I'm a professional tarot reader with 21 years of experience. For me, tarot is a fascinating system that reflects all human life.
Is It Okay to Do My Own Tarot Reading?
Many tarot novices wonder if it is alright, or even safe, to read for themselves. And the answer is: yes, it is. The whole point of tarot is that it allows you to access your intuition—that place where you already know all the wisdom and probable outcomes of your questions. There are, however, some things you need to be aware of. This Q&A article sets out to answer your questions about reading tarot for yourself and to highlight those pesky problems that might skew the reading.
What Factors Should I Consider Before Doing a Self-Reading?
When you read the tarot for another person, it’s a two-way process. You bounce suggestions and ideas between each other, you explain the cards, they give you their take and eventually it all comes together in a coherent story. When you are reading for yourself, you haven’t got that to-and-fro; that external input that can often cut through to the heart of the matter. So you have to be able to take a step back and be objective.
Of course, the opposite is also true: a tarot reader can often overlay your reading with their own opinion, experience, and bias, so in that sense, your reading will be more ‘pure’. It’s just you and your cards. How you interpret them and what you take away from the reading is up to you.
Think of the reading as a mirror. Now you can look in a mirror at your reflection and see all the worst things about yourself. Or you can look and only see the good stuff. In truth, a mirror only reflects the facts. There’s your reflection, a snapshot in time, good bits and not-so-good bits. You assess your reflection and make adjustments where necessary. Maybe you need a different belt, or perhaps you need to brighten your lipstick. That’s what you need to do with your reading. Heed the message. Take the advice.
You will also need a notebook or journal to record your cards and note down your interpretations.
How Do I Formulate My Question for the Tarot Reading?
Sometimes, you simply need a single card to help you with a decision. Fast and easy. You hardly have to think of a question. Hold the choices in your mind, draw a card, see what you get.
There are other situations that loom large in your life. You are unable to think of much else besides this issue. In this case, you do not need a question. Hold the situation in your mind, set your intention to get valuable guidance and shuffle and draw your cards.
Then there are the times where you want a more specific answer. Mull over what you want to get out of the reading. For example, you might want advice, or to know a future outcome, or what your options are, etc. In these cases, think about what question will give you the fullest answer.
More on suitable questions when we get to spreads (layouts).
Where and When Is It Best to Do a Personal Reading?
Anywhere and any time. With certain caveats. If the reading is something like your large and important New Year spread, then you need to prepare the space, get yourself ready, make sure you have peace and uninterrupted time. Same if you are reading about a situation that needs careful consideration.
However, of you are looking for a fast decision, or a daily card, or a quick yes/no answer, then whip those cards out and draw one. No ceremony required.
Should I Create a Sacred Space for My Reading?
It’s up to you. As above, when doing a large and complex reading, then preparation helps to get you in the right mindset. Creating a ‘sacred space’ is part of that. Witches may wish to cast a circle, others might like to smudge the room with sage smoke. You can lay out crystals, light candles, burn incense… whatever it takes to get you in the mood for bringing your intuition to the fore.
What Spread to Use When Reading Tarot Cards for Yourself?
After 20 years of tarot reading, I have come to the conclusion that less is more. I frequently rely on simple one, two and three card readings. They cut to the chase and the message is clearer than when it is buried in a 15-card behemoth of a spread. However, I have respect and deep love for the Celtic Cross. When I use it it’s like getting advice from a dear friend. I love the fact that there are readings within readings in it. Its positions are also adaptable and flexible. I also love how a good Celtic Cross can unfold over a long time.
What spread you use comes down to your question, so think long and hard about it. What’s really important is that you decide the number of cards you need up front. For example, there’s no point asking “Will I get a new job?” and then laying out a 10-card spread. The pattern you lay them down in isn’t that important unless you are adept at reading cards in juxtaposition. Novices tend to think that the more cards they use, the more information they will get, and for experienced readers this is true. However, if you aren’t so experienced, the clear message will be obscured by too much information, so as I said earlier, the fewer; the better.
Should your question be a simple one, a single card is the best choice. Examples of questions with type of reading in parentheses:
- Should I look for a new job? (Yes/no).
- Should I ask her on a date? (Yes/no).
- What one thing do I need to know about XX? (Information).
- What is my card for the day? (Self-explanatory).
Perhaps you need a little more information, so two cards:
- If I do this? Or if I do that? (Outcomes if…).
- Joe’s problem? The cause? (Situation/obstacle).
- Where I am? What’s crossing me? (Situation/obstacle).
- His point of view. My point of view. (Comparison).
If you need information how a situation will progress, go with three cards.
- My relationship now. How will it develop? Long-term outlook? (Present, near future, long-term future).
- How did this situation develop? Where’s it headed? Resolution? (Past, present, future).
- Influence around my current job? How will it evolve? If I stay here for another year? (Present, near future, long-term future).
- Joe’s problem? The cause? How can I help? (Present, obstacle, advice).
For those larger readings, if you are doing them, I assume you are experienced enough to know which spread to use.
How Do I Do a Tarot Reading for Myself?
Before the Reading
Determine the question, choose your deck and decide on the number of cards. Have a notebook and pen to hand.
Create the sacred space if that’s your thing. Ensure you are in a calm, alert state of mind. And that you won’t be interrupted. Sit still, close your eyes. Send out a silent thought to the universe that you are ready to receive information. Then direct a message within to your own intuition that you are ready to listen.
Laying Out the Cards
Open your eyes. Place your left hand on the deck for a moment. Pick it up and shuffle, using your preferred method. Cut the cards with your left (receiving) hand and turn over the required number of cards.
Interpretation/Receiving the Message
Quickly register your immediate reaction to each card. Make a note. If a thought is sparked, write it down. Look at each card in turn and intuit its meaning. Here’s a basic list of Rider-Waite type interpretations (link there also for reversals). Remember, even when reading reversals, there is a scale of interpretation from negative to positive. You have to decide where on that scale your message lies.
Spend a little time looking at the image. See if there are any tiny details or symbols that resonate with you. Have a look at how the first card ‘interacts’ with the one next to it. Also see if there’s a pattern, a story that emerges. Unfortunately, space dictates that I can’t give you a full lesson on how to read the cards here. It’s taken me 20 years and I’m still learning.
Make as many notes as you like. Take a photo of the spread. I always thank the deck, but that’s just me. After a couple of days, revisit the photo and your notes, add anything else that you’ve thought of. Depending on the question, you might like to come back and re-read everything after a couple of weeks, months or even a year. Be sure to add your updates and outcomes.
How Do I Access My Intuition When Reading My Own Cards?
This is a tricky one. Everyone has a different method. Mine is to pay attention to any memories or even fictional scenarios that pop into my mind. But when reading for myself, I have a tendency to brush them aside because ‘I’ know better. That’s one of the reasons why I find interpreting a personal spread very difficult. The key is to not do as I usually do, which is say to myself, “Okay, I get it.” Then put the deck away and forget all about the reading. It’s much better when I carefully make a note of the cards, take a photo and allow the cards to percolate for a while, preferably overnight. It seems that when we are asleep, the brain is able to make more sense of of imagery and symbols.
Also, it’s a good idea, as I mentioned before, to get that tarot journal out and revisit the reading a day or two later. You might find additional information and guidance just leaps off the page once you have stepped back from it.
How Do I Do a Love Reading for My Lover and Myself?
There are several ways to do relationship readings for yourself. You can use the two-card comparison spread—their point of view/your point of view. This will help you see how each of you approach the relationships. You can expand on that with other cards to represent the strengths of the bond, its weakness, where it’s headed, etc. So use your questions to decide on the type of spread and number of cards.
I would be careful about using tarot card readings to determine how you will behave or make a choice in the relationship. I get no end of questions about cheating partners so I always warn clients to determine the truth by other means. Relying on the turn of a card to guide you in sensitive aspects of your life is always risky.
Should I Turn Extra Cards for Clarification?
I used to do this all the time. Take my advice: don’t do it. Clarification cards do the opposite; they muddy the waters and make it more difficult to interpret the message. The only time I will use a clarification card is when the Wheel of Fortune turns up—I want to know whether those changes are mostly positive or mostly negative.
What Do I Do After the Reading?
If you have put a lot of effort into the reading, you might feel a little ‘spacey’. Thanks the cards, put them away and perhaps do a little grounding ritual or meditation. Me, I prefer to make a cup of tea.
How Often Should I Read Tarot Cards for Myself?
As often as you feel you need to, with one caveat regarding repeated questions (see next section). Turning a card or two during your day is a great way to connect with your subconscious which already knows everything you need to know. So for example, if you are trying to decide between going out with your friends and the Three of Cups shows up, then go and have fun. However, if the Four of Swords shows up, you might be better getting an early night.
How Often Can I Ask the Same Question?
Rarely, is the answer. Or at least, hold off asking it until circumstances have changed or a decent length of time has passed. We all do it when we start learning the cards. I was mad keen on opening up a witchy store and I did a Celtic Cross for the subject over and over. I learned nothing from all those readings. And I never did get round to opening my shop. Probably for the best.
Why is it important not to keep nagging the tarot for answers? Well, because tarot readings are a snapshot in time and they tend to reflect your inner knowing. So on one day, you might get a reading that seems to answer your question, yet the next, you get a completely different reading. Confusion reigns. One reading and that’s it.
What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid When Reading Tarot for Myself?
The main thing to avoid is confusing yourself. Feeling unsure about the correct interpretation of one card is bad enough without making it worse by adding more cards into the mix. So don’t pull ‘clarification’ cards unless there really is a case for doing so. Clarification cards generally deliver the opposite.
In the same vein, use as few cards as possible. Why draw three when one will do? Why draw ten when three will show you the progression you need? Your mantra should be: keep it simple. You will learn far more than if you overwhelm yourself.
One thing that I’ve heard new readers do is, when they turn their cards and can’t see an answer or are able to pick up a thread, they reshuffle and draw again. Some might even switch decks. Alright, I did this a few times too. Don’t do it. The first drawing is the only one. Your answers are there even if you have to do a bit of work to get to them.
Another thing, if you are a beginner, then don’t use reversals (upside down cards). Firstly, all the meanings and messages you need are available in the 78 upright cards. And secondly, as you become more experienced, you can learn to see the whole card on a spectrum from negative to positive. Any interpretation along the scale could be the valid one. So, for example, the reversed Knight of Cups means someone who is needy, over-emotional, or off the rails. Therefore you need to consider those meanings in the upright card as well. I rarely use reversals anymore because I’ve learned to see the cards on the magical spectrum.
Any More Personal Reading Questions?
I’m sure you have more questions about reading tarot for yourself. Please feel free to ask in the section below, but be aware I’m not offering free readings, neither will I interpret your cards—you have to do that yourself.
The deck used for illustrative purposes in this article is the Fairy Tarot by Antonio Lupatelli, published by Lo Scarabeo.
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.
© 2019 Bev G
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on December 08, 2019:
Good stuff, DreamerMeg. Your intuition was strong when you needed it to be. x
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 08, 2019:
A couple of weeks ago, you suggested I should pay attention to the "inner voice". I did this last Thursday. I aim to clean my bathrooms every morning, just a quick clean of the basin and toilet and 1 other item, rotated daily. I know that if I don't get it done in the morning, I usually miss that day. Thursday evening, my teenage granddaughter brought three young male friends in and they went into my computer room study. They were a bit noisy, so I decided to stay close, as well as telling them to keep the noise down. I hadn't cleaned the bathrooms that day and my inner voice said "clean them". My lazy self said, "sit on the stairs and look at your phone" but the inner voice won out, it was quite strong. I had hardly finished cleaning when the sound of something breaking came from the room, along with "Oh no!" I thought they had broken the monitor but found one young lad with blood running down his hand. He had tried to open the window and when it didn't move (this is an old house) he pushed on the glass and broke it, cutting his hand. I was able to take him in the bathroom and get the bleeding stopped. He was in shock, so I sat him on the edge of the bath, next to the toilet and called his dad, telling him that he might need stitches.
I was so glad my bathroom was clean and ready for this emergency and that his dad was able to come up to a clean bathroom and not worry if his son might get a nasty infection from it!
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 10, 2019:
I appreciate you for taking the time to write about Tarot cards. I find the subject very interesting. Thanks again!!
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 09, 2019:
Hi Shaloo, thanks for reading and for your kind words. Yes, I generally stick with one card too, it usually holds all the info I need.
Shaloo Walia from India on November 09, 2019:
A well-detailed hub. I use tarot a lot for guidance. For personal readings, I generally go for one card reading and if I need a little more clarity then three cards reading.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 08, 2019:
Hi Meg, well there are lots of articles on the web about learning how to tune into your intuition. It's about paying attention to the inner voice, the little whisper that's drowned out by the chattery mind :)
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on November 08, 2019:
Yes, but he would not appreciate that at all. I just let him make those choices, wondering how he knows when someone is going to phone or how he usually makes good choices on various things. He would call it luck. I would just like to know how to develop that "luck"
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 07, 2019:
Hi Meg, you should buy him a tarot deck :D xx
DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on November 07, 2019:
I have never done tarot but it's probably because I have never got in touch with my intuition, as you mention at the start. My husband seems to have good intuition, such as deciding between two routes home, he usually manages to choose the one with less traffic. I have given up trying to guess on this and just let him choose the route.