How To Interpret The Scary Cards: Why No Tarot Card Is Bad
You sit down, light some incense, and turn on your favorite music before reaching for your tarot deck. You shuffle as you set an intention to get the clarity you need to make decisions about your future. You draw cards for your spread, turning them over one at a time. You smile, relieved that none of those “bad” tarot cards have shown up yet.
You’re turning over the last card, thinking you’re in the clear when that scary Devil card shows up. Your mood immediately tanks as you start to worry about how and where the energy of the Devil card will affect your life in the coming days.
Using tarot cards for divination in your magical practice is a lot of fun and can give you some big spiritual revelations. But it can also deliver bad news in a split second when you draw a “bad” card.
Has this ever happened to you?
Those “bad” tarot cards used to be my least favorite part of performing tarot readings. Now, after practicing with different decks and becoming more familiar with tarot, I adopted a new way of thinking.
No tarot card is bad.
That’s right, I said it. Not even the Devil or Death or that violent-looking Ten of Swords.
And just to keep you on your toes, I’ll share another unconventional idea with you: All tarot cards are good. All of them, no exceptions.
Reading my tarot cards in this way has not only improved the accuracy of my readings, but it’s also facilitated deep personal healing.
If this seems like a radical idea to you, I invite you to explore some new ideas about that tarot tradition. If you’ve ever had the knot-in-the-stomach reaction to a tarot card, read on. I’m going to tell you exactly why I believe that no tarot card is bad, and all tarot cards are good.
1. All tarot cards hold multiple meanings and energies.
There are very few things in this universe that are all “bad” or all “good”. Think of someone you love. Would you label them as a “good” person? Probably, because you love that person. But is that person ALL good? Have they ever done something that upset you? Most likely, because they’re human, and everyone makes mistakes. Your favorite person might break your heart and leave you feeling like the Three of Swords, but it doesn’t mean that person is bad.
Now think about a bad experience you’ve had recently. Personally, I can think about a time when I quit my job with a company I’d thought would be my dream job. Separating from that company was emotionally-draining, and even thinking about it made me feel physically sick. After some time passed, I was able to look at the situation with fresh eyes. I asked myself, “How was that good?” Through that line of questioning, I realized that as a direct result of leaving that company, I made a new friend, who eventually became one of my best friends.
Looking back on a lot of the negative experiences in your life, are you able to see some traces of good that came from it? Even if the only “good” from the situation is that it showed you what you didn’t want in your life, that’s STILL good.
Just like our loved ones and our negative experiences bring good and bad energies, tarot cards are the same way.
What good can you pull from the Three of Swords, a card about heartbreak, loneliness, and emotional pain? There are a couple of positive messages that this card can bring such as new beginnings, the end of a painful experience, or it can even point to an upcoming moment of spiritual or emotional healing. It’s a card about heartbreak, yes, but remember that what gets broken will either fall away or be repaired. Embrace the positive aspects of this card, and journal about the events in your life that follow. See if that interpretation was accurate. Even if you end up going through a rough situation, ask yourself if anything positive came from it? Stay open to the possibilities, and trust that things are unfolding for your greatest good.
2. All tarot cards are teachers and can reveal negative thought patterns that you never knew you had.
You know those undesirable tarot cards that make your pulse quicken or give you a tension headache whenever you see them? Those cards are teaching you something very valuable in that moment.
They are showing you something you are resistant to. This is helpful because those instant visceral reactions are signals that unearth your deepest blocks, emotional wounds, hidden desires, and sneaky false beliefs.
If you see the Ten of Swords (a card associated with loss, betrayal, and despair) appear when you ask your card about your chances of getting hired for a job you just interviewed for, notice what feelings and thoughts come up. Did you feel a huge wave of disappointment? Where did you feel it in your body? Did you feel a lump in your throat? Did you feel nauseous? Did it make your hands feel cold? That’s good information to be aware of. Acknowledge the physical discomfort you’ve identified and invite it to move through you. Next, take a moment to dig into the thoughts that accompanied that sensation. Did you think, “I’m awful at interviews. I totally messed that one up.” or “This job is my dream job. I’m not good enough for it.”? Those are limiting beliefs.
You can go deeper with this process by asking, “why do I think I’m bad at interviews?” and observing what thoughts appear in your head as a response. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get to the root of where that belief originated—maybe you remember the time when you were a kid and your father scolded you for not being polite when meeting the principal of your new school. Whatever it is, honor the pain you felt, and invite it to pass through you. Finally, you can look at situations in your life when you did make a great first impression. You can remember the time you had everyone laughing when you attended your significant other’s family reunion.
Once you’re able to guide your attention to the moments when you totally nailed a first impression, you can begin to shift your whole outlook on that job interview. Maybe the Ten of Swords appeared in your spread for the sole purpose of helping you heal a deep false belief. Thank the card for serving you in this way, and if you feel called to, you can draw a new card. Maybe that energetic shift within you caused your future to look a bit different.
If you allow the “bad” cards to trigger and ultimately heal you, are they really bad at all?
I say no.
3. All tarot cards depict different parts of the human experience, allowing you to have a catharsis.
You don’t always want to watch movies with happy endings, do you? Sometimes, you feel like eating ice cream and watching a movie that’s going to guarantee you a good, long cry. Allowing emotions to move through you can be a powerful way to heal from sadness. Just because a move depicts sad or painful events doesn’t mean that watching will make you feel bad. It might facilitate the emotional release you need.
It is the same with tarot cards. A beautiful ritual you can try the next time you experience a heavy emotion that you are ready to release is the “Enter the Tarot” meditation. To do this meditation, select a card that you want to experience. Choose a card like you’d choose a movie. Are you looking for a happy story or something more somber? Look through your cards until one calls to you. It may very well be one of those cards you associate with emotional pain. That’s fine. This card is here to help you release.
Hold the card in your hands and notice all the details of it. What is the setting? Who are the characters? What is the mood of this story?
Set a timer for ten minutes and close your eyes. In your mind, visualize yourself stepping into the scene depicted on the card. What do you feel? What do the people around you feel? Can you comfort each other? Do you want to sit in the corner and cry? Follow those intuitive nudges. Explore the scene organically and allow whatever emotions to move through you. Don’t judge them or try to push them out, just allow. When your timer goes off, you can bring your awareness back to your physical body and to the room you’re in. When you feel grounded, open your eyes and thank the card for giving you a space to work through your negative emotions. The next time you see that card appear in a spread, you may look at it with affection. It has shown you that it’s not your enemy. In fact, all of the cards in your deck can be your most trusted friends if you let them.
Still Feeling Wary Of Certain Tarot Cards?
Here are a few tips for shifting your perspective to a more peaceful mindset when reading your tarot cards:
Remind yourself that you are constantly co-creating your future with the universe—nothing is set in stone. When you change, heal, and grow, the cards will change along with you. If you want to test this, pull a spread and record it in your grimoire or journal. If you see any cards you don’t want to experience, make some changes in your life. Then pull that same spread a week or a month later. Notice if the reading has changed.
Try out different decks until you find one with imagery that resonates with you. Different images might trigger different thoughts. This can help break old thought patterns so you can piece together new, more constructive stories.
Meditate on the cards you associate with negative meanings and journal about the thoughts and emotions that come up. Be on the lookout for blocks or limiting beliefs. This is another great exercise for discovering those buried thought patterns.
When in doubt, draw a clarifying card. This is totally fine to do, and it can give you some context to use when interpreting a “bad” tarot card.
Ask yourself questions when you’re doing readings like, “How could this card be good?” or “What ways can this card manifest in a positive way?” or “What is this card teaching me in this moment?” All the answers to these questions will gently and lovingly guide your mind back to thoughts that benefit you.
How Should You Read Your Tarot Cards?
The short answer: any way you want. Tarot reading is not a science. It’s a fluid and emotional process. It should make you feel powerful. The images on the tarot cards are pieces of art, as is the story you tell as you interpret the messages of the cards. Trust that the messages you take are the ones you were meant to hear on that given day. Your tarot cards want you to have a vibrant and wonderful life. None are bad, and all are meant to support you on your spiritual journey!
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by Julie Hopkins
Julie Hopkins is a writer, yoga teacher, and founder of Power Within, a whimsical online space created to help others improve their lives with magic. She’s from Chicago, but spends most of her time traveling to cool places.
Julie discovered the world of magic after she got tired of reading personal development books and hearing the same ideas over and over. Looking for a new way to grow, Julie started experimenting with tarot cards and felt an immediate connection to her intuition in a way she’d never experienced before. After that, she began studying magic in all its forms, never looking back. When she’s not writing about witchy things, you can find Julie making candles, daydreaming, and playing with other people’s dogs and babies.