Ten Questions with a Tarot Reader

1. First off, what is Tarot?
Simple answer?  The tarot is a pack of 78 cards broken up in to three groups.  Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and court cards.   These cards are basically images that reflect human life and activity.   The most common uses for the tarot varies person to person but includes the, spiritual purposes such as rituals, mediation and spells,  therapeutic purposes, such as spiritual counseling or even in some cases clinical counseling, and divination/fortune telling.  *Note Divination is about predicting what most likely will happen if you don’t change something.  Fortune telling is about predicting what will happen regardless of what you do.  

2. Tarot seems pretty cool, how do I learn more?  
There are many ways to learn more.  There are thousands of websites about the tarot on the net that have nothing to do with the getting a reading.  There is the Tarot School in New York,  learntarot.com and of course my own website Tarot Traditions.   Then there are Yahoo groups.  I run one of those as well, along with thousands of others used to help bring education about the tarot to other people.   For those getting started there are a lot of good beginner books on the tarot out there.  Or if you need someone to hold your hand there are plenty of people who offer courses as well.   But, all you really need is a good deck, a decent understanding of both personal and global symbolism.  For instance, in a general sense all over the world if a bread maker put a loaf of bread on the sign outside their door anyone regardless of their language would know what they sell.   But, a plantation house evokes different thoughts and feelings for say people who live in the southern US than the do for say people who live in the northern part of the US.   

3. With so many Tarot decks available how do I chose a deck to use?  
That’s the hard part.  Most people will tell you just to feel your way through it.  Most books tell you that.  But, you can’t just feel your way through it.  I have found the best test for the right deck is the following.  Go to an occult shop or some place that sells decks but has a deck you can look at.   Look first at the artwork.  Do you like it?  Would you hang a painting done by this artist in your house?  If yes put it on the consider pile, if no give it back to not be considered.    Once you have all of the ones you like by artwork, then look at the little white book that go with them or bring a book you have bought with a good keywords list.   Look at a few of the cards of the deck, compare the image to the meaning.  Can you see the keyword meaning of the card in the card?  Does it need more detail?  Does it need less detail?   If it doesn’t need any changes and you can see that meaning and you consistently see the keyword meanings in the cards, then you have found your deck.  Be prepared that not all cards of any deck will speak to you and the meanings you give cards will change as you become better at reading, but taking the basic keywords you can find in any little white book or text book for the tarot and comparing them to the cards will make it a lot easier on you to learn key words and a lot easier for you to read the deck.   

4. Everyone knows if the Death card shows up in a reading you’re going to die, right?  
Death rarely if ever means death.  In all my 16 years of reading I have had the death card mean death twice.  Once for an older lady who we all knew wasn’t long for this world and the second time it was for a friend of a cousin who was addicted to drugs and she asked specifically if he would die if he didn’t change what he was doing.   Both, of those times, I also pulled the 4 of swords.  To me for it to mean death you need both of those cards but even then it doesn’t necessarily  mean death.  And the four of swords most often means rest and repose.   Truth is death is about change and on occasion that change is physical death.  But, more often than not, it could be the death of a job, the death of a relationship, the death of a project, death of baggage you have been carrying you don’t need anymore.  All Death is be it physical or otherwise, is a change of current circumstances.  When you understand that, it becomes much less scary and starts taking on a separate life of its own away from the ideas of just physical connections.  

5. What Tarot card would you say best suits you and why?  
There are a couple that fit me.  The Knight of wands because I give Knights an astrological connection of Mutable signs and Wands are fire so that makes for Sagitarian which I am.  Another is the High Priestess because I’m always trying to find what’s hidden underneath,  The Empress, I have 6 kids so that one should be obvious as to why.  <smiles>    But, Mostly I’m the Hermit.  I know, people don’t understand that.  I have 6 kids how can I be a hermit?  I believe in living within society while being separate from it.  We do social activities but, I home school the children so that they will grow up to think for themselves.  I live in the middle of no where surrounded by a wild forest allowed to grow naturally how ever it wishes and though I like individuals, I’m not a people person.   People as a whole I believe in avoiding as much as possible.  But, mostly, I believe that my spiritual/life path is my own and I have to walk it myself.   That  means most of the time I’m alone simply because I don’t want others following behind running the risk of stepping in the pot holes I couldn’t avoid and getting hurt because they couldn’t find their own path.   I don’t participate in organized religion of any sort.  I am who I am plain and simple.   Being that way often leaves you alone even if you’re in a crowd.   So ultimately no matter what else I am, I am still the Hermit.  

6. I’m (insert any religious denomination here).  Can I be a Tarot reader?  
Anyone can read the tarot.  But, you have to follow your own personal belief system.  What I mean and this is just my personal opinion, if your faith says that divination is wrong, then you will either have to find a way to reconcile that with yourself before taking up the tarot or you will have to change your religion.   I am a complete believer that you cannot profess to be of a faith if you do not live by its laws.  There is nothing wrong with the tarot.  Most fear of it comes out of a lack of understanding but that is where reconciling with yourself comes in.   I was raised a member of the Church of Christ.   I let go of that religion because I couldn’t reconcile my talent with the tarot with the spiritual beliefs of the church.   To this day it still surprises me to see Christians who read the tarot.  But, that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t.  They just have to deal with the issues that come from it, decide what to do and then live by their own conscious.  But, to me the tarot is about Psychology and spiritual health not about predicting the future.  If you use it to improve who you are on a spiritual level then it does not contradict religious teachings of any sect.  It is only when you start trying to predict the future or figure out what someone else thinks, and feels thus invading their personal space do you run into religious issues with Christianity.    There are just as many Christian readers as there are Pagan ones.   So if you can reconcile that with yourself then go for it.  If not, then you will have to decide for yourself which is right for you and live with it.  

7. You’re a Tarot card reader so help me out.  Can you tell me how much longer we have to put up with Kevin Federline before Britney Spears ditches him?  
LOL  I wish I could.  I could even try.  But truth is it wouldn’t be too accurate because it isn’t Britney asking.  

8. What is the most important attribute for a Tarot card reader to possess?   
ewww hard question.  There are two that are equally important.  Compassion and self confidence.  Meaning if you let yourself worry that you can’t do a good job you won’t.  I taught myself the tarot by jumping in doing the readings and never believing it wasn’t real or couldn’t be real.  By the time anyone told me that the tarot was a fraud, I already had proven to myself it wasn’t.  It takes that kind of confidence in yourself and the tool to make it work.   But, compassion is equally important. People come to tarot readers for two reasons, there is something in their life they need to fix or they are curious. Even the curious often prove to have a problem that needs to be fixed.  You’re tampering with people’s self worth, and capacity to grow spiritually.  If you don’t do it compassionately or you let your own issues get in the way of the reading, you will cause more harm than good.  So you have to be able to set self aside and focus on the needs of the client compassionately and with kindness while telling them the honest truth as you have interpreted it.   The temptation to tell them what they want to hear is always strong especially when there is a lot of pain connected to the situation.  But, that does no one any favors so even in that you must realize the most compassionate thing is to simply tell the truth.  

9. Have you heard the one about the guy who played Poker with a Tarot deck?  
I haven’t heard that one no.  But, I have played poker with the minor arcana making the Pages basically be jokers and a game called Tarot with the whole deck that works a lot like Spades.  

10. Parting shot!  Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?    
If you could go back in time and spend one day with someone from the past on an important day in their lives who would it be and what day?  

For me it would be Freida Harris on the day she was painting the last of the Sword cards for the Thoth deck and as she finished it the announcement came over the radio that Russia had just joined in on the war.  I can’t remember if it was WWI or WWII but still, It must have been a very potent moment in her life to finish that particular suite only to hear that announcement be played.  This was a really hard question!  But after a lot of changing my mind I finally decided to commit.  I’m going to say that I would have LOVED to have been at the side of the stage when Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison.  It was such a definitive moment for him and the landscape of music.  I’m a big Cash fan, if you haven’t guessed!

  • J. Rebecca Cougill is a Certified Tarot Instructor working on her Grand Master Certificate.  She has been reading Tarot for 16 years.  Cougill also runs an online magazine and Yahoo group both called Tarot Traditions.  She was recently named Executive Director of the Tarot Certification Board of America.  Besides her work with Tarot, Cougill is also a Certified Level III Reiki Master and a Solitary Eclectic Pagan.  She has been following a Shamanistic/Kitchen Witch/Natural Witch path officially for the last 10 years, being a second generation Pagan.  Besides all of that, she also has 6 children and a husband of 15 years.  Much of her time is devoted to the home schooling of her children and doing Tarot readings on Kasamba under the name Lady Becca.  Cougill currently lives in Arkansas on 11 acres of woodlands.   
    You can learn more about Rebecca and what she does at: