The Ethics of Performance - should Tarot get theatrical?
One thing you'll learn about me very quickly is that I have some pretty strong gut reactions, and I also like to think (and think, and overthink...)! If I stay balanced between both of these things, it helps me be a great reader; it means I trust my intuition, but I can ground it in the "real world". But it also means that if something just doesn't sit right with me, I have to sit around and figure out WHY.
More than once in the last few of days, I've stumbled upon some people playing up the "mysterious Tarot reader" image. I've read about how to dress up at a party and theme your outfit, to play up a "character" in order to provide an entertaining atmosphere. I've seen people advised to deliver their readings via cryptic messages to leave everyone wanting more - messages that, from what I could gather, have no actual value or use! And these are people who clearly know how to use the cards, and to set up more "legitimate" sessions.
Now, don't go off and leave in a hurry. I've had a reading or two at parties myself, and I love Renaissance Faires. I know the Tarot can go in a hundred different directions, and I'm a huge Soapbox Sadie about no "right" way to work with the cards. So why was my first reaction to bristle and frown at the idea of Tarot for entertainment's sake? Is it the idea of turning something I love, something I use for counseling and empowerment, into a gimmick? Is it the lack of respect Tarot already gets? (I got my fair share of 'Madame Zelda' jokes from my family when I started.) Is it that the typical 'Gypsy fortune teller' image is actually kind of racist against Romani people? Or do most people know the difference between fun at a party and the "deeper" uses of Tarot, and I should just lighten up?
I think it's more than fine to add a little magick into the Tarot, whether you're particularly witchy or not. All the magickal lodges and mystery schools have their secrets: the crown you wear when you're at a certain level, the slightly spooky initiation on a dark night of symbolic rebirth. That's because we're drawn to theatricality, to mystery. We like being the heroes of our own stories. Putting on a show for ourselves makes everything a little more meaningful, and the Tarot is no different. But (and there's always a "but")...
I'll never forget how during one of my first readings, all I had to say was 'you've had a loss' and the sitter burst into tears. She could have lost a job, an argument, a toothbrush. But she'd lost her husband, and those fifteen minutes she'd purchased turned into a session about grief, support systems, and her new normal. The cards have an uncanny knack for hitting the truth, bringing up what a person needs to think about, and making us take a good hard look at ourselves even when we don't mean to. Scary? Sometimes. Necessary? Absolutely. And only dangerous if you don't want to be a happier, more secure and self-aware person - which is what it's a good reader's job to help you do.
Have fun with the cards, and maybe costumes have their place if they're not messing with someone's culture. At Halloween and Camelot Days, I'll be right there with you in the ironic witch's hat. Not every reading is a huge soul-baring session, and a party isn't really the place for it anyway. But the Tarot deserves respect, and so do the people you're reading for. If someone is frightened or upset when you're throwing out mystic-sounding nonsense, or disrespects counselors and lightworkers because you're putting on too much of a show, that's doing a disservice, no matter how small. I'm not an authority to be throwing out edicts and rules, no one is, but I know what pings my radar and my gut, and all I can think is: being the "life of the party" will probably make you more mainstream, but it pays to be careful.
Another thing you'll learn pretty quickly: I'm always game to talk (and talk and talk) about it, even if you totally disagree - respectfully, of course. Leave a comment and tell me what you think!