I am very excited to introduce you to Cynthia. I met her through my Facebook Group, Tarot for Women. (How lucky am I to meet such amazing women from all around the world). When I heard that Cynthia had over 40 years experience reading Tarot and had a huge collection of Tarot decks (over 300), I knew I had to interview her.
So thank you Cynthia for taking time to gift us with your wisdom:)
How did you first come across Tarot?
Back when I was around 12 to 13 years old I had a strong interest in Wicca. It wasn’t until about six or seven years later (1973) that I found a woman to study wicca with. She had a small occult shop in her home and also taught a 10 week tarot class – which I promptly signed up for, after all being a witch I felt I had to read tarot. After that it has been a life-long love affair with tarot.
What was your first Tarot deck?
A Rider-Waite deck, the back of the cards is sort of a pink color with an ankh in the center. I was obsessed with Egypt at the time so these were perfect. I still have the deck – but rarely use them since I found out they are rare now and hard to find. They were published for a very brief time period by a small company.
Rider Waite Tarot – Publisher: University Books – was bought by Carol Publishing Group, NJ and they established a copyright on this deck in 1966. This Deck was published between 1966 to 1969. (U.S. Game published other versions of the deck, and forced this company to stop publishing.).
Do you remember the first tarot reading you gave?
No I have no clue – it was waaaaaay to long ago – but it was most likely for myself, at the time I was young, isolated, and I didn’t have any one to read for.
What was the hardest reading you ever did?
A dear friend requested a reading and after I said yes, she insisted on wanting to know if her father was going to die and no matter how I kept trying to gently explain why I would not answer that question she kept trying to convince me to make an exception for her. As a matter of my personal ethics, I will not answer questions regarding the timing of a death because the future is not written in stone and no one on the planet can predict precisely the time of someone’s death (and [imho] anyone who says they can is lying).
I tried to explain to her that of course the answer to that question (the way she asked it) is “yes” – we all die at some point, but that her question was really “when” and since her father was well into his 70s and in poor health it didn’t take a tarot reading to know that death was something that was a possibility but is NOT something we have much control over. I tried to suggest that she ask how to best enjoy the time they had together, how to enrich their relationship, how to help herself come to grips with loss, and other empowering options that would help her with the issues that were obviously very painful for her regarding the possibility of her father crossing over. I provided the best reading I could for her but did not read specifically regarding the timing of her father’s passing – it was a painful couple of hours – but I did my best to be present and listen and offer choices as to how best to cope with living and cherishing each day.
Did you ever find times where you could not read for a person? What did you do?
I haven’t really been in situations where I can’t read for someone – because I only offer to read when I am feeling called to do so and I have boundaries set up ahead of time before getting started with a reading – for example, I won’t read if I am physically not well, or if the person asking for a reading is using drugs or alcohol. I read whatever cards are presented in the spread – they always have a message – it may be short and sweet, or abrupt and to the point, or read like a short story – I trust the cards and go with the flow. If someone asked for a reading and I felt that I should not read for that person – I would just simply and politely decline and explain I wasn’t feeling a “connection.”
There was one reading I did for a friend (it was over Skype) – the first three cards I pulled and I was hit with a wave of fear and tears (and it could have very easily been too uncomfortable to proceed with the reading) – however, I said ok you need to breathe and calm down a bit – let’s have a look at these cards showing your worst fears, now we know this is just your own inner turmoil – so we’re going to set these aside, take some loooooong, deep breaths, refocus and get to the heart of the reading. From that point on the reading dealt with some difficult issues and choices ahead – but it ended up being just what she needed.
Have you charged money or given for free?
Both. I am very selective about free readings – it is too easy for people to try and take advantage of my time and energy so I strive to set healthy boundaries. Also when someone is seeking a free reading they are less likely to be doing so has a serious inquiry and more likely to just be seeking entertainment, or to hear what they want to be told (and will keep seeking out readers until one tells what they want to hear), and a variety of other un-empowering reasons.
Do you find men and women equally easy to read for?
I don’t find that gender makes a difference as far as ease of doing a reading; however, women do seek out tarot readings more often then men.
What advice would you give a beginner to Tarot?
Don’t over “think” it – everyone can learn to read tarot. Don’t focus on “memorizing” – just relax and get familiar with the images; learn the basic structure and some easy guidelines and from there explore, have fun, and learn the language of the cards and how they speak to you. A tarot journal can be useful – as long as it something you enjoy doing. Most importantly enjoy the journey and the tarot will reward you with a life time of self-discovery and wisdom.
Do you have any ethics or morals around the Tarot and what are they?
I could write a novel on this topic but will do my best to be brief.
I think readers need to have ethics (as does every human being on the planet) – but as someone who provides a service to others it is even more important to be clear about one’s ethics (both personal and business ethics apply). Everyone needs to explore the issue for themselves and clarify their own ethics; when faced with tough decisions – ethics are part of the foundation that we can draw upon to find strength and clarity to focus on the greater good and connect to Spirit (instead of ego and personal gain).
For myself here is a brief outline of some of the ethics I follow
Keep readings confidential, will not read for a third party (person must be present and give consent for a reading)
Always give my best during a reading which means if I am ill or otherwise not able to do so I will reschedule or refund (I know some readers disagree and would go ahead with the reading even when their health is compromised because they have bills to pay – I am not passing judgment just making a comparison)
I will be honest with a client (including what a tarot reading can and cannot do and what I can and cannot do)
I will do my best to empower the client to make their own choices and decisions using a tarot reading as a resource if they chose to incorporate it as part of their process.
I will not try to build dependency on tarot readings with clients – but encourage them to trust and nurture their intuition and self-care in order to be able to draw on their own wisdom for guidance
How do you recommend tuning into your intuition?
First know that everyone has intuition – it is as natural as our other senses. So everyone uses their intuition all the time – they just don’t pay much attention to it. And when they begin to realize they have it and use it – it becomes easier and stronger to recognize.
Most importantly is self-care – taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. If you are distracted by pain, exhaustion, or stress your intuition is going to be drowned out by the louder voices of the demands made by your body for basic survival.
Pay attention to signals within your body – we all know about the hairs on the back of our neck standing up, or a feeling in the stomach like butterflies for no apparent reason. There are lots of ways your intuition tries to communicate. It is even possible to use the body in the same way you use a pendulum – stand relaxed and balanced, ask your intuition to show you yes (which way does your body lean?) and then ask for a no (does your body stay still or lean in a different direction?).
The more you ask your intuition for guidance and take the time to listen – the more it will communicate with you.
Tarot is just one tool that can be used to tap into your intuition. A few other methods could be a keeping a dream journal, using a pendulum, watching for signs in nature, meditation, and many more.
What do you love about Tarot?
Everything – the abundance of art work and creativity, the vast universe of symbolism, the centuries of history, the depth of wisdom.
What do you hate about Tarot or what makes you worried?
There isn’t anything I really hate about Tarot. But what concerns me is how some people use the tarot as a means to scam others and take advantage of people. One of my top priorities is to encourage people to learn to read for themselves, but if they truly feel they need a reading from someone else I also feel it is important to educate people about how to choose a tarot reader and what a tarot reading can and cannot do for them. A tarot reading is a powerful tool to empower you, show you your options and guide you to make the best choices and view the mostly likely outcomes – it is NOT a way to manipulate others, make someone love you, or solve all your problems for you.
I also very much dislike people who are frauds and trying to pass themselves off as something they are not (I personally know of two “tarot readers” fooling the public – one wears a wig and accessories to pass himself off as Native American, because he knows he will make more money that way (he is African American) and another pretends to be gay because he knows that will draw customers to him (but he is not gay, and as far as tarot readings all he does is read the meanings of the cards from a book and then says that is all the spirits has to say right now).
You are a collector of Tarot decks. What are your top 5 fave?
There are 1000’s of tarot decks out there and I have only about 350 (probably more, I stopped counting a few years back) – so choosing just “five” as my top picks will be difficult.
Waite-Smith – top deck for me to read with (and I have several versions – with borders, without borders, bright colors, restored original colors, and even a water-proof version of the deck).
The Gaian Tarot (Joanna Powell Colbert) – I love the art work
The Deck of the Dead (Tarot by Seven) – My birthday is the night before Halloween (Oct. 30) and the theme of the deck suits my “dark” quirky side.
Wyzard of Odd (Bryan Lahr) – An eclectic blend of tarot, geometry, runes, and music; the illustrations are created by using a unique method of incense smoke photography.
Retrospective Tarot (Ciro Marchetti) – I love all of Marchetti’s tarot decks; this deck was released Feb. 28 containing a collection of his personal favorite images from earlier decks. The images have all been modified with a textured, muted color treatment. There are 86 cards in total. The standard 78 plus 4 “Palace “cards, two versions of the 3 of swords and Hierophant along with a signature card. The deck has metallic silver edging, comes wrapped in a small satin silver cloth and inside a metallic tin box.
Do you believe it is important to have self-awareness when reading for others?
Absolutely – self-awareness is a life-long journey, we always have more to explore and understand about ourselves. As it relates to reading for others – I feel it is important to be as self-aware as possible about one’s own bias, judgments, beliefs, ethics, assumptions, unresolved issues, etc. in order to not impose them onto someone else’s reading, actions, and choices that person makes for their life.
Do you have other interests that you add to the Tarot – Psychology, Numerology, Astrology, Qabalah?
I have a slight interest in numerology, astrology, and the Qabalah and do read about those topics – but I find trying to mesh the systems together with Tarot is a bit too forced. They were not part of tarot when it was first created, so I haven’t really felt the desire to overlay other systems on top of what is already a rich and vast system of symbology. I do value psychology as a very useful knowledge base to have – and read a lot on the subject (but I am not a counselor or doctor and make it clear to clients to always seek a professional when needed). Had circumstances in my younger days been different I would most likely have gone into social work or psychology as a profession.
What I do include with tarot are my life coaching skills, tai chi and qi gong, and sometimes a few crystals now and then (I probably have as many crystals around as I do tarot decks). I find these to be very useful tools on their own but are also very complimentary with a tarot reading because they also focus on self-care, transformation, creating wellness and a balanced life.
Have you ever used Tarot in ritual?
Yes – tarot cards are lovely symbols that can be used to set up a sacred space, or as a focal point on an altar. I also use them to create a vision board (set an intention) – followed up of course by an action plan and manifestation strategy (so that the vision actually comes to into being).
Have you ever used Tarot in women’s groups?
I’ve used Tarot at weekend retreats – some were for women only.
Have you ever used Tarot for anything unusual?
Depends on how you define unusual – I don’t think I’ve done anything unusual with Tarot, but someone else might consider what I do a bit odd – I use tarot for self-exploration, soul transformation, creating a vision board, as part of an altar and/or crystal grid, manifesting the future you want to create, meditation, prompts for journal writing, personal empowerment and enhancing the quality of one’s life – all much more productive and enriching uses for Tarot versus predicting the future.
Have you ever had people treat you strangely because you use/like Tarot?
My father was convinced I was going to hell because of Tarot (and wearing makeup, and a lot of other things). Otherwise, I’ve mostly had folks just ask questions and show curiosity – but that could be because I usually only bring it up in circumstances where folks are open minded. For example, when I’m at retreats and training’s to further my education I, of course, bring along a tarot deck and will offer a free one card reading at the start of the day over breakfast – it’s a great way to start the day and make new friends. Family, friends, and co-workers also know I read tarot – but they already know I’m a bit odd for many reasons so reading tarot isn’t considered all that strange.
How do you know that you are reading for the other person and not yourself?
You set your intention when you begin a reading that you will be reading for the client. I have the client shuffle the deck and focus on their inquiry, as I lay the spread out and look at the cards I just read what is there– after an initial overview I will ask if that resonates with them to be sure we’ve connected and continue to explore and go deeper into the reading. So simple answer – is check in with the client – it is OK to have a conversation with them about what you are seeing in the cards. Not to complicate the question – but there have been rare times where a reading ends up being for someone the client knows and not for the client – but the message needed to come through. (In a case like that I’d deliver the message, then do another spread for the client and start over.)
There may be times a reading feels like it is resonating with you and it could be because you and the client share a similar experience concerning the situation they are asking about.
If you are emotionally distressed and upset you may not be able to keep your own feelings out of the reading – I personally wouldn’t read if I was in an emotionally charged state of mind myself. But if for some reason I was doing a reading and suddenly an emotional issue kicked in and I felt that I was no longer resonating with the client but clouded by own emotional distress – I would either take a break and try again, or end the session (and refund the money).
Explaining “how you know” isn’t really possible because it is a “knowing” that isn’t easily described with words – but with practice you come to find what it “feels” like for you when you are “connected” and “resonating” when doing a reading. My best advice is the same advice I give for a lot to do with Tarot – set ego aside and don’t over think it – this is not a rational brain thing – there isn’t going to be a scientific hard core way to “know” – but deep in your core you will recognize what it feels like for you when you are resonating with the client.
Do you have any tips for reading Tarot for yourself?
For me I think reading for yourself is really the prime reason for having a tarot deck. The tarot is a wonderful tool for self transformation, healing, inner self work, and spiritual growth.
I don’t use the tarot to make decisions or choices– but rather to explore possibilities. For example if I am trying to decide between two choices I will do a spread for each choice to see what the likely outcome will be – and sometimes I chose the more difficult one if I decide that it better serves my needs at the time – but at least I am prepared for the pitfalls ahead.
If you do a reading and it doesn’t make sense to you at the time – take a photo, glance at it during the day a couple of times, and the next day and/or for a few days – you may find the meaning reveals itself. You may even have a dream that brings clarity to the reading.
Be willing to explore your shadow (fears, old grudges, bad habits, old trauma) and view them without judgement, and with compassion and forgiveness find ways to heal and transform them.
Read the cards in a way that is fun for you – don’t feel you have to do a card a day, or a big spread on your birthday – find what works for you and have fun and explore.
If you see Death in someone’s cards what do you do/say?
A rule I have is never tell them they (or a loved one) is going to die – I don’t care if the cards are screaming it loud and clear – nothing in the future is written in stone, and as a tarot reader our words can carry a lot weight – so I will not put a thought like that into some else’s mind that would then cause them to behave a certain way thus causing something to happen that was at the time of the reading just a “possibility.”
Most often when the death card comes up – it means a transition in the person’s life, a death of something or some type of big loss.
But if I really, really, really felt strongly that death was a strong possibility in their near future – depending on what else I was seeing in the cards and the responses to inquiries I would make to client – would determine what advice I would. For example – I could urge them to see a doctor, but in a very gentle, not frightening way. For example, I might ask have they been feeling different, more tired, experiencing pain – suggesting perhaps a checkup was in order. If I was seeing a sudden accident or other type of violent incident – I would inquire about whether or not they are finding themselves in risking situations– could be their job, or spouse, or other unsettling situation– and tell them the cards are cautioning them to be careful, take heed, and change the situation as soon as possible.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from doing Tarot for over 40 years?
The tarot can still surprise me.
And that is why I still enjoy reading, collecting and learning about the Tarot.
Thank you so much Cynthia!