The following are a series of steps for interpreting
those Tarot cards that have scenes or pictures. Use as many steps as you
want and in any order, although I recommend beginning with the first
By emphasizing particular steps you create your own
Draw at least one card a day (many people prefer
using a basic three-card spread), and go through several of the
steps below, writing down your insights in a notebook. The next day
make notes about what actually happened. For important dates (when
you began a job, moved, or met a significant other) continue adding
comments as your insights develop over the years. In three years,
drawing only one card per day, each card will have appeared 10 to 20
times. If you balance personal notes with observations of readings
for others you will one day have your own book on the Tarot.
Say the name of the card aloud.
What number is on the card? What does this number
signify (preferably in one to three words)? [Example: "2s are about
CHOICES and DECISIONS."]
[As a Tarot student, lay out all the cards
grouped by number. Make lists from books of what each number
means and select one to three words that best apply to all cards
of that number. Same with the Court Cards: "Knights are about
QUESTS and USING THE SKILLS of their suit" etc.]
What suit is the card? Name several
characteristics of the suit. ["Cups are about FEELINGS and
Put item two and three together in a short
sentence or a question. ["What choices are you making based on
SIMPLY DESCRIBE THE CARD AS IF THE OTHER PERSON
COULD NOT SEE IT. ["Two people hold out cups to each other. The one
on the right reaches forward with his right hand... above them
Repeat your description in the first person, present
tense: ["I am holding out a cup to another. I reach forward with my
If reading for another you can ask them to do
this, or turn your descriptions into questions. ["Who are you
reaching out to?"]
Describe what SEEM TO BE the emotions and
feelings of the figures on the card and the mood and atmosphere of
the environment. Repeat this description in the first person,
Make up a spontaneous story or fairy tale about
what is happening in the card. Begin "Once upon a time..." or "What
if..." Repeat in the first person, present tense, etc.
Notice any impressions, ideas, or thoughts that
come up while doing the above. Ask your client (or yourself) how
these are relevant, then LET THEM GO. Don't become emotionally
attached to any of your ideas or opinions as being "right." These
may be psychic insights, metaphors for a deeper meaning, or your own
stuff (experience will make the distinction clearer). If reading for
another DON'T MAKE JUDGMENTS about whether something is good or bad
(see Step 15).
Do any expressions, sayings or clich? come to
mind as you look at the image on the card? [I.e., "out in the cold"
for the Five of Pentacles. "Stabbed in the back" or "pinned down"
for the Ten of Swords.] Proverbs can be especially insightful. How
do these relate to the situation?
What are traditional (book) interpretations of
the card? Eventually you want to be able to draw on an great "field"
of possibilities. Subsequent cards and the client's situation will
start emphasizing particular segments of that field, thus narrowing
down the possibilities ["No, my father is not a water-sign like the
King of Cups and has never been particularly sympathetic. He's an
accountant. However, it does describe my boss at work, so it might
relate to that Three of Pentacles which is obviously my job."]
Imagine the entire range of card meanings as
stretching from most problematic to most beneficial. Give an example
from each extreme. See this range of meanings as on a dial or
continuum. Have your client (or yourself) move their hand along the
continuum until finding where they are NOW. Next determine where
they WANT TO BE along the continuum. Is there another card in the
spread that supports that?
[Note: it is preferable to see cards as
"problematic" rather than "bad," and "beneficial" or "helpful"
rather than "good."].
If applicable, is this card MODIFIED
(strengthened, opposed, etc.) by any other cards in the spread or by
being REVERSED? Note repetitions of suit, number, color, shape,
figures, detail, theme, etc. among all the cards.
Imagine that you are one of the figures on the
card by physically acting out the scene depicted on the card. Take
your time and really feel yourself in the situation. What are you
doing? How does it feel? What do you want or need? Why are you
there? Examine, handle and use objects found in the card. [If the
Ten of Swords, notice if it feels good to lie on your stomach. Can
you lift your head? Do you even want to? What can you see? Are you
fighting the situation or giving in to it? How do the swords feel?
Close your eyes. Imagine the card becoming
life-sized. Enter into the card. Look around you. What do you see?
Enter one of the figures ("archetypes"). Answer questions such as
those in Step 13. Speak as the figure: what do you have to say to
the person receiving the reading? Is there any advice you can give?
Step out of the card, see it shrink down. Breathe yourself back into
your own body
[As a reader, you can guide your client
through this process. Note: the advice of the "archetype" is NOT
definitive, but simply its particular perspective. A client may
need to hear and evaluate several different perspectives
represented by different cards. For example, let each figure in
the FIVE of WANDS or the FIVE OF SWORDS state what they want
Have the client comment on any beliefs,
attitudes, or judgments they think are suggested by the card. Are
these appropriate and helpful? If not, how can they be modified or
changed? A reader should NEVER make judgments about the client or
the situation -- what seems like lying to one person may be
considered being smart and clever to another. However you may need
to acknowledge an apparent situation: ["These cards seem to describe
a potentially abusive relationship to me, but you seem to get
something important from it. Where are you in this card? What is
this figure doing? . . . what does he or she want?"]
What does the card (or the figures on the card)
have to teach you? If in doubt, ask these figures. Speak the first
response that comes to mind. Again, a person should only do this for
themselves. As the reader you should guide the client/querant
through this process.
How do all of the above relate to your life right
now? [This step may come at any point and be repeated often.]
What are the qualities that you (the querant) see
in the card that YOU would most like to develop in YOURSELF? (Note:
every card contains something of value.) Name those qualities. Turn
them into a statement affirming that you already have and are using
those qualities in your life right now. The querant should always do
this, rather than the reader imposing his or her own opinions on the
The cards respond to your intentions and so will work
whether you use reversed cards or not. For years I did not read
upside-down cards, but turned them all upright, and was perfectly happy
doing so. For short readings at fairs I still often read the cards
upright. However, I have come to find reversals very significant, only
not according to the fixed interpretations in books, which are often
negative and judgmental. I think beginners can benefit by using only
upright cards until they know and understand the fundamental meanings
and subtle nuances of the cards.
I think of reversed cards as "tagged," showing me
that they are not operating as usual. It is as if they were saying, "pay
attention here -- I'm not doing the obvious thing." First I turn the
card upright and suggest some basic interpretations, or I have the
client simply describe the card. Then I try out several of the following
modifications until something begins to make sense -- that "ah-ha"
The energy normally described by the card may be
blocked, repressed, denied, or resisted. This could be entirely
appropriate and healthy, or not, which the person themselves may be
able to tell you.
There could be a tendency to project such denied
material onto others.
There might be hesitation, or an external delay
(especially when many cards are reversed indicating that an
impending change could take longer than expected).
The energy is unconscious, inner or secret rather
than conscious, overt or outer. (Especially with a majority of
The person could be overturning, getting out from
under, breaking free of, or turning away from the condition pictured
in the upright position.
It could show a bumpy road. Energy is not flowing
as smoothly or automatically as it would otherwise. This may require
a conscious commitment, and an extra, determined effort to get
whatever the card represents upright -- if that is what is desired.
There could be a trickster aspect to the card.
Perhaps a sense of humor is required, or not taking the situation
There could be a turn around or upset in the
circumstances described, that may ultimately be for one's own good
While adding "no" or "not" before the standard
upright interpretation can occasionally be helpful, take care that
this does not lead to a judgmental, overly deterministic, or
negative approach. Practice this with a light touch.
Several, or all, of the above options may be
functioning in any one reversed card. We are not talking about simple
solutions here. Look to see if a particular point of view is supported
by other cards. For instance, the Hanged Man could support the idea of
delay. Ask the client what seems most likely.
Make a list of other reversed card concepts until you
find ones that make the most sense. Look for what will add the greatest
depth and insight to your readings.
1. This classical three-cards-spread
can briefly point out the development of issues.
The present situation, also
representing the questioner.
Circumstances in the past that led to
the present situation.
2. The cross can help to find your
direction in crises or complex situations.
This is what it is all about, the
core of the issue.
This is not important now, you should
not do this.
This is very important now, this you
It will lead to this.
3. The star is a good spread if you
wish to receive more clarity and insight in a problem.
The nature of the problem.
What influences the matter in a
What influences the matter in a
4. The magical spread of the gypsie
can be used to get an overview of the present situation
of a person.
This is the person in the present
situation and mood.
This is the impression you make in
the outside world.
This is what you hide behind that
appearance (consciously or unconsciously).
This is what you want to do, your
This is how you feel and what you
What comes afterwards, the future.
This is what that will mean to you.
5. The Celtic cross is the most
famous spread. You can use it in most situations. I give
you an extensive version of the Celtic cross.
First lay out these eleven cards.
This represents what it is really
about, what you feel deep inside.
This covers the heart or intensifies
This crosses your path.
The past (in relation to the
That which supports you or you lean
How you think about the issue.
What you will get.
Personal problem, your point of view
The point of view of those around
Your hopes and fears.
Outcome, the future
After that turn over the pile with
the left cards, take of the first five cards and lay
them out from the right to the left.
Now these five cards tell - from the
right to the left - the story of how things will develop
6. The fifteen-cards-spread is very
helpful in pointing out trends, psychological and karmic
influences and future developments. Try it! This spread
makes more use of the relationships of the cards to one
another, so a card may be well- or ill-dignified
depending on the influence of the card to the left or
right of it.
Represents the questioner or the
Circumstances surrounding the
Personality of the questioner.
6- 10 - 14. Indicate the
psychological basis of the issue; they can assist in
deciding what may be necessary.
7- 11 - 15. Show forces behind one's
control, destiny or karma.
13 - 9 - 5. And 4 - 8 - 12. Show
possibilities for the future. If the left and right
upper cards complement each other, you can look at them
as one development. If the left and right upper cards
are in conflict, then the right upper cards show the
future if the questioner does not change his present
attitude, and the left upper cards point out a possible
future if the person does change his direction.