Can you do tarot wrong?

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Here’s a question I get asked often, in one form or another, from tarot newbies: Can you do tarot wrong? 

Quick answer: nope.*

In terms of your own learning and how you approach those cards, I fundamentally believe that you do you when it comes to tarot. A deck of tarot cards is simply a deck of cards – in your hands, they become whatever you want them to be.

You can make up your own meanings.

You can just use one spread forevermore. You can make up your own spreads. You can not use a spread.

You can read one card. You can read twenty. You can read every single card in one reading.

You can look up meanings in books or online in the middle of a reading.

You can call the Queen of Wands a ‘he’, the Empress a ‘they’, the Emperor a ‘she’,

You can meditate or journey with your cards.

You can read cards using your intuition, or logic, or visuals, or all of these.

You can remove cards from your deck.

You can reinvent the whole system.

You can design your own deck.

You can rename the cards.

You can trim the borders if your cards are too big. You can cut up your cards and make art.

And so on!

As I’ve said many times, there are as many ways to ‘do tarot’ as there are people to do it. In your hands, those cards tell your story – a story that is completely unique. We each have different experiences in life, we come from different backgrounds, hold different beliefs, ideals and morals. As you work with your cards, you enter a two-way process of projecting yourself onto those images and archetypes (which is fine! This is how you develop your own ideas and meanings and what will make you a unique tarot reader) and learning from the cards. No two people will have the same exchange. And that is a beautiful thing.

When you first come to tarot, there are so many things to fret about. What all those cards mean and how on earth you’ll ever remember them. How to do a reading. How to read for other people. What spread positions mean. How to access your intuition. What do do when the cards just don’t seem to make sense. How to find the perfect deck.

And then you begin. You simply begin. You work with your cards and little by little, your confidence grows, and you find your own way. Ultimately, tarot cards are a tool. Just like a pen, or a drum, or a silk scarf, you can do with them what feels good to you.

And that’s what this whole website is all about!

If you’re new to tarot, here are a few starting points:


* I’m writing here about approaching your cards and learning to read them. If we’re talking ethics, however, there are plenty of ways you can do tarot wrong! See the comments below for discussion!

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6 comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    I think you can do tarot wrong. How? By using it to exploit people, prey upon them, and do harm. Some con artists use tarot as props in their scams. Some people use tarot to try to make people dependent upon them for readings. That’s how you do tarot wrong.

    I feel like sometimes saying exactly how you do something wrong emphasizes even better how many ways there are to do it right.

    • Beth Maiden
      Beth Maiden says:

      Wow, yes – that’s such a good point. I actually started writing about ethics in this, but deleted it thinking it wasn’t really ‘what this post was about’ – but you’re totally right. The intention behind your reading can absolutely make it ‘wrong’.

  2. Angie Green says:

    I agree with you both. When first learning tarot or reading solely for yourself, I don’t think there is any ‘wrong’ way to approach it. Everything and anything that works is valuable.

    But when you start reading for others, especially if you read professionally, I think it is possible to use the tarot inappropriately. Just like anything else.

    After all, the cards are just a tool – symbols on little pieces of paper. A lot like money, actually. Both are tools that can be used for good or for evil. :)

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