The beautiful thing about card reading is the story that unfolds as we lay the cards down. This ability to tune in and express that story is the difference between novice card readers and cartomancers. It’s not just about linking the cards but seeing beyond each card and understanding how they influence what lies around them.
The key to linking cards is to keep the energy of those cards neutral. There are no good and bad cards. The card is the card, and it says what it says. It doesn’t spin a positive view or have a negative connotation to it. They are unbiased just like words are, and when strung together, they create the overarching story. Just like sentences.
When reading tarot it’s very easy to indulge the want of attaching emotion to the cards. It makes for compelling readings and allows one to add fluff while trying to fill in the gaps of the story the cards are trying to tell. It’s an attractive way out when stuck in a reading. The downside of this situation is all that fluff will shift the message of the cards. Then whoever you’re reading winds up disappointed and skeptical (as they should be), or you end up just giving them what they want to hear. You lose your authenticity, and you’re selling yourself, and your client, short.
The following example is a generic universal three card spread.
Our center card is our primary card, which also happens to be our court card, and the flanking cards on either side are its influencers. Taking a broader look at the elements present here we see Swords & Cups. Air & Water. Intellect & Emotion. Thought & Feeling. Information & Interpretation. We’re dealing with information and how it influences us.
Let us also consider what is not present in this reading. We have no major Arcana cards, we have no Pentacles, we have no Wands. What does that mean? Lack of major Arcana means we are dealing with more generic concerns of our day to day lives, instead of the big universal influences that change and shape us as a human. The lack of Pentacles and Wands means we’re not dealing with the physical world or our bodies.
Swords and Cups? We’re dealing with the internal realm.
The theme of the reading is The King of Cups. He sits pretty on his throne, neither benevolent nor malicious. He’s self-assured in the way he feels. His actions are diplomatic, calm, and seem perfectly put together. On the surface he looks like a collected pillar of reason. While this card also typically suggests tolerance and wisdom, this is where the energy of the other cards comes in.
Behind him is the VIII of Swords, the card of trapped intellect. The card of restriction, of holding yourself down, the card of blindness. This card is a lack of discernment, avoiding responsibility, truly not understanding what is going on around you. This card dominates the King’s ability to see clearly and gives him tunnel vision. Confident in himself, he faces away from this card and he loses his wisdom. Nay, the King is no longer thinking with reason, he’s basing everything off of how he feels.
What does this lead to?
Feeling real cocky about his place in life, and not being capable, nor willing, to see otherwise. That’s the smug little smirk on the IX of Cups. Satisfied with himself, he sits back and basks in his perception of what he thinks he has. This guy here jumps to his own conclusions, and influenced by the VIII of Swords, has decided he doesn’t need to look any further than his own opinion and feelings on things. He’s content in his ignorance and validates himself regardless of logic.
We are looking at an ill-informed son of a bitch who thinks he has all the answers and is literally blind to reason. Bringing the cards together in this fashion introduces the greater question of how do emotions cloud perception?
This stimulating question is a stark contrast to the conclusions and interpretations of the cards if read singularly. The subtle influences of the cards should meld into one another in a seamless way as opposed to stand alone thoughts that sit next to one another.
Taking this approach, we would see VIII of Swords as the inability to see a situation clearly. Next, the King of Cups as a wise, calm, collected man. Followed with IX of Cups satisfied and happy. By not letting the cards blend together you force in the idea that we start off blind, then some wisdom shows up, followed by satisfaction. No depth. No flow. No story.
So, how do we make that transition from single card reading to storytelling? By dissolving the edges of card meanings.
Those actions words that are often taught when first learning the cards are initially great, but it can also package up that card a little too neatly and it forces hard edges around how it can be read. In context it makes it far too easy to over or under interpret what’s being presented. If we dissolve those edges a little, those cards flow into one another and create something new together.
Just like how blue and yellow blend into green; if you keep those colors separate you’ll never see the full spectrum.