Though I am primarily an astrologer, I also work with the tarot. Astrology and the tarot are perfect partners, complementing each other in many ways. If you work with the stars and not the tarot, chances are that the cards of the tarot will pique your interest once you begin to investigate them.
Having an astrological perspective when working with tarot cards gives a reader a definite advantage when it comes to card interpretation, but it does mean familiarizing yourself with two separate systems. Of course, I have found that some cards don't necessarily have an astrological interpretation—which can actually make them helpful "utility players" in a card spread.
Below are a few examples of tarot cards that do have a strong astrological association.
Other major arcana also immediately suggest a sign are the Moon card (which shows a dog, scorpion, and wolf drinking from water; this could represent Scorpio or any of the water signs); the Sun card (again, the another obvious Leo representation); the Wheel of Fortune (this card shows a bull, for Taurus, an eagle for Aries, a lion for Leo, and an angel); and both the Temperance card and the Star card show images of pouring water, making it easy to see these as an allusion to Aquarius the water-carrier (even though it is actually an air sign).
As for the suit cards, the Wands represent the fire signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius); the Pentacles represent the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn); the Swords represent the air signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius); and the Cups represent the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces).
Limiting the Number of Cards in a Spread
Another technique is to ask the querent whether the question concerns love or work. If the question relates to love, separate cards so that you only have the suits of Swords and Cups. If the question relates to work, use only the suits of Wands and Pentacles. This again limits the number of cards you use for a reading, which gives you a more limited scope and is an easier way to learn how to use the cards.
Handling the Cards
Simple Spreads to Start
Three card spreads allow for a little more conversation. A simple reading could involve just three cards in a horizontal line: they can represent past, present, future. I could have had the clients sit and go through the deck and pick a card that "speaks" to them, but I didn't want them to feel the time-pressure; instead I just had them shuffle and cut the cards.
Depending on your intuition and level of interpretation, you can also do a reading that's asking a question and turning over a card. Here's an example (this example does use all 78 cards of the tarot deck):
Libra querent: "Should I go on vacation this year?"
Modified Celtic Cross
For the purposes of this piece, I offered a reading to an astrology client, "J," who was a young widow and currently experiencing financial anxiety in the wake of dealing with her husband's protracted illness and the ensuing costs. She's an Aries, and has had her own business, as well as heading up divisions in the health care industry (Aries is a born leader). She has a Pisces moon conjunct Venus, and is sensitive and artistic.
The first card we put down was the focus of the reading. This was the Emperor, which, as noted above, suggests the sign of Aries, as well as an autocratic figure who will not broach uncertainty. This card was reversed, and we decided that the interpretation had to do with her resistance of being oppressed by the circumstances of her financial challenges, and her own rebellion against the status of "widow." The card that "crossed" this card (which creates tension) was the nine of Swords, reversed, which seemed to speak to her feeling trapped by financial anxiety as well as feeling that she needed to put distance between her emotional response and coping with a situation.
The third card I placed to the left of the pair of crossed card. This card showed us the past—and the circumstances leading to the situation. The Queen of Pentacles reversed can be a card that says "living large," or "spending a lot," and it seemed that this Queen definitely connected to J's decision over the years to spend what was needed to adequately care for her husband (who had cancer) as well as her father before that. "I spent a lot on health care for them both," she said. Since she has vision issues and doesn't drive, she also needed to spend money on transportation, after her husband was no longer able to drive.
The next card went below the two crossed cards. This was the three of Wands (this position in the spread represents "causes and concerns"). That card shows a man looking out on a distant horizon. "I could have left him when he first got sick," J. said. "I had people advising me to do so, because he did have a drinking problem, but I knew I couldn't do that," she said. Instead, she had focused her energies on getting him the best care she could, and looking for alternative treatments when it seemed a change was in order (dynamic energy is pretty typical of Aries, as well as a willingness to move on sooner rather than later).
The fifth card (this position in the spread represents "what helps") went above the crossed cards. This was the two of Pentacles; "what things cost" is one interpretation, as this card shows a man juggling a pair of pentacles that are wrapped in an infinity symbol. Twos are about decision-making (or weighing alternatives). J explained that during the time of her husband's illness, she took his health as her first concern, and didn't think about money in the bank. She literally "juggled" finances to make ends meet during this time.
What we thought would be the last card, put down to the right of the crossed card, was another two, this time the two of Swords. This card shows a blindfolded woman sitting in a chair at the beach. Her back is to the ocean, and she holds a pair of crossed-swords. It is a card of waiting on a decision, but it's also a card about finding some stillness, and tuning out noise. Since we did our reading in April, the next time the sun would be in an air sign (again, the suit of Swords rule the air signs) would be in late May, when it moved into Gemini. Therefore, J might find that a possible set of solutions (not just one) would present themselves anytime from late May into June.
Looking at the spread of cards, she received cards that were heavy on the Swords and Pentacles, with one Wand card thrown in. Having an intellectual response versus an emotional reaction seemed to be one message.
"I'm used to making decisions on an emotional level, and I've had to learn a lot of hard lessons on about financial management," she said. "I'm trying to let things go—and just ask myself, is the fridge full? Is the roof leaking?" She laughs. "If the fridge is full, and the roof isn't leaking, we're good."
Just for fun, since I think a reading that ends with a non-committal "two" card leaves everyone hanging, I turned over a final card. This was the Ace of Cups, the first cup card. So just as we'd been speaking about having an intellectual response versus an emotional response, along comes an Ace, which is about a fresh start, a new project, or some kind of renewal.
"Oh, great," she laughed. "A new relationship." We agreed this wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and since cups rule the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces), there might be someone coming into her life—or making themselves known as a love or friendship interest—when the sun moves into a water sign (most likely Cancer, which begins in late June and runs through July). Or, the card could indicate a water-sign birthday person as the new love interest.
Postscript: J. heard back from a potential employer who is looking to hire in late May or in June. The cards forecast again!
Your Sun Sign and Reading Cards
Here are some suggestions on practicing tarot readings for yourself (you are indeed your most readily available client!) depending on your sun sign.
Sally Cragin (Massachusetts) is an astrologer and author who has published articles on astrology in newspapers across the country. She has written the astrology column for the Boston Phoenix since 1998, and can be heard live ...