When I first started playing with tarot cards my approach was pretty smash and grab. I’d whip out my cards, ask a question, and lay out the spread. Next, I’d grab the book or books and look up every possible meaning I could find, usually glomming on to the elements of each card that were most frequently noted.
Then, I’d write down the key words and stare at them – trying to figure out how to convert five or ten key words into something meaningful. More often than not I’d stare at the list for all of two minutes before either deciding I needed to reshuffle and try again or just take the most surface meaning of each card, resulting in a reading so shallow it was really just a waste of time.
I lost interest pretty quickly because I wasn’t getting anything remotely useful out of my practice.
When I felt called to pick up the tarot again, years later, I was told by the psychic two-by-four that smacked me upside the head to learn the card meanings in depth.
This time, I went whole hog – diving into the flashcards like a maniac. Knowing the card meanings improved my readings exponentially but I still felt like something was missing. My readings were perfunctory and tied tightly to the card meanings I’d just learned.
I was, once again, frustrated. I was sure taking the time to learn the meanings was going to make all the difference.
Because my natural inclination is always to learn more if what I’m doing isn’t working, I began to actually study the tarot as a whole system of interwoven history, mythology, symbolism, modern culture, and more.
I started to realize that anyone can memorize card meanings, but it takes an imagination, a storyteller, and a mind that can bring these things together and weave a narrative that not only makes sense, but is helpful as well.
I began to realize that as long as my focus was on getting it right, my readings would continue to be shallow. I realized that my job as the reader is to function as a storyteller who can weave a narrative from all of the concrete elements of the tarot like suits and card meanings with intuition, deduction, and analysis.
And within that framework there are three phases;
We’ve talked about groundwork; things like grounding, centering, meditating, praying, candles, whatever works to bring you into the best mental and spiritual space for a reading.
Analysis is what most of us think of as the meat of the reading when we are interpreting what the cards mean. Card A in position 3 means _______. A lot of readers get stuck at the analysis phase because (in my opinion) most materials teaching beginners to read the tarot is too focused on key words.
Don’t get me wrong. Analysis is critical to a reading. Synthesis, though, is where the magic happens.
When we synthesize, we take all of the bits of information in the reading and use them as the ingredients for concocting our conclusions.
Just like any good cook, considers how ingredients work together and play off of one another, a good tarot reader considers ….card position, card meaning, card number, elemental association, card meaning in relationship to other cards, symbolism, etc.
If you’re just beginning your tarot journey don’t stress. For now, stick with your card meanings and listen in for concepts and ideas you’ll want to begin thinking about.
You’ve laid your groundwork with meditation and grounding. You’ve got your card spread in front of you and you’ve made notes on each and every card. You can explain each card’s meaning in each position.
Still, something is missing. Now it’s time to begin to make note of what’s going on in your reading above and beyond card meanings and positions.
Do you have multiples of the same number?
Which number is it?
What is the numerology behind that number
How might the numerology impact the overall reading?
Do you have a large number of one suit?
Which suit is it?
What are the characteristics of that suit
How might these characteristics impact the reading?
Is your reading missing any suits?
What suit is it?
What might the significance be?
Are there multiple court cards?
Who do they represent?
You? Someone else?
How do these individuals interact and get along?
Is there chemistry (positive or negative between these people?)
Are there multiple Majors?
If so, is there a theme?