The 21 Principles of Tarot – XIII

Tarot Principles 13

XIII. Learn to Hear the Real Question


Tarot is a matter of life and death.

In a reading we can discern more questions from every card.

Tarot opens the gates to universal truths transcendent of space and time.

So, we should honour the question.

Remember then, from the very beginning, to listen and listen again.

This will never be any different, from the beginning to the end.


Extended Commentary

The 12th Principle and 13th Principle are coupled together, reminding us to ask the question and seek the answer. To listen to – and to speak – the truth of the matter. It appears obvious that we should ask a question and divine the answer, however, in this very process are the real questions; How does the Universe work to allow this? Why am I doing this? What does this tell me about the Universe? The real question under every question is “Am I Real?” but even this too changes from level to level of the spiritual journey. The enquiry undergoes transformation as we die to our old selves in each question – and each answer.



When we conduct a reading, we can also use the cards in many ways to explore the original question. This is the case even if the question is “Can you do me a reading?” or “What is it I most need to know at this time?”

An important way is to turn the question into a spread using ‘Clean Language’ – a form of therapy developed from the work of the late David Grove.

The concept of Clean Language in Tarot was first introduced in Tarosophy (2011) and this specific method first published in Tarot Face to Face (2012).

When someone expresses their question, it usually has an emotional content, and this can be turned into a metaphor – then a spread – by a specialized but straight-forward series of clean questions.

It takes less than a minute or two, and then you have a precise metaphor of the question against which to design your spread – right there and then on the table.

This provides a powerful reading for the client because it uses their own model.


The sequence of questions is as follows, with the essential sequence highlighted in bold:


Querent: My question is X [including some emotional content, such as “and I’m concerned that I may not make the right choice”]


Reader: … so, I’m concerned [saying it exactly like the client]. Where is your concern?

Querent: In my stomach [or Querent will gesture unconsciously even if they say “I don’t really know”]


Reader: … in your stomach. Is it outside or inside? [you will likely already know from the way the client has moved or gestured, etc.]


Querent: Inside, in the pit of my stomach.


Reader: … inside, in the pit of my stomach [always repeat what client has said exactly]. I’m wondering how you’d best describe the size of that?

[not ‘describe it’ but ‘how best would you describe …’]


Querent: Well, it’s hard to say, it feels tight and small.

Reader: Tight and small, and what shape is it?


Querent: I guess it’s about the size of… [makes a gesture like a small ball].


Reader: …  And so it’s the size of [makes same gesture] And that’s like what?


Querent: It’s like a clenched-up fist, that’s what.


So now we have a metaphor, the “clenched-up fist”.

We simply use the clients metaphor as a spread, in this case, saying something like, “let’s use that as a spread – suppose I lay out five cards to represent the five fingers on your hand. These will tell us what is holding the anxiety in a fist in your stomach.

Then I will lay out five cards on top of those cards to show you how you can release that anxiety and make the right decision. In fact, I will place one card down after that, in the palm of your hand – because you hold the answer in your own hand”.

These readings will likely replace any given ‘spread’ as you get practiced with them, because they are so powerful and speak to the client’s deepest representation of their question.

You will soon find your clients teaching you many forms of spreads and methods, such as the “Whirlpool Spread”, the “River Method”, the “Box-In/Box-Out” spread, and a unique one with every person!

This principle and this particular method (Turn any Question into a Spread) are at the heart of Tarosophy; they instill an attitude of curiousity and learning in the reader, and work with language to produce powerful readings.


To recap, the questions are, in this sequence:


WHERE IS … [abstract emotion or concept]?




[Optionally, also, what colour is it?]



You will see that the specific order gives the client no way out of ignoring or not answering the next question. If you have a feeling, it must be somewhere. If it is somewhere, it must be inside or outside. If it is inside or outside, it must have a size. If it has a size, it must have a shape. If it has shape, it must be like something else – which is the symbol or metaphor for the original feeling.



You can frame the questions in any particular way, following the Querent’s own language. The faster you do it, and the more you pay attention to their whole communication, including non-verbal gestures, the more noticeable it will be that the question suggests its own spread in response.


Beginner Method


The method given with this principle might be considered intermediate/advanced – if you would like to apply the principle as an absolute beginner, start with this alternative method.

When pointing out any symbol in a card, say it out loud and ask the client – or yourself – “…and that’s like what?

It will help you (if it fits your particular style of reading) discover more, with the client, of their actual situation and question.


Reader: “So, the Trumpet in the card … and that’s like what?”

Client: “Ah, I guess it’s like an alarm clock”.

Reader: “And what do we think it is waking you up to?”

Each of the 21 Principles will build together and give you absolute confidence in reading tarot in three weeks.

This exercise is a modification of one of the fifty exercises found in Tarosophy: Tarot to Engage Life, Not Escape it.

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