A Question of Question

October 7, 2007 § 4 Comments

One of the most repeated pieces of advice given to beginner tarot readers is “Ask the right question”.

What’s the right question? Well, a Good Question is one that is positive, empowering and keeps responsibility with the querent. Questions such as “How can I improve my chances of promotion” and “What can I do to repair this relationship” are Good Questions. Questions such as “Will I get a promotion this year”, “Should I buy the Mystic Faeries deck“, and “What’s the capital of Greenland” are Bad Questions.

This is exactly the advice given in Tarot Stripped Bare, so I can’t knock it. But I wouldn’t anyway. I still believe that, for beginners, it’s good advice. Asking the right question gives you a context in which to interpret the answer. If you ask “How….” and the Knight of Wands comes up, you’re getting a pretty clear message. If you ask “Should I….” and the same card comes up, it’s a lot more tricky to work out what it’s telling you.

More and more, however, I find myself asking Bad Questions. It seems to work for me. The key seems to be in how you interpret the cards. The main criticism lobbied against Bad Questions is that they invariably lead to yes/no answers (see my examples above, except the one about Greenland) and that’s true, in a way. But when you ask a friend whether you should buy a dress or go on a date with that guy you hardly know or take a job selling popcorn, you hardly ever get a yes/no answer. You get a “Yes, because…” answer or a “No, but…” answer. Sometimes you get a “Ohmigod that guy’s so cute you should totally go out with him and then marry him and have all his children” answer. The same is true with tarot.

The truth is, if tarot was a machine and all that happened was you put in a pound, asked a question and out popped your answer then you really couldn’t expect more than a yes or a no. But tarot is a rich, complex, deep, versatile, beautiful, intelligent divination tool. And if you believe tarot works – if you’re willing to believe that much in such an incredible, illogical thing – then you should give it more credit. Tarot doesn’t just give us answers – it converses with us. That’s why when I ask “Should I go to my cousin’s wedding”, I know that not one card will tell me “yes” or “no”. Instead my friend the tarot will discuss my fears and apprehensions with me, and help me come to my own decision.

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§ 4 Responses to A Question of Question

  • Fugdale says:

    Great post. Question forming is one of the hardest aspects of giving a reading. Trying to explain the details to a querent can get a little difficult too. I will usually try to help them rephrase a questions because they almost always ask a yes/no. Additionally, I think it’s important to make sure the querent is the subject of the question. Instead of “What does Bob think of me?” I suggest “What can I do to improve Bob’s opinion of me?” or “how can I make Bob like me more?” I too tend to ask bad questions when reading for myself.

  • willow says:

    I loved reading this. I used to try to adhere to the rephrasing question technique. But I have found when reading for people online, that most of them want yes/no answers. You have limited time with these folks, as they are paying by the minute. I have found that if I just ask, and then draw three cards I can get very specific information to share with them. It’s about keeping yourself open to receive whatever answers are being provided.

    I also ask yes/no questions when reading for myself. It works quiet well, just as you describe it.

  • archertarot says:

    Glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

    I’ve only been doing paid readings for a short time but probably about 90% of the questions I’m asked are yes/no or straight prediction, i.e. “will such and such happen?”
    It seems also that the more you try and rephrase the question the further you get from what the querent really wants to ask and – as a result – the reading becomes less useful or even pointless.

  • 94stranger says:

    I think you guys are all confirming what I’ve started to feel from the tutor of the tarot class I’ve just started – that this type of reading is not my thing – in any case, I never did take myself as being in any way clairvoyant.
    I would be curious to know whether it’s possible to work with my Rainring cards in much the same way as you all describe. What I do, by contrast, is to put a great deal of emphasis on the precision of the question, on the assumption that the answer will only be as good as the question. With Rainring, I’m not looking for the type of will he? won’t he? answer. I would either be looking at exploring his character; where SHE is at in HER life; contrast between what she hopes /projects and what will actually happen etc.
    I must say that the idea of working online where the client pays by the minute would totally freak me out.
    Sometimes I get the feeling that I should forget about reading my cards and limit myself to talking about how they work and what they mean, not to mention trying to get them known!

    Have any of you felt drawn to having a closer look at Rainring, or are you already committed exclusively to the tarot? I’m still at the stage of needing lots of feedback. Any takers?
    Archer, sorrry I missed your hosting week – nothing personal, I just needed a break,and took it before I knew you were the host this time!

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