If you’re serious about improving your tarot reading skills, one big step you can take is to offer readings at an event, such as a community event, your friend’s wedding, or a party. There are so many great reasons to do this! For one, it gives you a really specific kind of practice in tarot reading — there’s nothing like being on the spot, over and over again to hone your reading skills. Reading for a large number of people can help you build new relationships with your cards. It’s a really special thing to contribute to an event — a tarot stall always gets people talking and adds something very special. It’s also a really nice way to have a ‘role’ at an event, and to meet people! A tarot stall can sometimes also be an opportunity to earn money, or to fundraise.
Many people leap into ‘public reading’ pretty early in their tarot journey. If you’re a confident person with the gift of the gab, you might not think it’s a big deal to set your stall at an event and start dishing out readings to a queue of querents (the folks receiving the readings). On the other hand if you’re anything like me, it’s one of the most nerve-wracking, sweat-inducing, terrifying things you can do as a tarot reader. I’ve only ever read at a handful of events, and each time I get so nervous about it, I want to call in sick half an hour beforehand. And yet, each time without fail, I finish up feeling just so wonderful about the whole experience, in love with everyone I’ve met and more confident with tarot than ever.
I’m just back from reading at Free Pride Glasgow, where I had The Best Time I could possibly ever have with my cards. I read for four solid hours (not recommended, see below, but still amazing!) for what must have been well over 100 people. I absolutely loved the experience of providing so many readings for my beautiful queer family, and I came away with a heart full of love, a lovely boost in my face-to-face tarot reading confidence…and a lot of thoughts about how I would organise myself better next time.
If you’re thinking of taking this step (and if so, go you!) here’s my best advice to get you feeling prepared and ready to deliver a really great service.
All photos are from the Free Pride Glasgow Facebook page.
Make it clear what you need from the organisers
Basically, you’re going to need a small table and a couple of chairs. I like to have a chair for me, plus two for querents; lots of people like to bring a friend or partner to sit with them while they have their cards read.
Maybe you need a quiet space for your readings, or maybe this isn’t important to you. You definitely want to be sure your space is accessible. Maybe you want to visit the venue beforehand so you have an idea of what kind of space you’re going to have so you can bring decorations. Maybe you don’t give a damn and you can create a sacred and magical space in the beer-stained corner of of a punk club floor and everyone will love it. You do you, but if you need the organisers to think about your needs in advance, make sure you talk to them and be clear before the day.
Have a simple kit
You can read tarot at an event with only a deck of cards, but if you like to use other things in your readings, put together a neat little kit so you’re all prepared. Here’s what’s in mine:
- My favourite cards.
- A cleansing mist for clearing the air/energy between readings.
- A small candle and a lighter, which creates a little atmosphere and gives querents something to focus on if they need it (especially helpful if a reading covers a difficult topic).
- My reading cloth. Mine is nice and big, perfect for decorating/covering up a grotty table!
- An oracle deck. Sometimes a reading needs a little extra help to finish up, and offering your querent an oracle card to interpret for themselves is a really nice way to do this. It also involves them in the reading a little bit more.
- Business cards. Often people will go away from a reading wanting to delve deeper into tarot, or they might want you to read at their own event. If you have any kind of tarot business it’s helpful (not pushy or sales-y) for both you and your querents if they can easily grab your contact details.
- Sometimes I’ve kept a notebook beside me too — often a querent wants to go away and think more about their cards and it’s nice to be able to jot down the card names and maybe some keywords for them.
Organise your time
Before I was even in my seat and officially ‘open’ at Free Pride, I had a small queue of people waiting for readings. That queue grew and grew and four hours later I hadn’t had a break, and many people had been waiting a long long time. It wasn’t ideal! What I should have done was get myself organised in advance so I was able to take breaks, and so that folks didn’t have to stand in lines.
A queue sheet was all that I needed! A simple table with time-slots (say ten minutes per person, or whatever suits you) and comfort breaks built in. Then people can put their name down, head off and enjoy the event, and pop back when it’s their time! And no hard feelings when you need to take a break. Simples.
Do you need a sign?
I have this beautiful wooden blackboard that my partner made me, decorated with the four tarot suit symbols around the frame — it’s the perfect sign for a tarot reading stall. However, I’m usually arriving by public transport and/or on foot. At Free Pride, still buzzing from the march and from having dashed across town in the rain, I didn’t think about it until I was there in the room and had to quickly scribble something on a piece of paper. I wish I’d given it a little more thought! If you plan to do event readings regularly, you could make yourself a really beautiful sign for your stall.
Have a spread or a few spreads ready
The first time I read at an event, I was trying to make a custom spread for each querent, which was daft. This can work great when someone is coming to you for a good long session, but at an event where you’re likely reading for lots and lots of people, you’re going to want to be able to begin the reading promptly and easily with a spread you know really well.
I usually use a simple three-card spread for every reading. I’ll explain that the central card is the focus of their situation, challenge or issue, and that the two cards either side add information, insight, or guidance relating to that situation. This makes it really easy for me to see how the cards are interacting with each other. It’s quick, but still provides lots of juice, and it’s easy for the querent to see whats going on, rather than worrying about all of those positions
You could totally use a bigger spread if you wished. It absolutely depends on how much time you want to spend with each querent, just know in advance which spread/s you’re going to use and make sure you know it really well. Sticking with the same one or two throughout the event saves a lot of thinking and means you can focus your energy on the person and the cards.
Prepare a few welcome words
As I said, I get nervous reading at events. One thing that helps me is having a few introductory lines that welcome querents when they sit down and explains what they can expect. For example, I told folks that I don’t predict the future, that I’m simply going to lay out three cards and tell them what I see. People have all kinds of ideas and expectations around what tarot cards and readings are, and it’s really important to make sure you explain your approach so they’re not misled.
I also remind them that they have free will and own their choices, and that the information I give them is theirs to do with what they wish. Then I hand them the cards and ask them to shuffle, and ask if there’s anything specific they want to know about, or if they just want to see what comes up. It’s short, but having these points at the tip of my tongue assures me that I’ve covered everything I want to say before I start the reading.
Be prepared for the ‘testers’ (and possibly haters)
I’ve been lucky. The worst I’ve encountered at an event has been folks who sit down with a smirk, who want to ‘disprove’ tarot, who want to ‘prove me wrong’, or whatever. The best advice I can offer here is to go with it and just do your job. If they like it, great. If they don’t, no matter. Other tarot readers I know have had to put up with people who think their work is bad, or wrong, or evil. My advice would be not to engage. You’re there to do a job and there are gonna be way more people who want to sit down and talk tarot with you. Focus your energy on those people and give them your best.
Keep it light-ish
It’s up to you how deep you want to go when you’re reading in a public space and it really depends on how much time you’re giving to each reading, but my strong advice would be to keep things on the light-ish side. It’s amazing what can come out even in a short reading with just a few cards, and as a tarot reader, you’re holding space for folks to share things they may be struggling to come to terms with, or may have never told anyone before. This is happening in a public space where there may not be a safe place they can go afterwards to process their reading, so you need to have a real respect for the effect a tarot reading can have.
I’m definitely not saying you should steer clear of difficult topics or avoid anything heavy or negative (in my experience that’s kinda impossible), but an event where you’re providing a form of ‘entertainment’ might not be the best place to be probing into the darkest corners of someone’s psyche. Have an awareness of your responsibility here and of how seriously many people will take your words. My personal approach here is to bring things round to the most encouraging point in the reading as I finish up, so things end on an ‘up’ note.
Don’t get drunk
I know folks who will disagree with this and y’know, I’m not saying that every reading I’ve ever done has been stone cold sober, but, see above. You’re in a position of responsibility. Respect your querents (even if they’re off their heads). Booze affects your ego, your judgement, your ability to read other people and how they’re reacting. Go steady, and be kind.
That’s it! I know many of you people reading this will have way more public tarot reading experience than me, so go on: what are your tips for running a smooth, safe, fun tarot stall?
Also: Do you want a tarot reading? Email your question to beth [at] autostraddle [dot] com.
Rules and disclaimer-type thing for readings:
- In sending in your question, you’re allowing Autostraddle to publish your dilemma for five hundred thousand curious eyes to see
- But don’t worry – we’ll keep you completely anonymous (and we’ll let you know in advance if you’ve been picked.)
- No third party stuff. This is all about you. That means no “does she love me?” and no “why is she doing this to me?” Sorry guys, but that shit ain’t cool.
- This is entertainment. I am so not responsible for anything you do as a result of your reading and neither is Autostraddle. Dear reader, you are a full-grown person with a brain and you (not I) are 100% in charge of your own destiny. You wouldn’t want it any other way.