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Reading the Cards
Most people buy tarot decks for the express purpose of doing readings, also known as fortunetelling or divination. Reading the cards isn’t difficult. This section will explain how to do a reading step by step. Remember that your readings will become smoother with practice. There is a process to reading, which can be explained herebut there is also an art to it, which will only come as you become more confident of the basic meanings and as you develop your own intuitive interpretations of the cards. As you discover your favorite spreads and interpretive nuances, such as how certain cards relate to each other, your own personal style will emerge. You may find that you have a knack for certain types of readings but find others more challenging. As you experiment with asking different types of questions, you will figure out what kind of wording brings you the best results.
Doing a tarot reading can be as complex and ritualistic as you like. You can include special cloths to lay the cards on, crystals, incense, candles, music, prayers, visualizations, or whatever else you like. All of these can add to the enjoyment of the experience and, depending on your beliefs and practices, can enhance your reading’s accuracy and usefulness. Here, though, we are going to focus on the most basic elements of a reading.
The first thing to do is determine what question you want answered. Think it over and make it as clear and specific in your mind as you can. The question can be as simple as “What do I need to know about ______?” or it can be more complex, as long as it is clear in your mind. If it helps (and it usually does), write it down.
After you know what you want to ask, you need to pick a spread you want to use. A spread, also called a layout, is how you intend to lay out the cards. A very common spread is this three-card layout:
Each position is assigned a particular meaning. In this case, card one represents the past, card two represents the present, and card three represents the future.
As you select a spread, keep in mind your question. Look at the position meanings and see if they make sense in terms of your question. As you consider different spreads, you may be inspired to reword your question.
I should note here that I’ve seen people read without spreads. They just lay down the cards and stop when they feel like it and then they read the cards. This has always impressed me. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I have not mastered this yet. However, this deck is suited for such free-flow-ing readings and I’ve been enjoying experimenting with this reading style. Lay down some cards and let a story unfold. But if you prefer a little structure, in the next chapter you’ll find a collection of spreads covering a variety of situations.
The question is settled, the spread selectednow it’s time to take your future in your hands and shuffle the cards. Shuffle them however you like. You can take some of the cards and turn them around so that reversed cards are incorporated into your deck. However, it has been my experience that cards somehow get reversed whether I do that or not. Unlike playing cards, tarot card images have a top and a bottom. Reversed cards are cards that are upside down in relation to the other cards. When you are done, you can cut the deck or not. You can deal off the top or fan the cards out and pick each card randomly. While there is no agreement in the tarot community about what is the best method, there is some consensus that once you find your favorite way, do it the same every time. The sense of ritual or habit does have a way of focusing the mind and preparing it for what follows.
After the cards are shuffled, lay them out according to the spread you’ve selected. Because a reading is about interpreting the cards, their positions, and their relationship to each other, lay the cards face up so you can see all of them.
Now comes the interpretation of the spread; this is the heart of any reading. An overview of the cards, ignoring their positions, gives the first bits of information.
First, scan for Major Arcana cards and for the suits. A predominance of any of these indicates the focus of the reading. Major Arcana indicate that the reading will have particular significance. Likewise, cups would indicate that emotions are playing an important role, swords show the importance of thinking or a challenging situation, wands point to energy and drive, and pentacles suggest the physical realm. For example, if a reading about changing your career has many Major Arcana cards, you can be sure there are significant issues involved. If a reading about a relationship has no cups but several swords, keep your eyes open for trouble.
The numbers on the cards give the next layer of data. Aces, twos, and threes indicate the beginning of a cycle; fours, fives, and sixes show the middle; sevens, eights, and nines suggest that the cycle is winding down; and tens represent the end of a cycle. For example, say you are reading about selling your house. You would expect different cards to show up to indicate whether you were just getting ready to put it on the market, if showings were being booked and open houses arranged, or if bids were coming in or negotiations going on.
Check for court cards. They represent people involved in the events at hand or a specific aspect of your personality that is influencing the situation. Several court cards in a reading about a job you’ve applied for could indicate many other candidates or lots of people involved in the decision-making process.
Look for reversed cards. Reversed cards have their own meanings, but if a reading has a predominance of reversed cards, that can have significance. Generally, it indicates that a situation is blocked or delayed, or that nothing is what it seems.
Once you have this preliminary foundation of information, interpret the individual cards in terms of their position in the spread. The card meanings in this book are written as if referring to the present moment, so you will have to adjust them if they are in, for example, the past position or in an outcome position or in relation to you or someone else. For example, the Three of Wands can mean: “Because you’ve done your work well, you can expect to see signs of success.” If this card shows up in the past position, it would mean that you’ve done your work well, and that you are, or soon will be, enjoying success.
Now you will look at the cards in relation to each other, keeping in mind the meanings of their positions. Your personal or intuitive interpretations will come into play here, as well as the images themselves. Notice colors, the directions that people are facing, pillars that create blocks or boundaries, etc. All the cards in this book include questions to stimulate your intuition, which should come in handy at this point.
You are ready now to interpret your reading as a whole. Incorporating all the information you’ve gathered, use the positions of the spread as an outline to frame your answer.
More than likely, your answer will be about something in the future. One thing to keep in mind about the future is that it can change. Your readings will show the probable end result if all things remain as they are. Remember that something outside your control can change the way a situation plays out. Likewise, actions you take can alter the course of events for better or worsea good thing to keep in mind if you are less than pleased with the current outcome.