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The f-word spread
If - then spread

What if a card doesn't make sense?

What do you do if a card doesn’t make sense in the spread you are reading? Here are some tips.

  • Look up synonyms of the keywords and see if something comes up.
  • Consult a book that gives many keywords or phrases such as Anthony Louis’ Tarot plain and simple or Joan Bunning’s Learning the tarot. (The contents of Bunning’s book is available for free at http://www.learntarot.com/.)
  • If you, or the querent, were in the card, what would you see? What would you experience?
  • What does the card show? Describe exactly what you see.
  • Does any symbol or object draw your attention?
  • What is the story here: what happened, and what is going to happen?
  • Did something (non-traditional) come to mind when you first considered the card? (For example, the Hanged Man may make you think, “tripped up” or "just hanging around".)
  • Consider the details on the card, including the colours. Do they evoke something?
  • Does any metaphor or clichéd saying come to mind from any of the symbols or objects in the card?
  • Read the full description of the card in the accompanying book, or books that give thorough descriptions, for example Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-eight degrees of wisdom, Janina Renée’s Tarot: Your everyday guide or Sandra Thomson’s Pictures from the heart.
  • Look for interesting from-a-different-perspective interpretations such as Corrine Kenner’s Tarot for writers or Mark McElroy’s Putting the tarot to work (geared for business) and Taking the tarot to heart (relationships). In Tarot for your self, Mary K Greer also includes non-traditional interpretations.
  • Paul Huson’s Mystical origins of the Tarot, Jana Riley’s Tarot dictionary and compendium, and Bill Butler’s Dictionary of the tarot compare interpretations from various sources, from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to more modern interpretations.
  • If you are working with a reversed card, try Mary K Greer’s The complete book of reversals or the method in Joan Bunning's Learning tarot reversals.

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