In tarot, many cards seem to share meanings, or at least aspects of meanings. For beginners this can be frustrating.

One way I encourage people to work through this confusion is to compare cards with similar meanings and note both how they are similar and how they are different.

For example, there are a number of cards that represent the idea of endings. Death, the Tower, and the 10 of Swords are just a few. Let’s see how they compare.

They all indicate an ending of some sort.

The Tower, with its energetic lightning blasts, suggests a sudden ending. Death, in real life, can be sudden, but for me The Tower is sudden, unexpected endings. Death, in tarot, with its promise of rebirth, is associated with a more gradual, organic, and most likely expected (or at least not totally surprising) ending. The 10 of Swords is also an ending and while I suppose it could be surprising to be stabbed in the back ten times, this card is more metaphoric than that. It is from the suit of Swords and therefore represents our thoughts and ideas. This ending is more like the logical conclusion of something. The Tower and Death are Majors and therefore outside of the querent’s control. As a Minor card, the 10 of Swords is more likely something that the querent participated in and his/her participation moved (or helped move) the situation to its final, logical conclusion.

How would this affect a reading? Let’s say someone was asking about their job. Let’s see how each of these would play out as an answer.

The Tower: a sudden event, announcement, or decision that will change the querent’s “Tower” (their worldview regarding their job). This will be unexpected (although because they are getting a reading, maybe not quite so unexpected). We might be able to tell from the other cards in the reading if the event would be a company reorganization, a layoff or firing, or offer from another company.

Death: the querent is probably asking because they’ve felt unsettled and nervous for some time about their job. Hearing that their time there may be at an end will not surprise them and in fact may be a relief. If something is dying, it is not healthy. Perhaps his position no longer suits him or the company is failing.

10 of Swords: this would be more indicative of interactions with bosses, colleagues, or clients that has led to a clash or tense situation. The querent may be pushing things on purpose (or perhaps unconsciously) to force a change. We’d have to turn to the other cards in the reading to see if the change is resolution or something more drastic.

This practice of comparing similar cards is really helpful in teasing out the nuances of meanings. There are cards that represent love, beginnings, loss, journeys, work, etc. For example, the types of love represented by the Lovers, the Ace of Cups, the 2 of Cups, the 10 of Cups, and even the 10 of Pentacles are all very different. The Star and the Ace of Cups, perhaps even the Hanged Man, can represent Grace or Divine love.

Take out your favorite deck and group them and see what discoveries you make.

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...