How to Connect And Combine Tarot Cards
and Make Your Readings Flow
One of the challenges often facing new readers is how to connect and combine Tarot cards to provide an insightful reading, and this is when people can start to feel discouraged.
Knowing how to link Tarot cards together, to read the combinations and weave the 'story' within them, begins with a series of connections as we build up the picture...
10 Simple Steps to help your Tarot Readings flow
1: Familiar Friends vs. Silent Strangers
Unless you’re reading completely intuitively (in which case I doubt you’ll be reading this) before connecting the cards having at least a basic understanding of what they mean will help. To begin with, try not to get weighed down by every possible interpretation you can find because essentially, each card has a core meaning. You can add to your meanings over time and for most readers it's something that evolves with experience.
Just like meeting new friends, start to get acquainted so you know their names and a little bit about them. You’ll find they’re quite a chatty crowd once you’re familiar with them and they become wise friends instead of silent strangers. Which takes us onto…
2: Parlez-vous Tarot?
Learning Tarot is a bit like learning a new language, when you first begin it can seem strange and disjointed until you get used to it. But with Tarot we have pictures to help guide us, and these should hold a visual clue that easily links to your given meaning.
Whichever deck you’re using, the images should reflect your meanings and something in the picture should stand out to help create that connection for you. The important thing though, is that you feel you can personally relate to it in some way, something real instead of words you’re reciting from a book. Learn the lingo but have fun along the way, there’s more to help you with that from here.
Tarot keywords are really just the shorthand to help you remember the core meaning or summary of the card. Try to have just a few keywords for each card and say them to yourself as you turn them over, you can expand with the full interpretation you associate with that card once you start and progress through your reading.
Tarot keywords act like the foundation stones in your reading, to form a framework that allows your intuition to flow over the top. This can help in a few ways: -
Work through your deck, one card at a time, and say your keywords as you lay them down. Be kind and patient with yourself, it will get faster each time. Once you reach instant recognition you’ve really cracked it! (You’ll find Keyword slideshows for all the suits at the bottom of the main index on the Tarot card meanings and combinations page
4: Try a ‘non-positional’ approach.
With a set spread every place has a title, so each card is read in relation to what that position stands for and is then combined with the other cards present. This can sometimes feel fixed and limiting to begin with and throws something else into the mix to think about and consider.
We’re trying to create fluency so try a more fluid approach with a line of three cards, so we can form some dialogue to flow one into the next. This is much easier to do without set positions, which can make it feel as though the cards are sitting in separate boxes. A number of professional readers mainly work ‘free-flow’ because of the freedom it provides. By working with just a few cards you can start to build the flow in your reading.
Here’s the first three cards from the top of the deck with just my keywords, (don’t worry if mine are different to your own)
Progress/small success > change of cycle > celebration
5: Add Context.
Imagine the cards like a timeline, forward moving from left to right, with the first card as the beginning or starting point; each card leads into what happens next.
For me the Three of Wands shows initial goals have been realised and brought some small success. This leads to positive change, shown by The Wheel of Fortune, (if an unfavourable card followed then the change may not be so good)! This could indicate a lucky break or a good opportunity arriving but it brings a cycle change into play, which then in turn (no pun intended) leads to a sense of celebration felt on an emotional level. So, in this case we can see that whatever the Wheel brings has a positive outcome.
Can you see how your “story” had a beginning, middle, and end? You’ll also notice that if you asked a question the answer could be applied to different situations by placing it in context to what’s being asked. Imagine you were answering these questions: How is my relationship with --- going to progress? Will I get the promotion at work? Are my finances going to improve? The context may change but the meaning doesn’t really alter.
6: Applying Positions
In effect we have attached positions such as present, immediate future, and outcome, but when we approach them in this way it feels less restricted. If you applied past, present, future positions, to our example all that would change would be to use past and present tense to the first two cards, but the meaning is the same.
You can apply any title to any position you wish - just remember to set your intention in your mind before you start your reading - but it’s easier to see and create fluency in this three line formation to begin with.
As you start to see your ability grow you’ll gain confidence and then find it’s easier to transfer across and apply those skills to larger positional spreads and the cards will feel less ‘boxed-in’ by the titles, because you’ll see them in a new way.
In our example we didn't have a majority of one suit to steer us in one particular direction. Working with the element of what a suit represents can be really helpful if they're present but, as you can see, we managed without.
There are many layers you can apply to a Tarot reading and lots of additional clues you can look for to deepen your reading but it may not always be necessary, so don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be unless it helps or adds to what you have. This becomes more evident with larger spreads but could equally apply to three cards.
Things that I usually look for include: -
There were two threes in our cards; for me, threes indicate expansion and growth but they’re still small numbers and, although the Wheel is a major card, the nature of change can be transient. Notice how it sits in the middle, a pivotal point and central to everything, but we’re reading them in order so the last card still shows how it ultimately turns out and has the final say. We’ve added some depth, but it doesn’t take away from our original translation.
8: Lost in Translation?
Let your cards speak, what do they say? Do they appear to contradict one another, seem disjointed, or completely at odds? Maybe that’s exactly what they’re trying to point out. What if it doesn’t make sense to you? Say it anyway, it may make perfect sense to the person you’re reading for (that happened to me in some case studies in Easy Tarot Reading).
Even if you know your cards well but go blank it’s easier to pick the flow back up, because there should be interconnection between the image and your keywords. Go back to basics: what’s in the picture? What is the atmosphere of the card, is it a moody sky or bright lush landscape? How does it make you feel? There should be something in your card that you anchored your keyword to, a visual prompt to trigger it off and help you remember it easily.
9: Find your Voice
When we’re first learning and practising with our cards there’s a tendency to do everything in our head. I’ve found that quite a lot of students become tongue-tied when they need to verbalise what they’re seeing, they say they know what everything means but can’t get the words out, or find the right words to express it.
Speaking out loud can help to organise your thoughts and get into the flow of the reading. At some point you’ll read for someone else, so it can also help to become accustomed to the sound of your own voice and delivery. Start by saying the keywords in your mind as you lay each card down then go back to the first card and start talking. You can lead into it with something such as, “I’m looking at a situation that…” or “This card indicates…”
Physically saying it aloud can organise the tumble of thoughts and release some hidden gems too, so start talking. (I have full-blown conversations with my cards, sometimes individually, if I can’t ‘hear’ it speaking to me. See the first line of #8 above :)
At any time you can pick up a well-shuffled deck, work from the top and you’ll always have different cards and scenarios to work with. You can go through the full deck laying down sets of three and keep practicing whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Try to gradually build up the way you work with them, using the three cards in different ways to create a statement or sentence. Experiment with different tenses (present, future, outcome - or past, present, future). Then consider the context of how those three cards might apply to different questions, such as work, or money, or relationships. But take your time to begin with - you don’t need to try everything at once, just add some layers as your confidence grows.
There isn’t really a substitute for knowing your cards well but once you do you just can't stop them talking ;)
You can find detailed information for Tarot Card Meanings and Tarot Combinations from this link.
Josie is a professional Tarot reader, mentor, and author of the Easy Tarot books, published by Llewellyn. Read more here...
Photo credit: Caroline: https://www.flickr.com/photos/caroslines/3428960391