Reading Tarot Cards


Reading Tarot Cards

Always remember that no card in a spread stands all alone - its meaning depends on its position in relation to the other cards, and in the context in which you ask After first looking at all the cards in your spread you should look at them again in relation to the sequence they show.

Don't forget that the explanations here are my own interpretation. These are things that I figured out for myself over the years. I've tried to keep them simple so as not to write a novel about each one of them. Apart from the fact that the archetypes are somewhat fixed, everybody will tend to have his own ways of seeing a card, anyway - the longer it lasts, the odder you'll get.. ;)

If you're a beginner, you'll have your own deck, check out your own books at the library desks, get your own books, make up your own mind, and the more you'll read and hear, the more you will begin to distill your own views. Just take care to stay objective - it never helps to read just what you like.

Before you start reading for others, read for yourself - for as long as your own inside is in chaos, you'll hardly be able to help others detecting their inner feelings. Never forget some people take it extremely serious - you might cause some real damage when you speculate - or even babble around like "Hmmm, the Tower... leave your wife, quit your job, burn your house..."

The negative aspect

One of the most difficult things in reading is to find out whether a card is more positive or negative. The cheapest (and unfortunately most common) way to do this to take reversed cards and simply put their meaning into the opposite while looking good hovering over your adjustable height desks. The Crowley deck should not be laid out with reversed cards, and even if it could be, the whole thing should not be treated like that.

As previously noted, a card has to be viewed in its own unique context. Even more important is the situation of the one who's asking. In most cases, the 'negative' side of a card is almost the same as its 'positive' - it always depends on the situation. Everything is relative, everything has two sides, and in the end the size of the dose makes the poison effective. One sleeping pill is fine, a hundred sleeping pills will kill you. The Sun's flaming rays can be a wonderful thing, but it can also burn you seriously. The Fool's instinctive vehemence can make your best idea ever come true - but it also might lead you into serious trouble.

There's no good recipe to find out if a card is more good or more bad. There is no guarantee of a 'good' or a 'bad' at all.
Watch the card. Reflect on its 'general' meaning. Look deep into yourself and you will soon know.

The Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect describes the phenomen that people will see personal meanings in mere commonplace statements and believe them to be perfectly accurate for them, while in fact they would apply to almost everyone. The psychologist Bertram R. Forer made a now famous test in 1948 when he conducted a 'personality test' for his students and then gave each of them a personality analysis that each student considered most accurate. It turned out that he had given everybody the same analysis, plastered together from various newspaper horoscopes.

Responsible for this phenomen is the mere fact that almost everybody wants to be recognized, respected and validated, and of course, to appear likeable. Everyone thinks of himself as something special and seeks almost every hint of validation to this. The vagueness of given statements in combination with the socalled 'confirmation bias' usually results in a most 'accurate' or better said 'welcomed' definition.

This is the phenomen on which general horoscopes and a phalanx of 'psychics' heavily rely on, and the one or other Tarot reader might make use of it, as well.

It doesn't even have to be an intentional deceit - it is just too easy to fall into the 'Barnum trap' yourself. Think of the rather vague and versatile meaning of any given card, that could be both negative and positive, each of them a little Phineas Taylor B. proclaiming "We have something for everybody." Of course you don't poke around in the negative unless you have a real reason to do so. You look at the Death, the Tower, the Seven of Cups and the Ten of Swords and you still torment your brains in order to get something together like ".. but there is light, too...".

Never p... off a good client, right? Never say anything bad. Add to this that the Tarot reader himself is not completely free of the mechanisms that make the gullible fall for the Barnum Effect. We, too, want to be recognized, respected and validated and, of course, to appear likeable. It's a frustrating experience to see your querents storm off because they think you have 'misjudged' them. It's so much nicer to have your querents think that you just gave them an absolute 'accurate' (i.e. flattering or at least uplifting) Tarot reading.

This is a rough obstacle especially for beginning readers who have not yet aquired the security to actually stand up to their own readings, and have not completely overcome the all-too-human habit of seeing just what they want to see, or what appears to be convenient to see.
And now just image some lady in her late forties, dressed in shrill and colorful garments that were meant for a girl of 18, a ton of make-up to hide the wrinkles caused by constant frowning, with an unbearable air of self-righteousness and vanity, who had just managed to scare off her husband by her constant nagging and overboarding hysteria - good luck to you trying to read the Seven of Cups to her..

Cold Reading

This is a somewhat sensitive subject when Cold Reading is considered a very bad, bad NO-NO and of course every Tarot reader with some pride will vehemently deny to ever use such a ghastly thing.

But as a matter of fact - you do. You would have to be deaf and blind or do email readings only in order to avoid it.

Cold Reading is in essence the 'technique' of reading a person, drawing conclusions from the appearance, from body language and facial expression, from gestures, mannerisms and speech and any little changes therein.
If you think you do not 'use' such a technique and never let it influence your reading think twice.

It is a difference if you read for someone who sits there with an air of confidence and slight curiosity or for someone who stares at the cards like a scared rabbit. You will inevitably change your stand according to whether your querent gasps at a card, or looks at it with utter confusion or suddenly gets shining eyes.

Just figure you have in front of you the High Priestess, the Two of Disks and the Six of Swords. Now wouldn't you think it makes a difference whether the querent is a dominat, very down-to-earth man in his 50s, with open eyes and wrinkles around them speaking of happy laughter - or a 30-something woman dressed in flowing robes who obviously has read to much Zimmer-Bradley lately, with her heads in the clouds and fuzzy ideas of her hidden powers, but her eyes speaking of insecurity and unfulfilled desire and her voice low and whispery - or a woman visibly resting in herself, eyes knowing, aged gracefully, sitting there with a sparkle of amusement in her calm features - or a giggling teenager hopping around on the chair, attention-span of a five-year-old, enough piercings to make a metal-detector go nuts, en vogue nail gel on her fingers that has visibly suffered from nail-chewing, that had just asked you if you have something of a band called 'Death-Trash-What-the-hell-ever' in your collection. Oh, and what about the overworked housewife looking like a mouse running from the cat, who actually had appeared with a screaming baby and three absolute unendurable, atrociously noisy kids, repeatedly apologizing that she could not find anyone to look after them for the time of the reading?

And now tell me it does not make any difference to the interpretation of the cards...

Apart from these rather unescapable preconditions, don't you realize any reactions from the querent? Don't you care whether a card meets resistance, approval, confusion or happiness? Don't you look at your querent trying to observe where there is understanding or not? In front of you are some real nasty looking cards - don't you care what the eyes of your querent say? Wouldn't it make a difference if there is a confident and settled person, or a superstitious and gullible one, a person who is scared or full of all kinds of complexes? Would you not 'read' the person in order to know how far you can go?

What is the sense of reading for another person? Merely to show off what a great Tarot reader you are? How you can know all kinds of things just from the cards? Does it really matter whether your insights are from the cards alone, or from 'cold reading', or from a combination of both?

Frankly, I for me don't care. I'm a counselor and not a rag-fair attraction.

If you would like to know a bit more about my methods and points of view regarding Tarot and some usual questions go and read my 'about the spirit' page. I've put them there because they actually are my own ideas and feelings and won't need to influence your interpretation.

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