How Accurate Are Tarot Card Readings?
I’m just going to say it straight: tarot cards are never wrong. You may disagree with me, but it’s a fact. The cards are always spot on. Accuracy depends on how the reader interprets the cards and delivers the message. But even before that, before the cards are even laid out, there is much to consider.
9 Factors That Influence Tarot Card Readings
- The question being asked
- The unknowable future
- The present situation
- The cards will tell you what you need to know
- Whether or not your reader is psychic
- The reader’s personal bias
- The deck creator’s personal bias
- Sheer chance
1. Ask Accurate Questions
To get an accurate tarot reading, you have to ask an accurate question. Many people will ask a question based on what they wish was happening, rather than what is actually happening. For example, a client met a man on a business trip. They got along really well, and they arranged to meet up for dinner after the meeting. They had a pleasant evening, shared some ideas about their work, passed a couple of fun hours, said goodbye and went their separate ways. That was it.
The client, however, read a lot more into it. She said their eyes met, and she knew he was going to ask her to meet him later. Then over dinner, the client said that he kept smiling at her, and she felt there was a certain chemistry between them. He made her laugh. As a result, the client wants to know if he thinks about her, and if there might be a future relationship in the offing.
The client's question is based on a wildly inaccurate or over-imagined scenario. She is asking from a false, emotional perspective. So, when faced with a question like that, the reader is going to struggle with whatever cards show up because the question is based on inaccurate assumptions.
The question must be accurate and honest in order to elicit an accurate and honest answer.
2. The Future Is Unknowable
A tarot reading is a snapshot of energies, influences, emotions, circumstances, and events as they are at a particular moment. Those influences are never set in stone. Add the synergy between the reader, the client, and the cards into the mix and you'll have a potent soup of influences from which the reader must pull out useful and valid information. That’s why no two readers will ever interpret the same cards in the same way. But that’s not to say either or both are wrong.
People can make new decisions, and change their minds or their habits. So what was accurate six weeks ago won’t be accurate today. The cards are never wrong, so there may be a thread that perhaps the reader missed, or a predicted event may happen unexpectedly.
The reader must emphasize the temporary nature of each reading, and remind the client that they have the free will to change outcomes.
3. The Value of a Reading Is in the Present
Clients often overlook the most important part of the reading, and that is what the cards are telling them in the present. Never mind what’s going to happen, it’s only in the present that they can make changes happen that will affect the future.
Remind the client that the present is far more precious than some hoped-for (or feared) future possibility.
4. The Cards Will Tell You What You Need to Know
Many times, I’ve been asked a question, yet the cards seem to want to answer a different one. Try as I might, occasionally I cannot connect the card with what the client wants to know. In those cases, I explain that the tarot tells them what they need to understand, rather than what they want to know.
One client wanted to know about her love-life, but I was flummoxed because I could not "see" anything in the cards about romance. Since she was a good friend, I felt comfortable explaining this. I decided to plow on through the reading and just told her what each card meant without trying to force it into shape. After I’d worked through a few, something clicked, and she realized that the reading was all about her adult son. Although she felt she ought to be asking about her love life, in reality, she had been worried about her boy and his situation. That made much more sense, and I was able to take a new perspective on the reading and do it justice.
The reading was a bit negative, and the most significant card that appeared was the Tower. I pointed out that there was most likely a traumatic event (another one) up ahead for him, but that life would take a better turn in due course. The next day my friend emailed to say her son’s girlfriend had taken their child, every piece of furniture, and left him. However, within a few months, they had settled their differences and remained amicably separated. Several years later, he is with a new partner but regularly sees his child from that first live-in relationship.
Oh and my friend’s love-life? It was on hold, and nothing much changed over the next six months. Clever tarot.
Be open to every possibility. Trust the cards to tell you what you really need to know. It may be fun to ask the cards about what you want to know, but try to honestly consider what you need to know.
5. Some Readers Are Psychic, Others Are Not
There are three types of tarot reader. The first kind is one that we’re all a little envious of. They usually have well-developed psychic abilities, and they use the cards as a jumping off point for their readings. My father went to see this kind of reader a few years back, and she told him many personal details about himself. She informed him that his current car would be the last car he’d ever own. And that was true. He gave up driving shortly afterwards.
The second group are the readers who study the cards and learn their traditional meanings. Their readings are not necessarily inaccurate, but they can be wooden. They recite their interpretations as if they have learned them by rote, which is exactly what they have done. They find it hard to tell the story in the reading. Each card is interpreted separately instead of in combination. These readers often give up tarot because it doesn’t "speak" to them.
The third group are those, like me, who mash up the standard meanings with their own intuition. I include my own experiences and memories in my readings. Sometimes I get random thoughts that are usually accurate, except I don’t get enough of them. I like to look at card combinations and pick out odd details. For example, I pay attention to the card numbers and check for patterns. I do my best to find an unfolding story or something that links the cards together. I’m not right all the time, but the tarot cards invariably are.
Explain what kind of reader you are to your client, and let them know what they can expect from their reading. I always tell my clients that I cannot get in touch with their dead relatives, nor do I have a spirit guide whispering pertinent information in my ear.
6. Tarot Readers’ Personal Bias
Some readers are able to deliver a reading neutrally, whereas others prefer a counseling approach. It is unlikely that any reader is able to keep their own worldview out of the reading. It’s impossible to do otherwise. One’s experiences, viewpoints and memories will creep into the reading. While, most of the time, it’s helpful, it can make a reading more attuned to the reader than to the client.
As previously outlined, tell the client your methodology and what to expect from working with you.
7. The Tarot Deck Creators' Personal Bias
All tarot decks are created by human beings. Often two or more people are involved in the process. Then there are the publishers, the printers, and the investors. All of whom will have an influence to some extent. There is usually a writer and an artist. The idea for the deck generally originates from one or the other, though some decks are commissioned by a third party.
The traditional system of tarot has been reinterpreted so many times. And then those derivative interpretations have been reinterpreted repeatedly. What could be lost or gained in the process? Mostly an individual (or team) bias, a particular worldview, or an assumption of how it’s meant to be can affect matters.
You can choose to use a deck that is as close to the source as possible, such as a reproduction of one of the 15th-century decks. Keep in mind that those decks were designed to play parlour games, and not to tell fortunes or counsel a client on their major questions.
Also, bear in mind that tarot came from traditional playing cards that may have been invented by the Chinese. Even today, many tarotists will tell you it was the other way around. Some say that playing cards reached Europe, via Egypt, around 1350. The details are lost in the mists of time. Anyway, someone thought it would be a great idea to take those playing cards and add some interesting characters to it (the Major Arcana) to create an amusing game. Tarot is not some mystical system channeled by some long-dead psychic from the gods themselves. It’s a human invention through and through.
Most decks in use today are very modern. The Rider-Waite was first published in 1907 and was based on Edward Waite’s interpretation of the principles of many branches of esoteric schools of thought, and the various societies he joined and left. This deck, and to a lesser extent, its cousin, the Thoth Tarot, created by fellow occultist, Aleister Crowley, have influenced almost every tarot creator since. So remember—the aforementioned decks are just two ideas of how the human condition plays out, and they didn't even know about social media back then.
Choose your preferred system and know your deck thoroughly. It also helps to have a basic deck—like the one you initially learned from—in your head so you can refer to it if you are struggling to read a card.
8. What If Any and Every Card Has the Right Answer?
This is something I’ve thought about a lot. After all, the cards are simply printed images. What if every card is relevant to the client? What I mean is that the random selection of cards are just that—random. How do we get our heads around the fact that the tarot is not sentient, that there's no actual mysterious force causing the 'right' cards to show up?
It helps to understand the basic structure of the tarot and how it applies to human life. Any, and all, aspects are included in one form or another. Disaster, triumph, love lost and found. Children, art, work, and illness. Death, destruction, and addiction—it’s all there, thanks to Uncles Edward and Aleister. Anything you can name is reflected in the tarot.
So therefore, it follows that any random card should have a relevant message, shouldn’t it? It’s then the reader’s job to apply that message and meaning to the client’s situation. A reader must tease out the thread of the story that can help the client the most.
Does the tarot "know" how to deliver the right card at the right time? What part does chance play in a reading? After all, we shuffle and shuffle, cut, shuffle some more, cut again and turn the cards. It’s supposed to be random. Yet we readers and our clients trust that chance will give us the message we need to know.
There isn't one. All you can do is know your cards and trust that they will deliver the goods.
9. What About the Difference Between Upright and Reversed Cards?
Some believe a reversed card can have a different meaning than it would when facing upright. It's not a different meaning necessarily; it's where the message falls on the scale of negative to positive. A reversed card will almost always, though not exclusively, point to the negative scale.
An experienced reader understands this principle and will incorporate that positive to negative scale, which is why you will often find many readers only using upright cards.
Have a look at the image below. It shows two cards from the fiendishly clever by Zach Wong. There's no need to use reversed cards because you can see the imagery right there. I like that the reversed Eight of Swords shows the positive outlook of the woman freeing herself from her self-imposed prison. That deck taught me that I never need to bother with reversals at all. Revelations Tarot
Both ways of reading cards are valid, and receiving an accurate reading depends on the aforementioned factors, and each tarot reader's process or experience. Determine which method feels best for yourself and use that one. Following your intuition is an important part of tarot.
Are Tarot Cards Accurate or Not?
Yes, they are. No one can tell you why exactly, given the influences I’ve outlined above (and I’m pretty sure I haven’t thought of everything), yet somehow, the cards are able to hit the nail on the head every time. How do I know this? Because I’ve gone back to my clients and asked them how situations worked out. I’ve read for myself and returned to the readings after a few months. In each case, I am able to see the link between the card/s and life’s meandering path. Hindsight is a wonderful and useful tool in the weird and woolly practice of tarot reading.
What do you think? Have you had really accurate tarot readings? Or have you been on the receiving end of the worst readings on the planet?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Learn to Read Tarot Cards By Myself?
You can learn how to read and interpret cards for yourself. Find a reliable source of information to learn about the reading process, tarot spreads, the cards' histories, and their meanings. When reading for yourself, keep in mind that your emotions, desires, and biases may affect the way you interpret the cards. Strive to be honest with yourself when reading for yourself, or else you won't gain much from your interpretations.
Do I Need to Receive a Deck as a Gift or Can I Purchase My Own Deck?
Some people believe that you must be given a deck of tarot cards as a gift, and some people believe that you can purchase your own deck without complications. If you don't have someone to buy a deck for you, then you can purchase your own deck. Try to purchase a deck that you feel drawn to. If you have a strong connection or camaraderie with a deck, then that is a good indication that the deck is right for you.
Does it Help to Ask the Cards Yes or No Questions?
Asking a clear question with a yes or no answer can be helpful. If you decide to do this, only ever use one card. Drawing more cards 'for clarification' only serves to cause confusion.
What Does it Mean When a Card Keeps Appearing?
When a card appears repeatedly that card typically has an important message for you, focus on that card and its meaning because it may provide the advice or guidance that you need.
What Does it Mean When a Card Falls Out of the Deck?
A jumping card or a card that falls out of the deck as you shuffle is a card with a message that you should heed. The card jumped out because you are meant to see it and learn from it. Don't ignore jumping cards. If you pick up a jumping card, place it back in the deck and reshuffle, there is a good chance that it will appear again during your reading. If it reappears, then it is an important card to learn from.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
I had a tarot reading in 1987. Don't remember the question. But the reader told me every aspect of my life to this date. Children, deaths., 9/11, deaths of celebrities, where I would live, specific properties, my kids' lives, their time in prison, STDs. My whole life was told to me in 2 hours by my best friends mom who was psychic. I didn't believe. Why was my tarot reading so specific?
Because it was done by a skilled and accurate psychic. Most tarot readers are not psychic to that degree.Helpful 29
I asked my tarot cards if my wife is having sex with anyone besides me, and the card said yes. Is this accurate?
Well, I wouldn't take it as absolute confirmation. You might want to talk to her about it. Maybe she's having fun by herself.Helpful 26
I had a tarot reading about a year ago and then another six months later. Both indicated money coming my way but I haven’t seen a fortune. Then three months after the second my next tarot reading didn’t mention money, but three months later the fortune prediction showed up again. Why does it seem to disappear in readings and reappear?
It's a tricky thing. Your tarot reader might see a fortune, where I would not. Or vice-versa. Without seeing the actual cards I can't really tell you. However, whether money comes to you or not, is based on your expectations and the energy surrounding you. You could be attracting it... or repelling it. Perhaps you received a small amount of money that didn't really register? It's good to keep a journal and a record of the readings.Helpful 16
I went to the same tarot card reader about the same situation multiple times. The cards and answers kept coming out similar to the previous time I’d go, however, in reality, it seemed to be different. Is that normal?
Yes, it's extremely common. And I expect the situation didn't change much during that time? You can get the same feel from different combinations of cards, so if the situation is in stasis, you get cards which reflect that.Helpful 13
My sister read the cards for me and 3 different times it came up with a young girl that my boyfriend would apparently cheat on me with? He’s always said he would never do anything like it but it worries me a little that it came up 3 different times?
Why worry about something that hasn't happened and may never happen? How do you know that your sister has interpreted the card correctly?Helpful 10
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