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Cardly Conundrums

Tarot readings can sometimes seem confusing and even contradictory. From time to time it may be difficult to get a handle on the meaning of some part of the spread as it applies to the situation or question being explored. Some approaches to these puzzles are considered here.

When a reading goes against the questioner's experience

The Moon What can we say about the times when the questioner disagrees with what the cards seem to be saying about past or present influences? It may be that the cards are accurate, by chance or otherwise, and the questioner is mistaken or unwilling to admit the truth, but let's consider the case where the reading seems to be genuinely wrong about some matter. For example, the cards suggest that you are going through a prosperous time, but you are struggling to find the money to pay the bills. Are the cards amiss? Not necessarily: there are several possible explanations in addition to this one.

Firstly, there is the question of interpretation. Each card has a variety of meanings, and these are usually narrowed down by context and the card's relationships to other cards in the spread. Sometimes, though, it isn't entirely clear which way to interpret a card, particularly if the reader knows little or nothing about a questioner's situation. In the example we started off with, the prosperous time would most likely be suggested by Pentacles, but this suit can refer to physical health as well as material and financial matters. So even though you may be finding it difficult to make ends meet, the cards may be reminding you that you still have that most vital of commodities, your good health, and that this can enable you to overcome your current difficulties.

Another possible explanation is that of timing. Some rough timing rules of thumb are given in Interpreting a Tarot Reading, and, considering these, it can be seen that the cards could still be accurate in our example if you are about to be gifted an upturn in fortune or if harder times are a recent occurrence.

The Tower Misinterpretation is also a possibility: a reading is only as good as the reader. More accurately, a reading is only as good as the reader and the questioner taken together. An open and honest approach by both is the best way to get the most from a reading.

Another point to consider is that of generality. If the questioner has asked a specific question, then the cards are all interpreted with this question in mind, and the chance of vagueness and misunderstanding is reduced. General readings have more leeway and are more difficult to place without help from the questioner.

One final reason for discrepancy could be that the cards are simply wrong, either because of some breakdown in the unknown method by which the Tarot works or because there is nothing truly presaging about the random selection of cards: it depends on your point of view (see Divination and the Tarot). Even in this case, perhaps particularly in this case, the reading can still be valuable, as it encourages you to explore possibilities that you would not normally consider, offering new ways of looking at a situation or confirming existing knowledge. Realizing that something is not the case is an increase in understanding over not being sure.

When a reading seems contradictory

The Devil Life is contradictory, and it's quite possible for the cards to show opposing views of a situation. Let's say the cards suggest that relationships in general should be going very well at the moment, and at the same time they highlight disagreements and conflict with others:

If relationships overall are positive for the questioner but they are having trouble with their boss, then the cards would be accurate and may even imply that work is the source of conflict. If relationships are not going well at all, then the cards could be suggesting that, though there are problems, relationships should be very positive and the questioner has the means at their disposal to make them so. If there don't seem to be any conflicts with others at all, then the cards are likely to be showing that things are not what they seem, that problems are hidden for now and will surface at a later date. In such a case it would not be surprising to find a card like the Moon in a prominent part of the spread.

And, of course, the final paragraph from the previous section applies equally here, too. The cards could be wrong.