Mightier Than the Swords: How to Deal with a Bad Tarot Reading

Posted by Michelle Gruben on

If you’re an avid reader of Tarot cards, then you know that no matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, not all readings will be positive. Sometimes, the cards will show something that you weren’t expecting—something negative. But what should you do if this happens? How can you make sense of a negative Tarot reading? Read on to learn how to “win” your Tarot reading when you’re dealt a bad hand.

1. Assess and Interpret

As tempting as it may be to throw the ominous cards in a pile and re-shuffle the deck, it’s worth pausing for a second to assess the reading. Take a breath and look at the spread as a whole, then consider each card individually. What part of the reading is giving off scary vibes? Is it just one card, or several? (All of them?! Oh no!)

Most readers would agree that negative readings are those that contain lots of Swords, reversals, and really dramatic Major Arcana cards such as the Tower and Death. In addition, we all have our own personal least-favorite cardsthe ones that always make us groan when they show up in readings. (Four of Cups, I'm looking at you.)

But even if your reading contains a royal flush of disaster, don’t despair (yet). Many readers, especially beginners, tend to react strongly to certain cards without considering the deeper nuances or positive aspects of these so-called “negative” cards. Card meanings can also be modified and mitigated by their position in the spread and by the cards around them. Consulting a Tarot guidebook can help you tease out the constructive messages hidden within even the bleakest of cards.

Just like anything else in life, few Tarot readings are completely bad or good. While you may have hoped for a clearer or more encouraging answer, remember that you consulted the cards because you wanted more complete information about something. (And a negative reading is still much better than an inaccurate one!) Rather than reject the negative reading, honor it as an unexpected—but not completely unwelcome—answer to a sincere question.

In other words, the first step in dealing with a negative Tarot reading is to try and accept it, then interpret its message. Consider the meaning of each card, how it relates to the ones around it, and how they might fit into the larger context of your life. If something seems dismal at first glance, there may be potential for growth or even opportunity hidden within.

As you confront a challenging reading, try to neither obsess about the negative parts, nor fixate on finding a silver lining. Instead, keep a balanced mindset and let the reading unfold in all its detail.

2. Ask Questions

Once you have interpreted the message, it’s time to start asking questions about it. Some helpful questions include “What can I do now to improve this situation?” and “How can I use this information to make better decisions in my life?” This can help you focus on solutions rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of your reading. It also gives you an actionable plan so that you can take steps toward improving the situation. Understanding what could happen if things continue on their current path will help determine how you can best proceed.

I recommend limiting your follow-up readings to one or two extra cards. Otherwise, you may be tempted to keep drawing cards until you get some that you like better. (Trust me—we’ve all been there!) Drawing too many follow-up cards will dilute the message of the original reading and allow your own biases to creep in.                                                                                                             

3. Reflect and Take Action

Finally, once you have asked your questions and received your answers, it’s important to find closure. You can do this by writing down your thoughts or meditating on what you have seen in the cards. Record your impressions and intuitions right away, while they’re fresh. After a difficult reading, you may want to do something to release its energy and relax your body, like taking a hot bath or a head-clearing walk. Taking this time for reflection allows you to process everything and come away from the experience feeling empowered rather than disheartened.

It’s always a good idea to record the cards and their positions, either by taking a photo or making a quick sketch in your Tarot journal. This step is especially valuable when the reading seems negative or confusing. Once you have allowed yourself time to process your feelings, you can later take an objective look at what exactly was revealed during the Tarot reading session. Make sure to note the date, too, in case you want to do a follow-up reading down the road. (I recommend waiting at least one moon cycle before consulting the cards again about the same issueunless the matter is a very urgent one, or unless there’s been a substantial new development.)

Once you’ve thoroughly absorbed the answers unveiled during the reading, you can begin to take action to bring about positive change. Tarot readings are a tool to understand the forces in our lives we can’t control—and also which ones we can influence through energy and action. Few diviners believe in the concept of inescapable fate. We do divination because we have the power to make choices and create a better outcome than what has previously been predicted.

Negative tarot readings are never easy, but they don't have to leave you feeling helpless or overwhelmed, either. How you manage and respond to a discouraging reading is key. By interpreting the message, asking questions about it (but not so many that you muddy the waters), and taking constructive action afterwards, you can use your readings as tools for personal growth instead of letting them weigh you down with fear and anxiety. With these tips in mind, even a difficult Tarot reading can be transformed into an opportunity for progress.

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