You may think it's the difference between using cards to receive messages, or not using them. Technically this is true - but the presence or absence of cards is not the whole story.
My FAQ outlines the basic difference between a tarot reading and a mediumship reading, and of course the tools involved are a part of that. But there's a deeper difference. I was talking to my friend, editor, and business partner, Alie (of AlieTarot), and I realized that the really fundamental difference deserved discussion.
It all comes down to message translation.
Tarot is largely interpreted by the reader, not the client. Sometimes a reader will ask a client what they feel when they look at a certain card, but that's icing on the cake. It's not the bulk of how the messages are delivered.
A tarot reader looks at the cards and filters the message out in a very unique and individual way. If you put some cards down for one client, but have two different readers interpret them, you can end up with two very different messages - both of which are still valid.
Tarot works with the reader's experiences and associations - rarely with the client's.
Mediumship works in just the opposite way. It works with the client's experiences and associations. Mediumship is like a coded message, and the medium is just the messenger. This means that much of the time, I have no real idea what it means that your guide is showing me a pink rose. Not all mediums receive or treat their messages in this way, but at this time I do.
So here's the big question.
Why? Wouldn't it be so much easier and make more sense (for everyone involved) if the medium knew what the Spirit was talking about?
Well, there are a few reasons why 99% of the messages that come to you via mediumship need decoding.
Naturally, some things that come up in a mediumship reading are of a very private nature - but your guides aren't giving me the full story. Not when they communicate it in feelings, brief images, and cryptic words. And that's a good thing. It's none of my business to know all of the trauma that you've been through, or all about the mistakes you've made. It's not my place to judge, and your guides help to protect your privacy by giving me only a piece of the puzzle - you, with your memories, experiences, dreams, and associations - you have the matching half.
I don't know if you know this, but holding a space and channel for Spirit can be very tiring. You're trying to stay grounded and connected at the same time, and you're using the invisible (psychic) senses to grasp at brief and strange sensations, thoughts, and images. There is simply not enough time for your guides to spell things out to me word for word. So they do it with a sort of psychic shorthand. For example, an image of a river drying up. We're talking about your spirituality, and you immediately connect this image to your feeling lately that you've lost all your abilities. Boom. Metaphored. And it took a split second!
3. Challenge and Value
Everyone loves a straight answer. But think for a second about some of your greatest epiphanies. Did they burst into being because someone told you, straight up: "The opposite of fear is love" - or some other grand and wise statement? Or did you get your moment of clarity after seeing some universal truth as reflected in the characters of a book, or a movie, in a poem, the notes of a song, or in the interaction between two people on the street? There's greater value in the truths that we discover when we're made to really see them, and not when they're right in front of us, but when they're standing off to one side, looking a little weird, and a little confusing. Our guides rarely give us the straight answer because there's no challenge, no discovery, and therefore little value.
Your Spirits know you. I don't know you (usually) and neither do you or your guide know me (usually). So if they're going to give you a helpful message, it needs to be understood by you. They're going to use your language (your memories, associations, dreams, etc.), because at the end of the day a mediumship reading is a conversation between you and your guides. I'm there to hold the space, and make the connection, not unlike a phone operator.
So there you have it. What makes mediumship more difficult to do and more difficult to understand is also what makes it incredibly beautiful. That pink rose may not make much sense to me, but to you it's a reminder of the pink rosebush that you planted in honor of your deceased loved one, and it's the proof that you needed to know that they came to the session, they hear you, and they're still with you.