All tarot readings are a form of divination, defined as “to discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.” (Dictionary.com) Occult knowledge is often encased in symbolic form, so to get the most from a tarot reading, we must be wide open to the possibilities of the symbolism by which important information is frequently conveyed.
Some people are very literal or over-analytical, so when they do a reading or receive one they work hard to determine precisely, down to the last logical detail, what their guides or angels may have meant. They drag out several tarot reference works and read until they are dizzy. Or, if it is a spoken reading, they grill me within an inch of my life, disputing the seemingly obvious connections between the symbols and their lives in their quest for perfect understanding. If such individuals were to use their intuition, they would easily figure out most of it; but because they rely on their egos to analyze everything logically, they are simply perplexed.
Symbols are images, ideas or anything at all that can be used to represent something else, something that bears similar qualities. Symbols are used to portray the essence of things that might be difficult to capture in a few words, but the symbol itself packs a powerful emotional punch – like that image of The Hermit card that so many of us remember from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV album. Does he make you think of Gandalf the Grey, wisest of wizards? Perhaps he reminds you of an elderly relative who has been on your mind lately. You might immediately go back to that party in 1975 when you met your future spouse while holding the album cover open in your hands. Or, if you are more classically-minded, you might even think you see Diogenes looking for his one honest man.
There is no wrong answer, just as you cannot pick a wrong card. Tarot is meant as a vehicle for conveying intuitive thoughts and feelings to the conscious mind. It is not meant to be a science project or homework, something to be worked out like a math problem.
Since Tarot is entirely symbol-based, here are some tips to help you intuit the deeper messages your guides want to convey. These tips are primarily for doing your own readings, but several of them will work equally well if you are receiving a reading. You can always help the psychic hone your reading by pointing out any symbol that speaks deeply to you in a specific area of your life.
Tip 1: Keep an open mind.
It is important to simply allow any immediate impressions to drop in as you gaze at the cards and check the meanings. Note any impressions you get. If you feel you got no impressions, then take a break and try to read the same cards again in 20 minutes or so. Anyone can relax their mind; it just takes a little practice for some people.
Throughout the experience of doing a reading, you are inviting spirit to whisper impressions in your mind. This means staying open minded and a bit meditative. As the famous psychic Doreen Virtue teaches in her classes, anything that happens during a reading – a seemingly unrelated thought, a surprising emotion, sudden attention to a nearby object – must be considered part of the reading and treated as meaningful.
Tip 2: Look at the pictures.
Does anything pop to mind when you look at the images on the cards? Make note of anything you discover yourself thinking, no matter how oddball and seemingly unrelated. Do not dig into it, like a student prepping for a chemistry final. Just use your eyes, your heart, your intuition – any senses other than the left-brained logical analysis you may be tempted to employ.
Tip 3: Skim the write-up.
Even if you are very experienced at reading the cards, when you are reading cards for yourself I highly recommend skimming the words that often appear on the faces of modern cards, while allowing your mind to drift. (If your paper deck has no writing on the face, the accompanying book is a fine substitute.) Pulling meaning from the written word as it appears randomly before you is a very old, respected form of divination, since language brings its own imagery and impressions to your mind. Sometimes the perfect word or phrase seems to leap off the card to answer your questions. This is deeply significant and NOT a coincidence.
Nowadays, many Hay House decks have several lines of explanation on the paper cards, or you can download one of their many tarot apps to your phone or tablet (for more on this subject, including choosing a good deck, see my blog post Speaking to Your Angels with Tarot)
Tip 4: Review the clues thoughtfully.
Read the written portions again, more slowly this time, continuing to make note of anything that pops into your mind. Symbols are like puzzles, and while you do not want to be too left-brained, this time a little analysis won’t hurt. What story are the cards telling you as you work through them sequentially? Don’t forget to add the images into the mix. Try to keep in mind both the symbolic meanings as well as any personal meanings you may recognize from your own life. And if you think an image of a roaring lion refers to your pet turtle, don’t hesitate to run with the analogy, no matter how improbable your conscious mind thinks it is!
Tip 5: One card can mean many things.
I have seen many Tarot readings where a single card actually refers to several disparate things, layer upon layer. This is because we all have one or two major themes running through our lives at any time. We may be learning to be more courageous, or to be more vulnerable in relationships, or to be more considerate of others, or whatever. Regardless of the lesson, it will run like threads through your work life, your home life, your relationships – anything. If you can think of several things a card might mean, chances are good it means ALL of them.
Tip 6: Be honest with yourself
I cannot even guess how many times I have gotten a card saying “someone is taking advantage of you,” but the client, usually a sweet elderly lady on a limited income, vehemently denies it. I have learned to immediately ask, “Is one of your grown children living with you, by any chance?” The answer is nearly always yes, and while still denying the card, she will tell me the 40-something “child” is not helping with expenses, is eating all the food in the house, and so on. If you want to benefit from a reading, you may have to admit things to yourself that you would rather not think about. Remember, your guides are only bringing them up because it is important that you face the challenges and deal with them.
Bonus tip: Psychic does not mean Omniscient.
If you are about to get a reading, realize that good card readers receive their impressions symbolically, just as the cards are symbolic. When you receive a reading at a fair, the reader will not be able to produce extraordinarily detailed road maps, with names and dates and places, to guide you. In fact, such a reading is unlikely specifically because that would be like getting the answers to the final exam.
You are here on earth to learn, and the information you get will only be sufficient to nudge you in the right direction, get you thinking, or give you some hope regarding outcomes. This is not to say we never hear a specific detail, because we often do; but the level of detailed instructions people want is generally not forthcoming. This applies to readings you do for yourself, too, which is another reason why deep analysis won’t get you where you want to go.
A successful reading with a psychic, as defined by Doreen Virtue, is two people collaborating to solve a puzzle. Each person holds some of the information: the reader knows what the symbols might mean and the client knows precisely what is going on in his or her life. Your reader will often ask you to clarify what they are seeing in the cards so that, working together, you can gain even deeper insights.
Whether you are trying to read for yourself or paying a reader to offer an interpretation, any reading will be a far richer experience if approached in the right spirit and state of mind. By following these tips you will find yourself extracting far more information from a short reading than you could have ever thought possible.