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How do you read relationships between the cards?

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 02 Jan 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

firemaiden  02 Jan 2003 
Hello oh Ye Wize people,

Okay, so please, how did you learn to see relationships between the cards. How does one person read the Tower as a house fire, and another as a funeral? From the surrounding cards, right? How? I am amazed when I hear of such specific information being gleaned from a reading. Can you give me some examples how cards inform eachother?

--Hoping to progress beyond admiring the pretty pictures phase. 

Lee  02 Jan 2003 
Hi firemaiden, it's actually pretty straightforward. You just take the concepts of the adjacent cards and fit them together in various ways until it makes sense in the context of the overall reading.

For example, if you had the Devil next to the Page of Pentacles, it could mean that you are getting obsessed (Devil) with studying something (Page of P.). Or it could mean that you are studying (Page) various neuroses (Devil), as a psychology student might. Which of these two you pick would depend on what you know about the person you're reading for and their question. The particular concepts of the cards are up to you, of course, these are just general examples. Since each card can have several concepts, you just have to keep trying different ones, like puzzle pieces, until you hit on the right combination, and you will generally know when you do, it will be an "ah-ha!" moment.

Further information can be gotten from the spread positions that the cards occupy. If the Devil is in the "Past" position and the Page of P. is in the "Present" position, maybe it means that you are presently contemplating a past negative incident in your life. Or if you're a psychology student, you could be studying historical case histories. Just use your imagination and let your mind play with the concepts. It's fun!

-- Lee 

raeanne  02 Jan 2003 
Lee has given a very good example. While you are learning the cards, you could practice by telling stories about each card. With the RW Five of Cups, you might ask yourself what happened. Why is this one person alone with five cups? Was he expecting friends to join him? Did they not come? Did they come and then there was a fight? How did the cups get spilled? Did they get knocked over by accident, on purpose, in anger? Then ask yourself what will happen next. Will he pick up the cups and then just go home alone? Will he decide to go seek his fortune and not return home until he can hold his head up high? Will someone from the town come and help him back home? Telling stories while you are learning the cards can help to make it easier to expand the stories to include other cards. Be creative! 

jamesriouxctm  02 Jan 2003 

Another approach you can use, if you already have a keyword or set of keywords for each card, is to try combining those keywords in various ways, and see which makes sense in the context of the question.

Consider a spread in which the Lovers and the Five of Wands were drawn. Two possible keywords for the Five (of the many
dozen that one could use) are "challenge" and "competition". Similarly, the Lovers can be represented by "love" and "choice" for the purposes of this example. Simple arithmetic gives us four possible combinations, and we can come up with a short phrase to describe each one.

Challenge + Love
* A relationship plagued by challenges
* Obstacles standing in the way of romance

Competition + Love
* Two people fighting over a common love interest, or
* One person trying to decide between two suitors

Challenge + Choice
* A difficult choice that must be made about something

Competition + Choice
* Whether or not one should compete
* To fight or to flee

An interesting consequence about these phrases is that options 1 and 4 fit together nicely. When a long-lasting relationship falls on hard times (1) do you hold fast or give up (4)? In a similar manner, 2 and 3 harmonize. Either way you look at the situation in (2), one of the participants will have to make the tough choice described in (3). So you really have only two interpretations for the combination, and which one you pick depends on the rest of the cards in the spread and the question that was asked of you.

(One could actually see all four of these combinations as different sides of the same issue but that might be taking it to the extreme.) 

tarotbear  02 Jan 2003 
The problem for most new people is that they try to read the cards only having just 'learned' a meaning or two, and knowing what separate cards mean and knowing how they fit together are two entirely different processes.

Sometimes the best thing for a beginner to do is lay out the entire spread first and take a good look at the whole layout before even staring. Sometimes you see patterns in the spread, or that fact that all the Majors are clumped together, or the fact that most of the cards are of a particular suit. These are all 'jumping off points'. They may not seem to relate to the questions asked ("They asked a Love question and all the cards are Wands, not Cups.") With experience, you read 'beyond' what the cards say on the surface.

Some people read card combinations, where the combination has a meaning of it's own and not what the separte cards would mean. This is a study unto itself. For example - you may find the Wheel card showing up quite a lot in readings for yourself and Querents. However, The Wheel and The Magician appearing together (side by side) indicates a change of job, residence, or Life direction. This is a traditional interpretation. Interestingly, when the Fool precedes the Wheel or any powerful, materialistic card, the qualities of the Fool are canceled out!

Learn to blend the cards together and not read them as separate entities standing alone by themselves. 

meatbox666  02 Jan 2003 
Just look at the cards. The pictures speak for themselves. If there are three people in the card then tell the person three people are around him that are relative to the situation. if the hair is dark or red or blond in the picture, thats how the person will look. If there are females in the card then you are dealing with females. if there are flowers in the card tell the person that there are flowerssurrounding them or the person they want to know about. Honestly. This approach works for me. 

HudsonGray  02 Jan 2003 
Remember that if something jumps out at you, it's important too. Your mind & it's subconscious make connections for you, that's what's part of the intuitive reading, which works alongside the standard meaning reading.

I posted on another thread about a health reading I'd done for someone & had gotten the Chariot as a 'cause' of something. The Chariot made NO sense, however the picture had a gray creature on top (A boar, it was the Haindl tarot) which, once I looked closer, appeared to me as a gray cat shedding up a storm. The person has asthma, AND a gray cat. The cat was causing a lot of his breathing problems, which is why the card came up. The traditional meaning of the Chariot wasn't part of the reading, the gray blobby creature WAS. So be flexible when you look & see something jump at you.

I've had images tie in with metaphors too. The Knight of Pentacles is on a horse that stands still, in one reading the horse just looked 'dead', which had a very specific meaning to the person I was reading for. In this one too, the traditional card meaning wasn't what was needed, it was the horse triggering a sequence of words "beating a dead horse" that was the important part.

This will come naturally, don't worry. Trust what your mind tells you when you look at the cards. 

Umbrae  02 Jan 2003 
A wonderful question!

Nobody can tell you how to read the relationships between the cards. They can tell you how they do it, but not how you should do it.

One of the wonderful things about tarot is that nobody can truly teach you tarot. You must travel the path for yourself.

If I were to teach you how I read, in the end, you would still read how you read – regardless of how much you attempted to emulate my style. On the other hand – you could copy my style – and be a fraud.

Therefore, you must begin journaling.

As time passes, you will learn how cards relate – for your world view, not mine.

Also, you must look at how the cards relate based on the spread (another reason why one should keep their spread selection very basic – the “spread ‘o the day” may in fact stifle your learning curve.

So go buy a journal, and write down everything. Look at spreads a month later and see how it did turn out! Use hindsight as a teacher – your own personal teacher… 

Thirteen  02 Jan 2003 
Umbrae has a point. There's a "break-through" point where suddenly you go, "OH!" and you begin to see things. And it really can't be taught to you--you have to learn it yourself.

That's a frustrating thing to say--and to hear. That said, however, this is where SPREADS come in hand. If you have a spread and one position is "Health" then you know that card, whatever it is, has something do with "Health." And so you won't look at the tower and say, "house fire," because this is NOT about the "Home,"--instead you'll look at it and say to your querent, "you're going to have backbone trouble." If, on the other hand, it's in the position of "Home" then you might say, "house fire" or "structural collapse."

A good spread can work wonders in helping you begin to see connections and meanings in the cards. 

Umbrae  02 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by Thirteen
A good spread can work wonders in helping you begin to see connections and meanings in the cards.

Thirteen speaks wisdom once again; I can only add that I tell folks always, "Three card readings are versatile, and accurate. More cards do not always mean better readings (but they look good on TV)." Do three card readings for a long time... 

Major Tom  03 Jan 2003 
Originally posted by firemaiden
Hello oh Ye Wize people

Did you mean wise or wizened? :laugh:

A brilliant question! Worthy of your name Firemaiden - Princess of Wands? Swords might be more appropriate. :laugh:

Some brilliant answers as well - so brilliant I feel late to the thread. :laugh: A couple of more examples perhaps?

I use and journal a (almost) daily cover and cross with my Sprial. That's right, two cards and almost daily I learn something new. Sometimes I never do get it. :laugh: Sometimes I'll look at them side by side.

Only a couple of the things I've seen so as not to belabour the point:

Queen of Cups x 3 of Pentacles = my girlfriend and I working on something of mutual benefit.

The Chariot x 5 of Pentacles = taking action to avoid poverty - getting some work.

I do so enjoy a thread that makes me think. }) 

jlbvt  03 Jan 2003 
I am just starting to get a feel for how the cards interact together. I am getting really good at guessing which cards stand for a person. but I had a combo that confused me, maybe someone can help.

The QofSwords Reversed stands for my boss, in the past position. I don't recall ever having drawn either of the other two cards before. I have no feel for them. Can anyone suggest what they might mean together? the 8 is in the present position, and the KofS is the future. 

firemaiden  03 Jan 2003 
Dear Major Tom Scalawag Tarolog,
Thank you for the compliments, blushing, blushing....
Yes, princess of swords/wands, both, actually, I just finished posting a long thing about the p of w. in the "what card would you be" thread. ego and alter ego I guess...

It is so incredibly fun to think of a question and to see it answered by such powerful spirits. I think I wrote wise with a z because I was thinking about wizards!!

I was just reflecting, (this is going to be extremely difficult to put in words, bear with me...)

When the tarot speaks to me, I feel the way I did when I thought I heard "Hello !" in my dogs "BOW WOW ", or when my parakeet after months of making funny buzzing noises in imitation of my voice, finally produced a clear "What a pretty birdie, hunh?"

Suddenly the world tilts, this horrendous realization comes accross, my god, these maybe these creatures could talk to me if I only knew how to decipher the code. Suddenly it forces me to wonder, what if there is so much more out there that can think and communicate that we can even guess!!

The keyword combinations in tarot, as brilliantly explained by jamesriouxctm above:

Challenge + Love
* A relationship plagued by challenges
* Obstacles standing in the way of romance

remind me of the really mild-tilting experiments with language in apes and with parrots. It was learned, these creatures can (TILT) combine key-words , like white+bird to describe something they didn't know the word for = "swan".

Whoah!! scary! Messages from the universe! now that I am understanding this combining key concepts idea, it is really freaky. 

Alex  03 Jan 2003 
Ace of pentacles-King of Pentacles: time to remind my boss to renew my dept. stipend.

Death-The Hight Priestess-The Emperor

My boss has forgotten to include me in the assistenship list...even though I'd reminded him...

Ace of Pentacles-King of Pentacles-Knight of Pentacles

so now he includes me in the assistenship list... after the deadline but I can go back to work. 

firemaiden  03 Jan 2003 
I am honored, Lee, Raeanne, Jamesriouxctm, tarotbear, meatbox666, Umbrae, Thirteen, Major Tom, jlbvt and Alex, for your wonderful answers.

Great Umbrae, I promise I will do only three (or just 2) card readings for a long time. And bye the way, when I sniff the cards!!! (I just found your excercise today!) (and that is always the first thing I do when I open a new deck) the first thought to pop into my mind was "Stars, a spark of light from somewhere far away"


tigerlily 6563  04 Jan 2003 
I too am just learning to blend the cards and have read alot of helpful hints to strengthen what I have already learnt. The most success I have though is after interpretating the cards singularly I quieten myself of all the words and go within and the big picture seems easier to put together. I hope this is of some help 

The How do you read relationships between the cards? thread was originally posted on 02 Jan 2003 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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