Why do tarot cards have different meanings with each reading?


Sometimes you might have a reading where one card seems to hold a different meaning than when it came up in another reading.  There are several reasons this can happen, but be assured – the card itself does not change nor does the essence of it change.  What might be different is the nature of the question asked, the position in the spread, the type of spread, and/or the style of the reader.


Let’s start with style. We all know the color blue, but might all describe it differently, for example, so that you never get the exact same description twice.  If that were the case, we could put all the “answers” into a nice computer program and you would not need a tarot reader at all.  The tarot cards are a tool, but the tarot reader is the interpreter.


The nature of the question is another variable that can seem to change the meaning of the tarot card.  Your current question may be about family, whereas the last time your identical card came up, the question might have been about money.  A changed question also changes the interpretation.   Each card of the minor arcana, for example, is part of a suit. The card has certain characteristics it shares with others within the same suit.  The cards of the same number also share certain characteristics.  Low numbers have more in common with each other than high numbers.  There are many factors in play besides just the picture or symbols on the card.  If you wanted the reader to explain every possible thing the card “could” mean, it would take you all day to do a reading.  Your reader takes the issues from the cards which are relevant to your question and generally incorporates only the most important of those into your reading.


Perhaps the most significant way the cards seem to change meaning is the position in the spread.  In a generic three-card spread which reads left to right as “past”, “present” and “future”, for example, even if you could draw the same identical card three times (you can’t, of course!), each position would generate a different meaning.  Some cards are even considered “stronger” in one position than another.


One last thing to consider when wondering about the different meanings of the same card is which deck is used. I almost hesitate to even mention that, because there are so many different decks available with seemingly ambiguous figures compared to the standard Rider-Waite deck that so many of us use.  Each deck comes with its own feel and tone. Some have a more adventurous feel, some are more mystical, others more black and white. Also, the relationship between tarot deck and reader is very personal.  I have 4 decks, two of which I use regularly.  I use one for romantic-type questions and the other for everything else.  If I drew the same card from both decks in the same place with the same question I would still have a different interpretation.


I should counter here, however.  Often a querent will see the same card appear for them again and again.  It could be that the tarot is reiterating a prior reading or trying to send you a stronger message.  If a card does come up for you twice, don’t necessarily disregard that.  It is always best to keep your heart and mind open.



What is Tarot?

Mystic BridgeThe real answer is that it is many things. If a picture tells a thousand words, then a tarot card tells…. well infinite words.  The first decks were developed before most people could read, so the symbolism was very important.  In order to convey a message, the pictures had to tell a story.  Each card has it’s own story – a little vignette, that helps the reader to ascertain what the card may be trying to teach us.  The cards themselves are but a conduit to the spirits – both of the the querent and of the universe.  They assist in conveying a message through the reader. That is why it is so important to me to keep my reading area clear and open to positive energy.  I spend time in contemplation and meditation for each reading  – to insure clarity and also to double check myself, that I am not “projecting” my feelings or hopes into the reading.  There is a great deal of synchronicity involved in the tarot.  It is best to let the universe flow naturally through the reading and through the reader, without trying to force an answer we wish for.  For that reason, it is very important to begin a reading with an open mind.  I believe that works both for the querent and the reader.  So, before you task yourself with wording your question, be sure you are clear of mind, and calm of heart.

Sample tarot Reading – Three Card Spread

Child of EarthThis is a simplified version of what you might get in your free tarot reading.  Since the tarot reading would be more personal to you, I might go into more detail about your question.  Remember, the more detailed and specific your question is, the more effective and solid your tarot reading will be.

Question: “How can I (we) be more mindful of the #earth ?”
Spread: Three card
Cards pulled: Judgment – The Magician – Ace of Pentacles

Judgment represents the past. Do we go forward with courage in our quest to save her (the earth)? or do we slip into regret, and pretend there is nothing we can do (“woe is me”). Have we gone too far in our wastefulness and disregard for the earth and her sensitive ecosystem? Or can we still bring about change?

The Magician tells us we can influence change with divine energy, as shown with the fertile tree bearing fruit. This can be a time, if we allow it and work toward it, of healing and renewal. If we set our hearts to it we can expect miracles. We need to become clear sighted about what needs to be done.

The Ace of Pents shows us the earth mother with branches full of life and her feet rooted firmly in the ground. We can expect success, stability, and well-being.

Very positive tarot reading for our earth I’d say, but we need to work on collective positive energy, steer away from negative/scare tactics, set solid goals toward saving her, and change our actions accordingly.