When Not to Read Tarot

Reading when you're not ready can lead to ill-advised sneakiness & wishful thinking

Reading when you're not ready can lead to ill-advised sneakiness & wishful thinking


Tarot is a tool that can be used in countless situations. There are hundreds of spreads for almost anything imaginable, and you can create your own if you want something even more specific. With all these options, however, it’s important to remember that tarot is best used with an open mind, curiosity, and flexibility. Here are some situations when, no matter how tempted, you should put down the deck and try something different:

1.      In an Emotional Crisis

You’re really upset about a recent breakup. Understandable! You may want to see what the cards have to say about it, or whether there’s a change you will get back together. But now is not the time. When emotions run high it is easy to miss the message of the cards. This is not to say that you have to be beaming with sunshine to read, just that if you can’t see the cards through the tears (or are consumed with rage, frustration, you name it) wait a bit. Take a walk, journal, nap, and return to the cards when you are centered and calm.

2.      When You Want a Certain Outcome

To continue with the scenario above, say you want to read cards and are hoping they will tell you you’ll get back together with your ex. In fact, you want this so much that when you do a reading, you only see what you want. There’s a three of swords in the outcome position? Well, that’s not so convincing. Why not draw another card? The two of cups? That’s more like it! We’re definitely getting back together. (See photo above.) As you can see, you’re not ready to hear what the cards have to tell you. Maybe you need to process your breakup more, maybe you need to try and get back together. Either way, it’s clear tarot is not the right tool for this moment.

3.      When You’re Impatient

There’s a reason the stereotypical image of the tarot involves a solitary fortuneteller in a dark room with candles and incense. Tarot doesn’t do well when rushed. Throwing down cards in a hurry won't get you any closer to enlightenment. Much like the example above, when you’re impatient you can’t interpret and assimilate what the cards have to tell you. Wait until you feel more settled to buy a reading or throw cards for yourself.

4.      When Your Judgement is Clouded

Also known as don’t get a reading when you’re drunk. Simple, yes, but often ignored, as I can tell you from my time reading tarot at a bar. And remember, any reader worth their salt will refuse to read for you if you’re too tipsy. Soul-searching is best done sober.