The first time I ever read in any kind of professional capacity was for a small psychic fair designed to raise funds for a local charity. It was a volunteer gig boasting several professional readers from the area, as well as a number of newcomers, all donating their time for a common cause. I was both pleased and mystified to have been invited, having been quietly going about my tarot work for a number of years and—I thought—without anyone having noticed.
Having long scorned the Celtic Cross as unnecessarily complex (call it a personal prejudice), I learned it just for the occasion, figuring that this would be what many people would expect or even request. I practiced curtailing my natural long-windedness, shortening my analysis of the cards into significant phrases and key words, hoping that I could convey something useful and meaningful to strangers who might have Serious Life Shit to discuss. I’d seen people cry at these things, and I wanted to genuinely be helpful. “Helpful” looks like different things to different people. I’ve always been most comforted by quiet stoicism and massive amounts of red wine, but I knew that others would need to hear about divine purpose, inner beauty, and unconditional love from the Universe. I hoped that I would have something useful to say to this latter group, even if I found some of the thinking somewhat dubious.
It turned out that I didn’t have to worry.
Maybe because there really is some kind of higher order to the universe (Universe?) or maybe because I was dressed like I’d just left some kind of plaque ceremony at a hospice facility, I only ended up reading for other quiet pragmatists, cynics, and the overly academic. The questions I was asked were direct and practical, though many simply wanted me to pull for more general assessments and discuss life patterns more broadly.
In fact, now that I think about it, I only read for men that day.
(Actually, now that I think about it further, in the three years that I’ve done this event I’ve only read for men each time.)
A number of these men were attending in support of their wives, off busy at the tables of readers who wore sarongs to match their table dressings. At least one young man had been dragged along (his phrase, not mine) by his mother and sister. Others had been goaded to the event by friends intent on introducing them to friends. Some were actively part of this sort of community already—believers, for want of a better term—but others looked to be somewhat surprised to find themselves in such an odd environment (like they’d meant to be at the plaque ceremony, too).
I did fewer readings than most everyone there that day. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I was also the most muted in terms of dress and manner. Two readers had just come from working a private event and were dressed in (pirate?) costumes. Many of the women wore brightly-colored sarongs and flowing dresses. There was heavy incense, anklets with jingling bells, massage tables covered in crystals, and at least one unidentifiable person who had, to my dismay, decided to eschew deodorant that day.
I was accosted by a stunningly invasive empath who informed me that I was “dark and mysterious” and then proceeded to expound upon her sex life.
I received Reiki for the first time (meh).
I watched someone perform readings with the bones of her own dead pet cat (Pussomancy? Catvination?).
It was a gloriously fascinating day, still quickly recalled by the faintest whiff of untempered body odor.
I like to think that I was there for the sort of person who needed to talk to me. Or at least that I was able to offer some kind of entertainment or insight to someone who would have been bored otherwise. Nobody cried to me, but there was an awful lot of conversation about death and suffering (which seems to be a thing that comes up a lot when I read for others, way more than relationship or job questions). It felt important to me that I didn’t look or sound like many of the other readers present. I can appreciate the spirit of relaxed, free-flowing dress and loose hair (hey, you should see me at festival) and messages of love and empowerment, but I think empowerment comes in different kinds of packaging. In my case, it doesn’t come with the word “empowerment” on the label, but I suppose it’s still essentially the same thing.