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When a Tarot Reading Does Not Make Sense

Occasionally, a tarot spread comes along that does not make sense to its questioner. This can generate doubt in the tarot cards or in the ability of the reader, but many times the spread just requires a perceptional shift, a side-ways glance, or the rearranging of the mirror shards in order to understand what is truly going on in the spread. The Tarot is an energy tool that attunes to the intention and focus of the mind and spirit of the questioner. When a spread does not hit for the questioner perhaps the focus was not laser sharp or the intention was not fully intention-ed. To determine if this is true one must review the cards carefully before deciding that a spread is truly incorrect. Below are a few steps to determine the cards accuracy before giving up the ghost and returning them to the deck.

1. Help the questioner determine the question – Before you begin a reading start with some pre-conversation with the questioner to truly get a handle on the questioner’s specific needs. As you shuffle the cards and discuss the questioner’s story, the two of you can determine the best question to ask the tarot. This will help you, the reader, to focus on the information that is most desired by the questioner and put that energy and intention into the cards. The reader should also decide the number of cards to use for the spread and put that intention into the deck as well. For example say or think, “I would like to know if the questioner will get that new job, and I will pull five cards for the answer.” The cards will attune to that question and the number of cards to be pulled. When the reader feels the cards are right, or the cards stop shuffling together easily, the reader can pull the number of cards intended for the reading. This method increases the chances of pulling the cards that are the most significant to the questioner.

2. Interpret the first two cards and then check in – After pulling the number of cards intended for the reading, the reader should flip over the first two cards and tell the questioner what they see. If these two cards resonate with the questioner then the reader is on the right track and should keep going. It is important to validate these two cards at the beginning so as the reader does not get five or six cards in just to learn nothing is making sense for the questioner, hence wasting valuable reading time going down the wrong rabbit hole. The reader should continue to check in with the questioner every two to three cards throughout the reading to ensure that the message of the tarot is staying on target. If the reader turns over the first two cards and they do not resonate then see #3.

3. Change interpretation styles – If the reader finds the first two cards do not jive with the questioner, then the reader can change up their interpretation style. Tarot cards are typically interpreted either via “book meaning” or “literal/intuitive meaning.” The book meanings for the cards are pretty straight forward – what does the book (the little white books that accompany each tarot deck) tell you each card means? Some readers only use book meanings to interpret tarot spreads. However, the literal/intuitive meaning is a blend of intuition and what you literally see. For example, in most tarot books it will tell you that the Seven of Swords means trickery, deceit, pretending to be someone you are not, etc. However a literal/intuitive interpretation of the Seven of Swords is a man collecting seven swords to place in the tents behind him (literal)– like cleaning up after a big party (intuitive) (as is shown in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck’s imagery.) So the literal/intuitive interpretation could vary widely from what the book suggests and hence give the reader a whole other set of possibilities to choose from. So if the cards are not resonating in a book meaning sense, then you may want to shift to the literal/intuitive interpretation and vice versa. If this still does not work then see #4.

4. Turn over next two cards and then see if that changes anything. Tarot cards are influenced by the other cards around them and can change their meaning depending on those factors. The second two cards may dramatically change the story for the first two cards and hence begin to make more sense for the questioner. If it does, it can set the reading back on track. If it does not, then during this process it is helpful to continue conversation with the questioner to ensure that there is not a piece of crucial information that has been left out that the reader is unaware of. I once did a reading for a friend. His cards showed anxiety and stress in his life. He told me that the cards did not resonate for him. However, as we talked further, he told me he had to go visit his estranged mother and he was nervous and upset about the meeting. It was the piece of information I did not have, but was the exact thing the cards were speaking to. Sometimes the questioner will not think a certain piece of information is relevant and omit it from the conversation, especially if that information has nothing to do with their question. The tarot has a habit of addressing the most emotionally charged situations and can sometimes ignore the question that is asked. This is why continuing to ask open-ended or even direct questions are important so the reader can illicit the information that will help the cards fall into place. Also there are the occasional questioners that refuse to give any personal information. They want to “test” a reader to see if their abilities are real or not. They are convinced you are “cold reading” them or faking them out. These people are not worth your time or effort as completing a successful reading for them will become next to impossible. They will always look for ways to discredit you. Simply thank the questioner for their interest, explain that this is not how your process works and if they do not want to participate they are free to go.

5. Finally, if nothing has worked then wipe the slate clean! If after all of these steps have failed then it is time to swipe the cards off the table and put them back in the deck. Before you destroy the spread, you may want to record it (video or photos) as you may have a new epiphany about the spread and want to look at it again, or future events may play out that make the spread make sense.

After deleting the spread, reshuffle the cards and try again. On your next attempt, try dialing down on the question, perhaps the phrasing of the question needs to shift or it may not be quite the right question after all? Discuss with the questioner how to tweak the question a bit in order to get a better response from the cards.

How about you? What do you do when you get a tarot spread/reading that doesn’t resonate? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Clackamas, OR, USA

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