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Tarot: Reading for Yourself

This article was written by Barbara Moore
posted under Tarot

Being a tarot reader but finding it difficult to read for yourself is a bit like a cobbler whose children have no shoes. Right up there with, "I know what all the cards mean but I cannot seem to make a clear answer when I do a spread," "How can read for myself?" is a common question tarot readers ask me. This article will give you some tips that should help.

If you are like me, one of the reasons readings for ourselves can be unsatisfying is that we don't treat readings for ourselves as we do for others. When reading for others, most readers prepare themselves in some way, whether it is a ritual, meditation, saying a quick blessing, lighting a candle, etc. We should take just as long, and in some ways, longer, to prepare for reading for ourselves.


  1. Calm, Ground, and Center
    Like any other person, when we are in the throes of emotional turmoil, we want instant answers and comfort. Most readers agree that it is not optimal to read for someone in a highly-charged state, so the first thing is to wait until you are calmer and can approach the cards with as much objectivity as possible. This may take just a short meditation or a few deep breaths, or it may take a day or two. Giving your emotions space and honoring them is necessary if you are to tap into your logical and intuitive skills with clarity.

    The next tips are useful, regardless of whether or not you feel emotionally charged.

  2. Write Out Your Question
    This may take time as well. There is something about writing that forces us to be precise. Also, the act of reflecting upon your question will help you see the layers and perhaps heretofore unnoticed aspects of the question. Imagine that someone else came to you with this question. What, if anything, would you ask them before proceeding? Do the same for yourself.

  3. Think About the Answer You Desire
    One of the pitfalls of reading for yourself is spinning whatever cards come so that they suit what you hope will be the answer. Once you've thought about what you would consider your "best case scenario" answer, think about the cards that might come up to represent that answer. Write them down and why you think they'd herald that answer.

  4. Think About the Answer You Dread
    What would be the answer you don't want to see? Think about the cards that would represent that scenario. Write them down and include why they would indicate that outcome. This is important; no one wants bad news and so it is easy to justify any spin we put on the cards that might come up. By identifying ahead of time what these cards might be, it is easier to honest with yourself.

    You can do this for as many variations on possible outcomes as you like; you are not limited to only the "worst" and "best."

  5. Make Your Reading an Event
    Treat it as you would a reading for a friend or client. If you light candles; set a nice space; ask for guidance from a deity, the universe, a guide, or your higher self; do this for yourself. Consulting your cards and employing your skills and gifts has value, so value them just as equally when you read for yourself.

  6. One Reading Only
    Just as many readers will only read for a specific question once in an allotted time period, determine that no matter what your reading says, you will only read once on this topic. A reading is an opportunity to converse with the divine. Respect that by respecting the cards laid and do not scoop them up in a fit of pique and start over.

Some people suggest using small spreads when reading for yourself. I think that you should use whatever spread(s) or techniques that you normally would use if someone came to you with this question.

  1. You Are Your Own Client
    Imagine that you, in your role as the reader, are channeling your higher self, guide, or source of wisdom. As the reader, interpret the reading out loud, using your name, as if you are talking to yourself (which you are). If possible, record the reading. Many readers, when they are in the flow or feeling tapped in, don't always remember what they say as they interpret the reading. If you record yourself, you will not miss any important messages.

  2. Eschew Clarifiers
    I'm never a fan of clarifiers. Not that I haven't or don't use them, but I think often they are overused. Try to stick with the cards that are present; they are there for a reason. If you are well and truly stuck, let the reading sit for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. Or meditate on the card that is causing the roadblock. Memorize the card, close your eyes, and step into the card. Ask any characters or creatures present the questions you have about the card. The ego has ways of protecting itself, so the card may contain wisdom that it is not willing to hear. Going into a meditative state may make it easier to quell the ego and find the treasure in what at first glance appears to be an unfathomable or troubling card.

  3. Look for Your Signposts
    In preparing for the reading, you noted down specific cards that might indicate various outcomes. Look for those signposts and pay special attention to them.

  4. End Strong
    No matter what the outcome of the reading, include an action step. While there are some things truly beyond your control, no matter what happens, you always have the opportunity to take some kind of action or learn some kind of lesson. Leave yourself with the same optimism and sense of empowerment that you would give any friend or client.

A Technique
If you are reading about two or more choices, this technique is a great way to help with objectivity. Write your choices on separate small pieces of paper. Fold them up and mix them up so you don't know which is which. Lay them on the table (do whatever you need to do to make sure you truly don't know which is which). Then pull cards for each piece of paper and interpret the mini-readings. Without looking at the papers, decide which, simply based on the cards pulled, is the one you want. Then, look at the paper and you'll have your answer.

Practice Makes Perfect
One reason you may find it hard to read for yourself is that you aren't comfortable with it. Reading for yourself takes some mental adjustments. Also, we generally only read for ourselves when we are in a crisis or emotional turmoil. To build your skill in reading for yourself, practice reading for yourself on non-emotional or non-crucial topics. When you do these readings, follow all the steps…don't scrimp!...so that you become comfortable with them and they become second nature. The more comfortable you become, the easier it is to tap into or hear the voice of wisdom that we all seek during readings.

Second Opinions
Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, we simply cannot read for ourselves. In that case, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. I have some tips about this (of course).

  1. Don't Ask Others to Interpret Your Cards
    I believe that the cards that come up in a reading are specific to the reader who laid them. You may have a certain way of interpreting the 5 of Swords and that's why it came up for you. If you ask someone else their opinion, you're going to get what the 5 of Swords means for them.

  2. Again, One Reading Only
    We all know this, don't we? Don't go from reader to reader until you get the answer you want.

  3. Readers You Trust
    Have a group of readers you trust and can go to for readings. Many readers have readers, just as priests have confessors and therapists have therapists. I actually have several. When I want a no-nonsense reading, a spiritual exploration, or a brainstorming reading, I know which of my readers best fit those needs. One reader may not fit all your needs.

Reading for yourself can challenging, but as with anything else, a little practice, patience, and intelligence, and you can turn it into a very rewarding activity.

Barbara MooreBarbara Moore
In the early 1990s, at a party, someone put a tarot deck in Barbara's hands; she's held on tightly ever since. Tarot provides just enough structure so that we don't get lost as we explore the mysteries, plumb our dark corners, and locate our North...  Read more


Tarot for Beginners
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Tarot Spreads
Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings
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