Look, I don’t care how much you think tarot cards are bullshit, or how sad you think that neon “tarot readings” sign looks in the 2nd floor of that apartment building over the chinese takeout place, or that you don’t get Stevie Nicks’s fashion. If that’s how you think you just probably were never a teenage girl who saw Practical Magic and then started buying all the incense and “spell books” she could at Barnes & Noble, and for that I’m truly sorry.
The thing is tarot is great.
Victoria and I went to college in New Orleans, where opportunities for tarot card readings, fortune telling, and more abounded in Jackson Square. Of course, at 19 we were too intimidated to speak to these women, with their candles and velvet and “do I look like I give a shit if you stop at my booth?” stares. But that’s because we didn’t have the wonderful Jolie Kerr around to tell us what’s what about tarot readings.
Though she’s best known as A Clean Person, Kerr also dabbles in the tarot arts, and we sat down with her to talk about how to get a tarot reading. First rule? Don’t be scared. “Tarot is not fortune telling. What it does is tell you a story based on a question you have in mind. But you can still change the outcome. Nothing is set in stone.” However, if you are a bit nervous, mention that to the person doing your reading so they can take it into account. Also, don’t freak out if you see a card with a scary or violent motif, as most cards are not literal. For instance, pulling “The Tower” (which depicts people falling from a burning building) usually is a sign of a change ahead, not that you will fall from a burning building.
So how do you get a tarot reading? Since this is an art based on intuition, Kerr suggests using your gut. “If you get a sense that someone is trying to rip you off, they probably are. If they don’t look like they know what they’re doing, they probably don’t.” Take a second to talk to them, and see if you feel comfortable. After all, what you’re going for is having a conversation about your life, so you’re going to want to feel comfortable opening up a bit.
Once you’re doing your reading, be sure to follow directions, and do not touch the cards until you’re instructed to. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands before touching the cards, out of respect, and just because a lot of people are probably touching that deck. In general, respect is the name of the game, as it is with many religious or spiritual practices. “If you come in not taking it seriously, you’re wasting both yours and the reader’s time. You may not really believe in it, but try to be open minded, even if just for that moment.”
As for payment, if the reader has prices posted then that’s that, but if they don’t it’s up for debate. Like with most instances of haggling, you can go lower but not too low. For instance, “if you have a friend with you, and the reader says it’s $35 a reading, offer $40 for both of you,” says Kerr. And as for tip? “I think readers would probably feel tipping is disrespectful, though if you have someone you regularly go to, you can tip them on Christmas, or the winter solstice.”
There is a tarot reader who set up shop in a shack next to a mechanic up my block, and thanks to Kerr, I will no longer fear going there! Ok, I still will, but not because I’m worrying about tipping.