Tarot Card Combinations (April 2010)

The difference between the accomplished reader and the novice is often nothing more than the ability to synthesize the card meanings into a comprehensive whole. Although spreads form the framework of your readings, to weave the spreads into complete stories you need to be able to read the cards in combination. While the meanings of some card combinations will be obvious to you, others may require some study. The easiest way to learn how to combine card meanings is through practice. In the meantime, here are some simple guidelines for you to consider.

1. After you lay out the cards, examine them and look for the thread of the story.

2. Think about the individual meanings of each card. Consider how they work together in terms of the question.             

3. Focus on the first two or three cards in the spread. Let the artwork speak to you. Allow your intuition to come into play. If answers come to mind that don't seem to fit with the book meanings of the cards, go with your instinct.

4.  If a card doesn't make sense, either alone or in combination with its neighbors, pull another card for clarification.

5.  Consider the court cards, if any, and try to determine whether they represent people or issues in the life of the person for whom you're reading. If you are still unclear about a court card draw a second card as a modifier.

6.  Consider the cards of the major arcana in terms of the larger picture. Then look to the minors for hints on how these issues may manifest in daily life.

7. Start from the first card in the spread and begin telling a story in terms of the question and everything you have gleaned from your examination of the layout.

Let's say that you are reading for a man who wants to know whether or not he is going to win at gambling. If he picks The Wheel of Fortune, nine of cups, and ten of pentacles you can assure him that he will win big time. However, what if he gets the Wheel of Fortune, the nine of cups and the five of pentacles? You might then surmise that although he may win at first, in the end he will probably lose most of it. In this case you might point out that although the cards point to the most likely outcome, nothing is set in stone. Then you might suggest that if he wins a substantial amount he should cash in his chips and go home.

If a woman is asking about her troubled marriage and future relationship with her husband, and she gets The Lovers, The High Priestess and the eight of cups, you may surmise that her marriage has come to a crossroads. The Lovers shows that a choice must be made, or that someone is coming between the couple. The High Priestess can represent a secret or a mysterious woman in the husband's life. With the eight of cups, he may well leave the questioner for the other woman (or she may decide to leave him). However, if instead of the former combo the woman draws The Lovers, The High Priestess, and the two of cups, the choice is still there, but with this combination the husband may realize that the marriage is based on partnership and true love. Then, instead of leaving, he may agree to let go of the other woman in order to build a more meaningful union with his wife.

Consider the following combination: The Empress and the three of swords. What do you think these cards mean when taken together? Since The Empress may represent pregnancy and the three of swords loss, disappointment, heartbreak, or surgery, this combo often indicates miscarriage or abortion. If The Star was drawn with these cards you would know that the worst was past and healing had begun. However with the addition of the five of cups to the original two cards you might surmise that the woman in question was having great difficulty letting go her sorrow, pain, and disappointment.

During the course of a reading, new definitions for single cards or combinations may come to mind. If this happens, don't be afraid to use the new definition. At some point you may find that you no longer need to "read" either individual or combined meanings. The answers will jump out at you before you can think about card meanings. When this happens it is as if an inner channel opens up and detailed pictures or words form in your mind. Trust your impulses and the images you receive. At this point the tool becomes incidental to the process and intuition takes over; just follow wherever it leads you.