Welcome to the 5 Ways to Explore a Single Tarot Card! In this blog post, you will be introduced to, uh, five ways to explore a single tarot card…that will hopefully inspire you and ignite your interpretative sparks! 🙂
The Feel-See-Speak Trio
1. Feel. To “feel” means to engage with your intuition in a relaxed manner. It’s the free-vibing, sky-reeling and heart-flowing way to look at a tarot card.
- What is your first impression of the card? For example, you may be picking up on sadness when you are presented with positive card like The Sun. Maybe instead of being basked in light and openness, you are being blinded by its brilliance instead. Maybe this can be pointing towards your overly optimistic attitude which disengages you from some of the serious issues that you need to be facing.
- What jumps out at you? What is the first thing that you notice? Sometimes your focus may be drawn to a random or miscellaneous detail on the card that doesn’t seem to be significant. Maybe somehow, by some ridiculous synchronicity or coincidence, you are now staring at The Sun’s nose, and for some reason you are thinking to yourself that the glorious sun might just be having this glorious itch. Kind of stupid, right? But don’t dismiss it until you explore the idea! This could be referring to The Sun’s perfection and stillness, and subsequently its need to break free from that perfect image in order to rest and stretch for a while (and satisfy that annoying itch!) before resuming its post. If you apply it to your situation, maybe you’ve been dutifully sitting before that office desk for too long, and you need to go out there, take a deep breath and enjoy the sun a bit so you can be more productive!
2. See. To “see” is to observe and absorb the details and scene of the card. You register the details holistically and come up with a conclusion or insight based on the interactive qualities of the card, and then you look at how you came up with that particular conclusion or insight by examining how the elements on the card interact with each other.
- What do you think is going on? Why do you think so? Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and have a general idea, think about why you have come up with this conclusion. For example, in Rider Waite’s Six of Wands, you see a man holding a wand with a victory wreath festooned on the top of the wand. He is obviously in the position of leadership since he is surrounded by followers. How did you come up with this conclusion? The horse is being covered by a green cape (excuse the lack of vocabulary pertaining horse gadgetry) and this green cape covers up a third of the card as well as the majority of the followers. This renders the role of the followers less significant than that of the leader’s, whose existence is heightened by the incomplete shapes of the people who support him. This shows that the people who support him are ultimately nameless or do not need to be named, which means that the support may not necessarily come from a distinct individuals but a group of people or community, who are raising their own wands to join the group march. There is a bigger picture here, and the bigger picture is represented by the leader’s vision and his direction.
- What can you see from the character’s expression and gestures? What is their relationship with the other characters around them? Again, using Six of Wands as an example, maybe the first face you see is not the leader on the horseback, but the blonde figure looking at the leader near the edge and the (excuse the precise vocabulary pertaining horse) horse’s butt. This shifts the focus of your interpretation entirely because the leading man is no longer in the spotlight, an unnamed individual now is. The blonde figure seems to be looking at the leader with yearning, and maybe he desperately wants the leader to notice him. He not only wants to be included in the group and the march, he also wants his presence to stand out and be meaningful in the eyes of his leader. To apply this to real life, maybe you are feeling under-appreciated for the efforts you have done for your community and you wish to be recognized more in a meaningful way.
3. Speak. To “speak”, actually, means to listen. Listen to what the card says to you.
- What is the first word, first sentence, the very first thing you hear the card say (in intelligible language and not just impressions) to you? For example, if you draw the Ten of Swords, maybe the first thing you hear is “Ouch”, which doesn’t really resonate with the gravity and solemnness of the card. But let’s take a look at it this way: despite the weight this card usually implies, maybe it is trying to tell you that things aren’t as bad as you’ve imagined. Maybe you’ve just been whining a lot and moping a lot, but maybe you’re not actually in that much of pain. You cry and you shout and you exaggerate. “Oh dear! Look at me! I’m so having a Ten of Swords moment!” But not really. You’re just being a drama queen.
- What conversation is the card’s inhabitants having? In other words, eavesdrop! And remember, you can be creative. The conversation doesn’t have to take place between two human characters. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Going back to the Ten of Swords again, this might be something you hear: “Okay, seriously, I’m not even stabbing you hard,” one of the sword says while the other swords chime in. “Omg, I don’t even want to be here. I don’t get paid enough to do this.” “Can you believe this guy? He’s not even dead. The blood is totally fake.” “Yeah. He just wants attention.” And then, finally, the guy fake-twitches and lets out this overly dramatic moan: “I am in SO much pain!” Again, this conversation is rather humourous and lighthearted. One of its messages is clearly: “Stop moping. You’re being a drama-queen.” And the other: “Laugh it off, man! Stop trying to be a cry-baby.” In addition, it can also represent the attitudes and perspectives of the people who are involved with your drama.
And the rest of the Five…
4. Animate. To “animate” is to ask yourself this question: “What would happen if the card comes to life?” In other words, make the scene move. Unpause the stillness and keep watching. Rewind the movie a bit and look at what happened just seconds before.
- What is the first thing that moves? What do you see in your head when you look at the card in your hand? If you are looking at the Five of Cups, the first thing you see may be the three cups that are tipped over, with their colourful contents spilled onto the ground. The next thing you see may be the man, dejected and frustrated, is actually the one who kicked and knocked them over–who is now standing in perfect stillness and regretting his decision. This means that he own person is the source of his dejection and misery. Maybe he didn’t mean to let his emotions spill out, but right now it is too late. What you have seen can represent an impulsive moment in which wild, unadulterated feelings are chaotically released, which leads to the current experience of loss.
5. Reference. To “reference” means to establish a point of reference within the image of the card and see how it relates to the rest of the items on the card.
- So, due to paramount laziness, I am going to provide you a link to a previously written blog post which addresses this very subject in great detail. But just to give you a brief taste of what “reference” means: it basically means to pick out a single element from the card and then examine its relationship with the other items. For example, if you draw Queen of Pentacles and the point of reference you have picked is her crown and her veil, you can use this as a reference to interpret the rest of the image. The crown and the veil can may symbolize status, and the queen may be trying very hard to keep those two things on her head, which leads to an obsession with image and external status, and an over-emphasis on the words and actions that would qualify her as the Queen of Pentacles instead of the inherent qualities that make her the Queen of Pentacles.
Tarot never gets old, as I like to say. 😉
If you are interested in reading more about viewing tarot cards through the lens of storytelling as well as cultivating an intuitive tarot practice, check out my e-book: Tarot Beginnings: An Introduction to the Story and Study of Tarot.