How Accurate Are Tarot Card Readings?

Updated on February 21, 2018
theraggededge profile image

A professional tarot reader with 18 years' experience, I have a resource-rich website and tarot reading service.

The Mystical Tarot
The Mystical Tarot

I’m just going to say it straight: tarot cards are never wrong. You may well disagree with me, but it’s a fact. The cards are always spot on. Where accuracy comes into question is 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.

Factors That Influence Tarot Card Readings

  • The question
  • The unknowable future
  • The present situation
  • The cards tell you what you need to know
  • Psychic reader (or not)
  • The reader’s personal bias
  • The deck creator’s personal bias
  • Sheer chance

The All-Important Question

To get an accurate tarot reading, you have to ask an accurate question. So 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 on really well and 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 says, ‘their eyes met and she knew he was going to ask her to meet him later’. Then over dinner, ‘he kept smiling at her and she felt there was a certain chemistry between them. He made her laugh’. She wants to know if he thinks about her and if there might be a future relationship in the offing.

So her 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.

Solution: the question must be accurate and honest in order to elicit an accurate and honest answer.

I Tarocchi Dario Fo
I Tarocchi Dario Fo

The Future Is a Slippery Thing

A tarot reading is a snapshot of energies, influences, emotions, circumstances and events. Right in that moment. And those things are never set in stone. Add into the mix the synergy between the reader and the cards, the energy between reader and client, and you have a potent soup of influences from which the reader has to somehow 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 both are wrong.

People make new decisions; they change their minds, their habits and their behavior. So what was accurate six weeks ago, won’t be accurate today. Yet, the cards are never wrong, so there will be a thread that perhaps the reader missed, or a predicted event which happens in an unexpected way.

Solution: the reader must emphasize the temporary nature of the reading, and remind the client that they have free will to change outcomes.

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 now. Right in this moment. Never mind what’s going to happen, it’s only in the present that they can make changes happen that will affect the future.

Solution: remind the client that the present is far more precious than some hoped-for (or feared) future possibility.

Oh… Answer the Question Already!

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 them about her romance. As she was a good friend, I felt comfortable about explaining this and that I would simply tell her what each card meant. 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.

Out of interest, it was a bit of a negative reading and the most significant card was the Tower. I pointed out that it was likely there was 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.

Oh and my friend’s love-life? It was on hold and nothing much changed over the next six months. Clever tarot.

Solution: be open to all possibilities. Trust the cards to tell you what you really need to know.

The Rohrig Tarot
The Rohrig Tarot

Some Readers Are Psychic; Others Not So Much

There are three types of tarot reader. The first kind, we’re all a little envious of. They usually have well-developed psychic abilities and simply use the cards as a jumping off point for their readings. My father went to see such a reader a few years back and she told him details like what kind of car he used to drive and suchlike. She also told him that was the last car he’d ever own. And that was true. He gave up driving shortly after.

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 ‘sing’ 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. And sometimes get random thoughts which are usually accurate, except I feel I don’t get enough of them. I like to look at card combinations and to pick out odd details. I look at the numbers and check for patterns. I do my best to find an unfolding story, something that links the cards together. I’m not right all the time, but the tarot cards usually are.

Solution: explain to the client exactly what kind of reader you are and what they can expect from their reading. I always tell mine that I cannot get in touch with Auntie Marge, and that I don't have a native American spirit guide whispering pertinent information in my ear.

Tarot Readers’ Personal Bias

Some readers are able to deliver a reading in a neutral fashion, 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.

Solution: as previously outlined. Tell the client your methodology and what to expect.

The William Blake Tarot
The William Blake Tarot

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 have 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 again. And again. What could be lost or gained in the process? Mostly it is individual (or team) bias. A certain worldview. An idea of how it’s meant to be. You can choose to use a deck that is as close to the source as possible, such as a reproduction of one or other of the 15th century decks. Bearing in mind those decks were designed to play parlour games, not to tell fortunes, or counsel a client on the ending of their relationship.

Also bear in mind that the tarot came from traditional playing cards, invented, it is claimed, by the Chinese. Even today many tarotists will tell you it was the other way around. 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 charcters to it (the Major Arcana) to create an amusing game. As long as you know that tarot was 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, has influenced almost every tarot creator since. So remember—that’s just two people's ideas of how the human condition plays out, and they didn't even know about social media back then.

Solution: choose your preferred system and know your deck thoroughly. It also helps to have a basic deck—the one you learned on—in your head so you can refer to it if you are struggling to read a card.

Three cards from an original Visconti-Sforza deck created mid 15th century
Three cards from an original Visconti-Sforza deck created mid 15th century | Source

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 has relevance to the client? 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, it’s 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, that meaning to the the client’s situation. To tease out the thread of the story which can help the most. To set them at ease, to get them thinking, to show that they are in control and not at the mercy of fate.

Or does the tarot ‘know’ how to deliver the right card at the right time? What part does chance play? 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. It has been this way for millennia, ever since the Oracle Bone Reading Service opened for business in ancient China.

Solution: there isn't one, except know your cards and trust they will deliver the goods.

So, Are Tarot Cards Accurate or Not?

Yes, they are. No-one can tell you why exactly, given the many 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?

Questions & Answers

© 2018 Bev G

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    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      3 months ago from Wales, UK

      Hi Chad, only you (& time) can tell how accurate the reading was. You must move toward your future in the way that feels best. Follow your own intuition.

    • profile image

      Chad1992 

      3 months ago

      So last night I was at the beach and there was a card reader I said why not I've been looking for answers anyways with what was going on currently in my life and she told me just about the same things that the medium told me 4 months ago except that my ex of 6 years and I were going to get back together and we were supposed to have another baby and we are soul mates but she said I have a lot of work ahead of me both medium and card reading told me I was going to have a son how accurate is this because I was nervous about getting this done but there was very little bad with what she said so should I keep working on everything to see if it all comes true ?

    • profile image

      Omar 

      3 months ago

      I see. And yes I’m definitely confused about this lol. I call them visions because that’s what the psychic saw in her cards and so I just considered them visions and predictions so perhaps I’m wrong or misunderstood about that, too. But yes, my readings were done by the cards. Now, I understand. And I am planning to go again maybe in a week or two.

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      3 months ago from Wales, UK

      There are some psychics who use the cards as a jumping off point. When you mentioned visions, I didn't think you were referring to a tarot reading.

      Most tarot readers don't work like that. They use a combination of study of the traditional meanings and their intuition to help pull out the most appropriate meaning and apply it to their client and the situation. We might get flashes of memory or ideas, but full on visions are generally restricted to the realm of genuine clairvoyants.

      So you asked, 'Do these visions or predictions ever remain the same?' I tend not to make predictions like the one you describe because there are so many other factors at work. You might meet someone else. So might your ex. Your feelings might change.

      Having said that, I have read for several clients where the overall feeling and energy of the reading never changed over months of readings. They wanted change but they weren't prepared to take action to make it happen.

      Going by your description, your psychic's information seemed to be mainly based on what your girlfriend feels about you. To be frank, there's no way of checking that information. In other words, only time will give you your answer. Are you going to ask your girlfriend to get back with you? Or are you going to wait for fate to deliver her to you? :)

    • profile image

      Omar 

      3 months ago

      Maybe I’m confused about tarot readings and psychic readings because she used the cards and through the cards, she told me everything...

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      3 months ago from Wales, UK

      Sorry, Omar, I don't do psychic readings. I guess they vary from person to person.

    • profile image

      Omar 

      3 months ago

      I ask this because 90-95% of the psychic’s visions came true including ones about my ex-girlfriend.

    • profile image

      Omar 

      3 months ago

      Hello, there! I read your article and I found it amazing as to the dissection of tarot reading. Having said that, I have a question. I recently have been getting readings from the same psychic so far the last two months and here’s what I thought about so far. It’s almost like blurry vision. The psychic was able to see something but barely regarding my ex-girlfriend. I wanted to see out of curiosity if we would get back together or if she misses me or whatever the case and so she was able to see something but barely. At the end of the first session back in April, she said that we’ll get back together. The second go around, she saw the same thing but was a little more into detail such as she sees her thinking about me, missing me, and she tells me that she’ll reach out to me. Again, us reuniting. So my question is this...do these visions or predictions ever remain the same?

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      3 months ago from Wales, UK

      That's why it's never a good idea to get multiple readings in a short space of time. Each reading is a snapshot and, of course, they are going to be different. If your readings were by the same reader he or she would have the skill to weave them together, to see the similarities and differences.

      Each reader has his or own perspective and world view, so will see your situation in a completely different way. Their own life experience will affect their interpretation of the cards/energies.

      As far as accuracy goes, well, you should know what is true and what is not. Which reader gave you the closest version of where you are, your recent past? That'll be the one which is most accurate.

    • profile image

      chiquito123 

      3 months ago

      I had a tarot card reading and a medium reading from someone else i also has a california pyscic reading. i keep hearing different things. what is accurate and what isn't. I'm confused

    • profile image

      Dominic 

      4 months ago

      I had a reading which was uncannily accurate, and my girlfriend at the time was told (by her psychic mum, our tarot reader) something bad will happen in the next few days, an injury of some type. 3 days later she broke her toe and we couldn't attend her friend's wedding...

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      7 months ago from Wales, UK

      Many thanks, Charmaine. Your words are very much appreciated. I agree, tarot can become a friend to turn to :)

    • profile image

      threekeys 

      7 months ago

      You explained the nature of Tarot clearly and informatively. I wish I had your ability to write in that way.

      I like how you mentioned tarot is about the present surrounding energy and that it is subject to a number of dynamics (therefore freewill).

      All in all I personally have found tarot a insightful and supportive friend for myself and others.

      Wonderful article raggededge.

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      7 months ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you too, Karen. Keep learning, keep reading. Tarot is so rewarding and repays all the effort you have to put in to it.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      7 months ago from New England

      Thank you for this perspective on tarot card readings. I found it very useful and will keep it in mind when I lay out my next spread and work at interpreting it. I have a reference book that I refer to for this, which has the meanings of all the cards in a deck, with examples and "case studies." I find it very useful.

      I have also had hopeful tarot readings done by others. When I've gone for a psychic readings. pulling a tarot card has been part of the experience. Those have been positive experiences, too.

    • theraggededge profile imageAUTHOR

      Bev G 

      7 months ago from Wales, UK

      Thank you, Jana Louise and Louise :)

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      7 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was very informative to read. Thankyou.

    • Jana Louise Smit profile image

      Jana Louise Smit 

      7 months ago from South Africa

      Very well written. I enjoyed this a lot. Thanks for bringing your experience to HP!

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