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Learning to See Stories

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on June 17, 2011 | Comments (5)

Learning the meanings of the cards is just one part of learning tarot. In some ways, it seems like it is the easier part. I cannot tell you how many students learn the cards, with deep and profound understanding and spiritual insight, ask me “how to put them together into a reading that makes sense?”

One of the trouble is, I think, that we forget how to tell stories based on pictures. As children, this is no problem! But when I lay three cards in front of an adult and say, “just tell me what you see…what is the story?” the person freezes and seem to be afraid they’ll “get it wrong.”

So, my first tip is of course that one: lay out three cards. The first card is the beginning of the story. The second is the middle. The third is the ending.

As you get more comfortable, you can add more cards or select cards for other parts of the story. For example pull a court card for the main character. Pull a Major for the theme.

Another way is one that I learned back in the early 1990s from tarot author Sasha Fenton. In her book Super Tarot (Thorsons, 1991) she explains a technique that I think is very helpful. She says:

“The theory of Super Tarot is to work in a completely back-to-front manner by choosing the cards which will illustrate a particular story…. The point of this approach is to encourage you to think about the cards in logical groups which will describe the story which you want told. ”

Sasha suggests that you look at a situation and pick the cards which describe it.

The next time you want to work with your cards, think of what happened to you yesterday and pull the cards that illustrate your day, or a movie you just saw, or a book you read.

When I know people are working on learning tarot, one thing I do is this: when they post a status update on Facebook, I respond in the comments: what card is that? It is a simple, easy, quick way to practice Sasha’s technique.

Another way I use this concept is to do a reverse tarot reading. Think about your situation and lay out the cards that represent what you would like to have happen. Turn those cards into either affirmations or an action plan. Or both!


Reader Comments

Written By Charles
on June 17th, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

Each card is a mnemonic for a story. BOTA says that the distant symbols in the picture are acting on the foreground symbols, through the intermediary of objects in the middle ground. Sometimes there are no middle ground objects, indicating a direct action.

Written By Élise
on June 17th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

That was a great article. What great tips! They helped (and inspired) me so much I pulled out my deck (Deviant Moon Tarot) and did three readings as you suggested (reading them as a story, a narrative of your situation), each of them accurate and giving me great insight. To be honest, I think it’s just helped me to pull myself out of a bad situation. I was stuck on a spiritual plateau for a while, and I think I now can continue on with my journey. All I needed was a little push 😉 Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Written By Alethea
on June 17th, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

Hi, Barbara!
I totally agree with you… reading the tarot is telling stories based on the pictures you see! A story that makes sense! I keep telling my students about that all the time and I’ve just e-mailed them your article! Nice blog! Love it! By the way… I’m your reader from Brazil =)

Written By Random Al Askendir Xtranj
on June 20th, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

Two things:
First of all, most people try to learn the Tarot incredibly deductively, so of course they are obessed with ‘not getting it wrong’. When I had Tarot students, I would require them to choose a beginning deck (Rider-Waite, Universal Waite, Radiant Waite, or Robin Wood), throw away the little book of meanings, teach them the pentacle spread (see below), buy a ‘Tarot Journal’, and require them to do a reading on what would happen that day at the beginning of every day with no interpretation until a listing of what actually happened that day; and a reveiw of all of these at the end of each week, month, season, and at the end of six months. About two out of eleven students fail at this completely – – – Tarot is not for them/ they are not for Tarot. The other nine students each evolved his/her own unique Tarot-vocabulary, without having to read 15 books. Four went on to read professionally as their ‘day-jobs’.
Secondly, when I have guided a student thru the psychic/ mental excercizes necessary to have the feedback techniques for magickal sensing mastered, and before I begin teaching magick (both ritual and spellwork), I have them do an excercize that I call the ultimate story. I tell them that they are at a foreign film, that the movie is flickering and they can only see one still-scene out of twenty, that the subtitles are in a languange they don’t understand, and I lay out the major arcana, three rows of seven (mage – chariot, strength – temperance, devil – world); finally I put the fool just before the mage and ask them to tell me the story (when they get halfway thru, I move the fool to just after the world). This reveals an amazing amount to me, not about the ‘story’, but about the one reading it. Unknowingly, they are telling me their story, and I come to know what areas of magickal work to focus on with them first, and how to counsel them when the world inevitably lands on them and tests their commitment to magick.

The Pentacle Spread = 7 cards.
#1 in the center, answer to the question.
#2 straight above the center;
#3 lower right of the center;
#4 above the center and to the left;
#5 above the center and to the right;
#6 lower left of the center (if you did this ‘right’, you just drew the points of a pentacle around the center going clockwise);
#7 face up on the deck (is the deck or “deck-spirit’s” opinion of how well you interpreted the cards 1 -6).
2-6 cause 1, but also 2 and 5 cause 6; and 5 and 3 cause 4; and 3 and 6 cause 2; and 6 and 4 cause 5; and 4 and 2 cause 3. (It’s ‘circular’ but so is much of the world) Invariably, when the reading is showing something ‘bad’, one of the cards will be showing something that the person is directly involved in – – – and by changing or reversing that, the entire situation can be ‘turned around’ (reverse all the cards and interpret it again). Also, when 2+ of the pentacle cards are major arcana reversed, check card 7, if it is reversed also, you got everything backwards from the start, reverse it all before you begin reading.

Written By Amethyst
on July 4th, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

Wow! I love this idea! Sometimes I feel like, I just don’t want to do a 3-card spread today. But telling a story? I’m going to go do that – right now. Thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

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