To start: I’d like to invite anyone who takes issue with my personal outlook on Tarot to read any upsetting statement as though the words “in my opinion” follow any sentence they disagree with. I guarantee if you take any of these questions to a 5 different card readers, you’ll get 10 different answers.

Question: What is a Tarot deck?

Answer: A Tarot deck is an ornate deck of cards with history that goes back hundreds of years; originally commissioned by royalty for a game of cards, it has evolved to become a form of divination. Tarot decks consist of 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards. The minor arcana come in four flavors or suits, (pentacles/discs, wands, cups, swords) at ten cards apiece, plus four court cards per suit.

Question: What is divination?

Answer: Divination is a lens through which we look at our problems. It helps us gain perspective by attempting to recognize pieces of us and our story from an unrelated phenomenon. Divination itself goes back in time as far as mankind. The casting of runes is a form of divination, and so is the I, Ching. For that matter, so is looking up at clouds and wondering what to eat for lunch until a funny shaped cloud reminds you of the delicious leftovers you have in your fridge. Put more simply, it’s drawing inspiration from the world around you.

Question: So it’s bullshit? That sounds like hucksterism.

Answer: Yes, absolutely, and no, not at all. I am fascinated with all aspects of Tarot, but the way I use them for readings is as a psychological tool.

Question: But you’re saying you can divine the future? That really sounds like hucksterism.

Answer: I can’t read the future, and anyone who says they can is a charlatan. What I offer is insight regarding a querent’s love and work life, directed and filtered through the randomized drawing of cards.

Question: That sounds like splitting hairs. What’s the different between you and a huckster?

Answer: When a huckster gets called out he will hem and haw about his mystical prowess. When people have called me out as a huckster (and the only people who have done so refused a reading altogether), here is what I tell them…

I once saw Penn and Teller perform their act live. They blew my mind and their work inspired what I champion as my personal philosophy regarding Tarot card readings. Most of the way through their show, they performed the “sawing a woman in half” trick; this is an illusion that everyone and their mother is familiar with. After concluding the trick, they decided to do it a second time. This time their performance included a clear box, showing the participant in plain view the entire time and explaining how and why it works. The cool thing is that every single second of the lead-up was still compelling and fascinating. Even though I know it wasn’t “real” magic after the fact, the enjoyment and knowledge shared was still real.

Question: Well, even so, I don’t think I’d want a Tarot card reading. I’m too afraid it will tell me the worst and I’ll draw the Death card or something.

Answer: That’s not a question. What I offer in my Tarot card readings is an interpretation of the cards through the context of positive psychology. This is the study of the happiest members in a society and what makes them different from every body else around them. So even though there are terrifying Tarot cards, there are no terrifying readings the way I do them; just science-based advice on how to lead a happier life.

In fact, on that subject: once upon a time I read someone’s cards at a fest. This querent told me they enjoyed it, and further told me about the last reading they received. In this other reading all went well, but at the very end of their transaction, the card reader claimed that the querent’s mother had a cancer that was not yet diagnosed, though it would be diagnosed soon.

Can you guess what happened?

The querent pleaded and begged her mother to get herself screened for cancer; blood draws, mammogram, the whole shebang. But they just couldn’t find any sign of cancer. But some day soon, she believes it will happen, whether or not it actually will. And that’s unethical. It’s bullshit. A cancer diagnosis is not the realm of the Tarot card reader. Happiness, unhappiness, money, career, leisure, relationships, and the next step on a journey; these are the realms of the ethical Tarot card reader. Leave cancer diagnoses to a doctor.