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Tarot RITEs: Readings That Are Interactive, Transformational, and Empowering

Tarot Cards

This is an introduction to a particular style of reading tarot for others called RITE, which stands for Readings that are Interactive, Transformational, and Empowering. It emphasizes three factors:

  1. The reading is an interactive dialogue in which the reader uses his or her knowledge of the cards to ask the querent questions.
  2. The reading involves a change, especially of consciousness.
  3. The querent exercises control over his or her own life by clarifying goals and making choices in alignment with them.

A reading that is interactive, transformational, and empowering involves a querent's responses to tarot symbols combined with the guidance of a knowledgeable tarot reading who checks these responses against traditional meanings for the cards. The reader also looks for correspondences among cards to find connecting and possibilities, but it is the querent who determines his or her own advice.

RITE focuses on the querent rather than on answering questions about other people in the querent's life. It assumes that a person has all the answers within him- or herself. Everything in the cards is seen as an aspect of that person. Responses to the cards are explored as projections of the person's own psyche. Since a person comes asking for help, the reading is first about making those needs known. All feelings are accepted, valued, and wisely contained without shame. To this end, the reader seeks to remain nonjudgmental beliefs. Reader and querent work together to find options and possibilities rather than to determine right or wrong, and to separate seen as opportunities for learning and growth from which a person can emerge stronger and richer.

A reading is interactive when all involved act together and have dynamic effect on each other. This includes the reader, querent, the cards, and the figures on them.

A reading is transformational when it fosters authentic change. This frequently happens within the reading itself and involves a person's conditioned attitudes and responses that aren't working and replacing them with a more authentic, spontaneous experience that is freed from unnecessary constraints.

A reading is empowering when the person is in control and consciously participating in his or her own destiny. It is an understanding of and acceptance of responsibility (that is, "ability to respond"). The querent assumes the most effective posture to take in a situation. You can't empower someone else. When a querent has powerful insights and makes decisions for herself, she gives birth to her own wisdom; the reader is simply the facilitator of this.

So how do you go about such a reading?

Firstly, RITE is more often "issue-oriented" rather than seeking to answer a specific question. All too often a person asks a question that is irrelevant to what's actually going on, such as, "When will my ex-boyfriend return to me?" The real issue could be about perceiving your own self-worth or having the opportunity to grow closer to your children. I suggest the all-purpose question,"what do I most need to look at in my life right now?" This can be modified, if desired, by adding a phrase such as "around my relationship with my wife," or "around my career," etc.

I work with a general spread, like the Celtic Cross. I want it to include one or two cards that tell me what the issue is from the tarot's point of view (for instance, the central two crossing cards in a Celtic Cross spread), and then cards for the past, present, and future, and/or the source of the conflict and advice or options. However, you can use any spread.

I go through the cards one-by-one, integrating the story only at the end. First, I identify the card, followed by a very brief description or a few keywords.

"Ah, you've got the Three of Cups. Threes are about integration and cups are about relationships."

At this point I often direct the querent to describe the card, asking for objectivity and literalness: "Three women, wearing flowing gowns are dancing together. Each holds a cup above her head."

Some people completely ignore aspects of the card or emphasize and explore every aspect of some seemingly insignificant detail. As the querent gets caught up in a description it becomes apparent that she is no longer talking about the card, but is describing it in terms that are relevant to her own situation. When I feel this is happening I have the querent repeat what she's said in the first-person present tense and then ask how this is true in her life. For instance, one person might see the three women as drunken, another as trying to pull away from each other. I can elicit further information by asking the person about the feelings or attitudes of the figures on the card or person about the feelings or attitudes of the figures on the card or have her make up a story about what the figures are doing, where they are going, or what they want.

I don't read "for" a person but rather "with" him or her. The experience is like having a rubber band stretched from me to the person and then to the cards. The task is to keep a certain tautness to the connection via attention and breath. You don't want to let it get lax or too stretched out. This awareness on my part helps us refocus on the image so that our conversation doesn't stray. It develops rapport and is also a kind of grounding or centering. Both the reader and the querent can easily get caught up in a story that ignores the cards and their symbols. When a story strays, the person may be deflecting the issue in order to avoid sensitive material. So, keep bringing the situation back to the cards, as they were "sticky" and pulling you.

Listening to another is enhanced if you sit evenly and erectly in your chair with both feet flat on the floor and your arms uncrossed palms up and open. Take a couple of "cleansing breaths," releasing all prior thoughts and concerns on the exhale and opening to the other on the inhale. Maintain an attitude of open receptivity to, and gentle affirmation of, what the other person says. Notice any judgments, opinions, or attitudes that arise, and let them go. You don't have to do anything about them.

It sometimes helps, especially if your mind tends to wander or you get stuck on one thought, to repeat silently what the person says word-for-word. You can prompt a description with a simple question such as:"Is there a person in the card?" "What color are the clothes?" "What's in the foreground?" "What is that (point to an object)?" If a querent says that a figure is a king, ask, "what about him makes you think he is a king?"

Use your breath to encompass and maintain awareness of the querent's whole presence. Breath oxygenates the cells and brings the whole body intelligence to the triadic focus of querent, cards, and reader. I picture this energy triangle as open to a flow of divine guidance from above and below.

By listening carefully I can do several things:

  1. Honor and acknowledge the person's perceptions by using his or her own words and phrases. (Are the women dancing, frolicking, or celebrating?)
  2. Note when something said deviates from the usual (what I call an anomaly), as it points to something that may be important. One example is when a querent describes the caduceus in the Two of Cups as driving the two people apart.
  3. Listen for when a description moves into personal content. The voice, posture, breath, tempo, or focus of attention go through a marked change. Such shifts indicated that this is somehow at the forefront of that person's psyche and experience.
  4. Identify specific events. By asking questions, a reader can transfer awareness from an observation about the card to a specific, personal event.

For instance, regarding the Three of Cups, I might ask:

"What are you celebrating?"

"A raise at work."

The reading might be about work, or self-worth, or a celebratory relationship, but we have the beginning of a handle.

I could continue, "What are the women in the card saying?"

The querent answers with some surprise,"Oh boy, now we can go on that vacation to Costa Rica."

"Are you planning a trip there?"

"No. It's just a wild dream I've always had. We need to use that money to get a new washer and dryer."

At this point I'd probably go on to the next card, which might very well tell us something more about this person's conflicting needs and desires or, maybe what "Costa Rica" symbolizes to her and why it's associated with a sense of joy and celebration.

In the background, my own knowledge of the tarot is providing considerations for me to keep in mind. Is this person struggling with three seemingly conflicting needs that can be harmonized and integrated in some way to bring emotional satisfaction? I also look to see if anything the querent says can be related to another card in the spread, indicating where the two cards might be linked. I use my intuitive and psychic abilities to know what questions and to look for the links and patterns among the cards and the querent’s descriptions.

With RITE, it's not the reader's job to "fix" anything, but rather to aid the querent in becoming more conscious. Avoid terms like "should," "must," "ought," and "have to." You don't have to resolve a tarot reading, solve an issue, or answer every question, nor do you have to please or satisfy a querent. Awareness is more important than solving. Some questions have no answers or the result has not yet been determined. Sometimes it doesn't matter what the choice a person makes so much as the attitude and the way in which he or she goes about making it. The focus is on increasing clarity and knowledge about lessons, purposes, choices, and values, thus giving the querent tools to continue handling a situation as circumstances change.

One of the keys to a truly empowering reading is to assume that the person is always right and that your interpretation or point of view, as reader, can be wrong. This especially difficult when you are convinced that the querent is in denial or resisting something. Let the person be right! Acknowledge that you may be in error. Follow where the querent leads. Even if you are right and the querent is he doesn't want to see. It is also more powerful if the querent eventually comes to see something for himself. For instance, the cards might indicate that the querent hates his job. He insists that he loves it, that it's a great place to work and he's really happy there. So if, you simply repeat how happy he must be with all the work situations depicted in the cards, there's a good chance that he'll find himself contradicting you until his unhappiness becomes concretely and specifically identified—even to himself. The"aha" moment is worth every effort.

There are a great many techniques that are useful for querent participation. Have the querent make up stories, act out the scene on the card, dialogue with the figures so that advice seems to come from the cards themselves. For instance, you could ask, "What would the Queen of Swords do about the situation in the Seven of Swords, which you've already identified as someone stealing from you?" Or, "How does the Page of Cups as the "outcome card" feel about the attitude that the Queen of Swords took in the past? What's the difference between your reaction then and a new reaction then and a new reaction as the Page of Cups?" Notice that the questions are open-ended and non-judgmental. The querent can go anywhere with them. Begin your question with How? Yes or no. My book, Mary K. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, teaches lots of other methods.

Five Characteristics of a RITE Environment
There are five things that create an effective reading environment:

  1. Loving presence in a sacred space: You create a time and place where nothing else intrudes and all is held in sacred trust (not shared without permission). This requires active listening. A loving presence means opening your heart to the querent, and paying close attention to what is said. Gently let go of your judgments as they arise so as to be fully present in the moment. By clearly hearing the querent's own words you can return to them as needed. This is one of the most important skills in learning to do interactive readings.
  2. Curiosity: Let your interest be childlike. Don't assume you know what something means. Experience everything as novel and intriguing, a puzzle or mystery about which you have questions rather than answers.
  3. Exploration: Explore how the querent thinks. How might his or her perceptions be true? Then consider alternative viewpoints, trying them out in the imagination. Find connections and patterns.
  4. Affirmation: Affirm the querent's experiences and insights. Welcome emotions as keys to personal meaning. Look for a new life story that encompasses and integrates all the emotions and patterns.
  5. Activation: Find a way to make the new insights active in the world. End with the querent committing to do one specific, concrete thing, no matter how small, that is in alignment with a personal choice or goal.

Will all this make a reading more accurate? Personally, I'm not interested in my own accuracy. In fact, the more accurate I am, the more disempowering it is for the querent in that it suggests that someone else holds the answers. Instead, I use my knowledge of the cards to ask the person questions that will bring his or her own wisdom to birth. I find that if I listen closely I can usually hear when a person speaks from his or her own truth and authentic self. Focused on attention along with a loving, compassionate intent that the person will find answers as a result of our conversation with the cards results in the heightened consciousness, clearer goals, and choices made with confidence.

About Mary K. Greer

Mary Greer is an author and teacher specializing in methods of self-exploration and transformation.  A Grandmaster of the American Tarot Association, she is a member of numerous Tarot organizations, and is featured at ...

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