• Erin

4 Ways to Read Tarot Cards

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

One of my most beloved tarot mentors told me there are three ways to read a tarot card: interpretively, empathically and psychically. I will add a fourth method, and my preferred way to read – intuitively.

Wait, isn’t that the same thing?

Yes. And no. Let’s explore the four methods in detail.

1. Interpretation

The interpretive method is quite literally the textbook method. Each card is assigned a universal value or meaning as a baseline. Everyone can pretty much agree that the Death card means ‘endings’ or that the Wheel of Fortune has to do with chance, luck or fate. While we can certainly add our own interpretations and grow our definitions of each card over time based on our experiences with the cards, there are some underlying themes that are inherent in each card. If you just read interpretively, you will still get a message.

2. Empathy

The empathic method is based on reading the querent (person asking the question/client) and picking up energy or information directly from them. For instance, if I draw the Moon card, my interpretation may change if the person in front of me seems a bit melancholy as opposed to chipper. Essentially, the “vibe” of the person can influence my interpretation as a reader and therefore alter the meaning in that moment.

3. Psychic

The third method is psychically. This is the great download of information that just hits a person from seemingly nowhere. Generally to be considered psychic, this knowledge should originate from an external source (e.g. Spirit). There is a sense of being a conduit for the information. Maybe you somehow receive indication that the Emperor card represents the querent’s mother during a reading.

4. Intuition

Then there is the intuitive method. It is a "knowing" that comes from within yourself. You might call it gut or instinct. You could argue that the empathic and psychic methods are ultimately the same or variations of the same theme of using intuition, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I like to think of the intuitive method as being more internally driven and querent-directed, while the other ways rely on the training and natural skills of the reader. In the intuitive method, either the reader and the querent, and often both simultaneously, are asked to look at and connect with a card. They are called upon to identify what images jump out at them, specifically, and then tap into the unconscious to look for a more personalized meaning.

Perhaps the rainbow imagery in the 10 of Cups card speaks to you on a deeper level because you happen to have a strong affiliation with the symbology present in the rainbow. Or there is a brown rabbit in the Queen of Pentacles card that speaks to you strongly because you identify closely with that animal from past experiences. As a reader, I may not necessarily have the same associations and may overlook what is the most powerful aspect of a card for you as a querent.

Here's a quick exercise for connecting with your deck. Assume the roles of the reader and querent. You don't need to ask a specific question, but instead spend the time while you are shuffling your deck to connect with your intuition. Pull a card or two, or utilize your favorite spread - whatever feels right in the moment. Spend a few minutes with each card and analyze the details. Do any images or colors stand out to you today? Dig deep. Why are you drawn to a particular aspect(s) of a given card?

I hope you find my take on tarot reading of interest and will use this as an opportunity to try connecting with your intuition through the cards.

How do you read the tarot?

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In peace & love,


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