how to do a tarot reading

a leading in, induction, introduction

this won't help you make money, or pick up femmes with split dyed hair. if you just want enlightenment, seems best to wander alone. if you want a spooky experience, try a seance or a ouija can't read the future through the cards, or summon demons, or anything like that. you'll've better luck w data science.

this will help you help your friends understand their problems, and you understand the problem form.if you've ever sat on a balcony watching a pink sun set on a pink city---and you, with your pink gin and pink heart---& thought "they should have sent a poet", then this may be for you.

tarot is, at its heart, the Socratic dialectic. something stirs within your interlocutor's soul/psyche/un-sub-conscious/mind-brain, and you're going to reveal it.


firstly, you're going to need to aquire the alchemical attitude[1]. any sufficiently serious left hand tradition will do. hermetic descendents are customary, but it wont work for you if it doesn't resonate with you.

next, you'll need a deck. keep searching until you find one that speaks to you. you don't need understand the words it's saying, just feel that there are words there. it wont work for you if it doesn't resonate with you.

what are we reading? a question for any text. we read to a concept, through a text. something is up with your interlocutor, and you're there to try to help them understand that.

never do book readings. i've never read what x card is supposed to "mean", and you shouldn't either. the point of the reading is to use these symbols as vehicles for meaning; a scaffolding for the subconscious. if you know anything about the hermetic tradition, you'll look at the name of the card and already know too much. others will want to look through the deck, and only look up the ones that make no sense.

i always read around a question, a theme. your interlocutor doesn't have to tell you what that theme is, they just need to have it in their mind.

you'll need a tablecloth, incense, candles, darkness, and music. all of these are used to engender (channel) the alchemical attitude---that wont happen the atmosphere doesn't resonate with you. you mustn't use any of the items (except perhaps the candles) in any other circumstances, unless you're really good at dropping in and out of mental states (<10s). i keep all my materials in a box, where they all pick up the scent of the incense.

the reading


(i like to have a little whisky. spiced wines are also nice.)

seat your interlocutor across from you. place the table cloth. place the candles. let them sift through the deck. turn the lights off. turn the music on. light the candles.

take the deck and begin to shuffle. tell your interlocutor to tell you when to stop.

placing and explaining

look up a diagram of where the numbers go. this is what they mean, according to me, who is the smartest:

  1. your interlocutor, right here, right now
  2. the problem, the question, the primary influence
  3. the distant past, its stamp upon the unconscious
  4. the near past, its mark on the subconscious
  5. the present
  6. the immediate future
  7. a bit later than 6
  8. a bit later than 7
  9. a bit later than 8
  10. the temporal limit of our investigation; the outcome

place the cards down in order, explaining what their position means. you may prime the meaning of the card now, explaining the name or certain symbolisms in the card---but let the card speak for itself; let your interlocutor speak through the card.


what's really important are four lines of force: four gestalten, four narratives, four little meanders through the mind.

  • positive energies flow from 4 => 2 => 6 => 9 => 10
  • negative eneregies flow from 3 => 6 => 8 => 7
  • the unconscious manifests consciously from 3 => 2 => 10
  • the present evolves into/around 7, through 5 => 2 => 7

the majority of your time will be spent talking about these narratives. you and the cards are the Socratic midwife, coaxing these narratives---these understandings---out of the individual. you aren't telling people who they are, or their future, or anything like that. you don't know that. the cards don't know that. the cards don't know anything. RNGesus doesn't know anything. there's no magic, only magick---yeah? allegory of the alethiometer.

you're trying to help someone understand their own problems.

it takes maybe 0.5-2 hours to fully explore the spread. after that, i like to ask my interlocutor if they feel ready to tackle their question, if the boundaries have been delineated. if not, it's time for another reading.

if so, blow out the candles, turn off the music, and let the room sit in silent darkness for a bit. let the mind depressurize, or your interlocutor will get the bends.

post reading

now that you understand the problem, all that's left's to solve it.

  1. the alchemical mode is embodied in the magician. if you've got a good deck you can learn oceans from pouring your consciousness over that card like a jazz cat. ↩︎