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The One-Card Tarot Spread: How to Get the Most From a Single Card

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I'm a professional tarot reader with 23 years of experience. For me, tarot is a fascinating system that reflects all human life.

Can you do a tarot card reading with only one card?

Can you do a tarot card reading with only one card?

Muddying the Mirror of Reflection

Why would you restrict yourself to a one-card tarot reading when you could draw four cards, or five, or 10? Surely more must be better? Multiple cards provide more information, right?

Well, yes, usually—kind of. However, for beginner readers, turning several cards will often confuse the issue. More cards muddy the mirror of reflection. When you want a clear, crisp, precise answer, draw just one card.

How many times have I heard readers say that they are “drawing one more card for clarification,” only to gaze at it in utter perplexity? Trust me; all the answers you need are right there in that first card.

The Advantages of the One-Card Reading

  • Layers of meaning: No card has only one meaning. There are layers and layers of information embedded in the psychology of the card and in the symbolism of the illustration. Meaning is also found in the memories the card elicits in the reader, and it’s in the emotions that arise without bidding. Meaning can be found in the colors, the position of the figure/s, their clothes, the background, and even in the weather depicted.
  • Clarity: Often, one card smacks you in the face with clarity. Right there. That’s the answer. Sometimes you have to work a little, dig a little deeper, and maybe even wait a little for the meaning to reveal itself. Yet, when you mine out that vital piece of information, you know it. It’s clear.
  • Brevity: It’s one card. It’s brief.
  • Unarguable: Stay with it. It tells the truth. Every time. The tarot does not lie. You can gild it with what you want to hear, but in the end, the card’s energy is true.
  • Memorable: You can carry the card with you for as long as it takes. It can live in your head or your journal, or you can even put the actual card in your wallet. If the question is important, the reply from the cards will be emphatic. It will stay with you.

Tarot Reading With a Single Card: The Question

The most important part of the one-card reading is the question. Take some time to work out what it is you really want to know.

Are you or your client:

  1. Looking for a yes/no answer?
  2. Wanting guidance and advice?
  3. Searching for a revelation of truth?
  4. Needing reassurance and confirmation of what you already know?

Whatever the subject of your question, one of those desires will apply. One of them is the most important. Use it to formulate your question. Here are some examples based on one situation. Let’s say Gray is dating Sandy, and he’s decided he wants some information about the relationship from the tarot. He has the chance to ask a single question because it’s a free one-card reading. Based on the above, he could come up with any of the following examples:

  1. Yes/no: Is this relationship right for me at this time?
  2. Guidance: What’s the best way to take this relationship to the next level?
  3. Truth: Is Sandy really happy with me?
  4. Reassurance/confirmation of what the seeker already knows: Am I the man Sandy needs?

The Answer

Shuffle your cards in whatever way you are used to and lay out one card.

Accept that your first impression may be bafflement. That’s okay. Let it go.

Now assess your deeper reaction to the image. Are you pleased? Upset? Disappointed? Still baffled?

Your first impression is important. Your sub-conscience or inner guidance already got the message; now it has to filter through to your brain.


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  • The traditional interpretation. This will be the widely accepted meaning, such as an Ace meaning a new beginning.
  • Your intuitive interpretation. Only you know this. It will be based on your feelings and perhaps a flash of knowledge, a picture, or a whisper in your head.
  • The activity in the card. Is there a figure? What are they doing? Does it connect to your question? It's very important to really look at the image. So many times, I have found myself brushing over it, but no matter how experienced you are as a tarot reader, always pay attention to the picture.
  • The symbolism in the image. Are there any details that jump out at you?
  • The energy of the card. Is it high, low, neutral, fast, slow, light, dark, negative, or positive?
  • The number of the card. See next section.

There are other systems that can be overlaid, such as astrology, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, etc. It’s up to you whether to apply them or not. Unfortunately, their complexity is beyond the scope of this short article.

Three of Cups: what does the number on the tarot card mean?

Three of Cups: what does the number on the tarot card mean?

Card Numbers

Bear in mind that the numbers in tarot are generally decaying from one through 10. By decaying, I don’t mean in a negative way, but if you take the human life cycle as a metaphor for the numbers, you’ll be on the way to understanding. One/Ace is a burst of pure energy as it is related to its suit. 10 is the culmination of all the experience that has been lived. Again, as it is related to the suit.

Notice that the two energetically ‘male’ suits, Wands and Swords end in struggle and defeat, while the two quieter, ‘female’ suits—Cups and Pentacles—end in emotional fulfillment and material comfort. Sorry, I’m going off-topic. Anyway, examine and pay attention to the numbers in the tarot cards; they are important to your understanding.

When the Answer Is a Major Arcana Card

The Minor Arcana: the four suits, numbered Ace to 10, are pretty straightforward to read; but what if a Major Arcana card appears? How do we interpret it?

Well, just the same as a minor. Look at what is going on; check the symbols, colors, and number. Check out the main keywords for the card.

Yet, there is an extra dimension to take into consideration. When a Major Arcana card shows up, the issue assumes more importance. It might mean you have the opportunity to learn a significant life lesson. Or you are about to encounter a new spiritual concept. Or that whatever is headed your way, you cannot change. You have to endure, assimilate and experience the opportunity for growth and self-awareness.

What if the Answer Is a Court Card?

There are 16 court cards, split into ‘families.' Each suit has a family consisting of a King, Queen, Knight, and Page. The court cards can be examined in the same way as any other card by looking at the illustration and also taking into account the element of the individual. What does that mean?

Okay, you might want to take a slight deviation here and visit my article on Court Cards. However, the quick answer is that each rank is connected to its own element, as well as that of its suit. Confused much?

Kings represent fire, Queens represent water, Knights represent air, and Pages represent earth. So the King of Cups is a mixture of fire and water and, therefore, a mix of those two qualities: inspiration/action plus feelings/emotion. Does that make sense? You might need to explore this further.

Also, to add to your confusion, Kings are outward-looking; they always see the big picture. Queens are focused inward and pay attention to details. Knights are active and narrowly focused, as if they are on a mission. Pages are grounded yet ready to explore their world.

So when the question brings up a court card, you’ll find that the personality qualities will help you answer the question. It tends to mean that human characteristics play a huge part in the situation. Sometimes the seeker needs to take on those qualities to help himself, or it's possible someone who shares certain traits with the court card has a direct influence over the issue.

How to interpret the six of wands in a one-card tarot reading

How to interpret the six of wands in a one-card tarot reading

Example One-Card Reading

Let’s stick with Gray and Sandy and draw one card to answer Gray’s potential questions. So to remind ourselves, he’s asking one of the following four questions. We, being tarot readers extraordinaire, are going to use a single card to cover all the bases and answer all four.

The Six of Wands

The Six of Wands is illustrated by a man wearing a red tunic riding on a white horse. In this version, we can only glimpse the horse’s neck. A crowd gathers around the horse and rider, and right in the foreground, another man in a red cloak holds an open bird cage. The former occupant of the cage, a dove, flies free overhead.

Question 1. Is this relationship right for Gray at this time? (Yes/no).

This question requires a simple yes or no answer. The Six of Wands is a positive card; the basic meaning is victory and achievement, so we can take it as a ‘yes.’ Of course, the reader would normally expand on the meaning a little to give extra information.

Question 2. What’s the best way for Gray to take the relationship to the next level? (Advice/guidance).

The Six of Wands is a progressive, moving forward card, and it suggests that the relationship can be taken to a new level of commitment. The number six often means that a recovery has taken place, so perhaps there has been a previous crisis in the relationship which has clarified the partners’ feelings for each other. This card indicates that the relationship is equal and reciprocal, so Gray should feel comfortable about discussing his feelings and ideas with Sandy.

Question 3. Is Sandy really happy with me? (Truth).

You have to be careful with questions like this one as they are presuming that you, the reader, will have insight into the other person’s feelings. This is known as a ‘third party reading,’ so be circumspect with these. I would interpret the card as reflecting a strong, positive relationship and let Gray come to his own conclusions as to Sandy’s happiness.

Question 4. Am I the man Sandy needs? (Reassurance/confirmation of what the seeker already knows).

In their mind, the reader would need to address the reason for this question. The flying-free dove is a telling detail in that Gray might be, just a little bit, trying to restrict Sandy’s freedom. The reader should gently ask Gray why he’s asking about this (and there’s a little trick regarding that, which I’ll show you in a moment). As the overall energy of the card is positive, the reader could answer this in the affirmative, yet point at the dove as a subtle hint that Gray should allow Sandy all the freedom she needs to follow her own ambitions.

So that’s a quick illustration to show how one card can answer just about any question.

A great trick for gaining insight from a one-card tarot reading and discovering "the root of the matter"

A great trick for gaining insight from a one-card tarot reading and discovering "the root of the matter"

The Super-Secret Sneaky Tarot Reading Helper

I mentioned the trick regarding how to know why the question is being asked in the first place. Mostly it’s obvious, but sometimes the seeker is cagey and unwilling to be open. Just pick up the deck and peek at the card at the bottom. I can’t tell you how often this has given me all the information I need. You don’t even have to mention it to the client, though you can if you want to.

This card is called the base card. It’s similar to the ‘root of the matter’ card in the Celtic Cross spread; it will reveal the seeker’s motivation. It may even reveal the important question s/he is not asking. Okay, it’s cheating in a way because it’s bringing a second card into the reading—but it's oh so useful.

What does a court card mean in a one-card tarot reading?

What does a court card mean in a one-card tarot reading?

Example Reading: Court Cards

Another example. Okay, to help you a little more, I’m going to go through the questions quickly again, but this time it’s a court card:

The Knight of Pentacles

The Knight of Pentacles sits upon his stationary horse. His horse and armor are draped with rich earth-tone colors as well as sprigs of leaves. The horse is heavy, strong, and sturdy. In the background, a farmer is steadily plowing his field with his hard-working ox.

1. Yes/no: Is this relationship right for me at this time?

Yes, the Knight is perfectly comfortable. Gray’s in the place he’s meant to be.

2. Guidance: What’s the best way to take this relationship to the next level?

Slow and steady does it. While the Knights are on active missions, this one is prepared to be patient. The telling detail is in the farmer working consistently and quietly to achieve his goal. The suit of Pentacles also tells Gray it might be a good idea to focus on a practical aspect of the relationship—perhaps it's time to book a romantic weekend break?

3. Truth: Is Sandy really happy with me?

Bear in mind the third-party aspect, but this Knight’s calm assurance would indicate that he is confident in the love of his partner. That answers the question without infringing on Sandy’s private feelings.

4. Reassurance/confirmation of what the seeker already knows: Am I the man Sandy needs?

If Sandy is looking for a loyal, reliable, faithful partner, then this card says, yes, Gray is definitely the man she needs.

D’you see how it works? I love one-card readings; I’m always impressed with how a single tarot card is able to reveal precisely the information required in the moment.

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

Question: Could a one-card reading give me information about getting a job this year?

Answer: Yes, a one-card tarot reading can give you plenty of information, depending on the question you ask. So, for instance, you could ask "What actions can I take to help me get a job?" or "Are there other kinds of jobs I should consider?"

Formulate your question properly so that you can extract as much useful information as possible. Grab your cards and give it a go.

Question: How often can one draw a card for oneself?

Answer: I don't advise drawing cards frequently for the same situation or question. I used to do that when I began studying tarot and it was just a whole lot of confusion. However, keeping a deck of tarot cards with you and using them as guidance for varied decisions, answers, or suggestions can be useful and fun. Also you might draw a 'card a day' with a theme, such as "What energies are around me today?"

So there's no restriction on the frequency of drawing cards for yourself... the more you do it, the better reader you will become. Just avoid those pesky repeated questions.

Question: Can a one-card reading predict marriage?

Answer: Yes it can. Look out for the Hierophant, the Lovers, Two of Cups or the Four of Wands.

Question: Can a one-card reading predict future pregnancy?

Answer: Yes, it can. The tarot predicted my pregnancy and the sex of my baby. However, I would be wary of doing such a reading for someone else.

© 2018 Bev G


Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 16, 2018:

Hi Sana, I'm not doing readings here. You have asked three questions. I can answer one of them for free at

Sana on February 15, 2018:

I want to know about my present condition, about education and my future career??

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 04, 2018:

Try a negative energy cleansing, Jeffrey. There's lots of information about how to go about it on the internet. I wrote an article on how to cleanse a home after a break-up. The principle is the same:

Jeffrey Bunyan on February 03, 2018:

I have tried the reading of one card per day but must admit that I feel that there is something in the house I live that is very very negative and causes me not to stay focused.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 02, 2018:

That's what makes it so fascinating, Kari. I sometimes feel, even after all these years, I'm only scratching the surface. x

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 02, 2018:

I really enjoy looking into the Tarot cards and their meanings. Layers upon layers you said. I can see that in the reading you did.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 02, 2018:

Thanks, Kristen, much appreciated. x

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on February 02, 2018:

This is real informative about how a 0ne-card reading can tell you what you want to know than a 4-card one. Thanks for sharing Bev. Real insightful.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on February 02, 2018:

Thank you for taking the trouble to visit and read, Louise. x

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 02, 2018:

Thankyou for another informative review. It's always very interesting to read and learn.

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