The Dance of Tarot

My favorite metaphor for a good reading is a dance. The best readings are a dance between you and the person you’re reading for (the querent), with you (as reader) leading your partner but also responding to his or her feedback. Depending on your style and personality, the dance can be a free-form, give-and-take boogie or the stylized and choreographed courtly dancing seen in historical films.


But here’s the key lesson this metaphor teaches: Do not present yourself as a mighty psychic handing out divinely imparted wisdom that you draw from the arcane symbols in the cards. That is for the movies, not real life.

psychic reader

Not this, please.

Your goal should never be to impress the querent with your remarkable intuitive abilities or your number of “hits.” You are not a mentalist performing for an audience or a cold reader prying open your querent’s psyche by force. (At least I hope you aren’t. In an upcoming post I will share my early, embarrassing attempt to combine mentalism with readings, and why it was—and is—a terrible idea). Rather, you are a skilled artist of the imagination and a trained intuitive interpreting the patterns you see as part of a constructive dialogue with your querent.

Dialogue (definition)

It is the dialogue—the conversation between you and the questioner—that generates the most useful and moving readings.

When I do parties, often the people I’m reading for will not have any specific question(s) in mind. Clients coming for private readings usually have important questions, but guests attending a Tarot party may see you as a novelty, on par with a magician or other paid entertainment. “Just let me know what you see,” they will ask, sitting back to observe. So as a reader, you’re going in blind, without any particular frame of reference for the cards laid out before you, and that scares a lot of neophytes. With practice, however, you will learn to enjoy these “show me what you got” readings, as they often turn out to be quite powerful and surprising for you and the querent. Just do your best, point out what you see in the dance of the cards on the table, and then ask, “Does that makes sense to you?” In all but the most rare occasions (and those are usually very rigid, uptight or skeptical people who don’t want to see any relevance), your querent will say, “Yes,” and then begin pointing out what struck them as meaningful and accurate. And then you will build upon their insights, and they upon yours, and the back-and-forth movement—the dance of the Tarot—is in full swing.

Receiving and working with feedback from your questioner is critical in any successful reading (and by successful, I mean a reading that provides both insight and emotional satisfaction for client and reader alike). Questioners will regularly see things that you won’t—whom a particular court card represents, for instance, based on your general description of a personality type, or a symbol or image that means something to them that is different from your usual associations. And what they see will aid you in your future readings by building upon your personal set of meanings and associations.

For example, I once had a private client who looked at the Force (Strength) card on the table and said, “That’s me. My cat is sick, and I’ve been struggling to get her pills in her mouth every day.”

La Force (Strength) from the CBD Tarot.

La Force (Strength) from the CBD Tarot.

Now every time I see that card I am reminded of her comment. And as anyone who has had to get an unwilling cat to swallow a pill knows, it takes great strength and also determination and calmness to get the job done. It hurts to know the animal is scared and suffering as you hold it tight and pry open its mouth, but you know it is for your kitty’s ultimate good. And isn’t that a spot-on metaphor for the card?  Maybe as good as any you’ve read in dozens of books?

So take a cue from the World card and get up on the dance floor, grab a partner, and shake that thing! (You may, of course, leave your clothes on.)

The World from the CBD Tarot

The World (CBD Tarot)



  1. Nicole Powell

    Great Blog! You really nailed it! This gives me great insight and ability to go deeper with my readings.

  2. Neil Campbell

    Thank you for leading me to this Dance of the Tarot, Michael. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I wonder how an email reading can be successful without this? There again, I haven’t been privileged to enjoy a two-way discourse like this, so I really shouldn’t comment.
    Thanks again.

    1. michaelmhughes (Post author)

      Hi Neil,

      Email readings are never quite as effective, in my experience, because they miss that vital back-and-forth. I have found that when I do email readings, they are appreciated by the client as much as a face-to-face reading. But they often email me later, after meditating on the written reading and the cards (I always send a photo of the cards), with fresh insights. So it seems there’s often a bit of a delay in the reading—one that wouldn’t be there in a face-to-face reading. I find that quite interesting. And of course you should comment—and please do so any time!


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