Making Connections Between Cards
(Sample Reading Below)
When it comes to learning Tarot, there are questions I get asked over and over again. One of the most common is concerned with making connections between Cards in a Reading. This question is usually put to me the following manner:
‘how do I make connections between Cards?’
‘how do I link Cards?’
‘how do I find a story out of all the Cards in a Spread?’
‘how do I read Card x when it is drawn beside Card y?’
‘Can I get a book that tell me how to connect Cards?’
I get emails from people who ask me how to read particular Cards together. This is a very difficult question to answer. I could supply on average, probably twenty ways of Reading any, let’s say, two Cards together, but which is the right one? Which is applicable. Maybe they all are, but you can only pick one or two. I hate to say this, but there is no set formula for reading two, three or four Cards together as there are so many variables involved. There are hundreds of Tarot Courses to choose from, and each will promise to teach you how to Read the Tarot, but the simple truth of the matter is that even the most expensive courses can only teach you a certain amount. The rest unfortunately is up to you.
However, there are certain steps you can take which should help you get started. I covered these steps in Part I of this Course Lesson 5 when I gave suggestions of things to look out for, be aware of, and take into consideration when trying to interpret a Reading whether it is just two Cards or ten.
This is what you should strive to be aware of when you look at any individual Card, and especially when you are attempting to find Links and Connections in Readings:
- How are your Feelings or Emotions immediately affected by the picture?
- What Words, Thoughts, Impressions come to mind as soon as you look at the picture?
- Does the Imagery Remind you of Anyone or Anything?
- What Number Card is it and what Energy does the Number carry?
- What Colours are presenting and which is the Dominant Colour? What does this tell you?
- What is going on in the Card? Are there People there, Animals, Buildings etc.?
- If there are People, Animals or Buildings, do any of them look Similar throughout the other Cards?
- If they look Similar, in what way? Do they Improve or Dis-improve from Card to Card?
- What Element Governs the Card? What Energy does the Element bring with it?
- Are there Clusters of a Certain Element/Suit throughout the Cards? What might the effect of their Concentrated Energy be?
- What is the Symbolism in the Card telling you?
- Do you See the same Symbol or Similar ones in other Cards?
- What are the People Wearing? Do they appear wealthy, poor, comfortable, uncomfortable, happy, sad, angry, stressed, young, old, depressed?
- Do they Wear Similar Clothes in other Cards? Do their Clothes Improve or Dis-improve from Card to Card?
- What is their Body Language telling you? Do they stand tall and proud or stooped and strained? Do they looking domineering or submissive, assertive or grovelling? Is there Similar Body Language in other Cards?
- Do They People in the Cards look Friendly or Unfriendly towards each other?
- Is there a Particular Character who Stands out as being in Charge or in Control in the Cards?
- Are they Behaving Admirably and Honourably, or Underhanded and Sneaky?
- What is the Weather like? Does it Change throughout the Cards?
Additional Areas that you should Look for when Trying to Make Connections or Links between Cards :
- What Element/s are present? (Are they Helping or Harming)?
- What Element/s are missing (they might be badly needed)?
- Which Archetypes are present?
- What Archetypal situation is depicted in the imagery?
- Are there any Reversed Cards (Are they Helping or Harming)?
- What Numbers are involved?
- What significant Symbols are present?
- Is there a Colour trend (are they all dark or bright and colourful)?
- In general or they Light and happy cards or Dark and stressful?
- Are there any Cards that Carry very Similar Colouring?
- Are there any Astrological Associations among the Cards?
- Are there Cards that carry a similar Theme or Message?
- Are there Cards that Contradict each other?
- Which Cards would you Group together as being Relevant?
- Which Card/s has drawn your Attention the most?
- Which Card/s do you seem to be Ignoring or Disinterested in?
- Which Card do you Feel is the most Important or Key?
It really comes down to knowing your Cards from several aspects, along with understanding the individual type of Reader you are. Tarot is not an exact science and is constantly subject to interpretation. There is no precise 2+2= 4 way of going about things. Numbers do help but they are only a part of it. The best way to approach connecting and linking Cards is to learn how to join the dots from the lists above, which will then lead you in a certain direction and provides a certain theme. Unfortunately the dots are never the same each time. Each Card has several Dots to select from, and in a Spread, you will end up with a myriad of dots. Examined close-up, it may seem impossible to decide which ones to join, where to begin, which direction to take them, and where the trail naturally ends. The harder you focus your conscious mind on these dots, the more blurred they become.
Applying The Subconscious Mind
The trick is to stand back from the confusion and allow the natural trail to develop through the subconscious. I cannot do this for you. This ability will naturally evolve the more you work with the Cards. When you do begin to see the dots (metaphorically speaking that is), certain dots will begin to stand out and you will see a pattern begin to emerge. It may be very different to the pattern you saw the last time you Read these two or three Cards together. Tarot Cards have shape-shifting abilities. What you see one day, you may not see the next. However, you will store the memory of all the times you have found patterns in them, and these get filed in your Tarot Reading Memory Bank, to be called on at any time in the future. You can retrieve bits and pieces from this Memory Bank to suit any individual Reading’s requirements and needs. However, most of the files stored in your Personal Tarot Memory Bank will be of your own making, the rest will be learned from another, as in courses and books.
The dots that I refer to in the individual Cards, which can be sourced from the list above, need to be joined, and therein lies part of your interpretation. This is the part that is mainly acquired through Learning Tarot. When you are first exposed to all those accumulated dots, it is quite like looking up at the star-filled night sky. When we first tilt our heads back and gaze up, all we see are wild clusters of stars, but once we allow our vision to slightly go out of focus, we soon begin to see patterns forming out of all the chaos. Suddenly, we see the Plough, Orion, Leo or Virgo and we can navigate from there.
You may prefer to think of the dots as breadcrumbs instead. If you follow their trail, regardless of how much it twists and winds, it will lead you to where you want to go. Rarely do these dots or breadcrumbs follow a straight line. If they did, you more than likely would not be doing a Reading, for the issue and solution would be quite simple and straightforward. You must be prepared to follow the trail with all its twists and bends, at times not even knowing where it will lead you. Sometimes you need to run with for a while before it begins to make sense. You may feel as if you are entering uncharted territory. You may even have to back track a little when you discover that you have taken a wrong turn, missed certain flags, are unsure how to proceed, or when you let your conscious mind overly interfere. Some of these trails form a simple pattern, where each Card in the Spread naturally or logically leads you to the next, but many times the patterns will be complex, and you will need to rely on your inner vision to guide you through. Your thought processes must remain flexible. Rigidity when Reading will make it difficult. You need to know when to go by the book and when to allow Free Association work its merry magic.
Going by the book is the part of Tarot that you learned from books or courses. It is the part where other people can help you out with. Free-Association is the understanding of Tarot that comes from within, and is really out of other’s control. When teaching Tarot in a class format, Free-Association is naturally introduced to encourage students to find their own understanding of the Cards. When the class is asked to share their thoughts about a new Card that is being studied, the variety of suggestions can be incredible. Free-Association usually takes place before the student is given much information about the Card, thus preventing tainted views due to previously taught knowledge. The students study the imagery on the Cards and time is given to allow everyone express their feelings and ideas about what it might mean, and how the scene depicted affects them. Some students come up with quite unusual and creative views, often teaching the teacher a new and wonderful way of looking at the Cards. I have learned a lot from my students over the years through Free-Association.
It is amazing what reveals itself to you when you become familiar with Free Association. Free Association allows the Subconscious out to play. The magic begins when you combine Free-Association with the Learned Knowledge.
Free Association can be defined as follows: (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)
1. A spontaneous, logically unconstrained and undirected association of ideas, emotions, and feelings.
Reading Analysis Chart
Applying The Conscious Mind
Any Tarot Teacher or Tarot Course can only ever give you a certain amount too. They will give you all they can to the best of their ability, but they cannot cover every single eventuality. For the Tarot Student, most learning unfortunately comes from within, regardless of how many courses or books you have. Universities all over the world work hard to impart their knowledge to the willing and serious student but they cannot guarantee that every student will understand the subjects or specialities the same way they do. It is the student in possession of the knowledge that must make it his or her own.
I have attended many Tarot Courses over the years, and read umpteen books on the subject of Tarot, but in all that time I was never shown an exact way of making connections between cards, other the very obvious ones of suit, number etc. similar to the bulleted lists provided above. Once those connections were made, I then had to apply my knowledge of the individual Cards, along with a dose of intuition, gut feeling and common sense. It wasn’t easy, and many fellow Tarot students fell by the wayside during this process, disillusioned once they discovered they were not working with an exact science.
The Tarot Cards have a tendency to tell their story or message through metaphors. Connections and links can be found in the Cards when you find similar or complementary metaphors occurring. Metaphors will make the links simpler to find. Anyone who reads my work will know that I use metaphors a lot when writing about Tarot, and for describing the individual Cards. Metaphors play a very important role when learning to understand the stories encapsulated in each Card. When Reading, it is often by the use of metaphors that the Querant finally hears and understands the messages you are trying to relate. This is because it is simple and makes sense. Metaphors appeal to most people. Metaphors can be more powerful than actuals. They provide imaginative food for thought and can break down complex intricate scenarios into more simplistic versions, which all can understand and relate to. Metaphors make learning easier.
Metaphors are described in Wikipedia as follows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor
A metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies one thing as being the same as some unrelated other thing, thus strongly implying the similarities between the two. It is therefore considered more rhetorically powerful than a simile. While a simile compares two items, a metaphor directly equates them, and so does not apply any words of comparison, such as “like” or “as.” Metaphor is a type of analogy and is closely related to other rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance including allegory, hyperbole, and simile.
One of the most prominent examples of a metaphor in English literature is the All the world’s a stage monologue from As You Like It:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
—William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7
This quotation contains a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By figuratively asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses the points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the lives of the people within it.
Aristotle said in his work, The Rhetoric, that metaphors make learning pleasant; “To learn easily is naturally pleasant to all people, and words signify something, so whatever words create knowledge in us are the pleasantest.” When discussing The Rhetoric, Jan Garret quoted how “Metaphor most brings about learning; for when [Homer] calls old age “stubble,” he creates understanding and knowledge through the genus, since both old age and stubble are [species of the genus of] things that have lost their bloom.” Metaphors, according to Aristotle, have “qualities of the exotic and the fascinating; but at the same time we recognize that strangers do not have the same rights as our fellow citizens.”
Sample Free Association Reading
I have provided an Example of how I employed the services of Free Association, along with the joining of dots, my Learned Knowledge and Logic, to draw Connections and links between two randomly drawn Cards which had no question or intention attached to them. I simply drew the Two Cards and placed them on the table in front of me. I automatically scanned the Cards bearing in mind the two lists of suggestions provided above. In reality this takes a very short time the more you practice. It is what most people do when observing anyone or anything. They take it all in within seconds, their mind analysing rapidly as they absorb the visuals.
Once I had drawn up certain conclusions I then allowed my mind to dwell on the meanings attached to each Card. After that Free-Association did the rest. The result was an interpretation of Two Cards from which a story emerged. The story belongs to no one in particular but I have now filed this combination and interpretation in my Personal Tarot Memory Bank. I am sure some day in the future, when these two Cards appear once more, I will access this file as it will bear some relevance to the Querant I am Reading for. Where Tarot is concerned, the Learning never ends.
Cards Drawn – The Queen of Cups and The World
When I look at both of these Cards together, I immediately see colours that complement each other. Indeed their colouring is very similar and another thing I notice is that both Cards feature a woman who has fair hair. Could they be the same woman but captured in a different manner, or even on a different day? The Queen of Cups has her hair nicely and neatly braided. It is styled in quite a formal manner so I presume she either had it done professionally or took some time doing it herself. If she did it herself then she is very clever with her hands. She obviously takes an interest in her appearance. She is also wearing a Crown and sitting on a throne. Maybe this is her professional look and how she likes to present herself to the world. Going on the basis that this is the same woman in both Cards, she has taken a far more relaxed and casual approach in The World Card, as we see her hair is now worn loose as its long rippling mane cascades down her back.
The Queen of Cups is beautifully dressed and her shimmering robe, which resembles rippling water, is very arty and creative. This unusual style is probably designer, a one-off creation, or even something she made herself. When we look across to her in The World Card, her attire is relaxed and casual, so much so that she has chosen not to wear any clothes at all, save for a loose free-flowing drape. Compared to her stately dress, concentrated intense stare, and elaborate throne in The Queen of Cups, she now appears foot loose and fancy free. It is as if she risen, shaken off her workaday clothes and let her hair down. She seems free and light in her mood. The Queen of Cups demonstrates her outward image, while The World represents her true inner nature. These two Cards are very uplifting and I feel envious of this woman who has managed to find a balance between both. Regardless of what she is doing, she has not lost sight of her true essence, and understands that to be happy in life, she needs to be true to herself and not always conform to others expectations. The World Card tells me that she feels very assured about who she is as she happily dances naked for the whole World to see. What is her secret?
The Queen of Cups is often viewed as being soft, shy, timid and passive, but in the World Card we see an instinctual passion for life and a blatant uninhibited nature. Could she even be a little eccentric? The Cups do have a reputation for being so. This Queen is a very interesting person who obviously understands the appropriate way to be at any given time. Yet, when I look at her staring at her ornate Cup, I cannot get the image of a potter, artist, dressmaker, or any crafts-person out of my mind. As she sits very still and focuses her whole attention on her latest creation, we must ask where her inspiration comes from? How does she do what she does? All I need to do is look over to The World for the answer. The World shows us the laurel wreath with a red ribbon infinity symbol on both the top and bottom. This speaks to me in volumes. When The Queen of Cup settles down to do her work, or when she is working on a new creation, we may think she quiet and faraway, lost in her own little world, as this Queen is often known to be. She may not be that faraway at all, but is very definitely in her own world, a world that is far from being little. What The World represents is her world of creative imagination. The Queen of Cups, being famous for her artistic and creative abilities, has been gifted with the Golden Key to the wonderful world of Creative Imagination.
The Queen may enter this World several times throughout the day, and even during the night when she sleeps. She never goes anywhere without this Golden Key, and is able to zone in and out of this Wonderful World, with its infinite supply of inspiration suggested by the infinity symbols on the top and bottom of the wreath. She has access to a never-ending supply of creative ideas. When she enters this World, she abandons all her preconceived ideas which her nakedness symbolically represents. This leaves her free to take in her environment; the world around her, the people around her, the natural kingdom and the animal kingdom without any interference. She connects with the Four Elements; Fire, Water, Air and Earth which are depicted in the corners of The World Card. She has all she needs and hungrily absorbs them all; taking a bit from one, more from another, a touch from a third and a dash from the last. Her mix of Elemental inspiration is never static or jaded as we see her dance and move to their individual rhythms. Today, she will take one blend, tomorrow another. The potential for unique and individual inspiration is endless.
Through the two wands she holds loosely in her hands she allows the Elemental Energies or Inspiration to flow. She draws them to her and they are more than willing to oblige, for all Elements are fascinated with her and in what she will create next. In each creation, The Elements can be readily identified, but rarely are they found in the same order. As in life, no two creatures or people are the same, no dawn or sunset the same as the last, no rose in the garden identical to the next. For the Queen of Cups, neither are her creations, for she subtly alters the blend each time. The two wands she carries in her hands resemble paintbrushes, and the flowing cloth that drapes her naked body, her blank canvas. These symbols are not limited to art alone but act merely as a representation of how every work of art or creative endeavour begins, first with abstract ideas, raw inspiration, and an expansive imagination. The cloth could also represent the roll of material before it is cut and sewn into an item of clothing, the clay before it is placed on the potter’s wheel, the blank canvas before it is introduced to paint, the blank page before it is written on, the piece of metal before it is transformed into jewellery, the raw ingredients before a dish is cooked or baked, an empty house before it is transformed. The list could go on and on. Her loose holding of the two wands is very different from the firm hold and stance of The Magician who prefers to force his will to achieve his goal. The woman in The World has come a long way and has learned much. Some things have to be allowed to naturally occur. She has learned the secret of long-lasting success.
All this is very commendable and many of us claim to have the ideas, the inspiration, the imagination and even the talent. Some of us have access to all the raw ingredients and the blank canvas, just like in The Magician, but how many of us actually do anything with them? We know that The Queen of Cups is famous for her creative, intuitive and artistic abilities. We are aware of her very active imagination. It is this Queen who is strongly drawn to actually doing something with them. It is in her nature to do so, and indeed her inner-happiness depends upon her using her gifts and realising her creative potential. We can see how happy she is in The World Card because she is doing something she loves. She has found her true calling and does not think of what she does as work. She would burst if she did not have a creative outlet. So what makes her different to the rest of us? She uses her two wands in The World Card to lovingly channel the inspiration she has drawn to her so that she can manifest it in the physical. As I look up at the red infinity symbol I think, ‘as above’, and when I look down to the other red infinity symbol I think, ‘so below’. She takes her abstract ideas, her inspiration and imagination and allows them to form so that her inner vision conjures a picture. With strong visuals, she then sets about recreating her vision in the physical world.
However, The Queen of Cups, in The World Card will never force her imagination or seek to control it so that it conforms to the expectations of others. This is why she holds her wands loosely. This has to be a natural flow, and it is in not realising this vital ingredient that many of us make our mistakes. If it was to only create things solely for what others want, or what sells best, then she will lose the gaiety and free spirit of The World. Her world will no longer belong to her, and she may not wish to go there too often, or dread it when she has to. The woman in the World Card may as well put on a grey shift and tie her hair into a functional bun for she has chosen conformity and the needs of others over freedom of expression. She may think she can live like this as long as it is paying her way, but in time her vitality will erode and her world will close in on her. Her imagination and source of inspiration will dry up and become barren. The beautiful uplifting colours in the card will dull, and her wreath will wither and change into a conveyor belt. Without the constant flow of varying Elemental Energy, she will become rigid. No longer will she dance and be light-hearted. Deep unhappiness will seep through her veins and wither her strong healthy body. The Elemental Energy that we see seeping through the wreath from the individual Elements which surround her, are soft and vapoury. None of them overwhelm her as she floats on the cloud of their support. Should she force herself to only allow only certain Elements to infiltrate her World in order to conform to set demands of her, then just like her Aura, heavy dense grey or black patches would appear inside her wreath. Certain Elements would get overused, their quantities unrelenting and heavy, to the detriment of others. She would of course lose balance, and even if she was outwardly successful in life, she certainly would not feel it inside.
The Queen of Cups needs to bear all this in mind so that she maintains the present or desired status quo. When I look at the World Card and see her naked inside the wreath, I remember the connection to birth that this Card carries. I see her as the unborn baby in the womb and realise that this Queen was born with creative gifts and the need to freely express them. I look across at The Queen of Cups her self and now notice the cherub mermaids on her throne and think, yes, this is her birth right and she has been exploring these talents of hers in one way or another since a child. If she is not using her gifts, then she should be. If she wonders where her deep unhappiness is coming from then she should look to her creative talents and check to see if she has being neglecting them. Has her creative expression being put aside as she grew for one reason or another? If so she needs to revisit them for they will bring a wonderful sense of purpose and personal fulfilment to her. She might even become quite successful with them.
If The Queen of Cups is sitting on her throne thinking and debating over whether she should explore, re-visit, develop or showcase her creative talents, then The World Card is saying, yes, yes, yes. The Queen of Cups could be holding her personally designed Cup in her hand and thinking, that if so many people have admired her work to date, is there a possibility that she could make a living out of it, instead of the boring unimaginative job she goes to everyday. The World would be reassuring her that she would have no regrets, and has the potential to be very successful and her work well received. Not only that, but the freedom it would give her would outweigh any small sacrifices she might have to make. The World tells me that she has the ability to make a nice little world for herself where she can be who she wants to be, a place where she would have freedom over her designs and creations. She could easily feel that at last she has arrived where she wants to be. The Queen of Cups needs harmony and peace of mind, heart and soul. The World would certainly support her in this quest as it is a very Spiritual Card. Whereas this is a Card for ultimate success in your endeavours, because it is drawn with The Queen of Cups, this is not strongly connected to financial success, even if the result does bring that with it. For The Queen of Cups, money cannot buy happiness. She will need more than a healthy bank account to feel balanced and secure. The World offers her success on any level she so chooses. As The Queen of Cups sits beside the ocean, her Governing Element, The World encourages her to look to the natural resources that surround her, as it is more than likely where she will find her true inspiration.
Yes, my lovely Queen of Cups, you can do it. You have all the necessary ingredients and talent. All you need is a strong sense of self-belief, confidence and esteem. You have created or given birth to something great. As you hold it in your hands, you may not be initially aware of this. You take delight in all your creations, but this one is very special. You have reached a level of success and excellence that can take you as far as you wish to go. However, you must always remember this moment and never lose sight of this feeling, or of who you are and what makes you happy. Own your space and hold on to your personal freedom as you move forward and upwards. If you have lost your sense of personal happiness, then examine the world you have created for yourself, for there you will find the answers. Subtle changes may have disturbed its balance and harmony.
Copyright © Vivien Ni Dhuinn 2006 – 2014