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A Few Tips on Reading Your Own Cards

October 15, 2009

A central concept in my spirituality is personal transformation, and it's my belief that the best way to manifest change in my own life is to have as honest an understanding of myself, as possible. The tarot can help me to see all the parts of myself more clearly, and provide new perspectives on my life and my choices, by cultivating a practice of personal reflection.

The idea that it isn't possible for a person to read their own Tarot cards is kind of an old wives tale. It's been my experience that it is both possible, and extremely useful! I believe that you are the best person to do a reading for yourself, in fact! You can know yourself better than anyone else, and if you feel that you don't, then certainly an introspective divination practice would help you to get better acquainted.

The first step is to create a sense of openness. If you have already established what is true about your situation, prior to doing the reading, there's not really any room to discover anything new! So, open your mind, and assume that the cards will tell the truth, and that it may not be the truth that you expect.

I find it helpful to decide what the card means on its own, before determining how it relates to me. In this way, it is less likely that I will bend the meaning to suit my ego. I try to understand what each card is saying, before trying to immediately apply it to myself.

It may be helpful to think of each of the cards as describing something thematic and universal about the human experience. Any of these themes could relate to any situation, and sometimes drawing a card that suggests a theme which initially seems unrelated, can be very illuminating, once you have taken time to carefully consider how it can apply to you.

Be patient. If you take notes on any readings you do for yourself, you can continue to come back to it, and your interpretations of it may deepen over time. If you have a space where you can do so, you may wish to leave your spread laid out for a long period of time, so you can revisit it later, with fresh eyes, or with a new perspective from changes in your situation.

The next thing that can be helpful is asking very clear questions, or making very clear designations for your spread positions. Often, I have heard people express a concern that they could not read the cards for themselves because they will see either what they want to see, or what they are afraid of, rather than the truth. A good way to clear this up is to ask very specifically, “What do I want to see?”, “What am I afraid of?”, “What is really going on?”, “What should I do?”, “What should I avoid doing?” etc. and draw a card for each question. This makes each card less ambiguous.

It could be useful for someone who is very caught up emotionally in a situation to have a series of simple keywords for each card (either memorized, or written down), which do not leave much room for variation in meaning. I think that when doing readings for others, listening to vague intuitive hunches can be useful... but if you are divining for yourself, and prone to confusing your emotions with the truth in your gut, it may be more reliable to have some clearly-designated card-meanings as a starting point. This is particularly useful when coupled with the clear questions suggested above.

If you are far more inclined towards an intuitive approach, you might try coupling your reading with automatic writing. As you flip over each card, write down the first thing that comes into your mind as you look at the image. It may be something about the image itself, or something about your own life, but the important thing is to write quickly. The writing should not be premeditated, and you should not stop (either to plan what to write next, or to re-read what you have already written) until you are finished the reading. Your pen should leave the paper as little as possible. In this way, you can solidify some of your ideas before your intellect or your emotions have time to question them.

It has been my experience that reading my own cards has made me a stronger reader for others, and also that doing readings for others has helped me to see myself in new ways. The more I work with developing my own objectivity, the clearer that all of my readings have become.

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