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Five Tips to Improve Your Tarot Readings

Sometimes reading tarot can seem like navigating a foreign language. Symbols, subjects, numbers, astrology signs, ancient mythology and even colours carry meanings and messages.

It can feel like there are so many ways to go wrong when giving a reading, so it’s easy to get caught up on minor details and lose track of the broader message and spiritual experience.

When I started reading tarot, I was fixed on memorizing card descriptions. With each card pulled, I would eagerly flip through my trusty beginner's guide to ensure I got an accurate reading.

You may have heard that tapping into your intuition is the key to a smooth and effective reading. In my experience, this is easier said than done.

While I learned how to weave together my tarot narratives, slowly release my grip on the manual and tap into my inner resources, there were a few handy tips that helped me a LOT:

1. Take a moment to note recurring symbols and imagery among the cards in your spread.

Are there a lot of swords in your reading? Do you notice landscape details repeating, or subjects in similar positions?

In the above three-card spread, there is a recurring theme of faces that are covered, emphasizing self-denial and perceived despair or feeling trapped in one's obsessive and negative thoughts. You have trapped yourself in an effort to protect your heart. The grey skies and watery landscapes indicate difficult emotions, and the guidance is to focus on the wisdom of the moon (one's own intuition and emotional self-awareness) to recognize the impact your thought patterns have on your attitudes and feeling states. Facing the truth of how you feel and being honest with yourself is to embrace a vulnerability that will set you free.

2. Stop memorizing meanings! Think of tarot as a language.

The meaning of each card depends on the cards surrounding it, the position in a spread and the querent’s intention.

Think of tarot as a language – a system of meanings dependent on context. An ‘a’ is pronounced differently when placed in different words, and tarot symbols are no different. As a complex system of meanings, there are general rules we can follow to determine what each card means.

This formula always helps when drawing a blank:

numerology + suit symbolism + surrounding cards

Example: Five of Swords + Sun

= Five{conflict/tension} + Swords{thoughts/communication} + Sun{vitality/higher self}

= there is a situation involving conflict of beliefs or perspectives, miscommunication or a battle of wits which presents a barrier to your overall wellbeing, and this may be distracting you from your higher purpose/ feeling of connection to yourself and the world.

3. The 23 Major Arcana cards detail the Fool’s Journey.

Major cards carry so much symbolism, mythological and astrological references, they are typically the most challenging to remember.

Each card is a stage in the Fool’s Journey representing common psychological themes in the human life experience. The cards are in sequence (0-22), charting the ups and downs of life on Earth. With this sequence in mind, it is easier to ascertain the overarching energy and spiritual space your querent may be experiencing in their area of focus.

Example: Temperance (14) – Devil (15)– Tower (16)

Temperance is often considered a cautionary card, giving a kind of warning to pay attention to your emotional regulation, behaviours you draw upon to manage your feelings and feel balance. It tells us to mind our drinking habits, and to not go overboard.

The Devil follows Temperance, the manifestation of an energy that lost its balance, and clung to its toxic habits and attachments (drugs, alcohol, sex, binge eating, codependent relationships).

Tower follows Devil, the culmination of these toxic behaviours leading to an eruption and destruction of the order in your life.

Learning this narrative makes it easier to remember each card when they come up out of sequence.

4. Each tarot card corresponds with an astrological sign, element or planet.

Combining a knowledge of astrology to your tarot repertoire will support an intuitive interpretation of the cards. Learning about astrological correspondences to the tarot symbolism may be an undertaking, but it will broaden your overall knowledge of tarot as a language system.

The key is to learn the language of tarot, instead of memorizing each individual card's meaning. Check out this article by Biddy Tarot for more on astrological correspondences.

Example: Emperor (leader, initiative) = Aries (passionate, action-oriented, confident) + Wheel of Fortune (fortunate fated event) = Jupiter (blessings and expansion)

Events are taking place that offer divine opportunity to take on a leadership role and embrace a new project or relationship with passion and confidence. The outcome of this situation is a feeling of prosperity and abundance.

5. Set a clear intention, and release the rest.

Tarot readings are most effective when you determine a distinct purpose and resist straying from it.

Release any doubts you have about the magic of the cards, any expectations or attachments to outcomes or answers, and any insecurities about your own ability to interpret messages.

Set a clear intention for the reading, and resist having too many different areas of focus.

The energy of intention is very powerful, and can be heightened with a meditation practice or moment of mindful mind/body connection prior to a reading.

Think about your area of focus, what led you to this moment, and what you hope is to come. Notice what feelings arise in your body as a response to these thoughts.

In my experience, this practice of building awareness adds clarity, depth and accuracy to every reading.

Trust in your intention, intuition, archetypal repertoire and the energy that connects us all. You will be amazed at how magical your readings will be.

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