The Power of Alignment

Parsifal the Scribe
5 min readMar 13, 2023

AUTHOR’S NOTE: My comments here presume that I have a “live one” sitting at the table with me who can partake of the action. Remote reading is a substantially different proposition that (at least in my opinion) operates under more mystical or psychic assumptions.

My recent reading (books, not cards) has inspired me to contemplate the less-structured dimensions of the tarot reader’s art, specifically the “soft” skills involving alignment more than execution. The most visible component of this informal category is arguably the position at the table that we assign the sitter in relation to the placement of the cards. The “classical” approach, captured in a number of historical paintings that depict the act of fortune-telling, has the seeker typically sitting face-to-face directly across from the diviner. There is a clear distinction between “giving” and “receiving” in which the “expert” (reader) professes to offer wisdom and the seeker is a passive recipient of that knowledge. There is another model that seats the querent next to the reader so they can both examine the cards from a similar perspective (particularly when reversed cards are used), thus becoming co-conspirators in the conduct of the interpretation. My own preference is to keep the implied intimacy at arm’s length by situating the individual at a right-angle to my own spot at the table and tilting the spread at roughly 45 degrees between us so we have a relatively equal view of the cards as I narrate. I want clients to clearly observe and understand what I’m explaining but I don’t expect them to voluntarily contribute much. It’s enough that they can grasp the visual presentation as the reading unfolds so I can draw them into the conversation as necessary.

Then there are the perils of navigating the uncharted client/consultant interface since most of us aren’t licensed psychoanalysts with the benefit (and burden) of professional rules and regulations. Do we attempt to take on (or do we capitulate to) the role of surrogate parent by aiming to steer our clients according to our own perception of their challenges and thereby create the risk of long-term dependency, or do we act as sympathetic but detached mentors who facilitate their self-discovery through the agency of the cards? My own belief has always been that at a deep — even non-verbal — level, querents know what they need even when they don’t consciously realize it and are unsure how to turn their subconscious sentiments into concrete, life-affirming experiences, thus requiring external coaching to intervene on their behalf in working it out. I admit to not being much of a therapeutic “hand-holder,” preferring to deal with sitters who acknowledge or at least suspect their weaknesses and are actively on-board with their own recovery plan.

Another factor is the reader’s comportment during the session. I strive for absolute neutrality, such that my own projections and preconceptions don’t intrude upon the querent’s right to unobstructed communion with the cards. I’m well aware of the customary flourishes in delivery that amount to nothing more than the “theater of tarot,” and I try not to over-act in this regard, providing only as much showmanship as necessary to keep the reading on-track and put the querent on the scent of where the story is heading. For that reason I refrain from offering actionable advice, preferring to furnish my clients with the foreknowledge to plot their course through the situation. Similarly, I appreciate that the observations I make are not my exclusive purview; their scope and thrust must also defer to my clients’ ability to comprehend the information; they should process my commentary in their own terms without being spoon-fed at every turn. For best results, they must take an active role in deciphering the nuances of the reading in their own way, while I am relegated to the status of “prompter” or conductor. I may trot out a vivid storytelling “trope” or two to illuminate and enliven a particularly recondite point, but only to the extent that it furthers the sitter’s understanding. While it’s a given that the reader must be alert and nimble in conveying the message, it has been proposed that we should enter a kind of “trance” that permits undivided attention to the “script” shown in the spread without becoming a key participant in advancing the drama. If it were an equation, it might be written as “Seeker x Cards + Reader = Outcome,” since multiplication is generally more potent than addition.

A fourth consideration is the “hand-off” of responsibility for putting the cards in the proper order to tell the tale. Those practitioners who refuse to let other people touch the deck are missing the point. Tarot cards are only inanimate artifacts of cardboard and ink; they can’t hold onto negative energy since they are just instruments of the reader’s art, and unless a deck is particularly rare and costly (but in that case why would we bring it to a reading session?), there is no harm and significant benefit in letting the querent handle it. Having sitters shuffle and cut the cards puts their subconscious “imprint” on the order in which the images appear in the spread, and offering them the deck for this purpose is akin to conferring a “sacred trust;” it should be done with a solemn sense of gravitas, and not casually or flippantly. Those sitters who are squeamish about shuffling can be asked to cut the deck after the reader shuffles, but it is a poor substitute for full participation.

A final concept is the honesty and integrity of the presentation. It should be obvious that the reader must always “speak from the heart” rather than entirely from the intellect, with kindness, humility and sensitivity at the forefront. (In my own case, a wry sense of humor lightens the mood when I find myself getting too clinical or “preachy.”) We are facilitators, not dispensers of absolute truth, and we are privileged to have the opportunity to help others decipher their destiny as conveyed by the cards that they participated in selecting. This doesn’t mean we should succumb to the “It’s all good” paradigm and try to downplay or sugarcoat less favorable insights, just that we should cast our pronouncements in the most constructive light possible under the circumstances. Trying to tiptoe around the “hard spots” is both dishonest and tantamount to encouraging “avoidance” behavior instead of empowering the seeker’s effective engagement with reality. If they don’t want the latter, they’ve come to the wrong fortune-teller!

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Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on March 13, 2023.

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Parsifal the Scribe

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at www.parsifalswheeldivination.com.