ago I came to Austria from visiting family in Germany, and a week before that I was in Egypt touring ancient temples. Each place I’ve gone, I’ve arrived deck in hand, ready to read for whoever I might meet. This is how I’ve made so many friends so quickly during my time abroad.
I was shy at first. I was afraid of language preventing me from accurately reading, superstition and religion throwing brick walls against my offers to read for new friends, and cultural differences leaving me embarrassed and out of touch with the people I intended to help and become closer to.
Luckily, it really wasn’t that big a deal. In fact, all of the tips below are important at home or abroad, though I do believe its important to be more conscious of yourself when out of your element. While there is always more to learn, here is what I’ve figured out so far about reading Tarot while on the move…
1. Be Discerning: Map Out Beliefs
Although I doubt you will find yourself on death row, practicing anything resembling magic can stir up superstition and fear in many people – locally and abroad.
Map out the beliefs of people you meet by respectfully asking about the religion of their country and their family, picking up their attitudes towards other ways of life at the same time. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve been asked if I was religious also. I say I am not any specific religion, but my Mother is and I respect many faiths. This isn’t my life story, but it lets me be honest while letting them know I appreciate and respect their beliefs. This also builds connection and trust, which is crucial to an effective reading.
Based on what you learn about people and how much time you have, you can decide whether you’d be interested in reading cards for them. Reading only for open-minded, respectful people is your first step to a good reading.
2. Offering Readings: Take it Lightly
To get people interested in readings, I usually joke around about Tarot a little bit first. When the inevitable topic of career comes up I say rather ironically that I am a fortune teller. Later on in the conversation, I tone it down by comparing Tarot reading to very light counseling, and an entertaining way to talk about life’s problems. Usually people begin to ask for readings, or if they can see me do it. Offering up an example card can quickly lead to a whole night of Tarot readings for a roomful of new friends.
Take the Tarot lightly with strangers. No matter how magical you may be, when discussing a reading it can protect you to mention beforehand that you and the cards are not supernatural in any way. There is no reason to try to sell beliefs on how, why, or if the cards ‘really work’ to people who may rather see the cards as just a fun way to look at problems. And remember: If someone doesn’t know what to ask about, just say “Pick one – Love or Money?”
3. Reading the Cards: Language is a Bridge, not a Barrier
Something I’ve discussed recently is that the language barrier is usually something we throw up as an excuse when we become lazy communicators. If you work at it, you can be understood by just about anybody.
Being a native English speaker is a big advantage since people learn English all over the world – at least a little. Of course, talking about prices and the weather is only going to get you so far in a Tarot reading, so to be more comprehensively understood use simple language, rich facial expressions, and gesticulate – a lot. Having a good translator is just a bonus – Pointing to the three of swords and saying ‘sad’ and then putting a hand over your heart and looking pained is going to get you a lot farther than stumbling through an explanation of the symbols with a severely clipped vocabulary.
If you need help to know how to communicate more expressively, try people watching in other countries. Especially in communities which value privacy less than our US/European standard, I’ve noticed an incredible amount of emotion and energy in speech. If you can communicate in this animated, expressive way, whatever you wish to say will be understood better, and as a bonus you’ll probably make a lot more friends on your trip also.
4. Taking Care: Being Understood
No matter how expressive you are, you might be misunderstood. Anything from the wrong word to a misconstrued gesture may leave them feeling like something bad will happen to them because you read their cards, or worse, you might lose touch with them in confusion. Once this happens, cultural and linguistic differences become more difficult to reconcile, so its important to be very deliberate with your message.
The best guard against errors is to keep the messages – no matter how complex – in the simplest possible language. Also, keeping the good side of every single card in your language gives them the biggest chance for taking a positive message from your reading. Especially in the ‘darker’ cards, keeping the idea of Renewel in the Death, Tower, and 10 of Swords can really help keep you in rapport.
I will keep moving and honing my Tarot skills. I hope these ideas are helpful, and feedback is always welcome and encouraged. Thanks for reading!