When the cards make no sense.

In the early part of my career as reader I believed that it was my job to read the cards and tell the sitter exactly what they meant. I believed if I was a good reader I would be able to interpret the cards perfectly for them and then they would have all the answers when we were done. And then as time wore on I began to realise that there are in fact always two interpretations happening during any reading. I was interpreting the cards in the context of the question while the client was interpreting what I say in the context of their experience. My interpretation was also getting interpreted, I realised. Initially this frustrated me horribly. I’d hear clients refer to things I had said in previous readings which I’m sure I never said. Perhaps clients misunderstand the real meaning of the reading, I began to worry? I’d become neurotic about using precise language and making sure to spell out every single thing, carefully summarising a reading at the end to help drive the ‘true’ meaning home. But finally it dawned on me that this has always been a natural, healthy part of divination. In fact, now I’d argue, the client’s interpretation works with your interpretation (whether you like it or not) and is vital to the success of the session.

When you realise this you begin to grip the reading less tightly. The anxiety to get all answers from the spread or to make the cards ‘fit’ the situation perfectly begins to relax as you realise that in some sense you are collaborating with the client. You begin listening to the client with both your ears and your heart. This is not to say you are letting the client read themselves. It just means you are aware of the fact that they are also actively working to make sense of the messages you give them and fit them to their own experience. Perversely, this tendency for the sitter to make information fit their situation is the number one criticism used to debunk psychic phenomena. Yet, being conscious of this can help improve the quality of your readings in a very radical way.

For instance, usually you will see a card pattern and know exactly what it means based on your knowledge of the cards and your own intuitive abilities. This is why you have been practising and studying your craft so many years, after all! You can then relay that information with confidence to your client. But to believe that this is the only thing that can and should happen in a card reading is a big mistake. There will always be times (no matter how skilled you are) when a card pattern appears that makes no sense whatsoever. This could fill one with a sense of inadequacy or panic as a reader. It could lead you to freeze, fumble, or worse, free associate wildly - activating that troublesome psychic ability: clairnonsense.

Should a reader be able to interpret every single card pattern that lands in front of her? I say no. The reason is straightforward: you will not and cannot understand every aspect of a client’s life or situation. You may be profoundly intuitive (or psychic) but you will never be omniscient. When a card pattern of this nature appears it’s your chance to loosen up. Relax, stop trying to understand or interpret everything. Be honest and say to the client “I’m not sure what this trio of cards is referring to yet” And then simply talk about the cards as you understand them in that pattern - without making any effort to ‘fit’ it or provide an interpretation yet. You are simply describing what these cards are usually about. The client will automatically begin interpreting what you say. Nine times out of ten you will hear a gasp of recognition. Listen to their responses and you can now begin blending the information with your intuition and the pattern based on what the client has to say (verbally or nonverbally). I call this opening up the reading. And it recognises the inherent wisdom of the client. Reading is about developing sensitivity on all levels - not just the psychic level. You are also reading body language, tone of voice and a myriad of the other signs. Doing so doesn't mean you are cynically cold reading a client. It just means you are paying attention.

If you have to open up the reading in this way with ALL of the cards in the reading then its just going to sound like you are fishing and you probably shouldn't be reading for others yet. And you do not want to begin a reading this way either. I am a firm believer in providing evidence of psychic ability to a client. Especially at the start of the reading I want to provide the client information that I have no way of knowing. This instills confidence and gives the reading a huge energetic boost. So, always start with those patterns that do make most sense. This way you can build on what is clear already if you have to open up the reading a little later on. It should be done with nuance and discretion. Do not underestimate the power of this kind of collaborative interpretation, however. And know that no matter what you say its always going to be reinterpreted by the client anyway. What you want is to be conscious of the dynamic so that it can be turned into a constructive part of the process. If it is done with integrity and transparency it can help illuminate the dark corner of a reading in such a way that your client walks away with the most precious resource in times of trouble: answers.


  1. I am a semi-pro astrologer, and this post helped a lot in that context. I've observed this happening to my occasional panic; nice to know the collaborative aspect is okay and desirable.

  2. Glad to hear that was helpful to your GreenFlame.