There are numerous ways that you can interpret the Tarot. The simplest is to memorize the meanings from the little packet that comes with the deck. That is fine if you are first starting out. However, memorizing meanings can only take you so far when you read the Tarot. It is also very limiting when it comes time to interpret the cards themselves.
How would you describe Sean Connery to a friend? You might start out by saying what he looks like: fit, and tall. Then you could list the movies he’s been in: The Hunt for Red October, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. You would probably also list his notable achievements as well: being voted as the 24th Greatest Movie Star of All Time, Best British Actor of All Time, and recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. However, all of these descriptions are not the sum total of who Sean Connery really is. No one person or thing can ever be completely and totally summarized and categorized. The same is true of the Tarot. That is why I am in favor of learning a more flexible system called Tarot Card Combinations.
Tarot card combinations, or simply card combinations, are any grouping of cards that indicate a pattern of some kind. The approach of discerning Tarot card patterns is largely specific to a single spread. You may find that one card appearing in a spread means one or two things in a specific position within the Tarot spread. Relying on the position of a Tarot card within a spread to interpret the Tarot card can limit your Tarot readings. Do not become limited by the Tarot spread you use. Instead, look for patterns in general among the Tarot cards. A good Tarot reader learns and uses flexibility when reading the Tarot. Not all clients are alike and not all Tarot spreads are the same.
The best way to start recognizing patterns is at the beginning. Look at the Tarot cards. Which card suits are present? Which card suits are absent? Is there predominance, or more, of one suit present in the spread? How many court cards are present? How many Minor Arcana cards are in the spread? Are there any Major Arcana cards, if so, how many? These basic questions will help you to gauge the overall scope of the spread and it will help you to recognize the energy present within the spread.
A spread with a lot of Wands might indicate that the client is skilled in creating business out of ideas. Wands are very active; they do not like to be still. Like fire they are always changing. The client may be job-hopping, in a growing period or participating in an expansion process of starting fresh in a new city. Any number of things could be occurring. Learn a couple of keywords that describe each suit. Doing so will help you to recognize what the absence of any given suit means in a particular Tarot spread.
An easy way to look for patterns is to look for pairs, triples, and quadruples of one card within a spread. Think of this like playing poker; watch and wait for the sets to appear and notice what they are saying to you. Each pair, triple or quadruple has its’ own meaning and significance in a Tarot spread.
For an example, we will look at the Aces. Four Aces might mean great power and a large degree of force or influence. Three could show competency and a degree of success. Two Aces may signify a relocation or a career change.
With both time and effort you will begin to notice patterns in the way that one numbered suit card interacts with another identically numbered suit card. Make notes about these relationships. What do they mean? How are they relating? Which card appears the most striking? It will all come together if you let the cards talk to you.
In addition to looking at pairs and multiples of one kind, you can look at the patterns presented by different cards. A suit full of fiery Wands would indicate lots of motion, passion and creative genius at work. Focus first on the spread as a whole, and then zero in on groups of three Tarot cards.
Looking at the grouping of three cards, called a triad, in a spread can show you how powerful, or weak a certain triad is. How do the cards on the outside support, or enhance the central card? How do the outer cards weaken, or disable the central card? There is no right or wrong answer here. Trust your intuition, your feelings, and thoughts. Certain cards have an affinity for other cards; the suits of Cups (aligned with the element Water) and Pentacles (aligned with Earth), also the suits of Swords (the Air element) and Wands (the Fire element). Likewise, certain cards are opposites; Cups and Wands, and Swords and Pentacles. Having an affinity for a card can help to strengthen the triad just as being an opposite can contribute to the triad weakening.
Where do the Major Arcana cards fit within this elemental alignment? As it happens, the Major Arcana can be grouped into the four elemental alignments very easily when you consider the major themes of each of the 22 cards. I find it helpful to consider each Major Arcana card a member of the suit in the element it fits.
The element of Air contains these cards: The Fool, The Magician, The Lovers, Justice, and The Star. Look at these cards. Air is all around them; it surrounds these cards. The Fool is ready to dive off of a cliff. The Magician is wielding his wand willing things into being from nothingness. The Lovers are given help from the sky itself above. Justice thinks carefully about the decisions before her. The Star shines brightly in the night sky. The commonality within this card group is that there are problems. Air means problems exist.
The cards that belong in the element of Fire are: The Emperor, Strength, The Wheel of Fortune, Temperance, The Tower, The Sun and Judgement. These cards keep things moving quickly indeed! The Emperor passionately rules. Strength is holding the lion’s mouth shut using great emotional control. The Wheel of Fortune is always turning. Temperance keeps things moving quickly. The Tower is struck by lightning and a fire is breaking out. The Sun is itself a fiery force of nature. Judgement illustrates the fiery passion that is present in major changes; a trial by fire. the glue that bonds these cards together is movement. Fire causes things to move and change. Fire is change.
These cards belong to the element of Earth: The Empress, The Hierophant, The Hermit, The Devil, and The World. Though it may not seem like it, these cards are all tied down to the Earth. The Empress is at home in her lush and fertile garden. The Hierophant follows the procedure exactly as it is written. The Hermit is at home seeking solace with nature. The Devil tempts using material things that come from the Earth. The World is the Earth; full of mountains, beaches, and trees. This grouping of cards is the most grounded and stable. Earth means a stable ground.
Water is the element associated with the remaining cards. Specifically: The High Priestess, The Chariot, The Hanged Man, Death, and The Moon. Water is present and subtly influences these cards as Water does not need to act strongly. The High Priestess’s robes become flowing water. The Chariot rolls smoothly over obstacles deftly negotiating muddy spots. The Hanged Man is prepared to go with the flow wherever that takes him. Death is flexible as it knows no rules, nor does it follow any. The Moon controls the tides and influences our own emotions. These cards are at rest and unmoving. Water is unmoving and it keeps things the same.
The Major Arcana’s elemental associations are just a guideline. I have found it to be accurate and reliable. You may find that The Hanged Man is better suited to Air, or that Judgement is closely tied to Water. There is some flexibility involved in this system.
No one card holds any more weight or influence over the other cards when you use this pattern detection system. The Major Arcana can easily be incorporated into this method if it is given elemental alignments. All Tarot cards are equal and are by no means locked into a specific meaning just because they are positioned in a certain spot within the spread. This interpretation style allows more flexibility and affords you a better chance to hone your skills as a Tarot reader by trusting your intuition more.
One final related activity regarding Tarot card combinations is this, I would strongly advise that you keep a Tarot reading journal; both in general, and to record what the Tarot card combinations are showing you within a Tarot spread. This process is highly time-consuming but will yield great results for you as a Tarot reader. Keeping notes on readings allows you to better organize your thoughts on the Tarot readings. If you do keep notes on every Tarot reading, you will be able to recognize patterns more easily over time.
- Triple element triads, like the name implies, have three different elemental types in a single triad. The two triad combinations that are listed before the description are to be considered the same because their effects upon the Tarot reading are the same. Within triple element triads the central card can be weakened by an enemy element. … Continue reading Triple Element Triads
- There are two types of double element triads. The first is already mentioned, Double Element Triad, and it is so named because the double element always touches the central card. For example, Fire-Earth-Earth and Water-Water-Air are both considered double element triads. The double element is always connected. The two triad combinations that appear above each … Continue reading Different Double Element Triad Combinations
- There are four kinds of triads that vary according to their level of strength: We have those that are very strong and support the center card, giving it “influence” over the reading. We have those that are very weak and weaken the center card, which “weakens” that card’s influence over the reading. We have “bridge” … Continue reading Single Element Triads