When you say ‘trauma-informed tarot’ what do you mean?
It means that I have done a lot of reading and personal work to understand trauma and how it effects both me and others.
The readings I give are shaped by a context of avoiding absolutes, demands, and authoritative expectations. Of staying attentive to body cues and having a ready agility to change direction whenever it is needed.
This is your reading, and if you’ve reached your limit of “uncomfortable” moving in one direction, there are always other paths to explore.
In the form you receive when scheduling online, you have an opportunity to specify pronouns, triggers, or other areas of sensitivity I should be aware of as your reader. This way you can avoid being negatively surprised by some aspect of the randomness that is inherent to the tarot process.
For example, you can request a deck that has no violent images. The visual storytelling in many decks includes (potentially) harsh images that parallel some ugliness that exists in our broken world. Tarot is, after all a “picture book for grown-ups,” and does, as a result, reference hard things.
This does not mean you are childish or getting a less complete reading if you choose a gentler deck.
You can be just as open to the truth, and receive from every card, while still honoring your limits and providing the best care for yourself. Trauma-informed tarot means that I am your partner in this care.
What happens in a reading?
When we meet we usually begin with light chatter that helps us settle into the feel of the day and interaction before we dive into heavier territory.
I am not a licensed counselor or therapist (always check with your healthcare provider if you have a serious physical or mental health concern), but a lot of our rhythms of talk will fall into similar patterns.
You will bring a question (or a basket of wordless feelings that we will form into a question or direction of inquiry together), and I will listen for the elements that will indicate the best spread(s) to address the current need.
A spread is the layout of cards that determines which card represents which part of an answer.
For example, a three-card spread may name: Situation – Decision – Task
I may show you the art book I use to collect my spreads, and we can discuss what you think will align best with your purposes, or you can leave it to me and my experience to choose.
Finally, we are settled, the first question is clarified, and I shuffle the cards. If you want, you can cut the deck — there’s no prohibition against you touching the cards. Then I lay down the cards in the chosen pattern.
At this point I describe the symbolism represented in each card, and we relate it to the card’s position in the spread. Often there is a confluence of cards, where they naturally work together to add depth to the meaning or interpretation. The whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
You are welcome to ask questions at any time, or make your own observations. You are a participant in the reading: this is your time, and your questions and purposes that we are exploring. As the reader I am here to help with this, a guide as you consider the results. Many spreads include a “what’s next” or “to do” item to help the querent (that’s the person asking the question) to move from the area of thought or theory and into action.
When we finish going through a spread, or your time is up, I suggest you may take a picture of the cards if you want, or offer to send you one from my phone.
And that’s it.
We share a polite good-bye (return our dishes if we met in a coffee shop or cafe), and maybe talk about when or whether you want to continue the work or have another session or follow-up in two weeks or a month. Then you leave with a lot to think about.
People get the most benefit out of each session if they journal about it soon after (or even during the reading), holding on to key elements that resonated.
* * *
Do the cards actually speak?
Don’t blush! It’s okay to ask.
The cards are not sentient. They do not literally give direction. Rather, we speak of them having “personality” or “ideas” the way we speak of a familiar book, or persnickety vehicle.
I have been accused (fairly) of talking to just about everything (Hey, you try not-engaging when your car loses traction, or your keys keep hiding). So you may see or hear me use person-like language when describing the cards, or the insight we glean from them.
This is just easiest sometimes, as a way to put language to something (impressions, insight) that can be difficult to put into words. No one here will ask you to manufacture belief in something you’re not interested in.
* * *
Can I bring my own deck for you to read from? It’s really special to me.
First of all, I invite you to check in if you have a favorite deck (or even something you’ve seen on social media that calls to you). I don’t have every deck out there, but I have built a sizable collection.
But, no. Unless you feel it’s essential to your process, and you’re willing to have a “training-wheels” reading (one were I’m still learning the balance), I recommend choosing from the decks I’ve already got a rapport with.
* * *
What questions do you answer with the cards?
Useful questions to bring to a tarot reading are (first of all) open-ended. This means it’s not a question that has a simple, one-word answer.
Not: “Am I capable of falling in love?”
Instead: “What can I do to get out of my own way?”
Coming with a bundle of energy and only vaguest idea of where you want to focus – this is also fine. Sometimes the clarity a tarot reader can offer comes as much from defining questions as it does from offering answers. Tarot is an exercise in bringing the intangible and out-of-reach down to earth and practice. My specialty is in offering language as a sort of container for what’s going on in your world – a bowl or terrarium that will contain something long enough to get a good look at it. Questions can be specific or general:
How can I stop stressing about __________?
What next steps can I take to continue growing into my best self?
Relationship questions are traditionally a staple of tarot readings, and we can definitely use the cards to consider options and look deeper into relational dynamics – but – unless your extra person is with you, this is still a reading about you, and the energy or dynamic you are bringing to the interaction. Types of relationship questions:
What are my hopes (or fears) about this relationship? How are they affecting our interaction?
How can I stop worrying about my children?
If you are looking for ideas for good questions, there are lists of ideas on the internet, just a quick search away. Many of those questions can be useful containers for what you want to explore with the cards. Ultimately tarot is about exploration and looking for a fresh take on things. A very familiar, and utterly adequate question to bring is:
What should I be paying attention to at this time?
* * *
Are there questions you won’t answer with the cards?
My standard limits [this is what I don’t do at this time]:
- Nothing about money, health/body or legal concerns: seek out the appropriate professional.
- No assurance about what someone else thinks or will do (in relation to you or their own lives). I can tell a story with the cards — it was my first-ever application of them — but I don’t recommend acting on it without actual communication with that person.
- No ought-to advice: Never surrender control of your life for ease in the moment. Do the hard (good) work of making decisions and learning from the results.
Questions I didn’t answer? Feel free to contact me.