Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Have you ever had that feeling of confusion when asking a question to your deck and not knowing what that or these cards were all about? Ever had a what-the-heck-moment? Sometimes the cards don't slightly seem related to your topic or make no sense in regards to your question. The key word here is seem. Because cards don't lie.
It can happen to the best of us, especially as we learn to read. Not just as we study but as we grow and learn how to read in our own way. At some point, we'll sit in front of a layout and see no answer to our question whatsoever. Before shuffling again though, we should always think twice.
One of the great things about Tarot is that you'll find plenty of resources on the web, in a book store or simply by talking with other readers. Free resources are highly accessible. Including here! But sometimes, associating one card with so many things such as natural elements, seasons, a star sign (or 2!), genders, personalities, specific jobs and fields of work or studies just ends up being too much to process. You suddenly realise you're in a big cloud of confusion and that the Hermit and the 2 of Batons you just drew simply tell you nothing.
(and don't re-shuffle the cards yet)
was that a yes or a no?
Sometimes when reading for ourselves, we do need to be a little schizophrenic
BACK TO BASICS
First of all, when you feel that way, it's time to get back to basics. Ask yourself and double check: did you ask the question clearly enough to get an answer that you can understand?
Did you assign the cards any meaning based on the layout or are you reading intuitively only? If so, does the question allow for such a reading?
Another thing to ask yourself: are you really reading the cards or are you ignoring certain information unconsciously because you did not instantly see the answer you were hoping for? Sometimes when reading for ourselves, we do need to be a little schizophrenic and separate our reader-self from our sitter-self. Tough! But necessary.
Then back to the basic meanings of the cards. Keep it simple. Super simple. Hermit? Introspection. Loneliness. Emperor? An important man. Authority. Judgement? Consequences. News on the way. No more than that. You'll have a chance to dig deeper once you have a starting point.
SETTING YOUR OWN RULES
As a reader it is really important that you define your own set of rules in general and before each reading.
Know what layout you're going for before even shuffling the cards. Don't start drawing a card, then another, then another...until you get what you want or simply drift away from anything meaningful.
Tarot requires a minimum of discipline to work efficiently.
When I was still a beginner I sometimes started a reading for myself and felt even more confused once I saw the cards than before I asked. So not the point of Tarot, right?
And sometimes I had no choice but to take all the cards back, shuffle the deck and start over. I always had mixed feelings when doing that. Was that cheating?
Were the cards still going to speak to me or could I break the whole energy I had tried to build up?
It's not cheating to shuffle the cards and start over. It's not ideal, because you want to focus from start to finish and you don't want a "hick up" like that to trouble your mind and mess with your session. If it bothers you too much, you may have to take a break. Leave the cards alone and come back. But it's definitely better than losing your focus entirely and getting stuck.
Starting over should be a last resort or something you only reserve for practice sessions.
When you come back or simply before you start over, identify the reason for the initial confusion.
Have you asked two or three questions in one such as: can I trust him and will he come back to me?
If you haven't defined your layout to be able to clearly separate the two questions, good luck reading for that.
Or could it be that you are simply too nervous or too deep into a subject to read peacefully? If that's the case, you must stop and try again later, in a better state of mind or ask another reader to help you out. When we're feeling too involved or passionate about a topic, it can make it impossible to do a proper reading.
Once you're able to calm down and take the necessary distance to start your reading again, make sure you follow this little check list:
do not ask a question you recently asked
formulate each question clearly and precisely
follow a layout, which has proven to work for you before
take notes of your immediate intuitions and visions as you draw cards
And the most important tips of all:
When Tarot cards don't make sense, one of the most important things to do is to question what you see in your spread, but also to look for what you've missed.
Break your own reading habits and take this chance to improve your reading skills. You may learn that an upright 3 of Cups could be way more shady than expected. Or see the good in an 8 of Swords you did not want to come up at all.
Absent cards and opposite meanings can change everything.
I recently had the case of a Tarot student doing a reading for a friend whose spread just didn't match what we knew of her situation. So my student did the reading again, with a different deck, thinking she had not focused properly on her friend's energy.
But she saw similar cards come up in the same layout. She insisted and told me that these cards made zero sense with her friend's situation who was going through a tough separation. She was only getting excellent cards for love and family. This was so confusing for her and at the same time, confirming that the first reading was right.
I waited a day and tested the same reading for the same person with a third deck. Boom. Same cards. So we knew the initial reading was accurate, which should always be the case. I told my student to question her "basic" approach to some of these cards and focus on their more subtle messages as well as to not forget what exact purpose they were serving in her custom layout. In the end, the reading remained positive and inspiring against all odds, but with warnings and predictions for the future, which totally made sense.
This was a great lesson for my student to:
not let any personal information get in the way of a reading. The cards speak their truth.
trust the cards even if they are not as expected (positive cards for someone facing serious hardships for example)
read beyond what they are used to
Every challenging reading gives us the chance to improve our skills. No matter how surprised you may feel when drawing certain cards, rest assured that they always have a message to deliver. It is our job as readers to learn to fully receive, accept and translate this message clearly.