3 Common Mistakes When Reading Your Own Tarot

Posted on June 03, 2016

It′s exciting, isn′t it? You′ve got your tarot cards, you know that they hold mystery and intrigue. You want to unlock that and learn about yourself — but you′ve heard time and time again that you′re not supposed to read your own cards.

Truth is, there′s nothing wrong with reading your own tarot cards. No one knows you better than you do; it′s just sometimes hard to be objective enough to really understand what the cards are trying to tell you. However, if you can avoid these three common mistakes when reading your own tarot, you will find that the cards can indeed speak to you, and bring you very valuable information.

Related: How to Do Your Own Daily Tarot Reading

Common Mistake #1: Reading Your Tarot in the Middle of a Crisis

It′s only human nature to want to know the outcome of an intensely emotional situation, but this is exactly the time that you should not try to read your own cards. It doesn′t matter what the nature of the upheaval is, when you′re too upset about what′s happening, you′re going to be tempted to get the cards to tell you what you want to hear, rather than what′s actually there.

Often in times like this you′ll want to keep drawing extra cards to try to get clarity on the situation — but what you′re really doing is trying to change the outcome. You may even do reading after reading after reading, changing the layouts in order to get a different result. You could keep going back to the cards frequently, in order to try to get the answer that you prefer.

All of this is just going to add confusion and frustration to your already intense emotional state. The best thing to do would be to wait until things have calmed down a bit, and then approach the tarot once, and only once, from a more level-headed frame of mind. If you do have to read in the middle of an agitated emotional state, lay down some ground rules. Decide which type of tarot spread you are going to use, and stick with it. Don′t add additional cards to get qualifying information; this is unnecessary. And don′t keep asking the same questions of the cards.

I′d recommend getting a journal or starting a private blog, and recording only the facts from your tarot reading. Write down what the card was, whether it was upright or inverted, and what that card means — not what you want it to mean in this situation, but what it actually means. Then move onto the next card, noting its position in the spread, whether it was upright or reversed, and what it means. Do this as objectively as you can, with all the cards in the layout. Then walk away from it and return later, when you′ve calmed down a bit and had a chance to contemplate the cards, and see what they′re trying to tell you. If they′re going to be of any help at all, you have to lay your emotions aside, and hear the real message that they′re trying to convey.

Common Mistake #2: Overcomplicating Things

This happens more than you might think it does. You′re really getting interested in the tarot and you want to learn everything that it has to offer. When doing a layout, the more cards mean the more information that you can get from the spread, right? Well, not necessarily. The more complicated the spread, the more room there is for error when you′re interpreting the cards, no matter how objective you think you′re being.

There are as many different tarot spreads as there are people who read the tarot. Some even use all the tarot cards in the deck! While this is flashy and looks important, it′s just not needed. The tarot is profound, with each card representing a chapter in the book of your life. Like any good book, you have to take time to digest the information to get the most of it, rather than skimming the pages and trying to absorb the entire book at once.

Remember to K.I.S.S. your tarot: Keep It Simple, Sweetie. The more important that the situation is, the more you′ll get from a simple spread. Go back to the three-card spread; let the first card represent past influences, the second card represent what′s influencing you now, and the third card representing potential outcome. If you′re trying to decide between two paths, try a two-card spread; let the first card indicate one path, and the second card indicate the other choice. Don′t underestimate how valuable a one-card reading can be, either. Focusing on your question and drawing one card can provide you with very precise and powerful insight into your current situation.

Common Mistake #3: Trying to Change the Outcome

You′d be surprised how many people do this! Because everyone has their own slant on what the cards are saying to them, it′s easy to get caught up in second-guessing yourself. You may read what the cards have to say, and understand with clarity what they′re saying to you — but if it′s not what you want to hear, you could start to wonder if you′re reading them right. This is often your unconscious mind trying to avoid hearing the truth!

When this happens, you might contact a tarot reader whom you know, and share with them what cards you drew, and ask them how they would interpret those cards. I have to tell you that this drives most professional readers nuts! Why? Because you′ve already got the insight. You need to let the reader you′ve contacted do a whole new spread, rather than interpreting yours.

Another temptation might be to start grabbing tarot dictionaries or doing internet searches for different meanings, trying to find an interpretation for the cards that you actually like! This also is trying to dodge what you′re being told. While it′s true that some cards have several meanings, it′s not fair on the cards for you to go researching every meaning you can find, just to get the outcome you desire. This is another instance where recording your thoughts in a private blog or a journal can be very useful. It can be hard to accept things that are challenging, but when you do, you can learn, and grow, and get that much closer to living the life you want to live, even though things are not how you want them to be at the moment.

Related: What to Do if Tarot Gives You Bad News

Do it For Yourself

All in all, there′s absolutely nothing wrong with reading your own tarot, and I actually recommend it. Pull a daily card, and write down your thoughts about the images on the card and the traditional meanings. Do a spread now and again, to gain clarity on where you′re at in your life and how you can improve things. Just avoid these three common mistakes when reading your own tarot, and you′ll find that the cards really do have a lot of wisdom to share with you.

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Tarot Cards & Their Meanings

The tarot is a series of 78 tarot cards used in fortune telling, psychic readings, and insight into past, present, and future events. These tarot card definitions help you understand how to interpret your tarot reading. Tarot cards are divided into 2 main sections—the major arcana and minor arcana—and further into 4 suits:

Before a tarot reading, the cards are usually arranged in a spread. A tarot spread is the pattern in which the cards are placed on the table to be interpreted by a tarot card reader. There are many different types of tarot spreads—entire books have even been written on the subject. Spreads can be as simple as a 1-card draw, or complex enough to use all 78 cards.

One of the most popular spreads is called the 3-card spread, which gives you answers to immediate questions about your relationships, career, and life in general.

A Brief History of The Tarot

No one knows for certain where or when the cards originated—some say the practice goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. What we do know is that reading the tarot cards gained notoriety sometime around the 18th century.

The tarot can be used for many different purposes. The archetypal images reflect your story back to you, and bring you insights on situations in the lives of those around you. Those same images make good meditation companions or provide you with a ‘thought for the day.’ You might even use the tarot as a writing prompt in a blog, or as inspiration in artwork. There is no limit to how these images can be used, you just need to decide what works for you and go for it.

Modern technology made it even easier to get daily readings, peruse different interpretations of the classical images, and connect with others who share your interest in the cards. Of course, before you can get really immersed in understanding the tarot, you have to know a few basics. They’re not difficult, and once you recognize them you can master the mysteries of the tarot.

The Major Arcana (Tarot Trump Cards)

The major arcana (trump cards) represent your journey through life, starting out as the innocent and carefree card representing The Fool (at number 0), and going through all your stages of life until you get to The World (at number 21). Each of the trump cards represents an important issue in your life and asks that you pay particular attention to this situation. As you get to know the Major Arcana, you’ll see that the first 11 cards represent your journey out into the world while the last 11 represent your journey into your own awareness.

The Minor Arcana

The minor arcana is a grouping of 56 tarot cards that acts as a support system for the major arcana. It's divided into 4 suits, much like playing cards, and each suit has 10 numbered cards and 4 court cards. Traditionally, these court cards are called page, knight, queen, and king.

Some decks may use different titles for these figures but their meanings and their positions in the hierarchy of the court cards remain the same. Each suit of the minor arcana corresponds with a specific area of life, and each card has a meaning within that area. The number 1 is the first in a sequence (representing beginnings).

The numbered minor cards may have images on them, or they may just have ‘pips’ on them like playing cards, depending on the deck you're using.

Each suit of the minor arcana is also associated with specific signs of the zodiac.


Wands (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)


Pentacles (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Cups (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Swords (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

The tarot provides guidance that has stood the test of time. And as with any tool, the tarot needs to be used responsibly. The cards themselves are not good or evil—it’s how you use them that creates them a positive or a negative experience. After all, the tarot is just a collection of images and have no power on their own—it’s their mystery that allows them to endure. What wisdom do those images want to share with you today?