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The Cards You're Dealt by Theresa Reed

The Cards You’re Dealt: How to Deal When Life Gets Real by Theresa Reed is an absolute must read for tarot enthusiasts, students, and professional readers. Notice I said “read”, not “have”. This is not the tarot book that you shelf waiting for the day when you’ll “get to it” or will refer to when a card’s meaning or combination seems elusive. The Cards You’re Dealt is a rare gem in what I like to call “the sea of similar”.

As with most tarot books, The Cards You’re Dealt begins with a brief history of tarot, procuring and working with a deck, understanding the structure of a deck and card meanings both upright and reversed, common myths, how to perform reading, etc. However, the focus of this book is not tarot in general, it is specifically geared towards tarot as it relates to illness, death, grief, caretaking, and difficult times. These are topics that we will all encounter in our life and most certainly will when providing readings to others.

The Cards You’re Dealt is something quite unlike other tarot books we see on the market. This book dives into all of the things that people and western society tends to shy away from and even suppress. Theresa sums it up best when she says  “healing is not an easy or neat practice and this book is meant to be used”. It’s not just the subject matter that is so compelling, it’s the fact that the content is designed for tarot readers new to seasoned, personal to professional with everything in between. It’s difficult to find a tarot book that is equally applicable to everyone and yet Theresa nailed it with perfection. 

Having read tarot for quite some time now it’s not often that I will hear or read something about a card that gives me an “oh wow” moment. One of those moments of which there were more than a few in this book, came when Theresa described The World card as “your angels are in your corners” . What a profound statement to give, particularly if you are sitting with a querent who has just lost a loved one or is in an active state of dying. It’s not that we as tarot readers aren’t aware of the four corners of the The World card representing the Kerubic beasts and their association to many things including the archangels, its the word mixology here and the most appropriate delivery of the message. 

Anyone who has been in Theresa’s world for a bit knows that words of affirmation are her love language and she is a word mixology master. She is far more cognizant in her word choices than most making her someone to take note from. The book is jam packed cover-to-cover with helpful tips and guidance in not only what to do and say, and what not to do and say in various situations, but also how to give compassionate and courageous readings around these very difficult topics that leave the querent feeling empowered.

As someone that has had a profound amount of death in my life of which some have been violent and traumatic, I appreciate the way in which Theresa does a deep dive into grief. She discuses navigating differences in how we vs others process grief, how one querent’s grief process shouldn’t be an assumption for the next, and ways in which readers can support ourself and others through the grieving process. She goes on to give a very well thought out yet not overly complicated tarot spread for the 5 Stages of Grief, as well as her mediumship tarot spread that I have personally used since being introduced to it several years ago.

In this place of discussing grief she goes into depth on Tarot for Dying, those that are in an active state of dying but have not yet passed. This is another area that tends to be shied away from because it’s uncomfortable. Not only does she give examples of the shortcomings in our society to be in this state and to provide adequate support, she gives practical advice and again tailored tarot questions to empower clients and help them live in the present moment. 

There were three topics I was curious as to weather she would include because of their often touchy nature and she did. Unlike many who have approached the topics of suicide, hell and reincarnation, she did so without rose colored glasses and forced credence. Theresa very candidly explains the importance of keeping our personal beliefs out of a reading, particularly where we are unsure of or may have a conflict with the querent’s beliefs. 

Aside from the sections on death and suicide, topics we would expect to be included, she goes the extra mile to talk about the implications of national and global tragedies. She addresses in depth how to handle the ramifications of these events on the personal level, within your community, the world stage, and when someone sits at your table for a reading. In this section she gives great community impact and assessment techniques along with very real examples of her experiences reading tarot as a professional before and after 9/11. Something that I believe the reader will find great value in though rather unexpected and seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of the book, is the inclusion of how to organize and hold candlelight vigils.

Additional difficult topics that most of us as professional readers see at our table daily such as the implications of the ending of relationships, pregnancy and child loss, abortion, income loss, empty nesters, and aging related concerns are also covered in great detail. Theresa not only provides real life stories and ways tarot can come to the table best in each of the instances, she includes additional advice in how to help ourselves and others through these challenges beyond tarot. I love that she addresses that it is important that readers meet querents where they are in this place and not to to sweep these things under the rug because of the lack of experience, compassion, or feeling discomfort with these topics. 

As a mother myself and as with most of us who have young people in our life, we know that they experience these difficulties just as adults do though they may not have the clarity or space to process these experiences. In the book she talks about the importance of opening the door to talk to children, various tarot methods that can be used to help them process and articulate their thoughts and feelings, and the importance in validating what they share in the process. For those that are still feeling unsure in this area, this section walks you through how to do this in a way that is appropriate for children and allows them to express themselves freely in a healthy way without being led in any particular direction along the way. 

Stepping out of the realm of tarot and into everyday living, the book includes a variety of practical energy and healing practices that can be utilized during these difficult times. Theresa walks the reader through her personal breathwork and meditation techniques, altar and ritual practices, and of course tons of well throughout journaling prompts (she’s a double air sign if you weren’t aware). Two novel ideas that she included that I found to be quite genius are her uses of “Waiting Room Tarot Talismans” and an “Anxiety box”. The former is the concept of carrying a tarot card with you into a waiting room to maintain your center, and the later being the placement of you anxieties into a box and locking them away. Clearly these are rudimentary descriptions and I encourage you to dogear those pages just as I did.

It is for all of the aforementioned reasons and so many more that The Cards You’re Dealt is a must read for tarotist. Theresa’s writing style is easy to read and absorb, she gives real life personal and professional examples, provides practical and balanced advice, and lives by the way that she guides in this book. Theresa is a true teacher, not just some preacher spewing what sounds good for the now. The book comes to an end in true to Theresa fashion…leave them better than you found them by giving them resources and something to consider: Buddhist philosophy. She shares her experiences with Buddhist thought and yogic practices, and opens the floor for the reader to assess how well they are living in the present, their thoughts on death, timelines and attachments, and how best to adapt the pupil to the inevitable, the impermanence of all. 

I believe The Cards You are Dealt is Theresa's Magnum Opus. While she may not view this book is this way, I hands down believe this to be not only her most impactful piece of work, but also one that will stand the test of time and be a tarot classic. Years ago when I first started Theresa’s business mentoring classes she was talking about Mary K Greer and Rachel Pollack being two of her biggest tarot teachers and inspirations (as with most serious tarotist) and I told her to mark my words that she would be the next. She said she was flattered, but I’m not to sure that she believed me. I meant it then and I mean it now. You would be wise to pick up a copy of this book, deep dive into it’s wisdom, and get it signed if you are ever so lucky to get the chance.

In L.V.X 


FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the deck from the publisher for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.

With gratitude for Benebell Wen for allowing me to use her FTC Disclosure.

© Brandy Rachelle 2024

Uncredited images from my personal collection or stock images

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