The Ten Things Not to Do in a Tarot Reading… and What to Do Instead

Liz Dean

Tarot is a wonderful teacher. The experience of reading not only deepens our relationship with our cards, but helps us rise to the challenges and growth opportunities that every reading brings. Here’s how to get the most from your readings – from trusting your intuition to dealing with unusual requests

Liz Dean


  1. The blitz: Don’t be phased if your querent – that’s the person you’re reading for – bombards you with questions at the start of the reading. For some people, it’s a relief to be able to talk to someone in confidence, and the reading soon settles down. However, occasionally you may get someone who wants to talk throughout, which interrupts your flow. (I was once presented with a list of more than 20 questions typed out on a sheet of paper. I asked her to be present with me, trust she would get what she needed from the reading – and put the list to one side.)

Do reassure the querent that you will do your best to cover all their concerns within the time you have together, but that you will give your reading first (and often, their questions get answered in the process). This helps the querent relax into the reading and listen to your interpretations. Five minutes before you’re due to finish, ask if they have a final question or request.

  1. The check-in: Don’t be afraid to check in with the querent. Within the first five minutes of a reading, ask, ‘Does that make sense to you?’ Always ask, always bring them into the reading. They don’t need to give you details or explain why what you’ve said so far feels right – just a general assent to continue is fine.

Do appreciate how powerful your words may be. See how they’re landing with your querent before you go deeper into the reading.

  1. Spirit-talk: Don’t feel you need to be a medium as well as a tarot-reader. Some querents may assume that because you read cards, you’ll also bring through messages from loved ones in spirit.

Do take a minute to communicate your reading style before you begin. State if you do mediumship or not, right at the outset. If the querent has booked a reading purely to hear from a person in spirit, and that’s not how you work, it’s better they know not to expect it. It’s surprisingly common to find you’re with a querent who secretly wants a spirit message, and their hope or desperation for this blocks the reading. Deal with this upfront, and you clear the way for the querent to relax into a reading that you’re comfortable giving.

  1. Advisory: Don’t fall into the role of advisor even when the querent asks you directly for guidance. It’s not your role to fix their problem.

Do respond with, ‘I’m not giving advice, here – but this is what I see around you just now. This option feels positive, but this is your decision – do what feels right for you.’ This way, the querent makes the best decisions going forward, which is empowering for them. If you become their advisor, you potentially set up dependency: they want frequent readings – and often return to you with the same issue. It’s up to the querent to do the work.

  1. You’re good: Don’t think you have anything to prove. You’re perfectly positioned to give this reading, and what you share has value.

Do trust yourself as a reader. Open up to the loving universe, and the reading will flow. Be confident; if you come up against resistance, you can deal with it. For example, when I read cards at Psychic Sisters in Selfridges, London, one of my sister readers was asked by a client, ‘Where do I live?’ The client had walked in, primed with their ‘test’ question. The reader smiled back, ‘You know where you live; why do you need me to tell you?’ If you ever feel tested in a reading, it’s often because the person opposite is frightened of what their reading might reveal, or they simply mistrust the process. They need reassurance, so explaining how you work – see number 3 – can help get the reading on track. And if that doesn’t clear the air, it’s also fine not to continue the reading.

  1. No pressure: Don’t get caught up in giving timescales and predictions. When your querent asks – or even demands, ‘When will this happen exactly?’ a reader can feel pressured to foretell a timing. And then, after the reading, the querent waits for that relationship to begin, or that house move to happen on that exact week or day – blind to other opportunities coming their way. If you’re asked for a specific timescale, explain that what you see are broad future influences, and go with what you sense from the cards – for example, fiery cards such as Wands reveal energy and speed, while earth-bound Pentacles suggest a slower pace.

Do explain that any timings you do give are fluid; the future is not set. Encourage the querent to trust their own intuition and go with the flow.

  1. The friend’s friend: Don’t say yes to a reading because you feel obliged. Let’s say Eliza, a friend of a friend, is having a really difficult time with a new manager at work and you’re asked to read her cards. You feel like you should help, but there’s a voice in your ear saying no. And it’s fine to say no, because you’d be listening to that same intuition that you follow in your readings. Saying no simply means you’re not the right reader for Eliza. I’ll admit here that every time I’ve ignored my intuition about giving a reading, I’ve regretted it. While the querent seems satisfied with the reading, it’s usually exhausted me.

Do save yourself for the readings that feel right. Readings take a lot of energy; spend it wisely.

  1. Rituals: Don’t forget to close down after a reading. It’s important to make a ritual gesture or take another action that signals the end of your connection with your querent. This may be visualising white light cleansing your aura and reading space, extinguishing a candle, washing your hands, and/or thanking your guides (if you work with them) and your querent.

Do honour and acknowledge the shift in energy that marks a reading’s end. This allows you to protect your personal energy field and not take on any of your querent’s issues.

  1. It’s obvious… isn’t it? Don’t fear the literal. In tarot we’re always looking to reveal what is hidden (and after all, arcana – which describes the major and minor cards – means ‘secret’). But then there’s the material, physical world of the cards, too. The Nine of Pentacles could foretell a visit to a garden; the Fool could be a hike in the mountains. In fact, in one reading the querent pointed at the Eight of Wands and said, ‘That’s my job; I’m a scaffolder.’ It could have been so easy to go into the reflex meaning of the card – energy, communication, speed, but the querent jumped into the reading to give me the lesson I needed.

Do give yourself permission to say what you see as soon as you see it. Let this intuitive part of you speak before your thinking mind over-interprets.

  1. Appreciate you: Don’t take my word for it. These ten advice points are suggestions, and hopefully act as starting points to help you reflect upon and enhance your tarot practice. As readers, we rarely get time to consider our reading style and values, so if you can, make space for some self-appreciation. At one tarot conference, I hosted a discussion entitled ‘What makes me a good tarot reader?’ The attendees split into groups to discuss. I gave them 20 minutes for the task but they insisted they wanted much more time, because it was the first time anyone had asked that question. They loved the opportunity to share and reflect on their strengths as readers.

Do list your own top ten. What advice would you give?