Tarot Card Reading Explained

Card reading is practised as a form of divination. The technical term for card reading is cartomancy. In cartomancy, different types of card decks are used for purposes of interpretations and any particular form of cartomancy normally derives its name from the name of the deck. Tarot, for example, is a popular subset of cartomancy. In tarot reading or taromancy, the reader uses the meanings and symbolisms of the cards and their arrangements (any particular ‘spread’ or layout of a set of cards) to evaluate influences or measure potential outcomes surrounding a situation, an event or a person.

How Does Card Reading Work?

Although there are particular methods regarding how any particular arrangement of cards are to be read, the philosophy and attitude of the card-reader, practitioner or the psychic plays important role on interpretation. For example, most card readers do not believe in the fact that one can make accurate predictions about future through reading cards.

Instead, most modern card readers maintain that the future is fluid and one can only talk about potential outcomes. Reading sessions may also help a subject gain valuable insights into his own nature or in the nature of his current path, actions and direction. And these insights, in turn, can help the person make more informed choices regarding his future actions.

That said, there are still psychics (and card readers among them) who believe in the idea of destiny or a predetermined fate. Even if that is true, card readings can still help people overcome a variety of difficulties in everyday life or provide useful guidance to someone facing difficult choices, etc.


As mentioned, there are different methods or subsets of cartomancy. The most well-known of these include Tarot, Lenormand, Oracle Cards, Kipper cards and more. These are different card decks each of which comes with its own set of imageries and symbolisms as well as spreads or layouts particular to it. In this article, we will discuss tarot cards, its imageries and spreads and how a tarot reader can glean interpretation from a particular arrangement or spread of cards.

Sample of Tarot Cards

The Tarot Deck

The 76-card tarot deck is divided into two sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

The Major Arcana contains 22 cards and they are easily recognizable by their roman numerals (except the card Fool which is represented by the number ‘0’). All of these 22 cards (the Magician, the Chariot, the Hermit, the High Priestess, the Sun, the Moon, the Devil and so on) represent primal archetypes of the human psyche.

The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, consists of four suits (swords, pentacles, cups and wands) of 14 cards each. The first ten cards of each suit are numbered (1-10) and the rest are face cards (in tarot terminology, ‘court cards’): king, queen, knight and jack/page.


In tarot, the two most common spreads are the Celtic Cross and the Three Fates.

In a Celtic Cross spread, ten cards are drawn and are arranged in a shape of a Celtic cross and a wand (or line). This is a more complex and elaborate spread and the cards (depending on their respective positions) provide a host of information surrounding a person or event (or both). The cards describe a situation; one’s conscious/rational and unconscious feelings about the situation; past influences and causes; personal hopes, fears, anxieties; ultimate aim and more.

3 Card Tarot Reading

The Three Fates spread is a much simpler arrangement. Commonly, the cards 1, 2 and 3 are believed to represent the past, the present and the future. However, the interpretation of the cards will depend primarily on the context of the subject’s query and they are thought to represent a trio of topics vis-à-vis the query.

For example, in a Career Reading, the three cards may mean the following: 1st card — your present position; 2nd card — where you intend to be or what you intend to achieve; 3rd card — how you can reach your goal.

Again, in a Decision-making reading, the first two cards in the three-card spread may represent the two most viable and practical choices you have under the present circumstances. And the third card, in such a case, will refer to things you must keep in mind before you make your decision.

One Card Tarot Reading

The Day Card

One card readings are normally requested to get answer or advice regarding something immediate. In the Day Card reading, for example, the drawn card suggests a topic or related topics that you should concern yourself with during the course of the day. This one card reading method is also used for weekly and monthly consultations.

By way of an example, let’s say you draw the 5 of Swords (from the Minor Arcana). Now, this card is the only one in the whole tarot deck that contains solely negative meanings: violence, humiliation, wanton destruction, vindictiveness, etc.

And if you happen to draw this card, it may mean that you are in danger of getting harmed or injured from the least expected quarters. Therefore, you must observe utmost caution and stay extremely alert so you don’t get in the harm’s way.

The Essence Card

Another interesting one card tarot reading is the Essence Card reading. Not all tarot readers perform this reading, but many of them do. An essence card reading is believed to provide a subject valuable insights into his own nature and can help him find his way back to his natural self or his inner center.

Essence card readings are performed with the Major Arcana cards only. During the reading, the card reader will ask your date of birth and will add up the digits to get to a number. For example, a person’s birth date is, say, 12.09.1975. So, adding the digits 1+2+0+9+1+9+7+5 we get the number 34. Now, since this is higher than the highest Major Arcana card (22), you settle for the next cross sum 3+4=7. Thus, your essence card is VII-Chariot. Subsequently, the card reader may come to the conclusion that you are essentially an energetic, optimistic, adventure-seeking person.

Of course, the above is a simplified example of a particular tarot reading situation. Often, the task of interpretation is way more difficult than this. And in order to achieve proper meaning, the card reader must use his or her intuitive abilities and flexibility of mind. In fact, most psychics agree that a good card reader is able to glean appropriate meanings by the power of his intuitions, but also by looking into his own soul and by his power to tap into the collective wisdom of the universal, archetypal mind.