How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:


Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot ( to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.


Tarot and Care of the Soul

I’m reading a book I had forgotten I’d even downloaded on my Kindle. It’s Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul.” I’ve just started it, but already it’s led me to make some parallels between tarot and how one tends to the proverbial garden of soul in this life.

Moore makes a case for care vs. cure. In today’s highly allopathic-oriented society, the aim is usually to fight, combat, and eradicate any pathology that exists. The total removal of symptoms is often the objective when we’re faced with any sort of dis-ease in our lives, from emotional distress to health issues. While it’s clear that allopathic medicine has its place, Moore maintains that in the frenzy to cure what ails us, we’ve forgotten how to care for the symptoms that trouble us, and in so doing, we’ve lost touch with the parts of our self, our soul, that are crying out for expression.

One of the phrases early in the book that struck me is this one:

Let us imagine care of the soul, then, as an application of poetics to everyday life. What we want to do here is to re-imagine those things we think we already understand.

This, to me, can be directly correlated to a thoughtful use of tarot. In my own practice, I use the cards to assist clients in “re-imagining” as Moore says, their current situations. This creative exercise digs deep into inner knowing and areas of soul that are surfacing to be heard and acknowledged and integrated.

I also like Moore’s mention of applying poetics to everyday life. In my work with Enrique Enriquez, I’ve learned a lot about how poetics and wordplay can be one manifestation of how the symbolic world operates, and how tarot can be yet another of these manifestations.

Working with the tarot can help us to perceive how things and circumstances in our lives are constantly changing. It can also show us how sometimes, things are not necessarily to be eradicated with brute force but rather simply followed and understood.

I remember something that Enrique told me early on in our work together: “Follow the oracle.” This is a beautiful expression of what we can do as tarot readers and clients—simply follow the oracle, rather than trying to bend it and twist it to our own will and desires, hoping that it will provide us with a definitive cure to the distress in our lives. That is the beauty both of working with an oracle, as well as the beauty inherent in caring for soul rather than trying to “cure” it. When used this way, tarot can offer us a less subjective perspective on our lives, thereby allowing us to “care” for ourselves and our situations rather than try to “cure” them.

Let’s draw three cards as a closing commentary on the care vs. cure approach to soul and living.

We can ask the cards: “How can we nurture and care for our souls, rather than trying to cure and get rid of what we perceive as defective within?”

Devil3_WandsHanged Man

We have The Devil, the 3 of Wands, and The Hanged Man.

In care of the soul, first we have to become aware of and respectfully acknowledge the power that our personal assumptions, addictions (mental, physical, emotional), ego-based thinking, and self-destructive behaviors have over us, that keep us feeling trapped and dis-eased. Easier said than done! But soul-based living and care for the soul requires that we own up to our own role in keeping ourselves chained to feeling “less than” and not already whole. Also, in keeping with the concept of “care” versus “cure,” we need to own “The Devil” in our own lives, in our own souls. Care means tending to all facets of self and giving all parts of ourselves respect and a voice, in order to understand our intrinsic wholeness.

Many people want to eradicate any trace of “bad” from themselves and their lives, and yet, that’s an unrealistic proposition. Recognition and acceptance of the dark side of ourselves and what we perceive as unworthy and unlikeable is the first step, then, in embracing the totality of our soul and caring for it. According to this spread, if we can’t find it in ourselves to embrace our own personal demons and shadow side, we won’t be able to properly care for our souls in their entirety. Remember, care means acknowledging, observing, and giving voice for expression, rather than fighting against, disowning, and repressing out of fear and loathing. Does this mean we can’t change behaviors? No. But it does mean that before we can change things, we have to sit with them for a moment, get to know them, open our eyes to them, understand what they are and what they are about, rather than trying to obliterate them with reckless abandon as if they never existed. Those chains will hold us back until we are brave enough to try to figure out what got them there in the first place.

Once that process is recognized, the time comes for visioning a new perspective. We can now look out on our horizon with new eyes, dreaming big about where we want to go now that we no longer feel chained to negative self-image and fear of darkness and entrapment. The way is clear, the outlook is expansive, and exploration is ahead: exploration of areas of the soul that we haven’t given voice to, and we can get ready to actually embark on the journey of tending to the garden of soul.

Finally, we’re called to attend to the soul. “Attending to” means paying attention to, waiting upon, and being present with. It means having patience, listening, and perhaps even a “hands off” approach, all qualities we see in The Hanged Man. We must “hang out” with ourselves and see what unfolds when we take a non-action approach.

These cards pinpoint precisely the difficulties inherent in the concept of care of soul, tending to it rather than trying to ruthlessly manipulate and bend it to our will or what society thinks we “should” be in order to be “good.” In Western society we’re constantly encouraged in “self-improvement” and “taking action.” Yet, in this spread, the cards that provide the “bookends” to taking action are completely counterintuitive regarding “self-improvement” as an obligation for living a soulful life. Rather, they emphasize quiet observation and humble recognition.

So, here again we have one of the graceful capabilities of the tarot. Coming full circle, we can see how the cards here have helped us to “re-imagine” a way of approaching our soul’s evolution in a more holistic and compassionate way, re-imagining something we thought we already understood.