Session 2 of a live series of Tarot Q & A's - With Steve Hounsome! Steve has over 40 years of experience as a Tarot Reader, and answers a range of questions put to him by the Public. Having written many books, appeared on TV and Radio demonstrating his expertise in this subject, Steve also teaches a range of subjects based around The Tarot, Mediumship, Meditation and other spiritual subjects. You can see more, and learn with Steve, or have a reading from him yourself at https://www.tarottherapy.co.uk
1. Bob asked: “If you know the cards so well, how do you keep it fresh?”
Steve replied: “So what Bob’s saying there is “If you know the cards so well, how do you stop regurgitating the same answer’s by definition of each card every time it’s drawn? Or “How do you keep each new encounter fresh and insightful, knowing the meaning of each card so well?” I think this is a really good question because it can be so easy to get stale. For me, tarot reading, whatever way you do it, even if it is just ‘fortune telling’, but particularly ‘working therapeutically’, isn’t about just regurgitating book meanings, stuff that you have read. If like me, you have quite a high number of books on the Tarot, then you’ll know that pretty much all the books say something different. There might be a core, or Kernel meaning to the card, but actually, anyone can do that, anyone can grab a tarot deck and look up in a book and decide what it means for them, there is a whole lot of pitfalls for that, and we will look at that again in another question. So if you are going to just regurgitate the same thing all the time whenever a card comes out, then where’s the value to that?"
“I think one of the main things is in preparing for a reading. For me, working with the tarot, particularly if you are working for somebody else, is ultimately like a sacred act, and so hopefully both client and reader should treat it in that way. There is a preparation process to go through before you actually start doing a reading, and that for me is ultimately, some kind of meditative process, something to centre yourself, I call that a ‘Grounding and Connecting’ process, but whatever works for you, there’s lots of different ways to do it. But really, the point is that you are shifting away from your normal logical way of thinking, because responding to tarot cards isn’t a logical process, so it’s necessary really to shift the way that you think, from left, to right brained, so going into a meditation you slow the brainwave patterns down, that allows you to access more of the subconscious mind and let your intuition guide you. That’s the key to it, because it’s not about what the card means. For those of you who know me, and any of my tarot student know, I’m always saying ‘tarot cards don’t mean anything’. What they are, is ‘energy’. So the cards that appear in a reading when we put them down, are an energetic reflection of that person and that time. Your job as the reader is to sense that energy and explain it in terms that hopefully, the client will understand, and that’s where your intuition comes in. You are working from that liminal space if you like, that space, I suppose you could say, between the worlds. The key is going into yourself, into a sense of meditation, an inner and higher connection to whatever it is you work with, and working from there, allowing yourself to speak from there, so it’s an intuitive flow. That way, there’s nothing getting in the way of your conscious brain, you’re not even getting into cards meanings, it’s about looking at the card and allowing the symbols and imagery to feed your intuitive subconscious mind, and speaking in a flow from there. So that’s for me, how it’s kept fresh.”
“That doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t or can’t read books on the tarot and gain all that knowledge, by all means do that, and what I suggest is that you take that in, make your own notes, gather as much knowledge as you can, and forget about it! The human brain is an incredible thing, and has this amazing capacity to store information. Then, through the meditative process, or whatever process you use, your intuition and subconscious mind is able to feed the right stuff to your conscious brain and that is what comes out of your mouth in that immediate flow. So, in how to keep it fresh, you just flow with it! You don’t think about it, you talk about it, and you will find that different things come out at different times about the same card! This all takes practice and a certain amount of confidence, but the key to read with the tarot is to practice, the more you do it, the better you get, and the more it flows, the more confidence comes, the more knowledge you gain about imagery and symbolism and the background of your particular deck, all of that makes it far more easier for the deeper level of your mind to communication to you.”
Bob also asked: “Is it a good idea to get used to working intuitively before reading too much theory?”
Steve answered: “Well yes and No. It’s that process again that you don’t want to work from a particularly theoretical or logical process the whole time, but equally, as you gain that knowledge, you don’t have to try and remember it, it’s in there. If you’ve read it, your brain knows about it! We notice far more information all day, every day, than we realise. So it’s a flow of knowledge and intuition both ways. The more you get into doing that, the better you become! At the time of the reading, it’s the intuitive side that matters most.”
2. Gail asked: “When a deck has ‘Justice’ and ‘Strength’ swapped, (i.e. as they were originally sequenced), do I just swap them, but then the numbers aren’t sequential, or mark the cards and change the numbers, and use them in the order that they appear?”
Steve replied: “Historically speaking, with the major arcana cards of the Tarot, until the Rider Waite deck came along in 1910, which I suspect lots of you know and have, (where Strength is shown as the number 8 card, and Justice as 11), they were numbered the other way round! Arthur Edward Waite decided that the ‘correct order’ (as he decided it to be), was that Strength should be 8, and Justice, 11.”
“There are pretty much an equal divide of decks out there now, with one way, or the other. There are lots of arguments as to which is correct, along with lots of different reasoning. One of A Waite’s favourite arguments in favour of Justice being 11, was that it made the astrological signs (zodiac signs) flow in the correct order, so Hermit would relate to Virgo, and then the Wheel of Justice and so on becomes Libra, whereas is you swapped them at that order, it didn’t work, and this was his main thing. Several years later Aleister Crowley came out with his ‘Thoth’ deck, and promptly put them back again! Ever since then people have been swapping them around in different directions.”
“I’ve always worked with Justice at 11, and Strength at 8, only and simply because the first deck that I bought, (The Morgan Greer Tarot) happened to have it that way round, and largely because I used this deck many years ago to learn with, I stuck with that. The more I’ve learned and the more I go on, my feeling is that Justice belongs at number 11, and Strength at 8. If it works for you the other way round, well then that’s great.”
“So largely in my head, even if the deck I’ve got at the time has Justice at 8 and Strength at 11, I don’t see the number of the card because I am working at that intuitive level, which I spoke of, which is where I respond from. I simply talk about Justice in the way that I understand it . For me, one of the things that is important about why Justice belongs at number 11, is because of it being the 11th card. i.e. half way between the 1 and 21 numbered Major cards that there, and for me, the Justice card has a lot to do with the journey of the ‘Fool’, which we are all on as souls, (the Fool being the embodiment of that). We journey our way through the cards of the major arcana, not necessarily in turn, but when we get to the middle of that quest, that’s where we have a real meeting with ourselves, and for me, Justice is like the mirror image, the starkest confrontation with ourselves, that we can have, at that soul level we really and truly are, beyond all our characteristic make-up, emotional hang-ups and mental stuff, whatever’s going on for us, deeper and beyond all that, Justice shows to us who we are! So the eleven of that, I+I works for me. That’s the very basic level of why I like that, Strength as the flow of that as well. There’s a way of laying out the major arcana which I call ‘the Three Septenaries’, which is three rows of seven. Again, my tarot students will be familiar with this. The 1st seven cards Magician – Chariot – 1 to 7, relates to our physical progress in the world. The Middle line (8 – 14) Strength (for me to Temperance at 14), show us the mental progress, so Strength is about where we turn in, where we begin to our mental faculties to understand what’s going on, and then so Justice is about that moment of truth really, can we really accept ourselves and know ourselves as we truly are? The bottom line is ‘the realm of spirit’ as I call it, where we go to the deeper, higher level – cards 15 – 21 – The Devil to The World.”
“So in my view, the numbers, (although not irrelevant by any means), work better with Justice at 11, Strength as 8. The best thing I can say really, is that you decide what works for you, that’s what you work with, and that’s what’s right. That’s the thing about tarot, there are no rules! There is no one right way, and all the rest are wrong, that doesn’t exist at all, the only right way is your way.”
3. Debbie asked: “What might be suggested for a person selecting a daily card, to find a high percentage being a court card each time over a period of, say a few weeks?”
Steve replied: “If you find that over a period of time, when selecting daily cards to read from, you get lots of court cards, I would suggest from that, that it’s really all about people. I know that in the sort of fortune telling idea, if you get say for example, the Wands, it can represent a dark, or a red haired person, if it’s a Page, it’s a younger person, if it’s a King, it’s a mature male, and so on, but this standard fortune telling way is far more limiting to a reading for me. You can ascribe them astrologically speaking, in terms of identifying who the person actually is. For me, what I find, is that because I work in this what I call, ‘therapeutic’ way, court cards very often reveal more aspects of the client I am working for. So if I’m getting lots of court cards, it may be that they are reflecting different aspects of yourself, different skills, abilities, approaches that you might need to apply that day (if it’s a daily card), or if it’s in a general sense, whatever you’re dealing with or experiencing in your life at that time. So if you have for example, the knight of wands, then there may be a need to be a bit aggressive about it, you may need to put some fire and passion into it. If it’s queen of cups, it may be saying you need to follow your heart for instance.”
“These are just random examples of the way I approach court cards, but this is how I often find that court cards do often apply, that you may experience it through somebody else, but often the cards are that energetic reflection of us. So again, we can see different aspects of ourselves, but echoed in the traits we can recognise in other people. Perhaps more simply put, the people that you may encounter may be reflecting things about you. So lots of court cards can mean that it’s about personal characteristics and qualities, and looking to see what the strengths and weaknesses are in that card, and these could be listed for a particular court card.”
"On the Idea of daily cards, selecting daily cards has it's use in tarot, but I am not personally a fan of 'a card a day' because for me, the cards, and our expeirences in life tend to last more than 1 day! The card's energy that you can pick will usually last more than 1 day, unless you seem to be sorting out something very quickly, or at the edge of a different aspect. So I wanted to just explore and put it out there this idea of Tarot Mentoring, that I'm playing with a bit in my mind, and it might be something I start to offer people. The idea of Tarot Mentoring is that we select a card for ourselves, starting at whichever point, and we can do various bits of work with the tarot card. It's a good idea just to start with, just writing down your immediate responses to the card, and we carry on with that to reflect our energetic state, and we can keep working with it. There are lots of different things we can do, different exercises and so on, and this is where my role of mentoring might come in for people, (if I decide to put it out there), and you keep working with it, whatever situation is going on in your life, till such a time when you feel it has shifted, and then you put the card back, give them a shuffle, and you take another card. So it's the idea, that the Tarot becomes your on-going guide or mentor for you, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I do this myself, and I think there's real value in it. This is just a basic idea, there can be a hell of a lot more to it, but I just wanted to put the idea of it out there anyway. It's something to consider, rather than bambloozling yourself with cards, which I somehow feel can cheapen the card, although there's nothing wrong with that."
4. Olivia asked: “What spread do you find most effective for personal growth and healing?”
Steve replied: “For me, there are two answers to that. Firstly, working with the cards in the way that I do, because it’s all about the clients’ personal growth and healing, so the short answer is that I don’t use spreads, and some of you may know already that I am a big fan of working without spreads. Very soon, I will be starting work on writing the next book, which I plan on calling ‘The Tarot Therapy Workbook’. In it, I am going to put my ideas and practices of how you can actually work reading without spreads. There is a Video Lesson available on that in fact, you can find the link to it on our own website at https://www.tarottherapy.co.uk/distance-learning or ‘globalspiritualstudies.com’. There is an hour’s lesson you can purchase and download, whereby I take you through that, and lots of slides and demos in there.”
“Secondly, although I read without spreads, there is a place for spreads, and the one I found most effective, (there are hundreds of different ones available), I made up myself. When I wrote the first Tarot Therapy Book – Volume 1, many years ago, I created some spreads in there, one of which I called ‘The Holistic Health Spread’. I have found that this spread works really well as a good over all snapshot or energetic reflection at the time, of that persons’ self, and how they are. This is the layout.”
“The ‘Theme card’ is the general over-riding energy affecting the person at the time. The Theme card can be either the first, or last card selected, it doesn’t matter.
The 4 rows of cards represent their state of being at each energetic level, Spiritually, Mentally, Emotional and Physically. Looking at the 3 rows of vertical columns, the column (cards 1, 4, 7 & 10) represent the past, on the second column you see cards 2, 5, 8 & 11 which represent the ‘present’, and on the 3rd column you see cards 3, 6, 9 & 12 which represent the future.”
“Working with that layout, you will be amazed at what actual depth you can get into. There are all sorts of things that can come off of it, if you refer to my book, it contains is a lot more background and information about this spread. The Holistic Spread the one in particular that I have found really good, there are all sorts of overshoots and offshoots that you can get into with that. Read the ‘Theme card’ to start with to get the over-riding energy, and then go through card by card, then re-visit the ‘Theme’ card to summarise it. Going through each level of this spread, if any one of those levels, Spiritual, Mental, Emotional or Physical, contain blocks or begs for further investigation, you can refer to suggestions of other further spreads in the book which connect to each of these levels. I’ve done separate spreads for each level, so there is lots that you can really sink your teeth into and really get to the energetic causal level of what’s going on for a particular client at the time.”
“My theory on the different levels relating to tarot is as follows: The construct of the tarot is really the same as the human being. The four suits relate to the four different levels, that being the Physical – Pentacles, Emotional - Cups, Mental – Swords, and Spiritual levels – Wands. Combining those four, you get the complete human being – the soul level, which is the Major arcana. That’s the very basic core for me, of why cards don’t mean anything, and they are energies, but also why we can work with them in this way, (what I call a ‘Therapeutic’ light), and how we can use them for our own personal growth and healing, and so on.”
5. Becky asked: “At the decisive moment when the cards are cut, who or what is running the show? Is it our soul, or our higher self, Is it our collective consciousness, or other entities involved? If it’s our higher self, do you think that it’s possible that some kind of confirmation bias could creep in? I.e. we might be asking for clarity on a particular issue, but really, we want things to turn out a certain way, whether it’s for our highest good or not. Perhaps there’s more of a risk, in interpreting the card, rather than how they are cut?”
Steve replied: “This is a very good question! Ultimately, it comes down to how it works. How do the right cards come out, in the infinite numerological possibilities that there are when we spread cards and cut them?”
“Well my answer to the basic question of who is running the show, is all of the above! This brings me back again to why I think that it’s so important that we prepare ourselves, every time we consult the tarot, even if it’s just for ourselves. It’s not a casual thing, it’s a sacred thing. If we approach it in this process, the very least we need to do is close our eyes, and just breathe for a couple of minutes, be quiet and still, open up to this higher inner sense. If we don’t do that, then to a degree, there’s just you, or the cards. Again, with the power of the symbolism, that opens us up to that deeper, subconscious level. However, if we add into that equation, a meditative process, opening up to spirit world, if you like, higher realms, whatever you want to call it, the liminal realms, whatever, then there is really, when you are doing a reading for someone, a square shape going on, with a person in each corner. So there’s you as the reader, the client, the client’s guide or guides, and there’s yours, and this interaction takes place. That doesn’t mean that you have to know who your guides are, they know who they are, and they will work with you. It, can help to know them, which can give rise to another whole process of development. So for me, the communication comes from, perhaps our Guides, or God, or what every you want to say, through to our deities, through to our soul, to our brain, via subconscious. There is this whole flow going on. Becky asking if there’s a confirmation bias that creeps in here, is a good point, ‘Do we see what we want to see when we are reading the cards?’, and yes, absolutely! We do, of course we do! It’s very difficult not to, which is why reading for yourself is sort of fraught with danger. I’ve known some readers in the past that, if they get a card they don’t like the look of, they put it back, and they keep going until they do get something they want, which is just a no no! I don’t see how that’s really helping them at all, but each to their own. So yes, we are going to be bias. This is why various different exercises can be employed with the cards, to shift you out of that confirmation bias can be useful, there are loads of different exercises, and I am going to put that out there, but for now there is a download available on our website, of the ‘Tarot Therapy activities worksheet’, which gives you about 21 different exercises you can do with a card, and those things will enable you to see what the cards trying to tell you, far more objectively than anything else, and you can get that for only £3 or £4 pounds or something. That will keep you going for months, if you wanted to work with them, just on one card, that will help you remove that confirmation bias, but of course, consult your nearest tarot reader that you work with. This the best answer to avoid that bias, it’s pretty hard to avoid it really. So that concludes the first aspect of the question, sent in by Becky. The second aspect of the question came from Tamara.”
6. Tamara asked: “When I have been studying Druidry, I read that Druidry is not’ faith based, it is experienced based. Is tarot the same? If I work with it, will I be convinced?”
Steve replied: “Well for me, yes, it’s experience based. Whether it works or not is entirely up to you and how you choose to respond to the cards, I think, because I am often saying to my tarot students, your job is to interpret the cards, on behalf of the client, to give them as much information that you are able to, help them to help themselves. What they choose to do with that information is their responsibility. Your responsibility is to get that information across, it’s then their choice and responsibility to respond, or not respond if they wish, and what they want to do with it. So in that sense yes, it is experience based. There can be this need, I think, to find your own practices so that they work for you, if you like your own ritual, and so on, but, you don’t have to believe in the tarot for it to work. I know from experience, having worked with it for so long, that the tarot will tell you the truth, every single time, regardless of whether we are ready to hear the truth, or take it on board, even, in my experience, if you are casual with your cards, giving them a quick shuffle, popping three of your cards down and reading them! I do know of readers who treat their cards that way, and when they’ve done that, they pop them on the nearest surface and there they stay until the next time! Whereas mine, are all kept in silks, all within various decorative boxes, and treated as sacred objects. This is my way, but doesn’t mean it’s the only and right way. For people who treat their cards very casually, it still works! But again, if you open yourself up to it in that way, than the experiences will work it, it’s then your choice as to whether to see or respond to it or not."
“Tamara is also asking, and this ties in again with Becky’s previous question, “Do the answers come from your subconscious mind, knowing where in the deck the card is and pulling it, or from supernatural beings?” to which Steve replies, “Yes, as with the last question, I think it’s a bit of both, depending on how you approach the art of consulting your tarot. I think that both Supernatural means, as Tamara does, and our subconscious minds can be involved, or to me, it’s all linked. The supernatural is infused in the very natural, there’s not a separation for me, that’s in my view and approach with all of this spiritual stuff. There’s no separation between spirituality and normal reality, for me, they are one, and the same thing. As some of you have heard me say, if you’re alive, you’re spiritual! It’s about degrees of awareness, or put another way, ‘we are spiritual beings, having a human experience’, not the other way around, so it’s infused in every part of you, every breath, every action, everything we do, it’s a spiritual one. It’s all supernatural, and that includes your subconscious mind. Ultimately, tarot tells the truth, and the rest is up to us!”
7. Paula asked: “What are your thoughts on trimming cards? Should we do it or not? Is it an invasion to the Artist’s work, and so should be left sacrosanct? Or does it help us as individuals, work with our cards?”
Steve replied: “Well, pretty much like all things, it’s really about your own choice. Again, whilst I believe you should treat your cards as a Sacred object, they are in fact, your sacred object, for you to do with as you please. I do in fact, trim some of my own decks. Most decks are a standard size of 11cm x 7 cm each card, but bigger than playing cards though. So if you are used to playing cards, then it can take a bit of time to get used to handling them, getting your hands around them, and whether you can shuffle them without dropping them. Some publishers, for reasons best known to themselves, whether it’s the Creator, or the Artist’s choice, produce decks that are of different sizes, there are even round decks, which are really hard to shuffle, in my opinion. The different size decks create different problems of course, and if the cards are that bit too big for your hands, then how are you going to shuffle them easily and clearly, and we do need to do that, because we need to randomise the card selection when we are getting it. I don’t think you’re invading the Artists work if you are only trimming off white borders, because you are not cutting into the image itself.”
“For me, I didn’t entertain the idea of trimming any decks for a long time, but then the Druid Craft Tarot deck came along, created by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, and the Artist’s name is Will Worthington, I know Philip and Stephanie very well. Together Philip and I created the Transformation Through Tarot Course, (available to do online), which used the Druid Craft Tarot, to create, alongside my own, created by myself and Patrick Gamble. It was during the making of this course with Philip, that I somehow had to admit guiltily admit to him that I had trimmed his beautiful deck”, Steve recalls with a laugh. “ The whole act of trimming them occurred because the deck was bigger than the standard deck, so for me, creating a bit of a strain, as they were always that bit too wide to shuffle comfortably. Although I spent a long while pondering as to whether to cut them or not, because once you start, there is no going back.”
“I have worked with them a few years since cutting them, and do not regret doing so one bit. They shuffle with ease now, and for me, having done so, it brought the images more alive. It was suddenly like having a new deck! If you do decide to trim a particular deck, I would recommend taking your time and doing it carefully, and for me, I use scissors rather than a cutter, so that you know exactly where you are going. I prefer a deck to have ‘rounded’ corners, so to do this, and get a perfect, uniform shape, I used a ‘corner cutter’, which just basically looks a bit like a small hole punch. So trimming decks? In my opinion it’s your choice, and works perfectly, depending on the image you get. It seems to me of late that Creators are bringing out more ‘borderless decks’ than ever before.”
“I created my own ‘Bespoke Tarot Deck’ as a one off working deck for my own personal use, and to pull this together, I used my favourite images of cards across my expanse selection of decks that I own, and selected one representation for each card of my ‘Bespoke’ deck. Once selected I tweaked the images selected on the computer, made them borderless out of preference, and got the deck printed, the printers create the curved corners anyway. I would suggest using a plain background cloth when reading borderless cards. That way each individual image stands out to you visually, rather than getting lost in the pattern of the cloth."
8. Stuart asked: “What are the three best Tarot books you would recommend, not just to read, but those that have maybe become references you turn to?”
Steve Replied: “I have an expansive range of books, and five shelves of which relate to Tarot, and more on the way due to an up and coming birthday! It is difficult to make a choice of just three, but that being the case, I would say that for me, that the first one would be a book called ‘Tarotmania’ by a chap called Jan Woudhuysen. This is, if not one of, the very first books I ever bought on Tarot, in one of the first ‘New age’ shops around in this country, in Brighton where I come from. I brought this book from new, and although in great condition, with age, the pages have now yellowed. I recommend it today, not only is it brilliant, but many years ago now, it set me on this whole path that I have been on ever since. It came out in 1979, and although out of print now, there are still some second had copies around and still available. It contains spreads, the author’s understanding of responses to different cards, and much more. The odd thing is, that many years later, after I had been working on the tarot myself, having come up with this idea of ‘Tarot Therapy’, I was browsing on Amazon one day, as we do, and I came across this book, and it had been republished again, under the title of ‘Tarot Therapy’! It was really good confirmation for me, but whichever title you get the book under, it’s the same good book, and a great synchronicity!”
“For my second and third choices, I simply had to have one book from Mary Greer, and one from Rachel Pollack! For me they are the best two Authors in the world currently, on tarot. Pretty much anything by these two brilliant Authors is going to be brilliant, but of Rachel Pollack’s, my favourite has to be ‘The Forest of Souls’, because it’s unique. It says ‘Take a magical mystery tour’ and it really is a magical mystery tour around the tarot. She doesn’t do that boring thing of reading card by card and doing its definitions and responses. It’s sub-titled ‘A Walk through the Tarot, and you do, and the cards simply come alive as you read it, jumping about from card to card. She has this incredible amount of knowledge, and there is loads of that in there, so I highly recommend that book. Although I don’t think it’s in print at the moment, a really useful book finder website is bookfinder.com. so you might find it there”
“Then we turn to the very different and original works of Mary Greer, unique in what she does, and probably my biggest inspiration for how I work with the tarot. Probably the most influential of all books that I own, written by Mary Greer is the influential, ’21 Ways to Read A Tarot Card’. It has lots of exercises in it and lots of different ways of doing things in it. Over the years, Mary has fed my inspiration of my own creative ways of working with the tarot, so I would recommend any book by Mary Greer.”
Steve Concluded this ‘Q&A’ session by thanking everyone for their questions, and hopes that all readers now, will find this useful in their own Tarot Development. If you have any burning questions about Tarot, then feel free to email Steve your questions, he will gladly add them to the next ‘Q&A’ session aired in the near future. You can hear your question answered live by Steve in person, at the Next Tarot broadcasting, or read it here in the next ‘Q&A’ blog!
You can contact Steve at the following media –
LANDLINE: +44(0)1202 740019
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