Creative tarot: The link between tarot reading and creativity

Tarot cards spread out on a surfaceTarot reading is a creative activity. I’ve said it before, and now I will show you why.


A different perspective
Random input
Free association
Forced connections


Imagination is crucial to creative activities, problem-solving, and tarot reading.

It lets you be creative, find creative solutions to problems, create a story for the image on the card, and connect a tarot card to its position in the spread.

A different perspective

Joyful-young-girl-sweater-hat-looking-camera-with-magnifier-orangeWhen trying to solve a complex problem, it helps to look at it from various angles. Your own perspective on the problem might be blocking solution ideas. What if you step back and view the problem from the customer’s perspective? Or your mother’s? Or the gardener’s? Or a child’s?

In a tarot reading, you look at the situation through the lens of a card. For example, in a card position such as “Challenges,” you assess the challenges that a problem presents through the lens of the card in the spread position. If you drew the Four of Pentacles in that position, you would consider the challenges from the perspective of someone who holds on to his money for dear life.

Random input

Edward de Bono popularized the technique of adding a random word or image to a problem to stimulate the imagination. The random word opens up a different way to look at the problem.

Here is an example of random input (I don’t know how true it is, but it’s a good example):

Campbell’s Soup was looking for a new product to add to their product line. While brainstorming, someone suggested the random word “apartment” to use as focus. The group started free associating on the word (see “Free association” below). Apartment led to building, build, tools, hammer, saw, drill, knife, and eventually to fork. Someone said, “You can’t eat soup with a fork. It would have to be in chunks to do that.” So Chunky Soups was born. In the 1970s, Campbell’s tagline for television advertisements was, “it’s so chunky you’ll be tempted to eat it with a fork.[1]

Tarot reading has an inbuilt random-input system: instead of a word, we add a card. It’s as easy as shuffling the cards and drawing one for each card position in the spread.

Free association

Creative-vintage-collage-designFree association is often used in creative activities, including problem-solving. It can be used alone or as part of a creative-thinking technique.

When you’re stuck, take something random and free associate with it (the way Cambell’s Soup did with "apartment"). With free association, one thing makes you think of something else, like “apartment” leading to “fork.” In the same way, free association can trigger thoughts for a novel, a painting, or a piece of music.

You might have encountered free association in psychology. In psychoanalysis, the patient is encouraged to talk about anything that comes to mind and follow the chain of associations wherever it may lead. Free association happens almost without conscious input and with no goal to elicit specific information.

Psychoanalysts believe that free association helps the patient tap into the unconscious. Whatever comes up in their minds comes from the unconscious.

With free association, your mind makes intuitive leaps that do not happen when you reason logically. And any of the associations might trigger an idea to solve your problem.

Where does free association come in when you’re reading tarot cards?

Have you ever looked at a card, and something popped into your mind immediately? It could be thoughts, feelings, or words. This is free association at work. What comes up could be anything you associate with the card, including traditional card meanings if you know them well.

Sometimes, what pops into your mind has seemingly no relation to the card’s traditional meanings. It happened to me once when I looked at the Five of Cups: I immediately thought of the song “Bridge over Troubled Waters.” It was crucial to understanding the situation! Also, I once drew the Six of Swords in a “Near future” position and immediately thought, “I’ll have to do some driving around shortly.” I was hoping to ignore this possibility!

It pays to take note of these thoughts: they might solve a problem, tap into your creativity, or be significant in a tarot reading.

Many tarot readers ignore traditional meanings of the card and rely on free association to help them link the card to the question. They rely on free association to draw upon the unconscious or the spiritual for answers.

Forced connections

Forced connections or relationships, like free association, are often part of problem-solving techniques, but they can also be used alone.

With forced connections, you force together two items or concepts that are usually not linked. Music and astrology, for example, seem to have no obvious connections.

Where free association is a freewheeling technique that is difficult to control, forced connections is a deliberate attempt to come up with unusual solutions. If Campbell's had used forced connections instead of free association, forcing a conection between soup and "apartment" might have led to layered soup, from dense and chunky at the bottom layer to light and frothy at the top.

Spotify forced connections between music and astrology. They came up with the idea to compile personalized playlists based on the user's astrological sign.

When you do a tarot reading, you use forced connections to link the cards to the card positions and the question.


Like random input, changing perspective, free association and forced connections, combinations often underlie techniques that help you come up with solutions to complex problems.

Many creativity experts, artists, and inventors believe that creative products come into being through combining objects, concepts, or ideas.

Take the iPod, for example. In 1979, Sony released the first Walkman (remember those?). Among its fans was the late Steve Jobs, who believed that creativity is “just connecting things.” The first iPod was a combination of the Walkman and digital music compression (MP3).

The Walkman itself was a combination of a cassette player and the idea of portable music.

The first smartphones combined a mobile phone with the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA).

The iPhone combines smartphones, MP3 players (such as the iPod), and a touchscreen.

In popular music, a mash-up is a blending of two or more songs.

Flat-lay-vintage-objects-still-lifeIn art, combine painting combines paint and objects such as clothing, bits of paper, stuffed animals, and various found items. The result is a combination of painting and sculpture.

Musical styles, painting techniques, scientific concepts, architectural designs, or ideas from any field can be combined.

You can read more about combinations in creativity in “Whacky combinations with tarot cards.”

With tarot cards, you combine a card with a specific spread position and the question.

Forced relationships and combinations are often similar and many creativity experts don't distinguish between the two. For example, the combination of shop trolleys and the folding action of telescopes made shop trolleys easier to store. The relationship between the elements can also be described as a forced relationship.

Forcing a relationship between a tarot card and its spread position can also be described as a combination of the two.


Analogy is finding similarities between things. They can help you see an object or a problem in a different light, which might elicit ideas. If you compare the heart to a pump, you draw an analogy between how a pump works and how the heart functions.

When reading tarot cards, you create analogies between the card and its position in the spread. For example, if you draw the Three of Swords in the “Situation” position, you can ask yourself, “How is this situation like the Three of Swords?” Depending on the nature of the situation, you might come up with phrases such as “prickly,” “painful,” “a conflict between head and heart,” “a need to eliminate distracting emotions,” and so on.

If you drew the Chariot in the “You” position, the question is, “In this situation, how am I like the Chariot?” Like the charioteer, you might be struggling with conflicting demands. Like the two sphinxes, you might feel “reined in.” Like the chariot, you might be “driven.”

You could also draw analogies from an object, symbol, keyword, phrase, or metaphor associated with the card.


Several problem-solving techniques make use of storytelling as its main component.

Storytelling is obviously part of creative writing, but other creative activities can also use storytelling. Painting and music are two art forms that tell stories.

In tarot, storytelling is a fun part of a reading. Most tarot decks have storytelling cards for their pip cards (Twos to Tens in each suit). The story they tell illustrates the traditional meaning of the cards, but often, you can tell more stories based on the image. In What could this mean? I give 24 options for the Six of Cups.

AI play (3)Fun!

Using creativity techniques to find solutions to complex problems can be a fun exercise. These techniques require the use of your imagination and a playful attitude. It can be a gratifying and rewarding process. It allows for playful exploration and experimentation, leading to unexpected (often hilarious) solutions.

Of course, tarot reading can be fun. You might not always want to know what the reading brings up, but the cards are colourful and stir the imagination, prompting you to weave stories about them and the situation. Solving a problem or exploring your psyche can be a creative exercise, which is a satisfying experience.


So, there you have it! Tarot reading is a seriously creative exercise, from letting your imagination run wild to changing perspectives, throwing in random ideas, and even letting your mind wander freely.

It’s stunning how similar creative thinking and tarot reading are: They both tap into the amazing, mysterious parts of our brains that surprise us with fresh ideas and insights.

Creativity, like a good tarot reading, is all about unexpected discoveries and exciting lightbulb moments--plus, it makes life a lot more fun!"

[1] This version comes from the blog Creativeteach.

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