Picture this: the candles are lit, Nag Champa incense is wafting about the room, a cozy fire is crackling in the background (or if your like me, your “fireplace” dvd is crackling in the background), and your hunkered down at your dining room table, giving your best friend a Tarot reading…
Your friend asks something typical like “Is Gary my soulmate?”
You roll your eyes, draw a card and…WTF?! It’s The Heirophant.
“F*ck!” you think. “What on Earth does that mean?!”
Of course, you know exactly what The Hierophant means all on its own, but you have no idea what it means in relation to the question being asked.
Reading Tarot can sometimes feels like deciphering hieroglyphics. All you want is a clear answer and instead you end up feeling more and more confused!
This actually used to happen to me ALL THE TIME. And if I am being 100% honest with you, it still happens every now and then 😉 But luckily I have gotten my shit together and come up with some handy dandy ways to get around this annoying issue.
Tip #1: Put on Your Glasses
Have you ever heard that expression “looking at the world through rose-tinted lenses”? You want to look at the confusing Tarot card through situation-tinted lenses. Let me explain…
When you get a Tarot card that just doesn’t make sense, picture yourself calmly sliding on a pair of glasses, like Corey Hart in his Sunglasses at Night video…
Now imagine that these are magic glasses that will help you see the Tarot card in light of the particular issue.
So for the reading I mentioned earlier, you would put on your “soulmate searching” glasses and ask “in regards to finding one’s soulmate, what message does this card have for my friend?”
Look at the Tarot card:
Let go of the traditional card meaning for a sec and just see what pops into your head. Notice what symbol your attention is drawn to. Doing this gives your intuition a chance to come out and play.
Example: When I do this for The Hierophant (above), I suddenly notice that there are two identical pillars, two identical monks side by side and two keys crossed. This makes me think aha! soulmates! but then there’s that pesky Hierophant coming between them. So I might say that there is soulmate possibility, but there is a powerful force keeping them apart right now.
But what if The Hierophant had come up in a reading about career/life purpose?
As I slide on my magic glasses, I notice that this card really exudes authority and tradition. This could suggest your life purpose is to be an authority figure of some type, but it may require years of formal study. Or it could mean your life purpose will be intimately intertwined with spirituality.
Look at the “traditional meaning”:
Now that you’ve unleashed your intuition, it’s time to indulge your intellect! Take a look at the traditional card meaning through your magic glasses and see how it relates to your question.
According to the little white book that came with my Universal Waite Tarot deck, The Hierophant means “marriage alliance, captivity, servitude, mercy and goodness, inspiration, the man to whom the querent has recourse.”
So how could I bend this definition to shed light on the question “Is Gary my soulmate?”
Well, well, well! I might say that marriage to Gary would make sense in a socially acceptable, conform to society kind of way. Perhaps she really wants Gary to be her soul mate because marriage to him may solve many of her problems. But ultimately, this will make her feel trapped. This doesn’t really answer the question, but it does suggest that rushing into marriage isn’t necessary.
Here’s my demonstration of how to read a Tarot card in many different contexts:
Tip #2: Practice Looking at Each Tarot Card in Many Different Ways
Let’s take The Chariot. What might it mean if it came up in a reading about career? About love? About health?
Typically The Chariot is all about moving forward, success, etc, but what if it appears in the “things that are blocking me” position in a reading?
Doing this will require you to really ponder each card, its symbols and even look up the meanings in your book. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Consider both the negative and positive aspects of the card.
Career – advancing quickly
Love – triumph, success in romance
Health – health is improving, but keep things balanced
Block – too driven, need to slow down and relax
Negatives – too focused on “success” and getting to the destination, parts of the self being in disagreement (especially if the horses are going in different directions)
Tarot is meant to be flexible. When you first learn Tarot, its all about memorizing the specific card meanings, and this can put you in a rigid frame of mind. But as you develop your reading skills, the challenge is in using the context to bend and grow the card meanings.
This exercise helps your mind get used to looking at a Tarot card from all angles and contexts.
Tip #3: Don’t always expect your Tarot cards to give you a clear answer!
Sometimes a Tarot card will be the doorway to discovering your own solutions and answers, but it will not be the answer itself.
The images on a Tarot card may lead you on a trip down memory lane, steer you into a particular train of thought or an idea may be sparked. So don’t go chucking out your cards if they don’t make sense right away! Be willing to explore 🙂
FYI: If you give yourself a reading, use these techniques and still feel totally confused about what your cards mean, I now offer Tarot Interpretations.