The focus of this blog is not only to help know the definitions of the card, but also to notice everything about a reading. There are so many facets of tarot-reading that a reader is never completely the master, just as no one is ever the master in life.
As a reader, when we are reading for another person, we don’t just list off the card definitions and their positions in a formulaic manner. We note what pops out to us first, we use our intuition to link cards together, and we pick up what we sense about the querent. We throw it all in a mental mixing bowl and present to them a tarot cake. Well, we at least use our intuition to pick out the direction that a card is pointing any, anyway. If we are super sweet, we might make them a cake (see what I did there?)
However, it can be easy when we’re reading for ourselves to mentally list off card names and positions in a formulaic manner, just like we try not to do for someone else.
“The meanings of each tarot card is nuanced, layered, and like peoples’s personalities, can project different points of view at different times. Reducing any card to a keyword means running the risk of overlooking subtleties and secondary messages, limiting your scope of understanding the cards. More often than not, those secondary messages are crucial for an accurate reading.”
~Benebell Wen, Holistic Tarot, p. 45
Just as it is important to notice what cards jump out at you when reading for another person, it is equally important to pay attention to what sticks out to you when you’re reading for yourself, though this can be a little more tricky. Whereas a querant will be not be seeing where your mind settles and your eyes go to first, nor (usually) be able to tell you what symbolism is prominent and screaming at them in a reading, when you’re reading for yourself, you can—if you listen to yourself.
I was having a problem with my partner, something that I knew was basically my own problem, but the effect of it was causing problems between me and my partner. I didn’t know what to do, I was at my wits end. I had communicated, I had tried to be patient with his feelings, and so on. But I was beginning to wonder if this was a problem that would get resolved.
I went to my deck and focused on my difficulty, before drawing three cards. I didn’t have a layout in mind, only that I would draw three cards and see the advice they gave.
I drew the Hierophant, the Four of Cups, and the Six of Wands.
Being as the Hierophant is a Major Arcana, I put the majority of my focus on this card. In the Spiral Tarot, the Hierophant shows a bearded man in a purple sky with the Glyph for Chiron just under his beard. He has one hand raised with two fingers up and together, and another hand down with his fore and middle fingers together and his ring and pinky fingers together, facing down toward the ground. A rainbow connects the two hands.
I’ve always looked at this as a meaning to look to higher insight to gain more earthyly wisedom, in an ‘as above, so below’ sort of manner. However, I decided to throw away my quick definition of the card and to really look at it.
Chiron, in mythology, was a centaur healer and philosopher. He was an astrologer as well. In the card, around his upward raised hand, planets and stars surround it. Just under is the sign for Sagittarius, also a centaur. Beneath the rainbow is an etheric horse, and above it is Saturn.
Looking at the positioning of all of this, I began putting it altogether, the need to look for higher knowledge and understanding in order to heal and solve the problem that is mine, to gain authority over myself (as Saturn suggests).
After spending several moments pondering over this, I glanced at the next card, the Four of Cups. It shows a woman sitting on a bench, resting her face on her hand in boredom as she looks down at the three cups before her. Behind her is a bigger, shining cup, but she doesn’t see it because she is so focused on what’s before her.
I go to my initial definition: being bored by what’s in front of me. Then I realize that the big shining cup is something that I’m not seeing. What is it that I’m not seeing?
I return to the Hierophant and examine, noting that the downward hand is holding a key—the key of knowledge. Alright, what else? There are plants, they’re full of fruit, and then—and then—I see it.
The Glyph for Virgo.
Fun fact, I am a Sagittarius and my partner is a Virgo.
It hit me all at once. It’s not that I happened to draw the card that has a representation of both my partner and me, but it’s that it took so long for me to notice.
I realized that I had spent all that time focusing on the Sagittarius related stuff because hey, I am a Sagittarius and I know a lot about my sign, and have a lot of interest in my sign. A notable characteristic of Sagittarians, as amazing as they are, they tend to be a little self-centered. And that’s exactly what I was in this instance.
I spent all that time, have spent all this time, looking at what my problem is and it’s effect on my partner rather than seeing that we’re in it together, thus it’s our problem, and also not listening or adhering to my partner’s response to my problem.
While it doesn’t make my problem go away, it showed me that I wasn’t nearly as focused on the effect of it on my partner as I was on my own dealing and complaining about it.
The Six of Wands indicates a victory, a success.
How I read the cards was a reflection on my own psychological understanding and view, and by paying attention to how I read the cards, I gained and added, very important layer of insight for this questions. I realized that I was too self-focused and just not seeing the solution as a result.
So an exercise for you is to do a card reading for yourself—in fact, over the next week or two, do several—and read as you normally would. After doing the reading, reflect on how you went about reading the cards, and see if there is anything to be gained from this.
I would love to hear your results. Feel free to post them in the comments!
The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon. With turn-of-the-20th-century style art, this deck takes from the classic Rider-Waite deck and brings it up to the late 1800-early 1900’s, a time of industry and contemplation for the western world as it moved forward into a more technological era. I am a little biased toward this deck as it’s been my main deck for 15 years. The cards are thick with additional symbolism that can be tricky to pick out of the traditional Rider-Waite, and adds layers of Greek myth throughout the Major Arcana.