Reading Tarot FAQs - Weaving the Story
This post is part of a series of posts where I answer your Tarot questions.
How do I weave the story?
How do you learn to weave the story? I can look up the meanings of the cards but weaving the story makes me more frustrated. So I never truly understand my own readings unless someone weaves the story for me.
This is a great question. I really believe that story telling is where the magic is when it comes to reading Tarot.
Sure, you can kind of regurgitate the Tarot card meanings from a book and go card-by-card, but I think the magic of Tarot begins when you start to see the meaning of the combination of Tarot cards and when you pull in your own intuition into the reading in addition to the collective meaning.
If you want to give amazing Tarot readings begin to see a story in the imagery.
Each individual Tarot reading is unique and specific to that moment in time and the question that was asked. Making a connection to your intuition, the traditional understanding of those cards and the relationship those cards have to each other is incredibly important.
THE PROCESS FOR TELLING THE STORY
To actually start telling the story in the Tarot cards, there is a three layer process you can follow.
The first layer is to tell the story within individual cards. This is where you’ll want to start, especially if you are new to reading the Tarot. Once you feel confident telling the story in a single card (any card) you can move on to the second layer.
The second layer is to tell the story between two cards. When two cards appear together, how does the energy flow between them and how do they relate to one another? When you feel as if you are able to see how the story move between two cards, you can move on to practicing with more than two cards in the third layer.
The third layer is to tell the story across a whole Tarot reading. Whether you are doing a three-, five- or even ten-card reading, mastering telling a story in one and two cards will help you see the story in the bigger picture.
The Story in One Card
We’ll use the Three of Wands as an example.
STAGE ONE: what do you actually see?
When you look at the imagery, what do you see in the pictures? Who is this person? What is happening? Are there other people involved? What signs tell you what is happening?
When I look at this card, I see a man wearing a cloak. He is standing on a cliff of the top of a hill, some high vantage point where he can see far ahead of him. He is looking out over the water where there are several ships. In the background we see mountains, and other land bodies.
STAGE TWO: how does it feel?
The next stage is to put yourself in the position of one of the characters within the picture.
In this case, I put myself into the perspective of the man on the cliff watching the ships go by. I’m thinking about what it would be like to simply watch them almost in meditation.
I’m also thinking of the old adage, “waiting for your ships to come in,” which is about waiting until the opportune moment to make a move. It’s almost like this man is calmly looking out to see what is possible for him before actually beginning a new project.
I’m noticing the man isn’t in one of those ships. He is standing in one place, watching and waiting. Does he wish he was on the ships going off on an adventure? Or is he content to wait and prepare?
As you can see you begin to build a story around the people and circumstances of the images.
STAGE THREE: what was the question asked?
Now you’ll also want to take into account the question that is asked when a card appears.
If the Three of Wands is drawn and the question is about a career path, the guiding response to the questions may be to wait to see all of your options before making a decision.
If the Three of Wands is drawn for a question about love, it may be indicating the there is a big, wonderful relationship waiting for you, but right now is time to be patient and watch how things play out.
Alternatively, if you had turned over the Three of Wands and immediately flipped to the page of your reference book you would find keywords like “expansion,” “preparation,” and “enterprise”. Of course these are useful terms to help trigger that story but there is much more depth involved involved in allowing your intuition to find the meaning.
Telling the story of what is happening in the card helps you tap into your own inner wisdom and bring all sorts of new insights to the surface. And these often go much deeper than the keywords you can find in your Tarot reference book.
Additionally, when you tell the story of the card, you are able to pull your own experiences into the reading which can help you relate the reading to yourself or to the person you are reading for. More importantly, you can relate the reading to the question that was asked.
STAGE FOUR: are you wrong?
On occasion you may find that the story you see in the cards does not align with the meaning you see in your reference books. That’s okay!
When you see something intuitively and then see something else in the books, don’t let your mind immediately tell you , “I must be wrong.”
You are not wrong, you are just seeing something else that is more aligned with this particular moment in time and this particular question.
The Story in Two Cards
When you look for the story in two cards the process is very similar as with one card. You may want to start by reading the story of each individual card first before combining them. This just helps you get your brain working in this way.
Look for the symbols, colors, landscapes and other clues to help you find a message within the story of the scene.
Next, look at the cards together and compare and contrast those symbols, colors, landscapes, etc. that you saw in the cards by themselves. What is similar between the cards and what is different? How does this combine to give you a unified message.
If the cards are opposite each other, this may represent the evolution from one state to another. If the cards are quite similar, the message may be urgent or important.
Finally you’ll want to look at how the energy is flowing from the first card into the second. How do the colors change? What about the landscape, clouds, bodies of water? Which direction are the characters facing? Are there repeated themes, buildings, symbols and where do they appear?
The Story in More Cards
Once you are comfortable seeing a story unfold between two cards, you can look for the story over an entire spread.
The best analogy for this I can think of is a child reading a picture book before they can read the words. I used to nanny for a family and the daughter would “read” to me by talking to me about what she saw in the pictures. Most of the time she wasn’t far off from the story written in the text. The pictures tell the story in Tarot cards too.
THE FIRST WAY: structured spreads
When you are pulling cards for a spread there is generally an order to their placement. Tell the story as you turn each card over. Remember to relate the card to the position and the question. As more cards are added notice how the story changes with the repetition or addition of symbols, colors, landscapes, buildings, etc.
THE SECOND WAY: free flow reading
Pull three to four cards to start with. Look at these and group them by similarities and patterns. majors, numbered, and court; suits; common themes and keywords; symbols; etc. Do this is whatever makes sense to you in the moment. It may change from reading to reading.
If Major Arcana cards turn up, I typically center the story around those cards. The Minor Arcana are generally setting and events and court cards tend to be characters and personalities. But you can certainly do something else that makes sense to you.
Look again for similarities and differences, and pay attention to the flow of energy as you have practiced with the two-card combinations.
The main thing to remember when telling a story with Tarot cards is to let your imagination flow. Be careful not to slip into the habit of robotically chanting the keywords of each card that you found in a book.
Allow those keywords you have studied to come forth in your mind but let them weave their way into the story rather than dictate the meaning. Yes, Chariot means “will” and “determination”, but how does that flow with the other cards around it in the spread? How does it relate to the question and the querent? What is the story of the picture that created those keywords?
The point here is to add layer after layer of context, experience, symbolism, description, etc. based on what the imagery triggers in your intuition in order to explain the Tarot reading.
Click the button below to have this printable PDF sent straight to your inbox. From there you can download it and print it off to help you practice.
Story Weaving Exercises
If this seems like something you would really enjoy adding to your Tarot reading practice here is an exercise you can try to really help you activate this technique.
Draw any card from your deck, or choose one consciously that you are draw to, and write a story about it. Unless you are feeling particularly inspired, it doesn’t need to be long; one page is great. Go into lots of details about it though. Look very deeply for things you may not have noticed before. You could even explore what is beyond the borders if you like.
Another exercise is to split your deck into two piles. Draw a card from the top of both piles and practice reading the combinations. Try to explain the scene in a sentence that ties both cards together if you can.
Do this for five to ten minutes everyday and you will improve your reading and story telling skills in record time.
A final exercise to try is to practice reading the story in your Tarot spreads of three or more cards. Resits going card by card, explain it’s meaning; tell the story in the entire reading.
ENROLL IN THE COURSE
The Reading Tarot eCourse includes:
Lifetime access to over 3 hours of video lectures (and transcripts)
Detailed answers to 20 frequently asked questions surrounding tarot
Process for creating your own custom Tarot spreads
Explanation for how to weave a story in your Tarot reading analysis
Downloadable and printable PDF reference guides and worksheets
Forum for discussion and sharing experiences with other students