I worked with tarot for a long time before I finally figured out the key to doing a good reading. You can know all the card meanings really well, but what really makes a reading is how the cards relate to each other to paint a whole picture. I believe that all the cards in a reading form a story and they’re all related – there are no random unrelated messages in a spread. And that’s where it gets challenging.
So, I thought I’d do some simple sample spreads (say that 10 times fast?) here to show how I make sense of cards in a relational sense. To make this easy to follow, we’ll do a past/present/future spread because it’s naturally expected to form a story.
In the past position we have the Two of pentacles. Juggling. Having to manage many demands and responsibilities. Keeping all the balls in the air, which takes attention and skill and is probably a bit of a struggle.
In the present, we have the Queen of Swords. She is the collector of information and the great persuader. I drew her as a lawyer, making her arguments in front of a jury.
And for the future we have the Seven of Cups. A search for emotional fulfillment. Many choices. Fantasies and dreams. I usually caution querents that this card carries a warning that some choices appear good when they are not, so gut instinct choices are not a good way to go here.
To begin with, let’s look at the Queen of Swords. The face cards represent people more often than ideas, so does this represent the querent or someone in the querent’s life? Because the past and future cards point to situations where the querent is potentially struggling to make decisions, it seems more likely that the Queen of Swords represents someone else. Someone who is trying to persuade the querent to do or choose something.
This has to relate, then, to the Two of Pentacles in the past. The querent has been focusing energy and attention on keeping up with their obligations, and this person is now trying to convince them to do something in which this struggle to stay on top of obligations plays a role. Maybe the querent fears taking on more burden to juggle, or maybe this new idea is a promise of assistance with handling the load. Maybe the querent has enlisted the help of this person to try and find a solution to the struggle. In any case, the relationship between the two cards, to me, indicates some doubt over whether this other person’s advice or opinion is sound and should be followed.
I say that because the Queen of Swords in the present also has to relate to the Seven of Cups in the future, and that indicates that the querent will be put in the position of making a choice. If the Queen of Swords figure in the reading had clearly great advice to give, the choice would be more clear. But with the Seven of Cups following, it indicates that there will be many options and that, ultimately, they’re going to be trying to figure out what will be the best choice for them emotionally rather than in a material or logical sense. And because I find that the Seven of Cups carries that warning about instinctively making choices which seem most appealing without examining further, I’d extend that warning to include the Queen of Swords card. No matter how persuasive this person might be, the important thing will be for the querent to examine their choices and choose for themselves, not to please someone else.