TECHNIQUES OF PRESENTATION
The first matter to discuss concerns the storage of your cards. Contrary to what books and practitioners say, the exact manner of storage does not matter in itself. But the care and concern shown by adhering to a given method does. So whether they get stored in a sandalwood box perfumed with incense, or wrapped in a black silk cloth; whether they are stored in a random order, or stored separated into Major and Minor, suits and numerical order; aligned East and West, or vertical, none of these matter in themselves. What does matter is that they are stored in such a way that they are seen to be important. Obviously the Querent must see and be made to notice that you store your cards reverently and in a special way. Subconsciously, you yourself must be aware that the cards are really to be treated with respect. So pick something special, something difficult or expensive to obtain, and then always use it. You must take pains to make the Querent notice it; if you store the cards in a box or silk scarf, always take the box or cloth to the table, complete with the cards, and unwrap them slowly. If the box or the scarf is something outstanding, the Querent notices it, and you can mention the fact that the box has been in the family three generations, or that the scarf is raw silk from the deathbed of a Buddhist monk, or some such.
You yourself must wear something special. Perhaps you have a special dressing gown, or a scarf over your head; a special set of beads, or an armband. It must be noticeable, not to say obtrusive, and again you wear it with the intention of creating a feeling that this garment or whatever is only worn because the cards are special. In real life, how often does the mere putting on of party clothes create a feeling of gaiety within us; the wearing of fancy dress bring out an unsuspected acting talent. Perhaps the special piece of clothing or jewellery can be stored in a special box, which again is brought to the table before being opened.
The cards are unwrapped and laid on the table. The table should be covered with a plain table cloth, of one colour. Patterns in the cloth tend to confuse the spread; a white or black cloth is best, since it provides a good contrast. If you can find something that has a slightly rough surface, such as wool or velvet, it will help in keeping the cards in place once spread, and also in the shuffling if the cards are 'washed'. A cloth used only for laying the cards is a good investment, and can be kept in the same box with the special clothing.
Lighting is very important. The actual level of lighting is not as important as the absence of glare; neither the Querent nor the Reader should have to squint in glare. Glare can be caused by a bright window in an otherwise dark room, a strong unshaded light such as a bare bulb near the ceiling; if you cannot switch off the naked light, just make sure that neither Reader nor Querent has to look into the light. A good atmosphere can be created by drawing the curtains, and switching on a table lamp to one side, placed between Querent and Reader. Perhaps a candle in a special candlestick, or an oil-lamp if you can get hold of one. Anything that will shine a soft friendly light on both people. It is just as important that the Querent can see and trust the Reader, as the other way round. Being mystical and mysterious won't help in building up trust.
Next comes a cup of tea. Oh yes, it really does. First of all, tea, or coffee for that matter, contains caffeine; this is a drug which can be used to speed up your synapses, to raise your sensitivity to very small signals. Most people drink tea or coffee out of habit whenever they want something hot, or they are thirsty. Habitual users of tea and coffee won't notice the effects of the drug, they are permanently 'high', and in fact live in a state of continual irritation, or alternatively, they learn to tune their body in such a way that there is less sensitivity. In both cases the extra sensitivity obtained through use of caffeine is lost. But if you drink tea or coffee sparingly, or not at all, and then drink a strong cup of either, the effect is noticeable, and will help you in your reading. That is the practical use of coffee. But the drink will also help in setting the presentation. It will create a sense of ritual, it will enable you to share 'bread and salt*, and it will help you in 'observing' the Querent.
'Observing' the Querent is a very important part of the whole reading. To understand what that means, we must go back to Sherlock Holmes and his flat in Baker Street. When the door is opened to his study, and a new client walks in, Holmes will remark casually to the astonished Watson that the visitor is obviously an undertaker, belongs to the Rotary, is left-handed, practises photography as a hobby, plays guitar, has been recently widowed and has an eighteen-year old daughter with blonde hair. Sherlock Holmes 'observed' at a conscious level, with great speed and accuracy, and used the information so gained to come to conclusions concerning the case.
The Reader in a Tarot reading will be doing the same, but letting his subconscious do the work. Obviously, the subconscious needs a little time, and a range of actions on the part of the Querent so as to gather some facts. It is very important when observing is done that it be done with the subconscious, and not with the conscious. The conscious will see that the Querent is foreign, is poor and perhaps uneducated in the niceties of English grammar and accent. The conscious will then say, 'Aha, I must be extra nice (or careful, or suspicious) because the person is poor, is foreign, is uneducated, or whatever*. Both positive and negative prejudices influence the quality and accuracy of a reading. Let the subconscious observe that the person is honest, intelligent and sensitive, none of which qualities conflict with those noticed by the conscious, but do give us an entirely different picture.
'Observing' can be done by sharing a cup of tea with the Querent, and by talking with them about casual matters. While drinking the cup of tea, we can talk about the weather, the locality in which the Querent lives, what they think about transport to this place, and so on. Their microscopically small reactions to the words you use act almost as a word-association test as used by the psychoanalysts. Your conscious won't notice the Querent's reactions, but your subconscious will.
At this stage, if you like the smell, you can light some incense. It is pretty to watch the vapour trails, masks homely smells such as cooking and unwashed feet, and again creates atmosphere. You may also wish to wash your hands at this stage, after having drunk the tea and lit the incense; ritual purification increases the sense of awe and respect held with regard to the special feeling of an object.
Now we come to the shuffling of the cards. The actual shuffling is not very important, but the effect that it can create is. There are two main methods; the first one is usually called 'washing' and consists of laying the cards face down on the table and using both hands; push the cards at random across the table and across each other. This is where the slightly rough table cloth helps. The cards are swirled slowly around; perhaps the Querent is allowed to help. Then the cards are picked up as a disorganized bundle and stacked into a nice flat pack once more.
The second method consists of taking the whole pack in the left hand, and using the thumb and two fingers of the right hand as a sort of pincers, pick up part of the pack with the right hand. The cards are picked up and lifted just high enough to lift over the remainder of the pack still left in the left hand, and dropped into the left hand, in front of the pack. This action is repeated again and again, so as to shuffle the whole pack thoroughly. The action should be slow, and hypnotic; while it is going on, the Reader continues to talk with the Querent. But now the talk is about the question that is going to be asked.
When the cards have been shuffled to your satisfaction (this point will have been reached when both the Reader and Querent feel they are 'connecting'), they are spread out flat onto the table, and the Querent is asked to choose the required number of cards. The cards are picked up, one at a time, without looking at the face of the card, till the number required for any given spread has been reached. Incidentally, the hand movements and the order in which the cards are picked will enable the observant Reader to gain a lot of insight into the character of the Querent.
How to ask the question, and how to direct the Querent into asking the proper question have already been dealt with elsewhere. There is still one major item in the presentation that requires discussion, and that is the matter of payment. I will leave that for the next chapter.