Tarot Interpretation Basics: Making a Narrative out of Two Cards

Tarot cards and, more recently, oracle cards are outstanding tools for psychological and spiritual work.  Each year they become more and more a part of the common vernacular and readily available in mass-market venues, especially the online retailer, Amazon. The number of decks available in and out of print is mind-boggling, easily in the thousands, especially if you go do a search for decks on eBay. 

Once shrouded in mystery and a “tool of people with questionable character, dark intentions, or acolytes of heathen beliefs”, tarot and oracle cards are enjoying widespread, if still hesitant acceptance.  In this article, I will demonstrate a two-card tarot reading.

Drawing the Two Cards

To perform any reading, you have to initiate a number of processes.  First, you need to select the deck you intend to use for your reading.  In this example, I have chosen the Gilded Tarot.  You then have to decide how you want to approach the reading of the cards.

Do you want to ask a specific question?  Such as, “I have a job opportunity in Boston, MA; should I take it?” Do you want to look at a general area of your life: romance, career, family, or friendship? Would you prefer to be open and just see what comes up?

Once you know how you want to approach the reading, you want to select your two cards using guiding questions in your mind, out loud, or for a client that will help you or them focus while drawing the card.  The two questions I always ask myself and my clients are: “what do you need to know right now?” And “what is the challenge you need to be aware of?”

Let’s use a specific question for this article.  The question you decide to ask is, “I met someone I like, should I ask them out?”  I spread the cards out in front of you like a fan and ask, “what do you need to know right now?” and you pick a card.  Then I asked, “what is the challenge you need to be aware of?”

The Cards and Interpreting Them

You select the Knight of Cups for the first card.

Knight of Cups card

The second card you draw is Judgment.

Judgement card

The knights all have to do with quests and this card represents a quest of the heart or a quest of emotions.  The date represents an adventure, one perfectly suited for the Knight of Cups, so this is a “go for it!” message.  Additionally, the card asks something in return, as much as it offers an answer.  What are you “questing for” with regard to love and relationship?

The challenge card is Judgment, indicating that you need to be selective and use your judgment regarding the person during and after the date, but not before.  As you think about what you want and you think about how the date is going, store that information in your mind.  Once the date is done you will have feelings, and an experience to evaluate and judge.

Should something occur during the date that sounds warning bells in your mind or heart, then politely say no to a second date if it comes up and looks for your next quest.  Should the actual date go well, and, in your judgment, merit a second date, be sure to convey your desire for another date.

Now, let’s do something interesting with this narrative process; let’s reverse the cards and say that you drew the Judgment card first and the Knight of Cups second.  How does the narrative change?

What you need to know and consider is how you make your judgments to date in general and what judgments you have made up to this point to consider this date.  Do you judge yourself to be ready for this date or dating, in general, or, upon reflection, do you realize that now is not the time to pursue the date?  The action of judgment is not only the final decision but the analysis leading up to the decision.

The challenge card you drew was the Knight of Cups, so even if you have doubts, it may prove worthwhile to still go on this particular “quest”.  It may lead you to your “Holy Grail” or help you realize that you still have some questing to do.

The difference between the two narrative is subtle but significant.  In the first combination of cards, you should plan to go ahead with the date, sort of leap in and figure it out as you go.  In the second combination of cards, you should be more cautious before deciding, but ultimately you need to “test yourself” by going out on the date, even if you have reservations.

Building the Narrative is the Magic

Tarot reading is most powerful when it is used as a creative and critical thinking tool, not when it is used as a parlor trick to excite and frighten people into believing in a predetermined outcome. Each card is a narrative, like a single chapter for a book that has 78 chapters.  Amazingly these chapters can be arranged in a vast number of ways.

Just consider using the same starting card and pulling from the rest of the deck, which would be 1 chapter plus 77 potential other chapters. You can switch the starting card out 77 more times and then make a selection from the remaining 77 cards.  Additionally, the cards drawn will need to be interpreted according to a question, area of life, or just a cold, open read.

Building the narrative is the magic of the reading process and the most important skill to develop whether you are reading for yourself or for others, which is why it is important to learn and develop your skills as a storyteller and story interpreter.  Memorizing card meanings will not be enough to access the full power of tarot reading.  You need to know stories, how to tell them and how they are told.

Philip Young, PhD

I am a spiritual adviser located in Cary, North Carolina. I earned my PhD in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1996 and had a career in academics until 2007, when I retired to become a stay-at-home father. In 2013 I “hung out my shingle” starting my business Black Unykorn Enterprises, LLC. I provide spiritual guidance using different tools: astrology, tarot/oracle cards, numerology, and past life regression (using muscle testing). With a home office, Zoom, WeChat, and WhatsApp, I work with local clients in person and distance clients from around the world. You can read about my practice and contact me through my website: https://www.blackunykorn.com.

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