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How to Rephrase the Question for a Tarot Reading

© 2001 James Ricklef
The following was adapted from an article that originally appeared in the Winter 2000 American Tarot Association Newsletter

“There are no stupid questions, simply those that are not phrased in a beneficial way … Therefore, part of your work in tarot … is to transform all questions and statements into forms that are empowering.” — Mary Greer, Tarot Mirrors

Most querents do not know how to phrase their questions in a way that empowers them. And of course they don’t — that’s not their job; it’s mine. Usually the querent wants to know what will happen in the future. He may want to know the outcome of a course of action, or he may want to know if a specified event (either hoped-for or feared) will come to pass.

In these cases I first tell the querent my philosophy, which is that although a reading may indicate a probable outcome, I don’t believe that it can tell the exact future, because the future is never etched in stone. We make our own future — either by actively working to shape it, or by passively accepting whatever comes to pass. Thus I feel that the best purpose of a Tarot reading is to provide the querent with insights about himself and the world around him in order to empower him to create the future he wants.

Then I rephrase the question to put it into a form that empowers him to make his own future. For example, “Will I get the promotion I want?” might be rephrased, “What do you need to do to get the promotion you want?” Okay, that was an easy one.

More difficult are ones like, “Will my boyfriend ask me to marry him?” For relationship questions like that, you can’t, in essence, ask what she can do to make someone else love her. Instead, I try to refocus those questions on the querent. Perhaps, “What do you need to know about your relationship with your boyfriend?” or, “What do you need to do to improve your relationship with your boyfriend?”

Next there are the “Should” questions. “Should I move out of my parents’ home?” “What should I do about my mother’s interference in my life?” In these cases the querent is not accepting responsibility for dealing with her situation, and she is asking the Tarot to make her decisions for her. The tarot should never make decisions for the querent, because ultimately that will rob her of her personal power.

In these situations I try to rephrase the querent’s question into a form that will shed some light on the situation at hand and give her new perspectives to help her make the decisions she needs to make. So for the examples given above, I might rephrase them as, “What do you need to know about your living arrangements?” and “What do you need to do to improve your relationship with your mother?”

Another common mistake that many querents make is asking what someone else (usually their spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend) is doing, feeling, or thinking. For example, “Is Jane seeing other guys?” When that happens I tell the querent that I cannot do a reading to see what other people are doing, mainly due to the ethics of privacy. I then tell him that I can, however, do a reading for him to see what he needs to know about his relationship with that other person. For example, “What do you need to know about your relationship with Jane?”

Yes or No questions are another common problem. For one thing, how valuable is a yes or no answer going to be? Not very. Also, such questions usually presume that the querent has no control over her life. For example, consider the question, “Will I ever find true love?” A “Yes” answer might provide some small measure of comfort to the querent, but how helpful would it be? On the other hand, rephrasing the question to be “What do you need to do to find true love?” or, “What do you need to know about your relationships?” will (hopefully) enlighten the querent and empower her to make the future she wants.

Other difficult questions are ones asking for professional (i.e., medical, legal, etc.) advice. When I get these questions, I generally tell people that I’m not a doctor (or whatever), and if they have specific questions about their health they should consult one. That said, I may try to rephrase the question to be something that probes the querent’s attitudes or motivations. For example, a common question on the Free Reading site has been, “Will I get pregnant soon?” This could be a medical problem (or a marital one), but if, say, the querent indicated that this would be her first child I might rephrase it to be something like, “What do you need to know about starting a family?” But these are hard choices, and you have to tread carefully over the thin ice of such questions because answering them can have dire legal ramifications, since you probably aren’t a doctor, lawyer, etc.

Those are some of the most common types of questions that need to be rephrased. However, all you really have to remember, whether you are reading online or in person, is that the key considerations for properly phrased questions are:

** Does it focus on the querent?
** Does it reflect the querent’s responsibility for his or her life?
** Does it empower the querent to positively affect his or her future?

If you can formulate the question so that it does those three things, you’ll have a question that will enable you to give a good reading.

PS: Always work with your querent to rephrase a question. Don’t just do it unilaterally. I have rarely had a querent dig in their heels and refuse to work with me to have their question rephrased.

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