This post compiles the 10 biggest Tarot mistakes you want to avoid. I also offer specific ways to overcome these mistakes so you can make your Tarot readings as accurate and insightful as possible.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced Tarot reader — we all make mistakes in our readings sometimes. The key is to continue practicing, learning, and improving your reading skills and technique. So don’t beat yourself up!
Here we go — the top 10 mistakes to avoid in your Tarot readings:
1. Asking Yes/No Questions
The Tarot is a complex system of divination and spiritual guidance. The cards want to empower you (or your Querent/client) as much as possible, which means they’ll never give you a simplistic answer to a yes-or-no question. The cards want to give you lots of information so you can make more informed choices and decisions in your life.
Asking a Tarot deck yes/no questions is typically just a waste of time, especially since all the cards could be interpreted as telling you “yes” or “no” depending on the circumstances and context.
How to fix this: Ask open-ended, insightful, well-crafted questions. The best questions start with why, what, and how. Instead of asking, “when will I get a promotion?” it’s a lot more productive to ask, “what can I do to align myself with greater abundance at work?”
To master the art of asking productive Tarot questions, check out my full guide (with a handy downloadable PDF).
2. Using the Tarot to Tell the “Future”
When you first start using the cards, it might be tempting to ask questions about the future and upcoming events: When will I meet my soul mate? When will I move? When will I get pregnant? When will I receive a job offer? And so on and so on.
But just like yes/no questions, fortune-telling questions are mostly a waste of time. This is because your “destiny” isn’t predetermined — in fact, there’s really no such thing as “destiny.” You’re actively co-creating your reality and life experiences as you go along, based on every choice you make. If you make a certain choice today, that choice will affect your life a month from now in specific ways. If you make a different choice today, the impact later on will be different as well.
How to fix this: The Tarot acknowledges your creative power to manifest your own reality, so it doesn’t (it can’t!) tell the future. Instead of asking fortune-telling or time-specific questions, make sure to ask questions that take your own creative power into account. For example, instead of asking, “will I meet my soul mate this year?” it’s much better to ask, “what can I do to release any self-limiting beliefs that are blocking the energy of love in my life?”
3. Not Reading Reversals
Very early on in my career as a Tarot reader, I incorporated reversals into my readings. I was taught that reversals are meaningful and that they can add more nuance and layers to any reading — and I believe this is absolutely the case.
Of course, you must figure out whether reversals make sense for you and for the types of readings you want to offer. However, I highly recommend incorporating reversals into your Tarot readings as quickly as possible.
How to fix this: Not reading reversals is sort of like using only one half of the alphabet. If you look at it this way, there are actually 156 cards in the Tarot deck — 78 upright and 78 reversed. To get the most detailed and informative answers to your questions, you want to master and use the entire Tarot alphabet.
If you need some help incorporating reversals into your readings, here’s my guide on reversals.
4. Not Reading Court Cards
Although less common, there are some readers who don’t incorporate court cards into their readings. Only using the court cards as significators (meaning, as representations of the Querent) and leaving them out of your spreads severely limits the scope of your readings.
Just like reversed cards, court cards can add another layer of significance to your readings. This is especially true if you’re open to reading court cards not just as people in your life, but as distinct aspects of your personality (or the Querent’s personality).
How to fix this: Read court cards just as you would read any other card in the deck, focusing on all the details on the cards. Ask whether the cards represent a person in your life or if they’re trying to point out a specific aspect or pattern in your personality.
To master how to read court cards, from the Pages to the Kings, please refer to my Masterclass Series.
5. Reading Court Cards as People (And Nothing Else)
To expand on mistake #4, another problem that can arise during your readings is not reading court cards as anything other than people. Does the King of Wands represent your dad? Does the Page of Cups represent your sister or best friend? Does the Queen of Swords represent your boss? All of these are possible.
But it’s also possible that the King of Wands represents your tendency to be super impulsive or to get restless in relationships. The Page of Cups might represent your sensitivity and intuition, suggesting that you must further develop these gifts. The Queen of Swords might be telling you that you must heal your fear of speaking your mind and be more assertive at work (or at home).
How to fix this: Move beyond simplistic, one-dimensional interpretations of the court cards as actual people. Yes, the King of Cups might represent your grandfather — but he might also represent your need to build a solid foundation before jumping into relationships (or a million other interpretations!).
Keep your mind open and try to notice what the court cards are telling you about yourself (or about your client).
6. Disregarding Tarot Numerology
Since each card on the Tarot deck has a number, both in the Major and Minor Arcana, Tarot numerology is really important. Ignoring or avoiding the numbers that show up on the cards in a spread is a mistake because there are significant clues in those numbers.
For example, the number 5 in the Tarot typically indicates conflict or uncertainty — just look at the 5 of Pentacles or the 5 of Cups! The number 3 is associated with collaboration, community, and with things almost coming to fruition (look at the 3 of Pentacles, with the 3 figures working together).
How to fix this: Research and learn what each number means in the Tarot and how certain cards correspond to other cards based on their numbers. For instance, Justice is numbered 11, which can be reduced to 1 + 1 = 2, The High Priestess. Therefore, Justice has a correspondence with the High Priestess. How might this change your interpretation or understanding of Justice when it shows up in a reading?
7. Reading Cards Separately in a Spread
One of the hardest things to master is how to weave a clear story out of a Tarot spread. Yes, you can memorize the meanings of the 78 cards — but how can you tell a cohesive, meaningful story from a 5- or 10-card spread?
Reading the cards in relation to each other and as part of a whole makes your interpretations far more interesting and detailed. Beginner Tarot readers will sometimes move through a spread by reading each card individually, without really bringing everything together or telling a unified story. This is a mistake and it will leave your client (or yourself) confused and wondering how all the cards fit together.
How to fix this: Practice, practice, practice! Storytelling, both in Tarot and in life, is a skill and an art. The best way to master Tarot storytelling is to practice every chance you get. Do pretend readings for characters from books, movies, and TV shows. Notice how the cards relate to each other based on their positions in a spread.
Are any figures looking at each other or, alternatively, turning away from each other? Are there any colors, numbers, or symbols coming up in more than one card? How are those two (or more) cards related? Just keep asking questions and try to read the cards relationally instead of as separate units.
8. Relying on Memorization
I believe that every good Tarot reader must learn the traditional interpretations of the Rider Waite Smith system. (The best book for this is Benebell Wen’s Holistic Tarot.) Since the Tarot is such a complex and ancient system of divination, you must build a solid foundation and understanding of the cards’ traditional meanings.
But once you’ve mastered these traditional meanings, you can start to play and experiment by following your own intuition about what the cards mean. Reading a Tarot spread intuitively means going with your gut, becoming aware of the first details or images you notice, and allowing your attention to go wherever it naturally wants to go.
How to fix this: Instead of simply describing what individual cards mean based on memorized book interpretations (which gets really boring really fast), go with your gut and intuitive senses.
Allow your Spirit Guides to direct your attention and to use the cards to whisper messages and information to you. Trust that if any intuitive hits come up for you regarding a specific card, they’re precisely how you’re meant to read that card in your spread or in answer to your question.
9. Ignoring the Background Details
Another mistake is focusing too much on a card’s foreground details. For example, focusing only on the white horse and the Death figure on the Death card. There are actually hundreds of significant details in the background of that card — mountains, a sun, a river/stream, boats, flowers, a priest, a woman, a child holding a flower, etc.
Ignoring background details makes your readings less complex and interesting. It’s important to pay attention to absolutely everything that appears on a card.
How to fix this: Use selective focus to pay attention to the different areas and layers of each card, focusing first on the foreground, then on the background, then on the sky, then on the ground, etc. Make sure you notice and take into consideration every figure and detail that appears on each card — sometimes the answers you’re looking for are hidden somewhere in the background or corner of a card.
10. Switching Cards When They’re Hard to Understand
Tarot spreads can sometimes be really confusing! You might get all court cards, or lots of reversals, or a sequence of cards that just doesn’t seem to make sense. In these cases, it’s important to resist the urge to just re-shuffle the deck and start again.
Especially if you’re just reading for yourself, and there’s no one around, you might be tempted to “erase” a spread and just start over. After all, no one will know! But you must remember that there are no accidents in the Tarot, and every single card you pull (after properly shuffling and asking a productive question) has an important message for you.
How to fix this: Instead of reshuffling and starting over, try your best to work through the cards you’ve got. Notice all the details on the cards, and how they might relate to each other. Are they telling a different story than what you first expected to hear? Are you possibly clouding your reading with preconceived assumptions or because you wanted to hear something else?
If you’ve got a lot of court cards, are you just trying to read them as real people rather than as aspects of your own personality? Becoming an excellent Tarot reader takes work and practice. Staying with a complicated or confusing spread and working through it — rather than just starting over from scratch — will build up your reading skills and your ability to interpret any spread, any time, for any question.
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