Some quick tips to improve a cold-reading session with tarot, tea-leaves, etc

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Summary: Most everyone likes to play with divination, even those who think it's not worth a damn. A common practise in tarot and tea-leaf circles is the cold-read (read: made up answers for a session). Here are some pointers I have accumulated.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

(02:47:09 CST)

Some quick tips to improve a cold-reading session with tarot, tea-leaves, etc

Cold-reading, as the term is applied to various forms of fortune-telling, is just making stuff up. Sure, there is a knack and whatnot to it; but at its core, it is when someone sits down with the fortune-teller, and combinations of science and luck come together and the client walks away feeling a little dazed despite it being one big puppet show. They, by which I mean the types who make money off of this thing, all swear that you save cold-reading until those rare days you feel off, but it might be better to say that you rely on cold-reading except those few days you feel on.

There is a science to it, a practical con-man's game of slicing bits of information out of conversation and then combining them with a thick pasting of inductions and guesses; but that is not what this entry is about. That takes natural talent and trained skill. This is about the sort of things that just about anyone can do. Here are my quick and easy tips to improve your cold-reading session, if you choose to have one (and yes, these come from actual fortune-telling types that I used to talk to and study from back in the day).

First, split your marks from your hard-makes. Some people only touch stuff like fortune-telling because they utterly disbelieve it and they want to prove it false. They can be confrontational, and will often mention "I don't like this crap" early on. Skim them out of the process. Ham it up for them, play it to the gills, and then laugh at yourself. If you do it right, they get show. If you do it wrong, they feel justified. Either way, they feel happy, and that's your job (assuming you are making money off of this). Those who want to believe, the easy-marks, they treat tarot-readings like a psychotherapy session. They are practically needing to spill their guts to someone, and why not $15 for a tarot-reader rather than $200 for a head-shrinker? They will also divulge too much information, which in the end, helps you to make them happy. At worst, though, they get a chance to be heard. Customer satisfaction.

Second, ritual ritual ritual ritual ritual. Ritual. I don't care what, but you had best have a ritual. Take it slow, and steady. Knock on the table before picking up the cards. Only use your left hand. Something. Do not go into verbal discussions of the ritual, just make it known. It should take you ten or fifteen minutes minimum to do a good session. More time for them to talk, more time for them to be impressed, and more time for the hard-makes to expose themselves.

Third, mix clutter with a concentrated point. Scatter random bits around the room, and then focus the attention on the relatively uncluttered table (which, by the way, has clutter on the edges). Make them feel like they are finding order in the midst of chaos.

Fourth, make them touch it. If it's a tea cup, they drink from it. If it's a tarot deck, they cut it. They pull cards from it. They shuffle it. Whatever. Just make sure they think their vibe juice is all over the thing.

Fifth, skip rote but make it sound like you didn't. You want to screw up a card reading? Try and remember what a Five of Wands means when it follows a Tower card. Skip it. The customer might know about the cards, and be willing to argue with you, but unless you are willing to point out your Little Book of Tarot they prefer to have symbols and images on the cards themselves pointed out. What does a Five of Wands mean according to said Little Book? Who cares? That means nothing next to pointing out the haystack in the background as a symbol of needing to start saving. The best thing about this whole thing? You need nothing but the cards or leaves themselves. Someone thrusts their palm into your hands, and you can blather on about the life line and such, but you want to especially notice the little knicks on the line, and the strange tapering. Sure, 90% of palms have that tapering, but how many palms have they seen. Make. It. Up. And make it a little micro-epic. They are there because they want to matter. They paid you money for it. Say they matter because the cards never lie and there's a haystack and that means they matter, and when you say it, make it sound like that the haystack is especially for them, while also a symbol everyone knows, as decreed by the cards. Which brings me to...

Finally, short declarative zen-master sentences. Say something declaratively, but back off the definite unless the definite is somehow so precise as to be almost nonsensical. Do not say "Your recent girl troubles", say "Underlying issues with personal relationships, not all of which you are aware of...". Do not ask "Have you recently met someone?" (they always do this in the movies, alas) but instead say "The new person whose name you are not sure of..." Maybe bust out a "Keep an eye out for red flowers on a sunny day, a body of water nearby but of unsure size, and her name is Lisa" every once in a while. They'll spend the next year remembering that line.

If you do it right, they will spend the next decade remembering that line.

Remember kids, have fun at parties, and never try any of these on the strange girls in black shirts sitting in the corner. Not unless you want to waste an afternoon.

Si Vales, Valeo


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