Practicing the Tarot

Tomorrow starts a new month, which means I need to pick out a different tarot deck to use. I still haven’t found one that I have any special affinity for, so I am still in the habit of rotating decks to give me an opportunity to learn each of them. (Each of them in my collection, that is.)

Tomorrow also starts a new year. The first year of doing a daily tarot reading for myself, I picked one card. The second year, I picked two. Starting tomorrow, I’ll pick three, which means that not only do I have to choose a different deck, I have to decide what sort of reading I am going to do since there are an unlimited number of possibilities for a three-card reading.

A few examples:

Past, present, future
Situation, Obstacle, Advice
Opportunities, Challenges, Outcome
Your strengths, your weaknesses, how you can progress
Current situation, action to take, outcome
What will help me, what will hinder me, what is my unrealized potential
How to accept a change, how to care for yourself during the change, how to center yourself,
This happened, this was the result, this is what I need to do now

Lots of choices. Come to think of it, I should have done a reading today to figure out what my next reading should be!

The most common three-card reading is past, present, and future. The past can be anything in the far or near past that happened to affect you, either for good or bad. (If you’re doing a weekly reading, the past is the week since the previous reading, so if I am doing a daily reading, the past could be yesterday.) The present can be the current situation or current challenges. The future can indicate the outcome of the present situation or the direction things are moving. Another way of looking at the past, present, future reading is the final item on my example list: this happened, this was the result, this is what I need to do. That’s the one I am leaning toward, though it’s my game, so I can change the focus of the reading every month if I want so I can learn various three-card spreads.

That’s not the end of the choices. Next I have to decide how to pull the cards for the layout. Up until now, I’ve shuffled the deck, fanned out the cards, and picked the cards — one card the first year, two cards the second year.

I could continue fanning the deck and pulling random cards, or I could cut the deck then deal out the top three cards, or I could split the deck into three piles and then turn over the top card of each pile. I’m leaning toward the final way, though knowing me, I’ll end up just pulling random cards. That’s what I did when I started my two-card reading: split the deck into two piles and then turned over the top card. I don’t remember why I reverted to pulling cards, but that’s how I ended the year.

I’m not really sure why I’m continuing with the daily readings since they don’t seem to be telling me anything about myself or even about the cards overall. (I still don’t know the meaning of the cards individually without looking them up — I’d hoped that the daily use of the cards would help me memorize them, but it hasn’t happened, and I don’t know if it matters.) The main reason I’m starting a three-card reading is that I’m following through on a long-term plan. I’d probably get just as much out of the tarot if I went back to a one-card reading and spent more time figuring out what that card has to do with my life, but I should learn how to fit the cards together. (That’s why I’m leaning toward the final item on my example list — it lends itself easily to telling a story.)

Still, you never know — it’s possible something will come of my daily tarot exercise no matter how many cards I use. And if not, well, I have all those decks and plenty of time, so I might as well keep on practicing the tarot.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

9 Responses to “Practicing the Tarot”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I like past, present, future. It’s what I would use, at any rate.

  2. Estragon Says:

    I kind of like the notion of believing six impossible things before breakfast. How about using the cards as a way to challenge three seemingly axiomatic thoughts?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      What a great idea. I also like the idea of believing six impossible things before breakfast. Or at least one. I might add that to my morning routine.

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