How Many Cards Should I Use in a Reading?

So many cards! (From the Fountain Tarot)

So many cards! (From the Fountain Tarot)


A lot of people ask me how many cards they should draw for a reading. Conventional wisdom suggests that more is always better. The reading will be more in-depth! You’ll get more details! More information!

But tarot is a detailed, ever-shifting system. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t read with reversals: Each card has almost endless information. With all the magic of the illustrations and symbolism, it's easy to get plenty of information.

Case in point: the weekly forecasts. Three cards might not seem like a lot, but I spend a lot of time winnowing them down to a readable length. My goal is to make them concise and helpful instead of spazzy and rambling. (Believe me, this can be a challenge with my tarot enthusiasm.)

As you can see, three cards gives me more than enough information to fill three pages, and more if I let myself go wild (see this week's add-on to the forecast, for example!)

I like to approach readings with detail in mind. If I want to focus on my intuition and see where it takes me I'll start with just a few cards, say anywhere from 1-3. After really exploring them I'll draw more for clarification or expansion into whatever came up.

This is a great method for when you don't have a clear-cut question or situation in mind, as is often the case when I read for myself. Using my first smaller draw I'll identify what I need to focus on and then build from there. It's also an approach I use in a lot of my client readings to see where the cards want to take us.

Larger spreads are just divine for situations you're well aware of like "I'm at a crossroads with my career what do I need to know moving forward?" or "What should I foucs on in my relationship?" These questions give structure to all the cards you pull and put them into easily identified contexts.

Larger spreads also give you lots of information, so if your'e looking for a ton of input or feeling adrift they're helpful and exciting. They can serve as a map where you can survey the scene and make plans to move forward. 

And, of course, the're magical and beautful to look at. I often spend weeks revisiting and digesting the large readings I do for myself. There's nothing more satisfying than watching the messages of the tarot emerge in your life in real time. 

So to end on a short and snazzy note, start small and follow your heart when it comes to tarot readings. The cards can be taken in many different directions. Think about where you'd like to go and plan accordingly. There's no need to limit yourself, but know that each card packs quite the punch of insight.