First of all, check out part one of this article for tips on how to do effective readings working with the themes of Samhain.
In this post I'd like to focus on the pitfalls and problems that might occur when giving a Halloween reading. As I mentioned in part one, during the Halloween period divination is a massive hit with people who don't usually have any interest in it, and Tarot is the favourite because it boasts the most mainstream popularity. Although this is great for practice and a good money maker, it can have its disadvantages. Tarot features in many a hammer horror film. The appearance of cards like Death, The Devil, The Hanged Man and the Ten of Swords (which has sufficiently gory and alarming imagery) creates panic and tension in key scenes and makes querents shake in their boots. Tarot has adopted rather a scary reputation in modern times and it all feeds into the spirit of Halloween as we know it. There are a few obvious steps you can take in order to get the best out of a reading, for both you and the querent.
- what is the setting for the reading?
If you've set up a table for readings at a Halloween party or Halloween-themed corporate event, it should be obvious that you'll be expected to adopt a light-hearted attitude to readings. People are there to have fun and to flirt with the notion of Halloween as a bit of a fright night, full of the ideas and imagery of fear. If, like me, you're generally a serious intuitive reader, there will be an element of compromise required. You want to impart some helpful advice or predictions for the coming months, but at the same time you need to be mindful of the kind of reading the querent will be expecting and appreciate that there's a party mindset which could prevent them from being able to take in or enjoy anything too serious. If you're doing a one-on-one Samhain reading in a private environment it's much more acceptable to let your serious side out a little more.
- have you openly established what kind of readings you give?
It's always important to let a querent know before you begin what kind of reader you are. For example, if you classify yourself as psychic and your readings are strongly prediction-based or focused on plucking names and dates out of your subconscious, you will appeal to querents who are looking for that kind of reading. I work with the Jungian principles designed to use Tarot as a collection of metaphors for the human condition and journey of life. I appeal to querents who want down-to-earth advice and therapeutic support but who ultimately believe the future is their responsibility. During Halloween-themed readings these kinds of definitions are key to getting a good result. Plenty of querents at Halloween do not usually partake in divination. They will be unaware of what to expect so it's important to take a brief moment to explain what the experience will be like before beginning. Some people are not open to the idea of psychic ability and their skepticism will make a full-on psychic reading into an awkward experience. Likewise, some querents will be expecting the scary Halloween treatment complete with soothsaying and dramatic flare. They will be unhappy to have parted with their money for a reading that's more like a counselling session than a meeting with a Romany gypsy.
- can you distinguish clearly between entertainment and serious readings?
I find it difficult to work out for myself what the definition of an entertainment reading actually is. I understand that all readings should be positive and encourage proactive behaviour, but trying to establish the difference between a 'just for fun' reading and something more serious can be tough now that I'm so set in my ways and used to providing an in-depth, support-orientated service. The best way of confirming you're on the right track is to take your lead from the querent. If what you're saying is giving them a smile and encouraging more questions, you're on the right track. Likewise, if they remain visibly interested throughout the process, you're not doing badly at all. If you're in the employment of the host for the evening, talk through what kind of atmosphere they want to put across or what kind of readings their guests are likely to want.
- who is your customer?
As already mentioned, discussing who the party guests are and what their requirements will be is a good way to make sure the ice breaks the way you want it to. If it's a reading for a friend or a private client who already has a full understanding of what the reading will entail, you're fine, but when it comes to reading for strangers it can be difficult to establish what they feel a Halloween reading should be like. Know your facts before the event, remember the value of full disclosure before the start of any reading and, most importantly, learn to read people. It's easy to see when a querent has loosened up and is having a good time with it. If you're sensing awkwardness or disinterest, move on to another focus point or change the pace, just like you would with any reading you give. Remember, you should never underestimate the importance of the season - Halloween, more than any other time of year, encourages querents who are otherwise unlikely to pursue or enjoy divination. They may be expecting something a little less heavy and in-depth than your usual clients.
- don't fake it to make it
I've made mention of this principle a few times since starting this blog and I will always stand by it. If you're genuinely not the kind of reader who can change your style to suit a certain occasion, don't take yourself out of your comfort zone. Plenty of Pagans take Samhain too seriously to play dress up and give readings that they consider to be meaningless fluff. Plenty of readers simply see too much depth and importance in the cards to be able to skim the surface of their meanings in order to provide light entertainment. I see so much information in each card that it would be impossible for me to 'tone it down' and I don't see the point in profiting from something I love doing if I have to love it slightly less in order to get it right. Some people will never be 'theme readers', and that's ok.
Halloween is a great time of year for Tarot readers. We should definitely make the most of the celebration because it opens more doors than we're used to! Having a Tarot reading is a fitting thing to do on Halloween so plenty of people will be delighted to have one, for cash or for free. Go forth and practice your craft, just don't feel pressured or dumbed down while you're doing it. Passion is absolutely central to a good reading. If you have to water that passion down before you've even started, it's not worth it.