The 21 Principles of Tarot – XX

Tarot Principles 20

XX. Be Serious in your Study but Inventive in your Practice


A Tarot reading requires five attitudes, but a sixth is the attitude that it requires whatever it asks.

These attitudes are; congruency, flow, pacing, intimations of depth, and curiosity.

We should aspire that our reading is true to the cards as it is to life; that the divination comes to us and is delivered in a powerful flow; that we recognise when to speak and when to hold silence; that we communicate the connection to all things in our narrative; and that we are open to the question as well as to the answer.

So, we might welcome every reading as an opportunity for practice.

Remember then, from the very beginning, to be curious – when we divine, we learn as much as we can teach – this is our calling.

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


Extended Commentary

These five (six) attitudes were observed and collated from hundreds of readers at fairs, events, conferences, bars, parties, workshops and gallery shows, online for free or for dollars per second, an open square in New Orleans and a forest in Switzerland. They were present in readers around a fire in Brazil as they were in a Youth Club in Singapore. They were present in an absolute beginner three decades ago and an experienced reader today. Above all though, we shuffle our cards to remind us that nothing is set in stone forever – we can adopt and adapt what works for us, even these attitudes. Of course, in doing so, we follow them.



Today’s practice is our fail-safe method of reading the cards, to assist you in every reading.

Firstly, we know that we only read the cards – at least, in the beginning.

When we get stuck, we should just read the card – but there is more than that, and it is in Kabbalah we find a method which applies to all divination.

In Kabbalah, the system of Jewish mysticism whose Tree of Life diagram is familiar to most esoteric students, when one studies a sacred text, there are four levels of interpretation.

These also apply very well to Tarot:

Peshet – Simple

Remez – Symbolic

Drosh – Extended

Sod – Secret

Level 1: Simple 

The first level is the simple description of the text; its length, number of words, any key appearance of particular words and so forth. In Tarot this is the simple and literal description of a card. Try it with this card, starting sentences with “I see…”

5 of Wands

5 of Wands

Notice that you might tend to drift up a level to the “interpretative” or symbolic level. You might say or write, “I see five men arguing” whereas what you actually see is only “five men holding sticks” – the “argument” is an interpretation of the literal images of the card.

Level 2: Symbolic

The second level is this “symbolic” and interpretative level. This is the level where books of symbols can assist you and any text written by the artist(s) and/or designer(s) of the deck.

At this level we say or write, “On this card are five staves, symbols of the will or values of a person”.

Level 3: Extended

The third level is “extended” which in Kabbalah would look at other sacred texts, make comparisons, and put the studied text into a wider context. In Tarot we do this when we say such things as “So it is like a war …” or “This reminds me of the story of “The Three Little Pigs”.

We even do it when we extend our interpretative level to the other person’s life or our own; such as “So in your life this is those moments when you feel out of control or at a loss, two aspects of the same problem”.

Level 4: Secret

The fourth and top level is when we have those moments of connection or insight, intuition or conscious realisation and there is a certain sense of “fit” in the reading.

This is that “Aha!” moment, when in the case of this card above we might suddenly see, in context of the other cards in a spread, “So what is really happening is that your previous failures have led you to develop a bad habit, entirely self-destructive, where you never complete anything”.



Now what happens when readers flounder – and we have watched many hundreds do so at one time or another – is that they always (almost always) go UP the levels of interpretation, usually straight to the symbolic or extended.

Readers start to flounder and generate flourishing metaphors and symbols, clichés and sayings, such as “So here we can see that like the three little pigs, the wolf is not able to use his breath to blow the stone house down …” and so on.

This does not help the other person.

The best way to deal with a flounder or moment of confusion, is to go straight back DOWN the levels to the absolute literal.

Face the card and let it face you – re-establish your connection on the basic level.

Simply describe what you are seeing in the card. Keep describing it. At some point you will start to naturally rise back up the levels, and there will have been no break in your reading. Also, you will have remained true to the cards.

As an example, one might start to flounder with the above card in a “future” position in a spread and so then start to re-describe the card:

“So … er … I am seeing these five men. They are bearing their staves. One man is looking away whilst the others are looking in other directions. The sky is white. The man looking away is perhaps the leader – ah – so I figure that one particular experience or value in your future is being turned away because of the blankness of your memory, you have forgotten something that is most important to you …”

And off you go again, back up and down the levels. So always remember: when stuck, read the card.

Just before we leave this lesson, notice that the first letters of those Hebrew words spell out the word PRDS.

As Hebrew has no vowels, this may not be at first obvious as a word, however, it is the word “Pardes”, meaning “garden”.

We are more familiar with it when pronounced and spelt “Paradise”. This is called in Kabbalah the “formula of Paradise” and is a way of opening the secrets of holy texts and re-entering Paradise.

As our Tarot is also, in a sense, a divine text, it is also a key to that same garden.



Read the Cards.

In Tarosophy, the use of Kabbalah underpins most of our techniques and teachings through correspondence, and we recommend further study.

Intermediate/Advanced Exercise

When dropping down to the literal level, use lots of linking words, such as:

and … then … so … when … as … because … with …

This will create a narrative flow and soon take you into the symbolic, extended and even secret levels of the reading.


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