I believe at it's core, tarot is an entirely individual and personalized practice. For this reason, even the "rules" I've come to establish in my own relationship with tarot serve to exist within the presumption that tarot and its use is defined mostly by the practitioner at hand.
So when I talk about "rules", I hope I can do so in a way that keeps from being considered preachy. This is just my perspective after all and so my hope is that if anything here resonates, you can adopt it, but of course if not, feel free to adapt it instead or chuck it to the wayside.
Another thing to consider when it comes to rules is that many of the ones that govern my practice were born from my own personal code of ethics. These ethics govern how I express myself spiritually, and not the other way around. For example, there are many individuals who swear by leather pouches or silk wrap for their tarot decks, but because my concern for animal welfare will always trump my concern for how decks are stored, I will never consciously use products made from other beings.
But when I talk about tarot "rules", I'm not exactly talking about storage and the example of animal welfare was only to demonstrate how my personal ethics frame my spirituality. What I'm actually talking about is more along the lines of best practices that help me create an effective and consistent relationship to tarot while setting healthy boundaries at the same time. Below are the best practices I abide by with the reasons why they work for me.
Multiple readings on the same topic is a no-no:
You know when you have a very important question to ask, but then you pull 3 cards and they either a) don't make "sense" or b) aren't telling you what you want to hear? Yes, we've all been there and yes, the natural inclination is to grab the cards, throw them back in the deck and reshuffle the damn thing! But WAIT! I'm all for following your gut instinct, but gut instinct can chill out for a moment while you do quality control. So go ahead and give yourself a timeout. Why? Let me explain. Regardless of the reason you want to throw the reading away and start again doesn't matter. The inclination in itself is enough to ask you to take pause and reflect, just for a moment. Look at the cards. Maybe they don't make sense immediately and maybe they aren't telling you exactly what you want to hear, but...is there an important message in them still? If it isn't immediately clear, take a picture of the cards and walk away. Give it some time, let your mind clear and as you wander about your day, you may find that something clicks. If it doesn't, return to it later once you've given yourself some space. If still the message isn't clear, let it go.
Just because we want an answer, doesn't mean we're going to get one. The cards will tell us what we need to hear and guess what? Sometimes we're just not in a place to accept that message, and that is okay.
Further to the above point, is the idea that reading, rereading and reading some more on the same topic is like beating a dead horse. It's fucking pointless. It's also an intuition killer. If we can't trust ourselves enough to sit with the cards on the first go or we too easily throw away readings or keep reading on the same issue, what we're really saying to ourselves is "I can't do this." And that is a powerful message to send to yourself, even if you're not overtly saying those words. Last thoughts: you know rereading the same question feels icky so just stop it.
Over-reading in general should be avoided:
Do you remember in Season 6 of BTVS when Willow became a magic-junkie? She was consistently juiced up on "the magics" and couldn't, like, function normally without the use of it. Of course, this ended up spiraling out of control in a wave of destruction both for herself and those around her. Now, that's all a little dramatic, but the take away here is that with anything in life, we need to approach it with a degree of balance and moderation. Yes, tarot can help you pick out an outfit for your date on Saturday night, but that doesn't mean it should. If you can't get through an hour or a decision without first consulting the tarot, it's time to reevaluate what tarot is truly doing for you. Tarot should enhance your understanding of yourself, your world and the energy swirling around you, but you should be able also to act independently of its guidance. If you need it, then it hasn't taught you anything.
I wouldn't read your diary without your permission, let alone share its contents with another soul even if I could peek at it. So why then would I turn to tarot to share with you something about someone else that they haven't made you privy to? This, to me, is an abuse of tarot and an abuse of the practice of it. It's not to say that we can't discuss the people in your life, but it needs to be with the understanding that anything that comes of those conversations will always be in respect to how it relates to you. Tarot is a tool to get into our own hearts and minds, not the hearts and minds of people who are unaware or who have not given explicit consent. And think about it this way, how would you feel if someone went to a reader to learn something about you? And as a reader, I also think about the content I'm delivering to my clients. If I'm making bold statements about a third party in my written readings and that was to get back to the person in question, that might just piss them off, and quite frankly, I don't want to deal with that.
Opening and closing each session is a must:
When I really delved back into tarot and made it an everyday practice, I went through a period where I would feel energetically strange, off, open or disoriented through the day. I realized that this had to do with the fact that I was inviting so much new data in by way of my third eye, but I wasn't creating boundaries for when that information was allowed to freely flow. In order to create hard stops and starts, I began a practice of opening and then closing each session. Many people do this, and it's good for a couple different reasons. First, opening the session allows you a moment to create intent. That intent sets the stage to invite what it is you wish to take place i.e. connect with your guides, your higher self, the divine source etc. Opening up also says "okay, now is the time and now I am ready", which creates a separation from your normal daily routine. So it's not like eating breakfast, or doing laundry or feeding the cat (okay, you see how fun my day is), it's different and your expectations of that time are also different.
Closing the session is just as important. When we're open, we're effectively inviting a whole lot more into our being than we normally would, but we wouldn't want to walk around like that all day. The last time I had my aura read, I was told that my aura extended way too far out and this was a problem because it meant that other people's shit could too easily become my shit and really, no one needs that shit. So, when you're done your session, close down. I wrote a separate blog post which highlights my actual routine if you want to use that but I think, the way you open and close matter less. It's not what you do, it's why you do it and as long as your routine and ritual makes sense to you, that's the most important thing.
There is a correlation between objectivity and accuracy:
If something has been weighing really heavy on you and you're super invested in it and emotionally tied to the potential outcome of said thing, then reading for yourself, in my opinion, becomes much more difficult. This is why even the most seasoned and experienced readers seek the services of others; to get real, clear, objective advice.
I believe that a certain degree of space or objectivity between the question and the seeker can go a long way in terms of the clarity that stands to be gained.
Some inquiries are best left unread:
We're not meant to know everything and sometimes there are really good reasons why we need to leave well enough alone. The reason why may be clear and other times not, but that's where that trust thing needs to come in. With some inquiries, perhaps there isn't an ethical breach per say, but something indicates that pursing it too vigorously will be counter productive to your client's personal growth (or your own). I have turned down certain questions if my intuition tells me it isn't helpful or I have worked with the person to re-frame it. As a reader, you need to also trust your gut and work with your clients to formulate their questions to get the most out of the experience. While I could just answer whatever question was thrown at me, in good faith and conscious I can't just do this, especially if I feel as if spending time on a certain matter is actually harmful. This area is a little more vague and subjective, so I'll just say use your instincts and always approach these matters with compassion and kindness. I suppose one example may be where a client explicitly expresses that they are in an unhealthy relationship, but want to know what they can do to keep it in tact. In these cases, I think sometimes it's best to instead look to ways the client can improve their own sense of self, independence and development and so I will try to help them re-frame things to fit this. There is a way to say "no" and still keep your clients trust and business.
Don't go there:
I'm not a doctor, mental health professional or lawyer so as a rule of thumb, I don't answer questions that very specifically deal with these topics. For example:
-"What do I need to know in order to win my custody dispute?" - That's a pretty heavy question with some pretty serious consequences so I'm going to have to recommend you seek some legal counsel.
-"I'm having some strange symptoms, do you think I have [insert whatever disease here]?" - That's a great question. I think you should make an appointment with a doctor to get that checked out.
-"I'm having suicidal thoughts, can you tell me why and how to fix this?" - No, but here is a number for a helpline and I would really encourage that you call it because as much as I empathize with what you are feeling and as much as I want you to feel better, I'm not the best person who can help you with this.
I think at the end of the day, your practices should be yours. Being able to define them, stand behind them and understand why they frame your practice is important. They also help to create boundaries that are healthy and ensure your practice remains sustainable. No two readers are the same and you need not feel the pressure to do exactly as others do. You should feel good about your readings and sometimes having consistent practices can ensure you remain confident that you're always coming from a place of being and doing your very best.