Monthly Archives: June 2011

When bad cards appear in good positions

When reading for ourselves or others, we may pull a card about what our strength is in a given situation.  Or perhaps we pull a card on what quality or talent that we need to bring to bear on a conflict.

What do you do if that card is the Devil? Or any other negative card in the deck?  How do you interpret that?

While different readers have different methods, I tend to see this is a layered message.  First, I think the tarot is suggesting that we have shadow work around this strength.  It’s not that the quality itself is actually bad, but we may view it as such.  We have trouble integrating that inner power in with the rest of lives or who we think we ought to be.

I picked the Devil card because, in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, it literally shows the parts of ourselves that we demonize.  For some of us, it may be our lust for love, our soft side, our ambition or our temper.  Things we may have been told are “lower,” “unspiritual” or not right for a man or a woman to express.  So we hide and repress those parts, despite the fact that we need our wholes selves to be, well, whole.  The tarot is simply reflecting them back to us.  If the Devil cards comes up, it may mean your strength is slaying your demons.  But there may be a more subtly message about finding the power to accept your temper and channeling that anger productively so that is an emotion that mobilizes you to make postive change in your life.

This technique can be used in the minor arcana cards as well.  The 5 of cups came up in a reading as a strength for my client.  I suggested that her strength was her ability to connect and to care deeply for those around her, but that she had been hurt in the past.  She also mentioned that she had been guarding her heart lately and staying more closed off.  In the context of the reading and from speaking with her, we found a deeper meaning that the path to the best outcome was  being open to the emotional connection that was possible, while acknowledging potential for both intimacy and rejection.  Her strength ultimately is her ability to accept that potential for grief AND to view a life rich with love and friendship as worth that risk.  While another “positive” card could also share this meaning, the fact is a “negative” card helped to uncover that an open heart, for this particular client, was something hard for her.  It had led to pain the past.  Her openness was connected in her mind with grief.  She viewed that strength as a source of weakness instead and the tarot reflected this back via a “bad” or difficult card.

To pick on the other difficult 5 in the minors, the 5 of pentacles can show the the strength at play is your power to survive.  The times in your past in which you experienced loss and deprivation have given you the skill and the grit that you may need to bring to bear.  You may look back at those times as unhappy periods, but because of those trials you developed the fortitude you need to solve this issue or conflict.  It is time to integrating the power to endure, survive and just generally be scrappy in our life and apply it to the situation at hand.

Those are just a couple of examples of difficult cards.  The next time a “bad” card comes up as strength or other “good” position in spread, consider delving into a little shadow work with that card.


Why Get a Tarot Reading?

Is it to know the future?

A prediction of what may come is often the chief reason a client comes in for a a reading.  I’m not sure if that is the best reason, however. Certainly, as a reader, I make every effort to give the most informative, accurate and clear reading as possible, including predictions.  But tarot reading is NOT about me (or anyone else) telling you how to live your life or what decisions to make.  I’m not the one who has to live with your choices. The person who has to deal with the consequences, good and bad, is you.

Instead, a reading should provide you with food for thought.  When you sign up for a reading, you’re opening up to “non-rational” information or information coming from Spirit (or from within our own psyches, depending on how you believe tarot works).  It’s not just about me accessing my intuitive abilities alone.  It’s about helping you access yours.  When intuition is engaged, new insights emerge on conflicts and questions.

This insight is created by working with the symbols as living and breathing things.  The cards are not static, dead things with set meanings.  They are not bossy school teachers, telling folks what to do.  Instead, I see each card as an invitation to look at your life differently.  They are questions that, when answered by you, show you the way to the best outcome.  As reader, I believe my role is best served by sharing the questions, advice and concerns that I see in the reading.  I encourage every client to share what they see in every card as well.  I am guide in the reading, pointing out land marks. The journey itself  is about you making the connections in ways that help you live your best life.

The future is not fixed and predictions always are uncertain.  Instead of being prediction-focused in a reading, try using the tarot to help in opening options and creating self-knowledge.  The path to a good future is created by making good choices in the present. A good reading can help you do that.

Tarot in Poetry

It looks like this piece was posted in 2008, so you may have already encountered it in the past. If so, it is worth another listen. It is new to me and I really love the piece. I think it is very evocative of the dreamy nature of tarot and shows that a good reading isn’t necessarily about a prediction, but about understanding and meaning.

The poet is Karen Finneyfrock. Please be sure to check out some of her other work.


There is a conversation going on in the tarot blogosphere regarding cards that jump or pop out while you’re shuffling.  It was started by Barbara Moore on her Llewellyn blog.  Another blogger, Barbara Graver, also weighs in on the topic.  Catherine, at Tarot Elements, posted a reading in which she addresses a jumper card.

Barbara M. gives a wonderful overview of the different ways of approaching those readings and I don’t have anything to add.  Barbara G. mentions that “[j]umpers may mean that you are headed in the wrong direction or asking an incorrect question.”    Catherine seamlessly integrated the card into the rest of the reading, illustrating the way that that a jumper can be used to add depth and meaning to a reading.

Of course, many opinions and techniques can make life difficult for someone learning to read.  Which is the right way?  There isn’t one.  Try one method out and see what works for you.  As time goes on you may naturally gravitate to a different technique.  Follow your intuition to determine how your deck is speaking to you.

I would caution a reader from ignoring the jumper entirely though.  One of the features of tarot is that we initiate the divination.  It is not a dream the arises within us or a sign given to us by Spirit.  The tarot is a way of connecting with mystery that begins at our request.  One of the few exceptions is, arguably, jumpers.  Generally a jumper only happens when we’re shuffling, so technically we’ve started that conversation with mystery already.  Still, a jumper is a message that defies the structure of a spread and may defy the question entirely.  Tarot unfiltered!  It’s worth considering.