Learn How To Confidently Do A Two Card Reading.

by Douglas Gibb on June 30, 2009

In the previous two posts we covered choosing a Tarot deck and how to learn all 78 Tarot card meanings. In this post, we are going to take our growing recognition of the different Tarot cards and combine them into two card readings.

In the last post, I tried to encourage you not to go beyond learning more than two keywords per card. I think it’s appropriate for me, at this time, to explain why. A strange phenomena occurs when people try and memorise lots of different information on a single Tarot card; their minds lock when it comes to combining them into a Tarot reading. I don’t really know why this is but I have witnessed it enough to know that less is more.

If I was to speculate, I would say that their mind goes into a type of ‘rational’ overdrive; sifting through hundreds of different possibilities for each card, resulting in a kind of freezing effect where it becomes very difficult to allow their minds to flow. Fortunately, if this is the beginning of your Tarot journey, you are doing yourself a massive favour by avoiding the information out there that encourages excessive study of one card.

This is where the benefits of not trying to memorise hundreds of different keywords and symbols will really start to pay off; your mind will be freed from all that information and you will be able to interpret and combine the cards in a free flowing style. I would even speculate that this will allow you to have confidence in combining the cards in non-traditional ways. This is a very good thing because in a Tarot reading we are trying to go beyond the cards to help the client; both in terms of ‘seeing’ what’s going to happen but also in terms of ‘seeing’ different possible futures. This can, on occasion, although certainly not all the time, empower the client.

One final point before we launch into looking at some examples: try and avoid doing readings for yourself or other people you know, at least in the beginning. The reason I mention this is because I want you be as creative as possible. Not only will this help your connection with Tarot but also allow confidence to develop within yourself as a Tarot reader.

When I was first learning I did readings for both myself and friends. The problem with this, on reflection, was that I knew my friends! I knew that the Emperor did not indicate an employer because they were not employed and I knew that the Universe (World) card didn’t indicate an emigration to another country. In other words, because I knew my friends, I automatically learned not to be intuitive with the cards.

This caused two major problems for me when I started doing Tarot readings professionally. The first problem that I experienced were the expectations of the clients, in the sense of what the clients hoped the future would bring, being different from my friends. In other words I reduced everybody’s experience of life into what my friends experienced. The second problem is actually a continuation of the first; I had to unlearn these bad practices. That is why I want you to start off the right way, by only learning a few keywords per card and to avoid the temptation to do ‘actual’ Tarot readings as a replacement for spending time going through these exercises.

What I’d prefer you to do would be to practice both learning the divinatory meanings of the Tarot cards and combining them into two card readings as a study exercise. Spend time each day doing as many of these exercises as you can. The key is to do it so often that it slowly becomes an unconscious process. Try and challenge yourself by imagining all the different expectations people can have and let that guide your learning process.

Let’s look at some examples:

3 of Swords Seven of Disks

We know that the Three of Swords represents a separation of some kind which usually accompanies a feeling of great stress. We know that Disks are usually associated with Money and the seven often indicates a period of time before things start to improve. When I combine these two cards I would say: profound debt!

4 of Wands and the Hierophant

We know the Four of Wands indicates a celebration and the Hierophant on some decks is represented as a Pope. When I combine these two cards I would say: Marriage!

The Fool and the Universe

The Fool indicates something new and when combined with the Universe card I would be inclined to say that this person will be moving abroad.

Prince of Cups and the 7 of Swords

The Prince of Cups indicates an approaching lover and the Seven of Swords indicates deception. When we combine these two cards I would be inclined to say we cannot trust this man in matters of love.

Eight of Swords 6 of Wands

The Eight of Swords indicates limitation and the Six of Wands indicates a success. When combined this might indicate new found independence; possibly this also indicates that other people recognise that they were ‘wrong’ in relation to the newly independent person.

4 of Cups 5 of Swords

The Four of Cups indicates boredom and the Five of Swords indicates a betrayal. Maybe the person in question doesn’t appreciate what they have; we are looking at (destructive risk taking behaviour) somebody who will betray the ones closest to them.

Four of Swords Eight of Wands

The Four of Swords indicates somebody who has retreated from the world and the Eight of Wands indicates rapid events. Perhaps we are seeing somebody who is being forced from their isolation.

These are just a few examples to help you with your practice.

To conclude, this is how I would recommend you practice:

  1. Continue to practice the speed in which you can recognise a Tarot card
  2. Continue to practice the speed in which you can state two keywords for that Tarot card
  3. Practice dealing out two Tarot cards and
    • name the two cards
    • state two divinatory meanings for the two Tarot cards
  4. Do a two card reading
  5. Try and practice regularly
  6. Keep an eye out for any dreams at this time

Although I have called this exercise a two card Tarot reading, it is much more than that. It is the foundation upon which all Tarot readings are built. In many ways these exercises are the hardest in the whole tutorial series because there are only two cards; it is much easier to validate the ‘meaning’ with more cards present. Tomorrow we will look at Elemental Dignities and this lesson, along with that one, will lay very strong foundations for you to grow as a confident and competent Tarot reader.

This post is part of the Beginners Tutorial To Reading Tarot Cards.

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27 comments… Let's discuss

Elizabeth July 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Excellent beginning Doug! No better way to learn!
Thanx for the great Posts!
Elizabeth

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Douglas July 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

Thank you for taking the time to let me know. I’m glad you enjoyed the post :)

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AJ September 17, 2009 at 7:22 am

Looks like a good foundation for learning the tarot. I need to start practicing tomorrow. :-)

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Douglas September 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

Hi AJ,

Combining two cards will provide a great foundation – check out the next post that Catherine and I have collaborated on. It will really help in learning how to combine two cards. Let me know how you get on :)

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AJ September 19, 2009 at 12:48 am

Hey Doug, I made a two card reading, can you please check my post here: http://tinyurl.com/lewnwl

Please leave me your input. Thanks.

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Douglas September 19, 2009 at 1:22 am

Hi AJ,

I checked out your reading and left a comment :)

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AJ September 19, 2009 at 1:53 am

Thanks for checking it out. I appreciate your idea. When I think about it, the six of rods has two male figures which can mean my uncle and cousin, who really put time and effort to help my cousin’s recovery. I do think they will be happy once this is over.

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Douglas September 19, 2009 at 11:04 am

Hi AJ,

I thought you did a great reading :)

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Liz October 17, 2009 at 12:00 am

Thank you so much for this article. I am new to Tarot and I have struggled with one card reading a day, since not all the cards in the deck relates or make sense with events of that particular day. The two card reading its more easy, make more sense and give more confidence in understanding the message. I love your blog, keep up the great work you are doing by posting these terrific posts of wisdom.. :)

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Douglas October 17, 2009 at 12:03 am

Hi Liz,

Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words :)

I’m glad you’re finding these posts useful and I hope to see you around here again :D

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Darren August 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

Hi,
Am new to Tarot and really enjoying your blog and lessons.
I am trying the exercise above with combining two cards together.
Some are very easy, like Ace of Wands and Lovers – beginning of a passionate love affair?
However I am finding it difficult with two opposite conflicting cards such as 7 of Discs (failure, dissapointment, unfulfilled success) and the 9 of cups(joy, success and satisfaction).
Any suggestions on how you would approach conflicting cards.
Thanks
Darren

Reply

Douglas Gibb August 18, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Hi Darren,

Thanks for dropping by :)

Conflicting cards represent those conflicts a client experiences. The Tarot is a picture book of life and conflicts exist all around us. The Tarot represents that through conflicting combinations.

When you think about it, conflicts rarely make sense. How can someone be failing (7 of Disks) and yet feel happy (9 of Cups) about it? But that’s exactly what that combination is indicating.

The real question becomes why? Why do they feel happy with the way things are (the way things are would be represented by the 7 of Disks)?

Perhaps it’s a fear of success; or a contentment with the stability a lack of change brings; or, perhaps it’s someone who enjoys a lack of productivity – someone who enjoys being miserable; a pessimist.

However, in an actual Tarot reading, this combination of cards lets you know that the client is, in some small way, happy with their life – despite the problems.

It could also give you clues as to how to approach the rest of the Tarot reading. For instance, if they’re happy with their life they are unlikely to want to discuss changing it. In cases like these, pure divination works out best.

Hope that helps :)

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Darren August 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for the help, it makes things a lot clearer.
It makes some sense now and as a very new student to tarot I do find the learning curve overwhelming and your blogs really inspire me, thanks.

Was also looking at the elements of the pairing and with Earth and Water and how you describe them I feel that the cards would suggest someone that enjoys life and the challenges it brings even though things havent worked out they enjoyed the challenge and can easily move on and enjoy starting something new.
Would that make sense?

Thanks again

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Douglas Gibb August 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hi Darren,

Thank you for your kind words :)

Yes, that is a really insightful observation. It does make sense that, “this person enjoys challenges and can easily move on and enjoy starting something new” – perfect :)

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Darren August 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Hi,

I am still trying to get to grips with these two card readings and had a strange experience with them today.

My main focus of the day was that my car was going in for its MOT and before I picked two cards I thought what would be the best cards to have that would indicate my car would pass. I thought the 8 Wands and Chariot would be a good combination. Flying through its MOT.

I shuffled and picked two cards and could not believe that I picked the 8 wands and the chariot. I must admit was very spooked but thought great my car will pass.
However I took my car in and it failed…..

What the hell happened.. Any ideas :-)
Thanks
Darren

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Douglas Gibb August 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi Darren,

That’s an interesting card pairing. Like you, I would have thought your car would have passed.

Let’s see if we can work out why this combination equals a failure.

When reading card pairings, we must give each card equal weight. In your example, the Chariot would equal the car and the 8 of Wands would equal a violent and sudden force (hence why this card indicates fast moving events and things happening quickly).

What did your car fail on? Perhaps it would be easier to work out this combination if we start with the exact cause of the failure and work backwards.

I wonder if this particular card pairing was indicating the type of fault your car suffered from – Fire and Water can make stream for instance.

One thing is for sure, the Chariot and 8 of Wands, as a combination, don’t equal success. Our job, therefore, is to work out why.

Let me know what your car failed on, and anything else you think is relevant, and we can take it from there.

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Darren August 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Hi,

I have been thining about the cards in the light of what you said and not sure how to fit them in. My car did not fail on much, just the usual ware and tare stuff life brake pads and tyres.

Have been thinking about the tarot and when doing a simpe reading with just two cards there must be any number of interpretations that could apply.
How do you know which is the real message, is that mainly to do with your intuition?

Feel like there is so much to learn and it seems such a complicated system but am enjoying all the symbolism.
Thanks
Darren

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Douglas Gibb August 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Hi Darren,

How do you know which is the real message, is that mainly to do with your intuition?

Yes, and that comes with experience. But like I said before, I would have interpreted that combination in the same way as you did.

I think this is a good example of the learning process that is unique to Tarot (because it’s an irrational system). Some combinations we understand straight away, others confuse us and yet some (like your example) defy our expectations. But perhaps that was part of the problem. We both assumed the 8 of Wands was signifying something positive but the reality was something completely different. It signified failure.

Reality will always win out over expectations and when it does, the trick is to go back and see how those two cards signified your car not passing the MOT.

I don’t have the answers. Often the meaning of a combination of cards happens first (in this case, not passing the MOT) and it can be months before a rational explanation can be found. I would suspect that the Fire and Water combination has something to do with it. Having said all that, when we read two card combinations each card is meant to have equal strength (elementally speaking) so this might be one of those cases were the exceptions defy the rule.

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Marie July 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Also: 8 of wands is information or messages (quick to arrive) and it does not exhibit that is always messages we want to hear. So important news relative to travel or a travel mechanism such as a car. News or messages that really want your attention as they come fast within hours/days.

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lyanne February 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I want to know why are times when the cards lie to us…Why the outcomes aren’t right ?

Thanks

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Marie July 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Thank you all for sharing your incite.

I have done tests with cards and have had many willing participants.

The one combination I am now very clear on is Devil and 3 of swords. Every time those two are drawn for the ‘daily event or main influence’ there is a violent conflict and an aggressor directing that energy towards the client.

Recently I have had two cards fall out during shuffling and had them paired together two times in a one week period.

fall out wheel fortune Q swords and 2x in a spread as; Q swords wheel of fortune 7 cups

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Marie July 27, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Another Combo that was drawn 3x in a two day period just 2 days after a stressful job decision situation had ceased by the acceptance of 1 job verse the other jobs: Lovers and Sun.

Positive outcome from the choice made. Clarify card was Strength, So I take it that, “be patient and allow things to unfold as your choice will prove to be a good choice, give it time”.

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aliyah October 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Do you have a list of divinatory meanings that you use?

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Dana February 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I just wanted to share my story & thanks. My Mother & Grandmother have always possessed a bit of unexplainable intuition so-to-speak, and I seem to have an ability to tap in that area as well. After my mother passed away 4 years ago, I found a set of Golden Dawn tarot cards in her things. I had no idea she had them. Naturally, it sparked a curiosity within me. I tried first to read the book that was with the deck but quickly became discouraged because it just didn’t make any sense at all, and would have to always reference the book, still lacking the ability to apply the info as an entire story. I put it away for about 2 years. I still had a strong desire to “figure it out”. Against my husband’s advice (as he suggested it was bad luck), I went to a local store & sifted through many different decks & picked one that “spoke” to me. I purchased a Guilded Tarot deck with an Easy Tarot book. I’m a visual person, and these cards are colorful and detailed with consistent symbolism that I could relate to without the memorization of an infinite list of meanings. I’ve done pretty well with their generic representations, but have still struggled with the “big picture” and putting an entire story with the images/meanings. I found your website & have been encouraged to listen to my intuition, and how to start small with the two card reading exercises! I just wanted to thank you and all those that comment, ask questions, and offer additional insight! Your posts are so very helpful and offer new perspectives! Looking forward to going through all the articles!

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Douglas Gibb March 1, 2014 at 3:15 am

Hi Dana,

Thank you!

I still practice using two or three card combinations. It is the grammar of any reading and the hidden structure behind other more complex ways to combine cards.

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Jessie B April 7, 2014 at 1:57 am

Hello, I have a quick question! How do you know what cards to pick out of all 78?

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Mari June 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Douglas, thank you so much for putting together this website! And thank you also for, years after the original postings, still replying to questions! I have found the information here infinitely useful in learning to read the cards.

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