Reading tarot card pairs can bring much more nuance and detail to a reading than just using a single card in a spread position. I am going to discuss why you should try reading card pairs and give some examples of the extra depth paired cards can bring.
Using card pairs in a tarot reading is something I feel used to be more common but has fallen out of favour. In the many, many tarot readings available on YouTube over several years I have not once seen anyone use card pairs. And that’s a real shame.
O.K, so why use Card Pairs in a Tarot reading?
For a start, you can gain much more detail in a small card spread if you use 2 cards per spread position than just 1. Imagine a 3 position spread, you are automatically going to get more information if you have 6 cards (2 per position) instead of one.
But if you want more information why not just do a 6 card spread?
Well, if you use 2 cards per spread position you can gain a similar amount of intuitive stimulation and depth as if you use the ‘Awake Dream’ method I describe here. You can use the direction people are facing; the direction of gazes and hand gestures etc to add extra dimension to your readings.
However, the advantage card pairs have over the Awake Dream method is that you can use larger spreads using tarot card pairs than with the Awake Dream approach. Using 2 cards per spread position is far more manageable than using 3.
Card pairs can suggest ideas and messages that single cards can’t. Two cards combined create a richer, more complex, picture than a single card. From this richer imagery we obtain more detail and we can actually get some very specific messages.
Examples of New Meanings from Card Pairs
Using card pairs was much more popular in the 1970s than it is now. The 1970s edition of the Grimaud Tarot de Marseille came with a booklet that described meanings derived by combining various Major Arcana. Here’s an example I briefly mentioned in the post, ‘Is Tarot Evil?’:
The booklet shown above tells us that Death followed by The World indicates a global disease epidemic. Just like we are experiencing right now as I write this post in 2021. Look at that picture! We have Death gazing at the smaller figure in The World card who is seemingly protected from the scythe by the wreath around her. And the figure in The World card looking at Death’s scythe, the bringer of destruction.
I don’t know about you but looking at this picture gives me the shivers. It’s as if the woman in The World is isolating herself from the devastation that Death brings. And that’s something a lot of us can relate to.
This card pairing essentially creates a new meaning: global death; and perhaps isolation from disease.
That was a bit grim.
Here are some more cheerful meanings gained from using card pairs.
There are several ways to look at card pairs. In the first example with the Grimaud tarot we looked at the direction of gaze (Death looking at the World, the figure in the World looking at the scythe.) In this card pair using the Druidcraft tarot we have another method. Here we can think of the two images as being a single image and then read the cards left to right. Although, to be honest, it is actually pretty clear what the message is.
Imagine this card pair in a spread position called Situation or Outcome; if your querent (or yourself!) is pregnant then this will signify the message is on track. If you or your querent are female and are not aware you are pregnant then it might be a good idea to check! Of course, this imagery doesn’t have to relate to actual pregnancy or birth. If the question was about some business venture or other enterprise, it could indicate that the business is still in the early stages but may be close to fruition.
This card pair could simply be called pregnancy and/or birth, If you see this card pair or something very similar (perhaps Queen of Wands or Pentacles and Sun for instance), know that this is suggesting the possible beginnings of a new actual life or enterprise.
Here’s another example of a card pair indicating an important event:
As if it wasn’t obvious (it might not be), this is the ‘marriage’ card pair. The 4 of Wands in the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tarot is often thought as the wedding card. A combined Hierophant and 4 of Wands seals the deal. Imagine if you were using card pairs and reading for a querent when this card pair turns up in a position suggesting an outcome. Even more interesting, what if this card pair was in a position called ‘Advice’?
Importance of intuition and the Right deck
The examples above provide a good demonstration of just how card pairs can deliver a detailed and specific message. Of course there’s no way I can list every possible tarot card pair combination because that’s around 6006 different combinations!
So, if you want to use card pairs there are two things you will need to have:
A good sense of intuition and
The right tarot deck(s)
What Kind of Tarot Decks?
Back in the 70s (and maybe the early 80s) there were relatively few tarot decks available compared to now. Using card pairs in a reading works great when using the RWS tarot which was certainly the most popular deck available back in the day amongst a small pool of options.
These days I would still recommend the RWS tarot because of the clarity of the images. Decks that follow the RWS very closely, such as the Druidcraft tarot, are also great options. What you need to avoid are the decks that stray from the RWS blue print: decks that re-interpret the RWS meanings; decks that have abstract art; ‘pip’ based decks; the Thoth tarot. In essence, what you need are RWS ‘clones’ which are decks that follow the RWS imagery very closely.
I’m the first to admit this may limit the appeal of using card pairs; there are many, many fine tarot decks around which don’t follow the RWS. However, if you use the RWS or a deck that is very close to it in terms of imagery depiction then give card pairs a go.
My readings reached a new level of insight when I started using card pairs. See if it can do the same for you.
And now the interactive bit!
If you go to the top of the post, look at the spread using the Influence of the Angels Tarot. Use any 3 card spread you like (or use Situation, Challenge, Advice) and see what messages you get from the card pairs!
Tarot major arcana only readings can be especially powerful. I will look at using only the major arcana cards in a tarot reading; why you would want to do this; how to prepare for a major arcana only reading; and cover some major arcana only spreads.
What are the Major Arcana?
It was the 19th century French occultist Paul Christian who named the 22 trump cards as the ‘Major Arcana’, the word ‘arcana’ meaning ‘secrets.’ Christian believed that the trump cards contained secret spiritual knowledge in their centuries old images.
Tarot historians believe the 22 trump cards were added to a playing card deck to create the earliest known tarot decks. These decks were used for playing a trick taking game and the trump cards would of course ‘trump’ any lower rank cards.
Since the late 18th century when tarot decks were beginning to be used for divination, the trumps/major arcana have held greater significance than the other cards of the deck. The major arcana now are usually regarded as representing important life and karmic lessons. Each of these lessons must be learnt for progression towards fulfilment of one’s path in life.
Why use only the Major Arcana in a reading?
Due to the extra significance normally given to the major arcana in a reading using the full 78 card deck, using just the major arcana can really give a tarot reading increased impact.
The major arcana, used by itself as a 22 card deck, will give you a very direct, clear and quite unambiguous reading. There are some tarot readers who argue that, by not using the full deck, a reading will not be as deep or detailed. But there are no rules when it comes to tarot reading. If you want a no nonsense reading that won’t have you scratching your head, a majors only reading is the way to go.
If there is a really important, potentially life changing issue, where you want to gain clarity and insight, a majors only reading could be the way to go. Or maybe you just want a really clear answer without needing to spent too much time deciphering the card’s meanings. Again, the major arcana by themselves can help you.
The Minor Arcana By Themselves?
Alternatively, if you are dealing with everyday issues and you don’t want to confuse things with major karmic influences, you could just take out the major arcana and use the 56 minor arcana which deal more with ‘normal’ life issues and behaviour. This isn’t sacrilege and there will not be any decrease in the effectiveness of your reading. Remember, there are no rules in tarot reading.
Preparing for a majors only reading
To complete a majors only reading all you have to do is take out the 22 major arcana cards from whatever deck you are using. Then simply shuffle the majors and use them as a 22 card deck. Simple.
There are some majors only decks available but you don’t really need to use these. I just like to use a 78 card deck and take out the majors if I want a majors only reading. Then, if I want to use the full 78 card deck, I just put the majors back in. A majors only deck will not give you that flexibility.
Major Arcana Only Spreads
There are some tarot spreads that are meant to be used only with the major arcana. Of course you could use the major arcana in any tarot spread you want (so long as it has 22 or fewer positions!) The following are some spreads that I have found particularly useful which are only for use with the majors.
Four Winds Major Arcana Spread
This spread can be found in the book ‘Genius of the Tarot‘ by Vincent Pitisci. This is a good spread for really helping you think about an issue in a rounded manner.
North: What are your thoughts and ideas on this issue?
South: What are your feelings on the issue?
East: What inspires you or drives you regarding this issue?
West: What practical steps do you need to think about/do regarding the issue?
The centre card is known as the Quintessence card, the overall message of the reading. It’s found by adding all the numerical values of the other four cards and continue adding until you reach 22 or less. I tend to treat the Fool as 22. In the above example that means adding 3+11+19+1=34. 3+4=7.
7 is the Chariot so the overall message of the above reading would be to focus your willpower and pull all your strengths and assets together to succeed.
Path & Goal Major Arcana Spread
I found this spread in the book ‘Complete Book of Tarot Spreads‘ by Evelin Burger and Johannes Fiebig. It’s unusual in that you don’t randomly choose the cards from the deck. Instead, you choose the card that represents where you are now and the card that represents where you want to be. The third card, The Path, is then found by counting the steps to go from card 1 to card 2.
Spread Positions (from left to right)
Where you stand now
Where you want to be
In the above example, we count from Strength, Card 11 of the major arcana in this deck, to The Sun, Card 19. That’s 8 steps. That gives us Justice, Card 8 in the Alchemical Tarot.
The Witches’ Pentagram
This major arcana only tarot spread goes by several different names but I first learnt it as the Witches’ Pentagram. It serves as a good general overview spread to look at different aspects of your situation. As an option you can find the Quintessence card in the same manner as in the Four Winds spread to give you the overall message of the reading.
Spread Positions (anti clockwise from top)
Top: Spirit – what is your goal?
Left: What do you think about the situation?
Bottom Left: What practical steps do you need to take?
Bottom Right: Where do you need to focus your energy?
Right: How do you feel about the situation?
The Tarot de Marseille Cross
The Tarot de Marseille (TdM) is a centuries old historical tarot deck that predates the Rider Waite Smith tarot. It is a non-esoteric deck meaning that it does not include occult symbolism. The deck was originally intended for playing card games but is now more commonly used for divination. I talk about the TdM in the post ‘Choosing And Buying A Beginner Tarot Deck‘ which is here.
The TdM is most commonly used in France and, traditionally, only the major arcana are used in a reading. The following spread is the Cross which is a good 4 card overview spread that can help with problem solving.
Spread Positions (Starting left to right then top to bottom)
Left: What is in your favour?
Right: What is not in your favour/what opposes you?
Top: Overall synthesis/analysis of the situation described in cards 1 & 2.
Bottom: Outcome/Advice (choose ‘advice’ if you want to think about practical steps to take)
The Open Reading
This last major arcana only spread actually isn’t really a spread at all. The Open Reading is a method of reading the TdM which uses 3 cards but the spread positions are not determined in advance. This reading style is similar to the ‘The Awake Dream’ method I discussed in the post ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which is here. The Open Reading is discussed in the book ‘The Marseille Tarot Revealed‘ by Yoav Ben-Dov.
In the Open Reading, you place the 3 cards down (reversals are not used) and then determine if there are any positions that seem likely such as Passive Thought, Situation, Action. There may not be any spread positions at all and, instead, you look at the direction of gazes, hand gestures, and the direction people are facing as in the Awake Dream method. Card meanings can be used in the reading.
If you want to use the TdM then I highly recommend the Open Reading technique; it takes a bit of getting used to but it is a powerful tarot major arcana only reading style.
The spreads above are all ones i’ve used quite often but i’m certain there are many more. And remember, you don’t need to use a specific spread – just use any spread you like. The type of spread that would work best with just the major arcana would be ones that have general positions rather than narrowly defined positions. The next time you want to do a tarot reading, try using only the major arcana and see what impact this has on the message you receive from the cards.
By reading tarot you can gain the agency needed to follow the path in life you want or need through self-reflection. This self-reflection in turn suggests the course of action most likely to help you. In this post, I will demonstrate how to use the tarot as a practical tool for self-reflection and initiating action when you need guidance.
As with all things I write in this blog take what works for you and leave the rest.
Although many people use tarot as a spiritual tool, it also serves as a very practical tool for self-reflection that really resonates. This means you can reflect deeply on all the aspects of a situation; the insight you gain points the way to what you need to do next.
For much more information on reading tarot for yourself effectively, see the posts ‘Reading Tarot For Yourself – 7 Things to Avoid‘ – which you can read here – and ‘How To Read Tarot Cards – 10 Steps For Great Readings‘ which is here.
Two Parts to Self-Reflection Using Tarot
The first part to using tarot as a form of regular everyday guidance is reading for yourself and spending the time to reflect on the message the cards are giving you. This seems pretty self-explanatory. However, the second part is to think about how you are going to move forwards by taking action.
Action is crucial because nothing will change if you do not act. You have free will to change what is likely to happen if you do nothing, the future is not set in stone.
Let’s take an example situation which can be stressful and lead to feelings of loss of agency and see how a tarot reading can help us think about how to respond to it.
An Example Tarot Reading
I have chosen a realistic example situation which is very current. During the Coronavirus Pandemic, many people are losing, or have lost, their jobs and even their entire careers. This is certainly true here in the UK. It is a difficult time to find new work as job opportunities are greatly reduced.
Being out of work has many disadvantages. As well as loss of income there are some serious health implications, particularly for mental health. Continual job application rejections can leave a person feeling demoralised and helpless.
So, I did the following reading with this issue in mind. The question I asked is ‘What can the cards tell me about how to deal with being out of work and not finding work?’
The above reading uses the ‘Awake Dream’ method I described in the post ‘How to do an Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which you can read here.
In short, this is a 3 card spread, the positions being Situation; What I Need To Know; Advice working from the bottom up.
Instead of using just 1 card in each position, I used 3 to create a picture – or painting – which tells a story. I then describe what each picture is saying. With this reading I did not use intuition alone, I also used card meanings to add depth to the reading.
The bottom row is Situation. Here the Knight of Cups is leaving the Ace of Pentacles behind – this Ace symbolises new opportunities for work and earning money – in search of this opportunity. Being in the desert with his empty cup he is seeking work and a sense of well being that comes from being able to work and earn. However, his path has been blocked by the Page of Swords who looks like he is actively ready to chop the Knight’s head off.
The Page in the Situation position represents potential employers rejecting you. The Page of Swords represents a new path in terms of ideas and mental clarity. It seems to suggest that you, as the Knight of Cups, need to think again about how you are approaching this – to think rather than to act on your need/strong feeling to find work.
It is worth bearing in mind that the tarot court cards can either literally represent people or, figuratively speaking, behaviours and attitudes to adopt. Here, the Knight of Cups represents the actual querent and the Page of Swords represents both the employer(s) and the attitude the querent needs to adopt moving forward.
What I Need To Know
In the middle row, the King of Cups is the largest figure and appears very isolated. The figures in both the 8 of Cups and the 7 of Swords are moving away from him. The King appears to represent the querent and their need to remain calm amidst the chaos surrounding him.
The retreating figure in the 8 of Cups can represent the feeling of isolation and abandonment that can come from continual application rejections. Note, the King appears to be looking directly at the Moon in the 8 of Cups. This can represent the feeling of anxiety that comes from an uncertain path ahead.
The figure in the 7 of Swords is also sneaking away from the King. He is slightly larger than the figure in the 8 of Cups so may be more important. The 7 of Swords figure could represent the diminishing of potential courses of action or the lack of ideas of how to proceed.
In essence, what you need to know is that you need to remain calm and watch your mental health in the face of receding options and feelings of isolation.
So, we have an understanding of the situation facing the querent and what they need to understand about their situation. What course of action does the cards suggest?
We have the 9 of Swords which shows the effects of extreme stress and anxiety keeping the figure in the bed awake at night. However, notice that the figure is facing away from the Hierophant and the Ace of Cups. These cards represent what the querent should be considering; ignoring them will result in the anxiety and fear shown.
The Hierophant suggests the need to seek help and guidance as to how to proceed and the Ace of Cups, with the water flowing out of the cup and filling up the lake, suggests the need to find a source of emotional well being.
If the querent was religious the obvious message here is to seek guidance through your faith and the church. More practically, perhaps the church could actually help you in some manner directly or point you in the direction of someone or somewhere that can provide you practical help. Seeking guidance through your faith can bring a feeling of well being; the Ace of Cups clearly symbolising the Holy Grail.
What if the querent is not religious? The Hierophant still clearly suggests a need for guidance and information on how to proceed.
The Hierophant card traditionally represents religious institution but it could represent an organisation that could help you or provide you with information on how to proceed. Here in the UK, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau can provide guidance and information. However, if your mental health is suffering, perhaps the Hierophant could suggest speaking to your doctor or seeking help from mental health services.
The Ace of Cups can still represent the need for emotional well being. If your mental health is suffering, it is important that you do something about it. This could mean focusing your attention on something that improves your self esteem, such as a hobby. Or remaining in contact with friends. Anything in fact that makes you feel a sense of self worth and makes you happy.
The overall advice is to seek help and look after your mental health to avoid unbearable stress and worry.
Gaining Control through tarot Self-Reflection
The above example reading demonstrates how, when faced with a situation, you can use the tarot for self-reflection on what is going on and figure out a course of action to help you gain some control over what is happening.
The example is based on a serious situation but this use of tarot can be applied to most situations you can think of.
Having done the reading, you then need to put the advice into action. I strongly recommend keeping a tarot journal so you can record your readings. Write an entry in the journal about your reflection and what you are going to do. Keep referring back to this entry to remind you to act.
Then act. In the above example, perhaps start a search online for local organisations or services that could help you in this situation. Here in the UK, your first port of call when it comes to mental health would be your GP (doctor) but there are charities you could also contact such as MIND, or the Samaritans if your mental health is in a serious state.
Tarot self-reflection can put you in the driving seat. You don’t have to be buffeted about by the currents of life. You can use tarot to help you steer the path you want or need.
So, the next time you are facing a situation and you feel the need for guidance, take your tarot deck, do some reflecting and take the wheel!
In this post I will show you an easy technique which will enable you to do a powerful intuitive tarot reading – the ‘Awake Dream’ method. Being able to read tarot intuitively is important for many types of tarot readings and will make it easier to start using tarot quickly and to help you work through everyday situations.
There is a common myth that in order to be able to read tarot you need to learn Qabalah (Jewish mysticism), astrology, numerology, elemental dignities, various card meanings etc. While knowledge of these things can certainly help you read the cards many people read tarot without ever doing any formal study. You can read more on this myth – and other tarot myths – in the post ‘9 Tarot Myths – False…Or True?‘ which you can read here.
You also don’t need to be psychic. But, intuitive tarot reading will strengthen those intuitive muscles generally. The more you use tarot intuitively, the better your intuition will become.
Which decks to use?
The technique I am going to describe was first presented by tarot author and deck creator Robert M. Place in his book ‘The Tarot, Magic, Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Neoplatonism.’ Place used one of his own decks to illustrate the method but the technique works well with the ever popular Rider Waite Smith Tarot (RWS). Other classic tarot decks that can be used include the Morgan Greer Tarot and the Aquarian Tarot.
Place’s own decks, The Alchemical Tarot and the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, will also work very well if you can get hold of them.
The main features that determine if the deck will be right for this technique are:
The deck should have human figures and/or animals which face mainly straight ahead, to the left, and to the right. The art work should not be too ‘busy’ or cluttered which will make interpreting the pictures less effortful.
This means some decks, including the esoteric Thoth Tarot and pip decks, are completely unsuitable. However, the Tarot de Marseille Major Arcana work very well. For more information on choosing a tarot deck and the different tarot systems see the post ‘Choosing and Buying a Beginner Tarot Deck‘ which you can read here.
The Awake Dream Tarot Reading
This type of reading uses 3 cards and does not use reversed tarot cards. When you lay out the 3 cards, put them close together and view all 3 cards as forming one picture, or painting, which tells a story. Essentially, the picture will form the sort of image you may get in a dream, hence ‘Awake Dream.’
Forget any card meanings you may know for now. But, you do need to have a clear question in mind to get any benefit from the reading. For more on the importance of a clear question see the post ‘How To Read Tarot Cards – 10 Steps For Great Readings‘ which you can read here.
What is important to look for are where people are looking or gesturing. For instance, is one person turning their back on another person so it looks like they are ignoring the second person? Then that’s what they are doing. If someone is gesturing with their hands or gazing, look to see where the gesture or gaze is focused on. Are two people looking at each other? This could signify a meeting.
Here is an example to illustrate the Awake Dream intuitive tarot reading. The question I asked was ‘What do I need to know about work?’
The 3 cards have formed one ‘picture’ and there is definitely a story here. All you really have to do is describe what is happening in the context of the question. There are several ways I interpreted the reading:
‘I have to put being comfortable at home behind me and focus on finding work that pays well.’ ‘I need to search thoroughly online for roles that will pay me enough so that I have no financial worries at home.’ ‘When it comes to work, I want to have a good balance between providing for the family and having a great home life – finding a work life balance.’
I didn’t draw on my knowledge of card meanings or suit elemental energies to do this reading – I just interpreted the cards with my question in mind. If you want, you can use the card meanings to help deepen the reading but do this after the intuitive part.
One example of using the meanings in this reading is:
‘To have a very satisfying home life I really need to be in full control of looking for good paying roles, so I need to put enjoying time at home behind me for now.’
3 cards are all you really need to gain insight into many situations. But, if you want a more detailed tarot reading, you can use this method in a tarot spread.
Using the Awake Dream with a spread
If you want to use this method of intuitive tarot reading with a (small) tarot spread, you can. Instead of using 1 card in each spread position, you use 3 cards in each position to create the picture.
Here is the same reading as above but I have made it a ‘3’ card spread with 3 cards in each spread position. This is essentially a 3 card ‘Situation, What do I need to know, Advice‘ spread with 3 cards in each position instead of 1. So now we have 9 cards!
The bottom row is the ‘Situation‘ position and is the same as my first Awake Dream reading. The second row is the ‘What do I need to know‘ position and the top row is ‘Advice.’
For ‘Situation’ I kept the interpretations I described above. For ‘What do I need to know‘ my intuitive reading told me that the soul destroying nature of looking for work plus dealing with the strictures and regulations in organisations is going to lead to disappointment.
My advice to myself for the top ‘Advice’ position? To find fulfilling and rewarding work, I need to network with other people and then really act vigorously on what results from that.
For another, more detailed, example of an Awake Dream intuitive reading, see the post ‘Tarot For Self-Reflection And Action‘ which you can find here.
More tips on the Awake Dream intuitive reading
With the ‘3 card as one picture’ method of the Awake Dream intuitive tarot reading, don’t simply start reading the cards from left to right. Instead look at the picture as a whole.
In the example I gave above, the top ‘Advice’ row looked as though the reading progressed from right to left with the gardener in the 3 of Wands looking to his left. Same for the middle row.
Sometimes, the direction someone is facing can indicate whether the past or the future is involved. If a figure is looking to the left that could indicate the past; if they are looking to the right that could mean looking forward to the future. Looking straight ahead may mean ‘right now.’ This may not apply for every reading.
If you have one person on one card smaller than a person on another card, the larger person may indicate greater importance. For instance, in the middle row of the reading above, the Emperor is much larger than the figure in the 5 of Cups. This told me that the structures and regulations in the organisations may be overbearing and too much to handle. At least in the context of this reading about work!
Sometimes the people may represent actual people, other times they may represent behaviours to adopt.
A good way of practising this style of reading is to do a daily ‘Awake Dream’ reading in the morning or evening instead of the normally recommended 1 card draw.
I do this myself and I usually ask the question ‘What do I need to know about today?’
Practice regularly, daily if possible. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Using the Tarot de Marseille (TdM)
Traditionally only the major arcana of the TdM are used in readings. The Awake Dream intuitive tarot reading style is also known as the Open Reading method when it comes to using the TdM. The Open Reading normally only uses 3 cards which is often more than you need.
Here is an example of a majors only TdM Awake Dream/Open Reading on the same ‘What do I need to know about work?’ question.
The same things apply: look which direction people are facing; look where the people are gazing or gesturing to; are the people looking straight ahead; etc.
Again, the 3 cards form one picture. Think of it as a painting with 3 panels which tells a story. Don’t read the cards individually and don’ t use meanings – treat the cards as if they do not have meanings. Just let the pictures on the cards describe themselves.
For this reading I interpreted the answer as:
‘Setting out to look for work I really need to weigh up and be critical about what is going to give me the best chance of improving my circumstances. Don’t necessarily take the first role that comes along.‘
That in a nutshell is how you can easily read the Tarot de Marseille!
Exercise your Intuition
It’s worth repeating what I wrote earlier, the more you practice this way of intuitively reading the tarot the easier it becomes and the more intuitive you will become.
You may already naturally be very intuitive but if you are not you can improve. Think of your intuition as a primitive, instinctive ‘muscle’ that needs regular exercise to make stronger. Our modern society has dulled our intuition to a great degree but we are all capable of developing this instinct further.
In this post I am going to discuss why you might want to use reversed tarot cards and the different ways you can more easily interpret the meanings using W.I.N.D.: Weakened; Inverse; Negative; and Delayed. I will illustrate these interpretations using two example cards.
I did not come up with the acronym W.I.N.D; I give full credit for this to tarot author and deck creator Benebell Wen. Benebell discussed tarot reversals using W.I.N.D in her comprehensive book ‘Holistic Tarot‘ which I fully recommend.
This book is the closest I have seen to effectively being a tarot ‘bible’ – it is comprehensive and in-depth in its discussion of all things tarot. If you are aspiring to take your tarot reading more seriously then you need Holistic Tarot on your book shelf. I am in no way associated with Benebell or the publisher, I just believe this book is that good!
I believe W.I.N.D is a great way to understand how to read reversed tarot cards but, outside of Holistic Tarot, I don’t really see it mentioned anywhere. So, I consider this post to be a ‘signal booster’ to help give this way of thinking about tarot reversals a wider audience.
What are Tarot reversals and why use them?
Before we continue, what are reversed tarot cards? When you draw the tarot cards at the start of the reading and turn them over some of the cards are upside down or ‘ill dignified’ as they are sometimes known. These are reversals. Some readers interpret these reversed cards differently from their upright meanings; others do not.
In the tarot reading community there are several views on tarot reversals. Some readers feel that tarot reversals greatly expand the range of interpretations possible in a reading. Other readers believe that tarot reversals are not necessary and reading the cards upright are all you need for a good reading. Also, some tarot decks are designed to be used reversed with reversible backs; others are not which makes reading reversed tarot cards difficult.
Personally, I sometimes use tarot reversals depending on the question and the deck I am using. Other times I don’t feel the need to use reversals.
When I don’t use reversals I still think whether a particular card should be interpreted as if it has a reversed meaning but this comes from experience. I do believe that using reversed tarot cards gives a greater nuance to readings resulting in a richer, more detailed message. Even if you end up not using reversed tarot cards I encourage you to try them out – see how you feel about them in practice.
It can be difficult to understand how to interpret reversed cards. Different tarot books will give you different approaches to reading tarot cards: some authors will tell you that a reversed card has the complete opposite meaning to it’s usual one; other writers talk about a cards’ meaning being weaker than usual. It’s confusing and unhelpful particularly when you are starting out in tarot.
That is why I like W.I.N.D. When you read tarot reversals you can think about this acronym and figure out which of these 4 interpretations is the closest fit.
To read more about how to get reversed cards when you shuffle the deck, please see the post ‘How to Shuffle A Tarot Deck‘ which you can read here.
Example Reversed card Meanings with W.I.N.D
I am going to give some example reversed meanings using two cards to illustrate how the usual meanings change if they are Weakened; Inverted; Negative; or Delayed.
The two cards I chose are the Sun and the 10 of Swords. I wanted one card each from the major and minor arcana and I wanted one of the most positive cards in the tarot deck, the Sun, and one of the most negative, the 10 of Swords.
When I use tarot reversals I still like to see the pictures clearly. So, instead of the cards being upside down, I like to have them at an angle like this:
Keeping the cards at an angle still allows me to make out the details in the pictures but i’m aware the cards are reversed.
Before getting into the reversed meanings I just want to quickly go through the upright meanings for the Sun and 10 of Swords:
When a card is weakened it still has it’s usual upright meanings but they are much lessened. Perhaps the situation is in it’s early stages and is building up to the full expression of the card’s meaning. Or maybe, the situation the card represents is in the past and the cards’ energy is getting less over time.
A weakened Sun means the feeling of joy or resilience is present but not very strong. An example here would be anticipating an upcoming wedding; the bride and groom are happy and excited but still building up to the main event when their happiness will be fully realised. Or if talking about resilience, perhaps you have been grinding away at work for awhile or training as an athlete for a long time. After a while your resilience begins to fade away as you become tired; you won’t be able to give 100% but you can still do the work.
Weakened 10 of Swords
10 of Swords reversed could represent a fear of upcoming disaster – you are thinking that the worst could happen but the moment has not arrived. A perfect example of this is the belief – if you are at school or university – that you are going to fail all your exams and your life will be over (tip: failing exams is not the be all and end all of your life). In terms of relationships, it can represent moving on from a bad break up with your partner. The end of a relationship can be devastating at the time but the feeling lessens over time as you move on with your life.
So, these examples give a flavour of what weakened energy looks like. What about inverted meanings?
Reversed Tarot Cards – i is for Inverted
When we say that the meanings are inverted we mean they are the complete opposite of the upright meanings. Literally flip the meanings 180 degrees.
The inverted Sun is a pretty terrible card. Instead of joy and happiness it represents anger, hate, misery. Instead of exuberance it could indicate lethargy and depression; weakness instead of resilience. For example, you have just learned that your partner is cheating on you and this naturally makes you angry – perfectly represented by the inverted Sun. Perhaps you have been accused of something you did not do resulting in misery. Maybe you have just lost your job so now you are pretty unhappy – again inverted Sun.
Inverted 10 of Swords
If inverting the Sun turns one of the most optimistic cards into one of the most negative, what about inverting the 10 of Swords? Ruination and disaster becomes great success and achievement, depression becomes elation. For example, taking an earlier example, you have just learned that not only have you passed all your exams but you got the best grades possible – you are over the moon! The weakened 10 of Swords becomes the inverted 10 of swords. Or perhaps you get back with the partner you broke up with and things work out well! Another great example would be winning the Noble Prize! The inverted 10 of Swords is a really great card.
Reversed Tarot Cards – N is for Negative
Talking about reversed cards as being negative can be a little tricky. It’s not the same as the inverted meanings. When a reversed card is said to be negative the meanings do not change but the usual upright meanings represent a negative impact on the situation.
A very stark negative Sun situation would be demonstrating great joy and happiness at a funeral! The energy of the card is completely inappropriate and would have a negative impact on everyone around. Another example might be where a very distressed friend comes to you for support but you are feeling so happy that you are unable to empathise and relate to your friend. A further example might be the manic phase of someone living with Bipolar Disorder where the person experiences a depressive/manic cycle. The manic phase can have a very negative affect as, for example, your mania may result in you enjoying shopping so much that you overspend on your credit card. That’s a drastic example but it typifies the negative Sun.
Negative 10 of Swords
A negative 10 of Swords suggests a potentially serious situation. It implies that the ruination or catastrophe you believe you have experienced will have a negative impact on your life. On a serious note, this card could indicate a risk of developing mental health issues resulting from an event such as losing your work or having your career destroyed – swords represents mental energy. Or perhaps believing you will struggle to pay the bills and survive after the same situation. A further example of the negative 10 of Swords here in the UK is that night clubs are unable to re-open because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This means many are likely to go out of business entirely.
Side Note: Doing readings on health issues
I am giving health related examples to demonstrate using W.I.N.D. to describe reversed cards because they are powerful and get the point across. However, I do not personally recommend using tarot to answer health related questions and I would urge you to think twice before you do. Health is far too serious a topic with major long lasting consequences and health issues should be dealt with by appropriate health professionals.
Even if you are not answering health related questions, be very, very, careful about bringing up health during a reading especially when reading for others but also for yourself. If you think health is an issue during a reading, make sure you signpost your querent to a health professional if they are concerned or see your doctor if reading for yourself.
Reversed Tarot Cards – D is for delayed
A delayed interpretation of a reversed card means the energy or situation the card represents has been blocked or requires something else to happen first.
As this post is being written in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, a good example of the delayed Sun would be the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, a major event celebrating sports and athletic achievement. The Games cannot occur until the pandemic is under control (although there is talk of holding a scaled down Games in 2021 – a weakened Sun situation). Returning to the theme of weddings, another example of the delayed Sun would be the postponement of weddings earlier in the year here in the UK due to the pandemic.
Delayed 10 of Swords
The coronavirus pandemic provides further examples to demonstrate the delayed 10 of Swords. In the UK, the furlough scheme has delayed mass unemployment – definitely a 10 of Swords situation – by paying businesses to keep their employees on the payroll. Delayed eviction of tenants through government action is another example of the delayed 10 of Swords – eviction would be a disastrous situation; it’s still a threat but it has been pushed back.
Learning Reversals with W.I.N.D
Hopefully you will find using tarot reversals with W.I.N.D as easy as I do but it will take practice. I recommend that when you do a reading, set the intention to use reversals and try to interpret them using one of the four elements of W.I.N.D. You will discover which element is most appropriate in the context of your question through practice and it will open up a wider vista of interpretations for you.
If you really want to go for it, try a single card daily draw each day, either in the morning or evening. This is a good way to learn about each card, both intuitively and through it’s meanings. If you draw the card reversed in the morning you can see how that reversed meaning manifests itself during the day. If you do the draw in the evening and the card is reversed you can try to see which element of W.I.N.D applied to the events of the day.
To get the most out of reading tarot cards requires more than just whipping out the deck whenever, wherever. In this post I cover 10 steps on how to read tarot cards that have helped me to get the clearest, most accurate tarot readings possible. I have developed these 10 steps after many years of my own experience reading tarot plus knowledge gained from other experienced readers. This post is mainly aimed at people new to tarot but if you’ve been reading tarot awhile you may find some interesting nuggets! In this post I refer to people seeking a tarot reading as querents – the traditional term.
Of course, as with all tarot content I post on this blog, take what works for you and leave the rest!
This post is very much a companion piece to my post ‘Reading Tarot for Yourself – 7 Things to Avoid’ which you can read, here. This post does cover some of the same ground as that one but I go into more of what I do to create a great reading experience whether reading tarot for myself or others. Taking both posts together should provide a good primer on how to read tarot cards.
1. Set a time and place for your tarot reading
To really be able to focus on the reading ideally I recommend allocating a time and special place to throw down the cards. A quiet place where you will not be disturbed is great; some people fortunate enough to have the space devote an entire room for just reading tarot. Other people who use tarot as part of their spiritual practice create altars and read tarot there. A particular time when you will not be disturbed is also important and you want to make sure the time is long enough to get what you need from the reading.
Personally, my own readings usually last 20 to 40 minutes or longer depending on the complexity of the issue but you will find your timescale. I tend to do my personal readings early in the morning or late in the evening in the privacy of my room – it’s quiet, I won’t be disturbed and I have the time I need to absorb the message provided by the cards.
What if you are travelling and what to do a quick reading on the train? Or what if you are at work and just want to do a reading during a break? Of course you can read tarot where ever and when ever you like! I’m not saying you can’t but it is not the best way to really reflect on the reading.
Before the current coronavirus pandemic, I would often attend tarot Meetups here in London where I would read cards for others in a really busy pub. I also took my cards into work where I would read for myself and other interested people during lunch and sometimes after work. Those readings were valuable but the distractions and time constraints meant I couldn’t really achieve the focus and time needed to really dig deep into the reading. I reserved my most important questions for when I could give the tarot my undivided attention.
2. Be sure you are emotionally ready for tarot
For a clear, unbiased reading I definitely recommend not reading the tarot for yourself while you are experiencing strong emotions. Reading tarot, particularly for yourself, when you are experiencing strong emotion can skew the message you receive from the cards. If you want to be objective as possible, wait until you are feeling calmer!
Also, if you are feeling tired and you want to do a reading on an important issue, it would be better to delay the reading until you are rested. If you are tired you will not be able to concentrate on the messages the cards provide.
So there you go, i’m writing in a tarot blog about when not to read the tarot!
For more information on how to be objective as possible when reading tarot see my ‘Reading tarot for Yourself’ post linked at the top.
It’s actually easier to read for other people if you are feeling emotional since you focus on the other person’s needs and not your own but it is still a good idea to begin the reading in a calm state. Meditation is a good means of feeling calmer and more focused on the reading ahead.
3. Have a clear question in mind
Have a clear question in mind when you are going to do your own tarot readings. This is important to provide a context for the cards you draw. It is O.K. to ask general questions like ‘What is the energy today?’ but you need to have something in mind. If you don’t have a question and just pull out the cards you won’t be able to relate them to any situation and the messages will be vague and unhelpful. Not very useful!
Sometimes when I read for other people they just ask for a general reading – that’s all they tell me! I explain to them that they will get more out of the reading if they can at least narrow the focus of their question down to a particular area of their life that they are concerned about at the moment. For instance, career or relationships. This isn’t about changing the querent’s question, it’s about providing a reading that will be more helpful to them by providing a better context for the cards.
If you are just starting out reading for other people don’t be afraid to gently help them narrow the focus of their questions. They will get more out of the reading and the reading will be much easier for you too!
For more on which kinds of tarot questions are most helpful – and which to avoid – see the post ‘What Tarot Questions Can You Ask?‘ which you can read here.
4. Make sure the reading space is private and comfortable
Privacy is really important when reading the tarot for someone else. I find that people really open up during a tarot reading divulging all sorts of personal issues and feelings they wouldn’t tell anyone else. In essence you almost become a counsellor. They confide in you and you have an obligation to respect that trust and make sure that confidentiality is maintained. A private, comfortable space will relax your querent and encourage them to open up.
As I mentioned previously in point 1, I used to do readings for others in pubs. Even then, though, I would ensure we had a table to ourselves and that we could not be overheard easily.
If you are reading for someone online or even over the phone, this privacy is still important. Make sure you will not be disturbed during the reading. Pets excepted! And young children in an emergency!
5. Ask Questions
Related to some of the earlier points, when you are reading the tarot for someone else, don’t be afraid to ask them questions! Some people seem to think that tarot readers are also psychic mind readers and don’t need to provide any information. Unfortunately, like most people, I am not a psychic mind reader and information is crucial for any productive and meaningful tarot reading.
As well as asking your querents to, at the very least, narrow the focus of their question to a particular area of their lives, also ask them questions during the reading. Practical, useful, tarot reading is almost more of a conversation and counselling session than an exercise in psychic ability.
Asking people questions during the tarot reading is not cheating, it will help you to understand the messages the cards are giving you. You should explain to the querent that you will be asking them questions during the reading and this is to help them get the most out of the reading.
6. Choose your Tarot deck
If you are fortunate enough to own more than one tarot deck you have the luxury of choosing the appropriate deck for the reading. Some people have particular decks they like to use for particular questions. Other readers have favourite decks for use at particular times of the year. For instance, some decks work well during the spring as they have that new growth energy; other, darker, decks may be more appropriate for shadow work or for readings during the autumn (Fall).
If you have several decks and you are reading for someone else perhaps give the querent the choice of what deck they would like you to use; it gives them a greater investment in the reading if you use a deck they like.
Personally, I do choose the deck I want to use based on the question. Certain decks have an atmosphere or vibe that resonates particulary well with certain questions. The Bianco Nero tarot pictured above is a deck I favour when I want a clear, no nonsense reading due to the starkness of the black and white imagery.
However, if you only have one or two decks then don’t worry! Your readings are not going to be any less effective because you don’t have a library of decks to choose from. If you do read for other people I personally recommend having a deck just for yourself and one for reading for others. A public deck is likely to get grubby and damaged and you may want to keep a pristine one for yourself. Also, if your favourite deck happens to be expensive and/or out of print you probably don’t want that deck to get ruined.
7. Shuffle and cut the deck
Shuffling the tarot deck is vitally important. If you believe that a deck can absorb the energies of the person using it then getting the querent to shuffle it will mean the deck absorbs their energy. This means the deck will be more attuned to the querent resulting in a more focused, accurate reading. Even if you don’t believe in this, a good shuffle will randomise the deck and prevent the previous reading from contaminating the current one.
See my post titled ‘How to shuffle a tarot deck‘, which you can find here, to discover my technique for shuffling a tarot deck regardless of the size or thickness of the cards – riffle shuffling is not required!
Some tarot readers don’t like the querent to shuffle the deck, preferring to do that that themselves. But the querent can still cut the deck.
Cutting the deck is very important. For me, this is really the point where the energies of the person – their psychic state – may have an influence on the reading. The traditional method is to use your left hand and cut the deck twice to create 3 piles before then recombining the piles into one deck. There are several reasons why the left hand is used – my favourite is that this is the hand closest to the heart and so allows the person’s emotions to affect the reading.
If this helps you get into the mental state necessary for the reading then follow this traditional method. You don’t have to of course – so long as you cut the deck using some other method. For me, I do cut the deck with my left hand; it’s part of the ritual involved in tarot reading useful in that it helps mentally prepare me for the reading ahead.
Of course, at the time of writing this post, we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are, by some chance, managing to read safely for other people face-to-face or online, how can you get the person you are reading for to safely cut the deck? Answer – use Pick a Pile:
Popular on YouTube tarot channels, the pick a pile reading enables the querent to effectively ‘cut the deck’ and have an influence on the reading. You simply give them the choice of which pile they want to use based on intuition and then do the reading only using the cards in that pile. Not as good as physically cutting the deck themselves but it’s a pretty good alternative.
8. Make note of everything that happens
This is a really, really important part of any tarot reading. What do I mean by noting everything that happens? Exactly that.
From the time you sit down and prepare yourself for the reading – through shuffling the cards; laying them out; and interpreting the reading – make a mental note of anything that occurs. This can be sounds during the reading like a creaking house; cars beeping outside; pigeons landing on your window sill. Any sensations you might experience like a twinge of pain that suddenly occurs; perhaps a sudden itch. You get the idea.
Particularly important, make a note of any cards that fall out of the deck while shuffling – commonly known as ‘Jumpers’. Even if these cards don’t actually appear in the reading they may have some relevance you should consider. If they do appear in the reading pay special attention to them because there is definitely something you need to know about the message that card has.
Why do I talk about noting what happens during a reading? As it happens, through personal experience both related and unrelated to tarot, I have come to believe in the concept of synchronicity.
Synchronicity is a term coined by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. He used it to describe observed events occurring at a particular time which appear to be meaningfully interdependent to the observer but which do not have any causal link. A classic example of this is where you are thinking about someone you haven’t seen for a long time and then that person calls you. This is meaningful to you but other than just having thought about that person there is nothing else to have caused these two events to happen together.
Synchronicity has been claimed to be nothing more than coincidence or confirmation bias where a person merely chooses the information that fits their beliefs.
With regard to tarot, I have gradually come to believe in the concept of synchronicity over many years. I’m aware of confirmation bias but, rationally speaking, I don’t believe that explains many instances where you draw the exact card that explains the situation. Or when the same card appears in the same position in the spread over and over again.
Quantum Physics May Explain Synchronicity
How to explain synchronicity? Well, quantum physics teaches us that reality doesn’t work the way we think it does. Quantum physics experiments have demonstrated that objects can instantly connect and influence each other over huge distances – with no causal link. Theoretical quantum mechanics hypothesises that the unconscious can influence the conscious world. I personally would like to believe that this is part of the answer as to why the tarot works – your psychic state can actually influence the reading!
Will we ever prove this is true? Who knows. But keep your eyes peeled and ears straining while doing a tarot reading.
9. Reading the Tarot cards
A very important aspect of knowing how to read tarot cards is using a tarot spread. Tarot spreads will help you get the most accurate and useful answers. A tarot spread consists of different positions, each one with a different meaning, in which you place the cards. You then read the card in the context of that position and then bring the whole reading together.
Ideally, you should know a selection of different spreads to cover a range of possible questions. There are many sources, both books and online, where you can find spreads. There are spreads for most of the popular questions, including general spreads. Even better, if you feel confident, you can create a custom spread tailored to exactly answer the question to be asked. It’s not difficult.
Here’s a brief example of creating your own spread to answer a specific question.
How To Create Your Own Tarot Spread
I want to keep things pretty light and cheerful so we’ll create a spread to answer a frivolous question.
The question is: What should I feed my cat this evening?
If you own a cat – as I do – you will know that this can be a challenging exercise because cats are connoisseurs when it comes to food!
The way to create a custom tarot spread is to break the question down into all the aspects you want to know. These aspects then become the positions in the spread.
So, for instance we might want to know the following:
What do I need to know about feeding my cat Tuna (Option A)? What do I need to know about feeding my cat Salmon (Option B)? What does my cat feel about Option A (based on previous experience)? What does my cat feel about Option B? (based on previous experience)? Overall advice
This creates a 5 card spread where you can essentially think about what your cat might like based on previous experience with some general advice to help guide you.
That was a fun little example but the general idea can be applied to any question: think about all the aspects of the question you feel are important and include a position for overall advice or action to take. These become the positions in your spread.
Try practising this: Carry a little notebook and a pen or pencil with you and when you have a question you want to ask the tarot, think about it, break it down into all the aspects you want to know and create your own spread.
Reading The Tarot Spread
The various methods of actually reading all the cards is a topic too huge for this post alone but here are some pointers.
Some tarot readers like to get an overview of the whole spread first noting how many major arcana cards are present and whether there are a lot of any particular suit present. This will help determine the energies involved in the reading.
For instance, many major arcana cards indicates that there are major forces at work in this question and you may not have much control over how the situation develops. If there are many pentacles or coins present this indicates that the energies mainly involve work, money, health or other material concerns.
Having done the overview, the readers will then pay attention to the individual cards before tying the whole reading together to create a story, or summary, of the reading.
Of course, other readers may do things the other way around; giving individual cards attention before moving to an overview of the reading.
Personally, I use the first approach – I look at the big picture and then narrow the focus down to the separate cards. Do whatever works best for you including ignoring all of this if that works for you!
When talking about how to read tarot cards, the ability to connect the cards in the spread is important to create a solid summary, or story, of the overall reading. Whatever you do, don’t just read each card in the spread in isolation and just leave the reading there – the reading will be disjointed and confusing! Developing your intuition in tarot reading is crucial here.
For more on developing your tarot intuition and an easy method to read tarot intuitively, see the posts ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which can be found here and ‘Starting With Tarot: A Guide For The Beginner‘ here.
10. Finish the reading
Once you have finished the reading I strongly recommend making a note of the reading in a journal so you can reference the reading again in the future; particularly valuable if the reading was very important.
If you’re like me, you tend to forget readings over time so a tarot journal is actually really valuable. See my post ‘Reading Tarot For Yourself – 7 Things To Avoid‘, which you can read here, for more on tarot journaling.
If you are reading for someone else online or over the phone make sure they are happy with the reading and if the reading has answered their question. I have found that you need to ask this as some people will remain quiet but still aren’t sure about certain aspects of the reading. By asking them you give them the opportunity to speak up.
If you are reading for someone else it is important to maintain boundaries, especially if you are reading tarot professionally. You are not beholden to your querent, you are providing them a service. And the service ends when the particular reading does!
I hope this post on how to read tarot cards is helpful, it’s certainly helped me achieve focused, accurate tarot readings over the years.
Reading tarot for yourself is very rewarding. It is a method of self reflection and considering potential decisions when thinking about what to do. However, personal tarot reading is not easy. In this post I am going to talk about 7 things I have personally experienced that make reading tarot for yourself difficult and how to respond to them. It is because of these issues that some people say you shouldn’t read tarot for yourself; you can read more on that in my post on tarot myths, here.
For more on how to read tarot cards, including for others, please read my post ‘How to Read Tarot Cards – 10 Steps for Great Readings‘ which you can find here.
As with all things I write, take what works for you and leave the rest.
1. Not Having a clear question
Some people simply lay out the cards without a question in mind to get a general idea of the energies present. I personally find this too vague. Without a clear question in mind, you cannot give the cards a proper context and your reading will also be vague and difficult to interpret. Which is just a waste of time.
Arguably, the most important thing to do before you ever get out your tarot deck is have a very clear question in mind. Figure out what it is you want to know. If possible avoid Yes/No questions but rather ask open ended questions such as ‘What do I need to know about…’ or ‘How can I…’
Once you do this it is much easier, in my experience, to interpret the cards and actually gain some practical benefit from the reading. I personally advise against Yes/No questions because these type of questions remove any agency you may have. If you believe that the answer is yes or no then why would you take action if you believe the answer is preordained? I do not believe the future is set in stone so I personally avoid asking yes or no questions for myself.
2. not using the most appropriate tarot spread
Ideally, to really answer the question you have, you should create a custom spread for that question. However, I am aware that some people are not comfortable or confident doing that. In that case I do believe that you should take care to find the most appropriate tarot spread for your question. This will give you the clearest answer. Easy, right?
Maybe not. The Celtic Cross seems to have burned itself into the tarot reading consciousness as the only tarot spread available. This 10 card spread (11 if you use a significator) is good for giving an overview of the situation but that’s about it; it’s a general spread so it’s not very specific. Also, if you are a tarot newbie, then a 10 card spread can be overwhelming.
I would recommend a 3 card spread for most situations; 5 cards at the most. The 3 card spread is very flexible. You should not be afraid to assign any meaning you want to the 3 positions. Here are just some examples:
Position 1: Past Position 2: Present Position 3: Future
Position 1: Situation Position 2: Challenge Position 3: Answer
Position 1: Problem Position 2: Advice Position 3: Action
Position 1: Option 1 Position 2: Option 2 Position 3: Advice on option to choose.
And so on. You get the idea.
There are many books on tarot spreads. One of the very best I have come across is ‘Tarot Spreads: Layouts and Techniques to Empower Your Readings‘ by Barbara Moore. This book not only contains loads of different spreads for any conceivable situation but also advice on how to modify existing spreads and on how to create your own spreads. This book is essential reading.
This advice on choosing the best spread really applies only to readings using a Rider Waite Smith based deck. For people using the Tarot de Marseille (TdM) I fully recommend ‘The Marseille Tarot Revealed‘ by Yoav Ben-Dov. This book will show you how to get the most out of your readings using the TdM.
3. Bias due to strong emotions
So, when should you not read tarot for yourself? When you are experiencing strong emotions, particularly the more negative emotions: anger, jealousy, hate. However, if you are feeling strong positive emotions such as joy then I also suggest you leave the tarot reading until you are calmer.
When you experience strong emotions these will definitely bias your tarot readings. For instance, if you believe your boyfriend or girlfriend are cheating on you then you may be subconsciously predisposed to read the worst outcome in your reading. Leave the tarot deck alone.
Reducing The Chance Of Bias
Two things you can try to do if you really want the tarot to give you some genuine clarity.
Firstly, try some mediation before you do the reading to calm yourself. Personally, I find meditation challenging but a simple technique I have found works is, first, to find a quiet space. Then, take a deep breath in to the count of 4, then breath out to the count of 4. After that, simply focus on your breathing and nothing else. If something enters your mind and distracts you repeat the breathing in and out to the count of 4 and return to focus on your breathing.
After a few minutes I usually find myself calmer and my mind clearer.
Secondly, and this is a good technique for self tarot reading at all times, is to imagine you are reading for someone else. If you have a pet imagine you are reading for them. Or imagine you are doing the reading for a friend. It may seem silly but it does work because it helps you remain objective.
However, in the end, if you are still experiencing those strong emotions then it’s a good idea to just not do the reading – it won’t be any benefit to you at the very least and may lead you astray at the worst.
4. Not being able to focus due to distractions
To get the most benefit from your tarot readings you really do need to reflect on the reading and focus on what the cards are saying. Tarot cards, particularly the fully illustrated cards of the Rider Waite Smith and similar decks, are a symbolic language. To understand the language you have to concentrate on what is being said.
This is not easy if you are trying to do the reading in an environment full of distractions. Maybe you are a busy parent with young children running around. Or perhaps you live in a shared house and it is difficult to have complete peace.
What I do to ensure I can focus on my own readings is find a quiet time – either in the evening or early in the morning – where disturbances are minimised. If you live in a busy household, try to find a quiet spot, dedicate it to tarot readings, and let people know you do not want to be disturbed. It is well worth it to make this effort.
5. Asking the same question again and again
Sometimes you do a reading and you may not be sure what the cards are saying. Or, you want confirmation of what the first reading is saying – just to be sure. Perhaps you were not happy with what the cards had to say the first time. So you do another tarot reading on the same question. And then maybe another. Repeat.
This doesn’t work. The tarot is effectively a mirror reflecting your psychological state and situation back at you. All you do if you repeat the same question again and again is get the same answer back from the cards. The cards may be different or they may be the same but you will interpret the reading in a similar way. What is worse, with repeated readings, you may even end up confusing yourself with slightly different reflections. Like this guy here:
Whether or not you understand the reading the first time, even if you don’t like what the cards have to say, do not repeat the reading. Instead you have to try to understand and reflect on that first reading and understand the message it is giving you. The tarot never lies but it does require time to interpret.
Of course, after a suitable period of time you may want to repeat the reading on that specific question. Maybe the situation has changed or other factors have become important. Then absolutely do another reading. I personally try to leave at least 3 weeks to a month before I repeat questions. This is plenty of time for things to have evolved and then it is worth doing another reading.
Talking of reflecting on readings leads us to the next problem with reading tarot for ourselves.
6. not making a note of the readings
As I mentioned in the last point, it can sometimes take time to reflect on readings. This is especially true if the reading didn’t really make sense. I have lost count of the number of times where I forgot to make a note of the cards in the reading so that I could reflect – after a few days I have just completely forgotten what cards were drawn and I have to repeat the reading again.
The answer to this is simple and very worthwhile. Make a note of your tarot reading in a dedicated tarot journal so that you can look back over the reading in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It doesn’t really matter what type of journal you keep; it could be a good old paper journal or an online journal. Maybe even just take a picture of the spread with your phone.
Personally, I prefer a nice hard copy paper journal. I like the tactile feel of the pages and I can absorb information better reading from a page then I can from a screen. The benefit of making a written note of the reading over just taking a picture is that you can make detailed notes of the what the cards were saying to you; any questions or issues you had; things you want to look out for as time passes.
In general I would recommend a tarot journal for any tarot reader, especially if you are new to tarot and you are learning the cards. A journal is great for noting down your interpretations of a card, maybe after a daily single card draw. This helps you understand what the card means for you and this is invaluable for intuitive tarot reading. And talking of intuitive readings…
7. sticking to the card meanings
This is one of the hardest problems to overcome when reading tarot for yourself or for other people. This is particularly true if you are learning the tarot and you are relying on card meanings. The true power of tarot is being able to use your intuition when reading the cards, even if this means you move completely away from what the cards actually mean.
Practice is the only answer but how do you do it? While the subject of reading tarot intuitively is something I want to talk about in another post there are some things you can try to do fairly easily.
Intuitive Tarot Reading Tips
After making sure you have a clear question in mind – see point 1 above – you probably want to choose a small spread if you are new to tarot. No more than 3 cards say. Layout the cards and then completely ignore what the actual card meanings are. Don’t look up card meanings or just pretend the card is a painting and put the meaning out of your mind.
Then simply describe the card literally. Take your time and look at the picture and just describe the picture to yourself and think about it in the context of your question and the position in the spread. Do the same with the other cards. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy – it’s not but this is how you can start to learn to read intuitively.
Another good method of practising reading tarot intuitively is to get your tarot deck and start to make a story with the cards. Turn over the top card and describe the card. Then turn over the next card, describe it, and add it to the story. Keep going. This way you are not thinking about the card meanings but describing the cards in the context of the story you are creating. For instance, with the Fool, Magician and High Priestess I might create the following story just from the pictures alone:
‘I’m taking a walk along the cliff path with my dog and i’m carefree and not looking where i’m going. I fall off the cliff and land in a nice garden where a wizard points up to the cliff and points at me on the ground and says “I can help you get back to the top with magic.” His sister, the High Priestess, is also in the garden near the beach and says “look be quiet, I can’t hear myself think and i’m trying to hear the sea and it’s night time now”‘
Just an example to give you an idea of what i’m talking about.
Of course, if you feel you need to know the card meanings then go ahead but try to read the card intuitively first, then look up the meaning.
For much more on reading tarot intuitively, including an easy method for intuitive reading, see the post ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading‘ which can be found here.
Anyway, I hope some of this has been helpful for you and that you find it useful in your personal tarot readings. The tips i’ve talked about in the points above have definitely helped me so give them a try for yourself.