A Guide To Tarot Card Combinations

by Douglas Gibb on August 19, 2009

Tarot Card Combinations

Learning how to combine Tarot cards with each other is one of the most exciting ways to deepen a relationship with the Tarot. In fact, this is one of those exercises that anybody, regardless of experience, can benefit from. Although most people advise the ‘card a day’ method of getting comfortable with the Tarot, I on the other hand, advise Tarot card combinations.

What is the ‘card a day’ method?

The card a day method involves dealing out one card each day, usually at the start of the day, with the purpose of assessing that card’s meaning based on the events and experiences that were encountered during the course of that day. This technique is most commonly recommended for people who are just beginning their Tarot journey and it offers a way to compliment the other exercises and techniques provided to take a beginner to a comfortable and confident place.

Why I don’t encourage it!

I don’t encourage this method of study with the Tarot because it conflicts with some of the more abstract ideas that I have on the Tarot. In brief, I do not think that one Tarot card can be applied to represent an entire days events. Far too many possibilities exist for only one card to represent them. For this reason, I’ve found that this technique can actually confuse people needlessly. On a more practical level, I find this technique can actually reduce the person’s confidence, delay the learning process and create tension and stress.

Let’s look at this a bit further:

The ‘card a day’ method is usually suggested to compliment other forms of study. In this sense it is meant to bring together, in a seemingly relaxed way, the different ideas and concepts that the person has been learning. By using the ‘card a day’ method, it is suggested that this simple technique can become a powerful way to bring all these other learning strategies together so the student develops familiarity and confidence.

Here is a list of some of the techniques a person might be using whilst doing the ‘card a day’ exercise.

  1. The first stage in learning the Tarot is to become familiar with the Tarot deck itself.
  2. It’s common for most people to spend time learning the Divinatory definitions or DMs.
    • Getting familiar with the different sections of the Tarot deck
    • The study of psychological and spiritual perspectives within the 78 Tarot cards.
  3. The ‘card a cay’ method brings all this together each day.

Although this method can be useful, it is limited in it’s ability to develop you as a Tarot reader and as I’ve pointed out, can, if too much expectation is placed upon it, have the opposite effect of reducing confidence.

Why I recommend Tarot Card Combinations

Tarot card combinations serve the same purpose as the ‘card a day’ method but it doesn’t suffer from any of it’s limitations. It is an excellent method for bringing together all the different bits of information that have been learned.

Firstly, by practicing Tarot card combinations you are avoiding any potential confusion that relating one card to an entire days events can lead to. Secondly, it helps people see the Tarot not as 78 separate cards, but as combinations of different forces interacting with each other. This is really an important concept to understand because once you get familiar with the Tarot as a system of patterns and interactions, that’s when psychic abilities, intuition and clairvoyance develop.

A good way of thinking about this is to relate it to people. When I am by myself, in complete solitude I will act and behave in a certain way. However, introduce a room full of strangers and I will moderate and adapt my behavior to the social context. If I’m working then I will conduct myself differently to when I’m playing with my dogs or when I’m speaking to my parents.

This is very much like Tarot cards; on their own, they will behave in a particular way but when you put them in a ‘room full of other cards’ they will act, moderate or adapt their behavior. By learning the Tarot in terms of combinations and not separate and unique individuals, you will get a much deeper understanding of the cards as well as developing confidence when providing Tarot card readings for other people.

Stage One! Looking for patterns

The first stage is to look for patterns. The best way to do this is to start off looking at some really basic patterns. I have a list of things that I like to tick off before I even look at things in any great detail. Check out the list I use:

  1. What is the ratio of the suits?
  2. What suit is featured within this spread of cards the most?
  3. What suit is absent from this spread of cards?

This is an excellent way of getting a sense of the overall energy within the spread.

A spread with an overall focus on Cups for example, might indicate that relationships, creativity and the past might be significant in this spread. Learn some basic associations for each of the suits so that you can easily figure out what the client is focused on within their lives. Secondly, what does the absence of a suit indicate? Does it indicate that the client has that area of their life sorted, or does it indicate something more?

You may also like to read an introduction to the Elements to add an extra method for interpreting patterns.

Court Cards

How many Court cards are there? If there are a lot, does this indicate that other people have an influence over the client’s life and future choices? What does it mean if there are no Court cards at all?

Trump Cards

How many Major Arcana or Trump cards are there? A majority of Trump cards might indicate a time of great importance for the client and an opportunity for a deepening sense of their own humanity. Or does it indicate that the client is fatalistic? What would an absence of Trump cards indicate?

Pip Cards

How many Minor Arcana or Pip cards are there? A majority of Pip cards might indicate that the client is in control and can make changes or could it indicate something else? What would an absence of Pip cards indicate?

Three or four of a kind

Another way I like to look for patterns is by seeing if pairs, threes or four of a kinds come up in a spread. For example:

  • Four Aces might indicate great Power and force.
  • Three Aces might indicate riches and Success.
  • Two Aces might indicate a change in career – possible a relocation.
  • Four Kings might indicate swiftness or speed.
  • Three Kings might indicate unexpected meetings or news.
  • Four Queens might indicate authority and influence.
  • Three Queens might indicate powerful and influential friends.
  • Four Knights might indicate meetings with the great.
  • Three Kings might indicate honour and rank.
  • Four Pages might indicate new ideas and plans.
  • Three Pages might indicate ‘young society’.
  • Four Tens might indicate anxiety and responsibility.
  • Three Tens might indicate buying, selling and commerce.
  • Four Nines might indicate added responsibility.
  • Three Nines might indicate much correspondence.
  • Four Eights might indicate news.
  • Three Eights might indicate travel.
  • Four Sevens might indicate disappointments.
  • Three Sevens might indicate treaties and contracts.
  • Four Sixes might indicate pleasure.
  • Three Sixes might indicate gain and success.
  • Four Fives might indicate order, regularity.
  • Three Fives might indicate quarrels and fights.
  • Four Fours might indicate rest and peace.
  • Three Fours might indicate industry.
  • Four Threes might indicate resolution and determination.
  • Three Threes might indicate deceit.
  • Fours Twos might indicate conference and conversations.
  • Three Twos might indicate a reorganisation or recommencement.

The above list of correspondences are based on the Golden Dawn. Please feel free to use your imagination to come up with your own personal associations for this type of pattern or something that is more relevant to your deck.

In my opinion looking for this type of pattern within a spread of cards really helps to get a sense of what the combination of cards within your chosen spread is indicating. This technique combined with the other patterns discussed earlier will give you plenty of information to help you ‘get into’ the reading. The next step is the most important.

Start talking

I know that may sound obvious, especially if your reading for someone else, but the beauty of talking is the natural build up of momentum. Simply by talking about what you see, by going with the flow, a momentum will be built up where more and more insights and connections between the cards will start to unfold. Try not to be to concerned with what you say. Use the above techniques to get a sense of the energy within the cards and the patterns the cards form to help develop your story. Keep talking even when you are unsure what the cards mean. The momentum of talking will help clear your surface mind for other connections to be made; perhaps via your unconscious mind. How does this happen? Simply start talking.

Listening

Naturally, if you are reading for somebody else, listening is an essential component of giving a reading. Although this contradicts the point I’ve just made, it forces us to recognise the tension between talking and listening. Every reading you will do will be unique and different, as will every person you read for. Each session will demand that you adapt the ratio between talking and listening to fit naturally within the context of the reading itself.

However, listening is a great way to learn about the cards. Simply by listening you will be able to make connections between the cards, almost ticking them off as the client speaks. Not only are you developing a natural rapport with the client, you are also learning about Tarot card combinations.

Let the reading guide you, don’t guide the reading

By going with the flow, you will be in a nice receptive state of mind which is ideal for reading Tarot card combinations. By going with the flow you will be open to the fact that the client wants to talk and engage with you just as you will be if the client refuses to talk. Regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in, by going with the flow, by not expecting a ‘reading to go a certain way’ then so many connections and hidden patterns within the cards will reveal themselves to you. Sometimes you will be able to involve the client, and other times you won’t. It doesn’t matter, remember, go with the flow.

Tarot card combinations

Besides reading for other people, there are many ways to practice Tarot card combinations. The only thing that limits you is imagination. For instance, one of my favourite ways of practicing is to try and see images, locations and events with two card combinations.

Hierophant cardEight of Swords

This combination of cards (The Hierophant and Eight of Swords) reminds me of a prison, and suggests somebody going to jail.

Four of SwordsTemperance

This combination of cards (Four of Swords and Temperance) brings the image of recovery to mind. This combination looks like somebody is recovering from illness.

I would recommend you practice Tarot card combinations as often as possible. You may like to practice using a Celtic Cross Spread, or perhaps using just two or three cards. Regardless, the more comfortable you become with reading combinations, the more relaxed and intuitive a Tarot reader you will become.

Have fun finding different ways of using Tarot card combinations to develop your relationship with Tarot and let me know how you get on.

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20 comments… Let's discuss

Jason August 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Another solid article with some great advice!

I never cared for the card-a-day, which is recommended in almost every modern book that teaches tarot that I’ve seen. I had a mental block to doing that. I think part of it was knowing it would take 78 days to go through the entire deck, one card at a time.

Do you have all the Golden Dawn multiples memorized? I’m aware of them but never memorized them.

I think the talking advice is good; a couple of other people have emphasized the benefits of talking aloud, even when practicing alone. My belief is that this helps build a stream of consciousness (your momentum), and acts as a feedback loop. Basically I see this as creating a mini hypnotic trance state, which helps get the conscious mind out of the way.

I like the examples you gave for practicing combinations. The Heirophant and Eight of Swords is a great one that I can totally see if one is “going with the flow.” This might have been harder for me, as I have preset notions about what a Heirophant is that could prevent this brilliantly simple interpretation. Thanks for opening a mind a bit on that. :)

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Douglas August 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

Hi Jason,

I had a mental block to doing that. I think part of it was knowing it would take 78 days to go through the entire deck, one card at a time.

I had the same experience :) . Although learning the Tarot can take time, I just don’t believe we should place unnecessary restrictions on our own capacity to learn.

Do you have all the Golden Dawn multiples memorized? I’m aware of them but never memorized them.

I did have them memorised at one point. Nowadays, I have a vague recollection. I still look for that kind of pattern in a Tarot reading because I find that some form of meaning develops from it. What I mean by that is, a certain image or idea will come from noticing them, although it’s not always the same as the Golden Dawn’s. Having said that, I’ve found that two Aces does tend to mean, a change in career and/or a relocation of property.

I think the talking advice is good; a couple of other people have emphasized the benefits of talking aloud, even when practicing alone. My belief is that this helps build a stream of consciousness (your momentum), and acts as a feedback loop. Basically I see this as creating a mini hypnotic trance state, which helps get the conscious mind out of the way.

I completely agree. By simply talking, a mini hypnotic state develops that allows connections to be made between the cards that wouldn’t ordinarily occur. Even when practicing alone, it’s always good practice.

Interestingly, once a momentum has been built and an interruption occurs, you may find it difficult to remember what you were talking about. When this happens it’s a good bet that you had entered into a mini hypnotic state.

I like the examples you gave for practicing combinations. The Heirophant and Eight of Swords is a great one that I can totally see if one is “going with the flow.” This might have been harder for me, as I have preset notions about what a Heirophant is that could prevent this brilliantly simple interpretation.

Thank you for your kind words :) .

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Ginger August 21, 2009 at 4:38 am

Here’s a method I have been using that I enjoy……On Sunday evening I draw a weekly card and record it (along with impressions and thoughts)…then each day I draw a daily card and record it with impressions as well as how it might relate to the weekly card…By the end of the week I have eight cards to look at and interpret. (Sort of like doing an eight card spread….but drawn out over time) I don’t do this every week just periodically. This also gives me an opportunity to see if certain cards turn up more than once during the week or even if certain suits do. Is there a pattern? Is there a connection between the messages? etc.

“I had a mental block to doing that. I think part of it was knowing it would take 78 days to go through the entire deck, one card at a time.”

While this can be a method for learning a new deck, to me…the real purpose is not a card a day to study…but rather the chance to see patterns over time…

In addition, I often do what I call a blind draw…..I draw a card but do not look at it….I set it to the side and go about my day….at the end of the day I record my thoughts, impressions, feelings about the day….ONLY THEN do I turn the card over and look at it….I reflect on whether the card “matches” my day.

I started doing the blind draw as an experiment….I hypothesized that perhaps by drawing a card and looking at it…..instead of “predicting” your day…..you actually influenced your day to fit the card….in other words as you went about the day you interpreted things that happened, attitudes, events, thoughts etc…with the cards “slant.” So it was an experiment to see if the intuitive selection of the card was present even when the card was “hidden”. Many times it was surprisingly accurate.

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Douglas August 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Hi Ginger, thanks for sharing your techniques :)

This is an interesting variation on the card a day method. It reminds me of dream interpretation.

The practice of dream interpretation involves recording your dreams every morning (as best you can), whilst adding some initial impressions, ideas and feelings that the dream invokes. After a period of about three months it’s advised that you review the dream diary. The idea is to look for connections and patterns over that three month period. The real benefit of this kind of practice begins to happen (although everyone is different and this is only a general rule of thumb) around the six months mark.

Given enough time and with enough diary entries, a whole host of different patterns, themes, locations, characters and situations become apparent. At this stage, the person who follows this kind of practice has a fair amount of information from which to analyise their dream life; and they have effectively created their own dream interpretation book.

From what I understand from your comment, it appears that this is similar to how you’re approaching the Tarot. This could end up being a very valuable excercise. I would imagine that the cards would start to develop rich, unique and interesting meanings.

One of the key benefits of the kind of dream practice I outline above is to develop a relationship with the hidden and unconscious areas of the mind. It seems to me, that by following the practice that you have described, something similar might occur.

I’d love to hear how you progress with this technique and whether or not you’ve found it’s created a deeper connection to Tarot :)

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AJ September 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Hi. Like Ginger, I’m doing a daily reading also, but instead of just one card, I feel that I can better assess the day with a two card reading. Like today, I had a chariot which I associate with asserting yourself. I use the cards to help me understand my situation or what to expect of the day, but sometimes a card a day is very vague. So I always pull a second one and it makes it easier to read. On my second card I pulled the page of wands, which for me means creative thinking or being enthusiastic. So I interpret this as going after what interests me without hesitation. Or I can also just interpret it as “just do it” attitude in any situation today. =D

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Douglas September 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Hi AJ,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with both the one card and the two card daily readings :)

Your interpretation of the Chariot and the Page of Wands is excellent.

If we were to add some Elemental rules to the interpretation – Fire and Water weaken each other – then we could reword this slightly to gain greater insight. For instance, this Elemental combination might produce the feeling of frustration; therefore, it might become, frustration whilst going after what interests you (the cause of the frustration would be, outside influences, distractions and time delays).

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AJ September 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm

It makes sense. I totally missed the elemental portion of that. Thanks Doug. :)

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Douglas September 26, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Hi AJ,

Thanks for letting me know what you thought of the two cards when Elemental interactions are considered. :)

astromama September 25, 2009 at 2:13 am

I am going to go against the grain here and say that the daily card has offered great value to me in that it offers me DISCIPLINE. While I am not always able to sit and record my thoughts on the card, the process of pulling a card a day make me reconnect daily with the cards, and I have to think about it.

I like the idea of card combinations, but I also really like pulling one card a day.. That card usually lets me know what kind of day it is going to be or what to be on the lookout for.

Thank you for the information.

Peace. Love. Light.
astromama aka adiaha

Reply

Douglas September 25, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Hi Adiaha (Astromama),

Thank you for dropping by :)

I am going to go against the grain here and say that the daily card has offered great value to me in that it offers me DISCIPLINE. While I am not always able to sit and record my thoughts on the card, the process of pulling a card a day make me reconnect daily with the cards, and I have to think about it.

I’m glad you did go against the grain :D

I can understand how the “discipline” aspect of a card a day can provide enormous benefit, especially with helping us keep connected with the cards. Perhaps the card a day method can either assist people or take away their confidence; it all comes down to why we use certain techniques, and also what mind set or expectation we have with the technique itself.

You have been able to demonstrate how this technique can be positive, yet I’ve also met people who find the opposite.

I think knowing why we use a technique makes all the difference.

All the best,

Doug

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debbie November 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I am a beginner – in a three card reading drew eight of wands, knight of wands and king of wands. Was trying to find out when a very close friends fianancial problems would begin to subside.

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Paul Morgan January 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Great article! You have some valid points against the ‘card a day’ concept. However, I think focusing and meditating on a single card and really help the reader notice the intricacies in the symbolism in the card that might otherwise be overlooked … although it might be difficult to tie that single cards to a full day of events.

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beki January 29, 2011 at 1:12 am

Found your blog doing a search for tarot cards relating to timed events, and I do the card-a-day (I’ve been reading tarot for decades), but the way I do it is just to ask, “What energy do I need to channel or be aware of today?” I find it very useful for nipping negativity in the bud, and becoming more self-aware. That way there’s no right or wrong to a card and it can be really interesting.
I dunno about self-confidence and tarot, that’s what so fascinating about them, is that you really can never know everything about a card – its all dependent on the situation.
Great blog, btw :)

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August October 8, 2011 at 12:34 am

HI, Douglas,

I noticed that you have helped many people decipher the Tarot. You are very kind and caring.

I have searched via Google help deciphering several tarot pairings to no avail and I am hoping you can and will have the time to help me.

Here are the pairings–

Magician + 3 of Wands (Issue + Crossing)
Death and Page of Cups (Hopes/Fears + Outcome)

Page of Wands and 3 of cups (issue + crossing)
7 of cups and 10 of Pentacles (hope/fears + outcome)

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you very much in advance.

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mxme25 October 25, 2011 at 12:28 am

Is there only one way to read the cards like one combination has to mean one thing?

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susan December 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

hi,i think the heirophant and 8 swords .could mean lots of things .like being confined in a job or life that as restrictions ,i think yes it could ,mean prison but you dont actually want to scare the life out someone ,i had that and i am not going prison ,but my life as restrictions,hence a life style a job with restrictions,sometimes i work through tarot ,using my life exsperiences.i am psychic by the way ,sometimes i can lay tarot out and my other senses take over ,,i think your site is good ;

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pilar February 12, 2012 at 3:19 am

Hi
I am new to your web which I love, and new to Tarot. I have so many books about Tarot, but reading this web I think I am really starting to “get it”
Asking if I have what it takes to read the tarot and if I will have the help of the collective unconscious for my readings I got The Magician and the Three of Cups.
I took it as yes, what do you think?

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Douglas Gibb March 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Pilar,

Glad your enjoying learning Tarot. Yes, you do have what it takes :)

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Tricia sawyer October 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hi Douglas
Great Blog, i love the way you explain the cards, im a professional Tarot reader myself, at the moment im creating my own deck The Retro Tarot Deck, would like to send you a free deck once they are completed and published in the new year :-)

Tricia ~ x

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Mags September 15, 2013 at 4:22 am

I have a question? Are you using combination spreads, meaning say, picking 3 cards for past, 3 for present, 3 for future etc. Or are you seeing combos in a Celtic Cross spread, for example, because in that spread, since each position is its own meaning & Im not sure a combo there is, um, as ‘combined’? Im not asking this question well…. do you know what I mean? I get if a celtic cross is suit heavy, that colors the ‘question’ but if my past is knight of swords & my future is page of pentacles, may I really ‘combine them’? Respectfully, I am asking for your thoughts, I really like your site & am trying to learn & get better. I appreciate you sharing your advanced techniques. You are very kind to share.

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