Do you pull cards for yourself and sometimes find they just don’t resonate? Or maybe the entire reading has you stumped?
This happens to us all, I think, and there are different reasons why and different ways to deal with it. Often it can be one of two things, either we reject the message or we don’t see how it applies to our situation.
I feel it is important to distinguish between rejecting a card because we don’t like its message, vs not resonating or feeling disconnected from the card’s meaning or relevance.
Let’s explore reasons and solutions that address both situations…
- Preparation & Ritual
First thing’s first- Energetic hygiene! Messages can get muddled when the cards have been used by too many people or too often without cleansing. If the deck is new, it may need more time getting used to your energy and establishing itself. We build a relationship with our cards. If we treat them well, they treat us well back.
Whenever I get a new deck, I take my time to cleanse and consecrate each and every card through smoke (air) and over a candle (fire). Then, I spritz or splash the deck with water and then let it sit with a rock or crystal on it. I ask that the powers of the elements cleanse and bless the deck. Then, I sleep with the deck under my pillow for a week or so beside me to attune to my energies. I get to know it by pulling a card each day and noticing how it plays out in my life. I also like to shuffle through it, looking at each card one by one. Over time, we develop a relationship, and the deck may eventually be used just for me or also with clients.
I cleanse the decks I use with clients before and after each reading. In my personal decks, I sometimes notice after a while, it may give muddled messages or feel energetically heavy or sticky when I shuffle. This tells me it is time to cleanse it again! I may use smoke, water, fire, earth, or all four, like above. I also like to gently bump it on the table a few times to release stuck energy.
Some folks use their hands to channel energy or Reiki to the deck and/or visualization to cleanse it. There are many ways to cleanse a deck, so try a few different ways until you land on what feels right for you!
Having a little grounding and centering ritual is also helpful before a reading to get us into the right mindset. A grounding and centering practice can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, dropping into our body, placing our hands on our heart, and going into a receptive state. You may wish to invoke your guides, ancestors or other helpers to bring you clarity.
I like to do the above as well as create sacred space for my reading by lighting a candle or have certain crystals around me, and laying out the cards on a special cloth.
It is also important to protect your cards when not in use. I usually wrap mine in a cloth and keep a small crystal on top, or they go in a box with a crystal.
Even if we have a thorough cleansing and grounding ritual, sometimes a deck just doesn’t mesh well us. It could be the imagery, the meanings, or it just doesn’t vibrate on the frequency we need at that time. Find a deck you feel good about. But, give a new deck some time before deciding!
2. Interpretation Skills
Sometimes we need to deepen or broaden our interpretation skills. It is important that we don’t rely 100% on intuition when reading cards for ourselves, because we can never really be objective about our own situation. Knowledge is important for balance.
When reading for yourself, even if you ‘know’ all the meanings of the cards by heart, it can be helpful to consult a guidebook or reference to remind you of all the meanings the cards holds, or really take your time with each card to consider all possible meanings. It is easy to get locked in our singular perspective when reading alone, and others’ interpretations can help awaken a broader perspective.
No matter how long you’ve been reading cards, there is always more to learn, that is why Tarot is so fun! It really is a lifelong journey. It is easy to overlook certain symbols or fail to see connections between the symbols and aspects of our lives, because we default to what we think we already know about the card’s meaning.
Keep learning and exploring new ways of interpreting the cards. Each reading is a chance to deepen your knowledge and understanding!
3. Asking the Right Questions
Sometimes, the reading doesn’t resonate because the question we asked was not the thing we really want to know about. For example, we may ask about our career, but deep down what we really want to know about is our relationship, but we aren’t comfortable bringing our true feelings into awareness.
The cards tend to pick up on our strongest feelings, rather than our words or mental intentions, so the reading may reflect what we feel most strongly about in the moment, rather than what we are mentally trying to focus on.
This is why it is helpful to ground and centre before we throw the cards, so we are connected to our inner truth and feelings,(without being in a super activated emotional state),and therefore able to resonate with the messages of the cards.
Crafting the right questions to obtain the answers we are looking for also takes some experimentation. Some questions are too vague for the answer we want, or too specific for the perspective we need.
For example, if we ask a question like ‘should I take this job?’ and then throw a spread, we may or may not get a clear answer. We can perhaps try just pulling a single card for a yes or no answer (assuming we have a yes or no associated with each card), or we could pull a couple of cards to get a sense of a positive or negative experience.
But, sometimes a yes or no answer is not ideal. We may not be in the right stage of a decision process to take in a direct answer and need time to consider our feelings about different possibilities. We could instead ask: ‘what will the outcome be if I take this job?’ and pull a card or two to shed some light. Alternatively, we could ask a broader question such as ‘What do I need to be aware of with this job opportunity?’ and pull a card or two on that.
Sometimes we need to take a step back a bit further and look at the whole situation for greater clarity. In this case, asking ‘Please shed light on my job situation right now’ and throwing a full spread can be most helpful.
Often, I find a specific question looking for a specific answer is better answered by pulling fewer cards, and an overview of different energies at play in a situation is better answered with a full spread (like the Celtic Cross).
Because I use the Tarot predominantly for healing and self-awareness, I am a fan of the broader perspective a spread gives, because it helps us see more of the energies at play within us. However, I also like to ask specific questions from time to time or add those on top of a bigger spread.
4. Emotional Charge & Perspective
When we have a burning question, there is often a strong emotional charge around the situation. We want something very badly, we hope or we fear until we’ve lost touch with our centre completely. This can easily cloud our perspective or create tunnel vision which prevents us from seeing the situation in a new way. Often, this is why we come to the Tarot in the first place, because we need perspective- and the Tarot is a great tool to bring this to us!
However, especially when reading for ourselves, sometimes we can’t quite wrap our head around the meaning of a certain card or reading because we aren’t in a state of being able to see it in a new way yet! We are too emotional about the situation.
In this case, we need to shift our energy into a state of more openness and curiosity in order to gain perspective.
One way to handle this is to simply wait until a different time to do the reading, when you are less emotionally charged and more able to be curious. You can try going for a walk or venting to a friend and then come back to it, or sleep on it first.
You may wish to do a grounding and centering ritual before beginning the reading. This can help clear your energy and open your mind.
It can also be helpful to get an outside perspective from a Tarot reader or friend who can interpret the cards. They can help frame the meaning of the cards in a way that helps you understand and accept it, or they can ask you further questions to deepen your self-awareness and relate this to the card. Having an empathetic listener can help open the doors of your mind and heart just a little so that the message can come through.
Sometimes all we need is a bit of time to let things percolate, integrate and digest. This is why it is a great idea to take a photo of the spread and write notes about it- so that you can return to it later. Sometimes, the ‘aha’ moment is simply delayed.
Do your best to take in the cards, be open to their messages, even if they’re confusing or unclear. Then go do something else for a while, rather than obsessively seeking an answer right away. Often, the more we push, the narrower our thinking becomes, and this may not be the ideal mindset to receive the message.
Let the reading go for a bit and immerse yourself in another activity or let your mind wander. Maybe even wait a day or two and then come back to your notes and photo. You might find it all comes together with a bit of time. I’ve had readings that took a week or two to really sink in.
6. Self-Awareness, Rejection & Shadow
Get curious about any negative reaction you have to a card- what feelings come up when you see it? Before you slam the card back into the deck, take note of it and write down your feelings about it.
If we are rejecting a card or the message of a reading, this can mean it holds truth that we don’t want to face.
Often, when we react negatively to a card, it is because we have a hope or idea of what the message of the reading ‘should’ be and the card doesn’t fit our idea. The card may also trigger some deep emotions we’d rather not deal with. This can be an invitation to shift our perspective or delve into our feelings.
Could it be depicting a shadow part of us? A part of us that we push away, deny, hide or dislike? Is it illustrating an energy showing up in our lives through other people? Our shadow is often a combination or both positive and negative attributes- anything we pretend isn’t a part of us or needs to be integrated.
I believe when we come to the cards for healing and clarity, what comes up is usually something we are meant to see, and ready to see, whether it is comfortable or not.
Sometimes when I get a card I don’t like, I shuffle again. But often, the same card comes up again, so I know I have to pay attention, no matter how much I dislike it!
Journal your reactions to the card you reject. Express what you hate about it, or why it ‘makes no sense’. This process can shed light on what it really means to you and how/if it relates to your situation on a deeper level than you were first willing to accept. This is another reason why it is helpful to wait until we are in a less active emotional state and a more open, curious state to do a reading.
Shadow work is something the Tarot can be helpful for, but you may wish to get further support, such as a reader, a healer or a therapist that specialises in shadow work to delve deep.
7. It’s ok to Just Start Over
Sometimes we just throw a dud reading. It can be a combination of the above issues- perhaps the deck needed to be cleansed, we weren’t tuning in to ourselves while shuffling, or it just isn’t the right time. It is ok to let it go and start all over again! As long as you don’t repeatedly throw a new spread until you get one you like, I feel it is ok to know when it’s a lost cause and best to try again.
Over the years, Tarot has become very popular and you may find a hundred different pieces of advice for every issue. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way, just different things that work for different people.
I hope that these tips were helpful, and if you are looking for a compassionate, healing-centered reading for clarity and inner peace, feel free to book a Tarot Reading with me!
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.