Brainstorming with tarot cards
More brainstorming with tarot cards

Another way to look at the problem is ...

Tarot cards are good at problem-solving. They are even more effective when used with a problem-solving technique.

When you're stuck with a problem, one way to break through is to look at the problem from different angles. You ask yourself, “How else can I look at the problem?”

This spread, based on the “heart” (the first two cards) of the Celtic Cross, might help you get unstuck.

[A version of this post was first published on SynTAROTis.]

Spread Another way to look at the problemThe cards are read:

1. Problem

2. Challenge

3. Solution 1

Then repeat with the second stack:

4. Problem

5. Challenge

6. Solution 2

The two 'problem + challenge' groups are two ways of looking at the same problem; they don’t present either / or descriptions of the problem. Both are true, you are just moving around the problem to get a different view.

Using this spread, you will have two solutions (or more, if you find more solutions in the cards). Here is a sample reading:

Sample reading

This technique requires a specific question, rather than the vague “What do I need to know about…” question. The question for this exercise is, “How can I better manage my time?”

I used the Renaissance Tarot by Jane Lyle.

Another way to look at the problem isFirst “Problem + Challenge” group

Problem: Five of Wands (reversed)

The Five of Wands is a card of competition and conflict. As a reversed card, the conflict can be internal. I am not in conflict with the world as much as I'm experiencing inner conflict in deciding which of my many creative projects I should focus on.

Challenge: Five of Cups

Some of these projects are causing me sorrow, while others are bringing pleasure.

The Cups card suggests that I have an emotional stake in all my priorities, but warns that I might regret my inability to focus. Too much activity can stifle creativity: the fire of the Five of Wands is being extinguished by the Cups in the covering (challenge) card.

The challenge presented by this card is choosing which of the cups to focus on, and which to set aside for later.

Solution 1: The King of Cups

The King of Cups denotes a mastery of emotions, tempering emotions with calm thinking, and emotional energy well managed.

The King suggests I get my emotions under control by is to focusing on the one project that fulfil me emotionally and creatively. The King is immersed in his element—water (emotions, creativity)—but focusing on one cup.

I might also try some self-compassion, instead of beating myself over the head with all those wands!

But another way to look at the problem is …

Problem: Eight of Pentacles

Another way to look at the problem is that I'm swamped with details, which are creating a lot of hard work. This kills creativity and I find no pleasure in my work.

The Eight of Pentacles represents skilled work and attention to detail. Some projects need close attention and dedication, but I might not have the time and energy to concentrate on all the ideas I have.

Challenge: Five of Swords (reversed)

Another Five, suggesting change and upheaval. The Five of Swords represents hostility, dishonour, and defeat. Reversed, the card could mean aggression towards the self, perhaps self-sabotage and thoughts of failure, undercutting the hard work represented by the Eight of Pentacles.

The reversed card also suggests fragmented thinking and scattered thoughts. Instead of pulling ideas together, I am confused and filled with inner conflict, making it difficult to concentrate on my work.

Five of Swords is a violent response to painstaking work; it is both defeatist and aggressive. By immersing myself in the details, I am in danger of losing the vision I had in the beginning. I am frantically busy, but no longer creative. The swords are an attempt to cut through the busy-ness, but are not, in themselves, a useful solution.

Solution 2: Six of Cups

The Six of Cups often denotes the past and nostalgia. In this deck, however, the card shows an adult holding the hand of a child in a protective and tender way. The card also represents the pleasure and innocence of a child.

The card suggests that I nurture and encourage the project that gives me the most pleasure. Now is not the time to focus on planning and thinking, but letting my emotions and dreams point to what I should focus on.

The card further suggests that I nurture and encourage the project to grow instead of focusing on the details of too many projects.

The Six of Cups also suggests that the inner child is yearning to be free. To regain my creativity, I should put detailed work and rational analysis aside for a moment, to have fun.


As usual, tarot cards give much more than just solutions to problems. They always have more to say, more to suggest, more to advise.

The problem is that I am focusing on too much at the same time. The challenge is to get my emotions under control, which are making it difficult to focus. The first solution is to find the project(s) that fulfil me creatively and emotionally and putting to others aside for now.

Another way to look at the problem is that I'm getting swamped in details. The challenge is to get my scattered thinking under control. My work is fragmented and I am thinking too much. The second solution is to choose that project(s) that give me the most pleasure and sets my imagination free.

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