Using Tarot Card Pairs In Readings

Reading Tarot Card Pairs
Influence of the Angels Tarot copyright US Games Systems

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?’:

Tarot Card Pair indicating global disease epidemic
Grimaud Tarot de Marseille copyright B.P. Grimaud

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.

Tarot Card Pair indicating birth
The Druidcraft Tarot copyright Eddison Books Ltd

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:

Tarot Card Pair indicating marriage
Vintage Rider Tarot copyright US Games Systems

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:

  1. A good sense of intuition and
  2. 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.

Some practice!

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!