Do you want to do a tarot card reading but you don’t have a classic tarot card deck?
Fortunately you can do a tarot card reading with playing cards and I’m going to show you how.
No, it’s not that different from a “normal” reading.
How to Do a Tarot Card Reading with Playing Cards
As a friendly reminder, you may want to read the whole article before you start with your first reading. There isn’t anything wrong with doing so if you want to, but you may get better results if you are familiar with the flow and have prepared yourself and your materials beforehand.
Furthermore, readings are only as serious as you want them to be. They can be a fun party trick to break the ice, but they also hold the potential to affect people in real ways. It is especially crucial if you are not confident or skilled in doing readings yet or reading for someone struggling with anxiety.
So before you do a reading, you must inform everyone involved if you are just doing this for entertainment or reflective purposes.
Playing cards are a perfectly valid deck for readings and, in some cases, may provide more straightforward answers than other decks. While many cards have more defined meanings, some aspects of the deck, like reversals and face cards, are optional.
There isn’t really a consensus on how to read reversals with regards to Tarot card reading with playing cards. But, if you choose to incorporate them into your own reading, you may want to create a mark on the side of your cards to signify which orientation is upright and which orientation is reversed.
That said, a common way of reading reversals would be that the reversed position signifies a kind of blocking or negation of the aspects that the card embodies. Of course, it bears emphasizing that just because a card goes against a possibility doesn’t mean that it becomes impossible. It only shows an affinity for specific scenarios, so negative readings aren’t the mark of doom that some people make it out to be. Instead, you can consider it more of a warning of things to come and a chance to turn it all around.
Basic 1 Card Reading
If you want a quick answer for a pressing question or if you’re just starting out, you may elect to do a simple one-card reading. As the title implies, it involves reading the meaning of only one card. While it isn’t as comprehensive as the 3-card spread, it is a good starting point for honing your abilities to glean meanings from your cards.
One thing you may want to avoid is asking simple yes or no questions. While simple questions are fine and can provide more precise answers, you limit the information you can get by limiting the card to only a yes or no answer, which lacks any sort of nuance and leaves no space for explanations or clarification.
Whether you’re moving up from the lower card spreads or diving straight in, the 3-card spread is famous for a good reason. It hits a sweet spot where it gives a relatively comprehensive and balanced reading without dragging on for too long. This balance makes it quite versatile and accessible for any occasion.
Also, note that the following themes are only suggestions and reference points. Feel free to use your options and ask your own questions as you see fit.
If you still aren’t confident about your tarot reading skills, you may elect to adopt these themes into 2-card spreads.
Some common themes for 3-card spreads are:
- Things Within Your Control / Things Outside Your Control / Things You Are Unaware Of
- Your Present Circumstances / What Bothers You / How You Can Fix It
- Past / Present / Future
- You / Another Person / Your Relationship With Each Other
The Actual Process
Once you have decided on the spread you wish to use, you want to begin by focusing on the questions you want to ask. Take deep breaths and relax, you want to be in a state where your energy is free to move, and your mind is open to the information you are about to receive.
Now that you have prepared yourself to receive this information, you want to determine what kind of spread you want to use. For example, if you intend to do a reading for someone who wants to know how well they get along with a potential love interest, you may elect to do a 3-card spread for “You / Another Person / Your Relationship With Each Other.”
After deciding on how to approach this reading, it is time to shuffle the cards. You want to mix the cards well for the following reasons:
First, and most obviously, you want to properly shuffle the cards in order to spread the cards around. This allows the positioning of the cards to be determined less about our reality’s certainties and allows the cosmos’ energy to seep into the randomness of chance.
Second, you want to put enough of your own energy (literally and spiritually) into the cards in order to provide your end of this cosmic connection. If you are doing a reading for someone else, you may want them to shuffle and cut the cards to impart their own energy into this reading.
Lastly, you want to refresh your cards. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as over-reading your cards. While the only real remedy is to give them time to recuperate, if it’s been a while since you last used them, or if it’s a new deck, sometimes a good shuffle may do just fine to make sure your deck is not holding onto any hostile energies.
After that, you should already be in tune with the cards and the cosmos so do what feels natural. Pull the cards one at a time and lay them on their positions, or perhaps you want to pull all three at once. Follow your heart as to how you want to go about it, and a natural order of doing things will reveal itself to you.
It lies on you to make the associations between the many aspects of your spread from here on in. Take a deep breath and just stay calm. Pay attention to suits and the numbers of your cards, as well as their position relative to the other cards.
Feel free to consult your notes or what have you. It is vital that you stay calm and collected so that you can preserve your connection with the cosmic energies feeding you insights.
Tarot Equivalent: Cups
From the lowest lows like despair and depression to the highest highs of elation and fulfillment, it is the Hearts that deals in the entirety of feelings and emotions. It may be worth considering that pulling a Heart card may point towards the presence or shift of certain emotions in people.
Aside from that, since relationships and love make up a large part of our existence as human beings, the hearts also encompass all matters regarding relationships. Be it familial, platonic, or romantic; the hearts have it covered.
Tarot Equivalent: Swords
As the more cerebral component of the suits, the Spades deal with everything related to thinking and communication. So when you look at matters pertaining to the mind like academics, finding solutions to problems, and making decisions, those belong under cover of the Spades. Aside from that, the Spades also covers communication issues like writing, teaching, and any other form of media that allows one to get their point across to others.
Tarot Equivalent: Pentacles
The Diamonds are the suit to look at when it comes to the more material aspects of life as well as tangible practicalities and even health. Notable inclusions are things you can touch like wealth, personal possessions, lands, and properties; really, as long as you can touch it, it may as well fall under the Diamonds’ purview. Aside from the materials, it also deals with practical matters like careers, passion projects, hobbies, essentially plans, and issues that directly pertain to your survival and wellbeing.
Lastly, but not least, the Diamonds are also in charge of health matters, by virtue of its affinity to the earth element as well as the practical matter of staying healthy and the material nature of our flesh and bones.
Tarot Equivalent: Wands
The Clubs are interesting in that they have some overlap with the other cards, but before everything else, they signify a call to action. In other words: they tell you to get moving and make something happen. In particular, they hold sway over the matters of risk-taking, adventure, competition, and business.
Furthermore, they can also refer to aspects of growth, development, energy (both physical and spiritual), and inspiration.
Upright Aces are oftentimes positive and always point to the beginning of something new.
Reversed Aces are the opposite, pointing to some bad timing and opportunities that have passed you by.
Upright Twos represent matters regarding balance and cooperation.
Reversed Twos represent an imbalance in your life and delays.
Upright Threes talk about a connection and coming together with something or someone.
Reversed Threes talk about a division, loss, plans not going as planned, and miscommunication.
Upright Fours refer to situations dealing with stability and foundations.
Reversed Fours refer to instability and feeling stuck in a rut.
Upright Fives signify the presence of a disturbance and some activity.
Reversed Fives signify a challenge that may be overcome,
Upright Sixes are usually positive and speak about harmony, getting in the flow, and the presence of patterns.
Reversed Sixes speak about disharmony in your life as well as yearning for some harmony.
Upright Sevens tell you about a coming change, as well as the possibility of mysteries.
Reversed Sevens tell you about stagnation in your life and fretting over surface-level details.
Upright Eights emphasize matters of travel and good health, as well as time.
Reversed Eights emphasize staying in one place, as well as an imbalance in your health.
Upright Nines represent growth, contentment, and also the granting of wishes.
Reversed Nines represent a coming disappointment, as well as blind idealism.
Upright Tens always talk about the completion of something in your life.
Reversed Tens, on the other hand, may talk about something in your life meeting an untimely end.
The Face Cards
While optional, you may wish to integrate face cards into your reading. These cards work best when you decide beforehand if they represent real people or just traits in general.
The Jack symbolizes youth and beginnings. It may also represent an idea and movement.
It may symbolize children or adults who may be immature or just childlike at heart as a person.
The Queen symbolizes femininity and the divine. It may also represent growth, emotions, nurturing, and intuition.
As a person, it may symbolize a woman of any age.
The King symbolizes masculinity and authority. It may also represent protectiveness, control, mastery, and aggression.
It may symbolize a mature man or a younger man who is mature for his age as a person.
Even among optional court cards, you are free to leave the Joker out of your deck. If you choose to keep it, it can embody the Fool of the Major Arcana and either symbolize carefree optimism or careless folly if it is upright or reversed, respectively.