There are many ways to read tarot — the practice of drawing cards from a tarot deck to find guidance in your life. The cards can give insight into your career, the year ahead, and, yes, your love life. We talked to two tarot readers to learn what reading tarot can tell us about love. Keep in mind that there are many tarot traditions, so different tarot readers may have different approaches.
Katelyn Lemay, founder of Heuristic Tarot, explains, “The cliché I use is it’s a mirror, not a crystal ball. When I read for people, I always tell them, 'I’m not going to tell you when you’re going to meet the love of your life or if he has red hair. It’s more useful to make it about you and the things you can control.'” Instead of asking, When am I going to meet the love of my life? she suggests asking, What can I do to open myself up to the possibility of a relationship? or even What qualities should I be looking for in a partner?
Tess Giberson, aka the City Witch, has a similar philosophy. “I think it’s so much more helpful when we use it as a tool for self-reflection,” they say. Questions they suggest reading tarot for include: What is my role in this relationship? How am I showing up for the other person? How can I become more open to receiving love? How can I learn to set boundaries in a relationship? and even, simply, What should I be focusing on in my relationship?
Giberson also says that they don’t read tarot for someone who’s not there. “It’s one thing if two people, or a polyamorous group of people, came in and asked for a reading and everyone was present. But ethically, as someone who reads tarot as a vocation, I would never read cards for someone who isn’t present in the room,” they explain. “I feel like that really violates someone’s autonomy and consent.” Instead of asking, Is my partner going to break up with me? you could ask, How can I productively discuss our relationship challenges with my partner?
Professional tarot readers may do a reading that involves many cards laid out in a specific spread, and while you can certainly have your cards read by a professional, you can also do your own reading at home — even if you’re a beginner. “There is a myth you should never read for yourself, and I don’t think that’s true,” Lemay says. “I think the only thing to be careful of is falling into the trap of only seeing what you want to see, or saying, I don’t think this card applies to me, let me draw another one and use that instead.”
Giberson suggests beginning your reading by setting an intention. They favor visualizing an energy shower and imagining themselves with tree roots as part of a grounding ritual, followed by an invocation calling on guardians, guides, ancestors, and spirits — but they add that setting an intention could be as simple as “turning your phone off, opening a window, and taking a few breaths of fresh air. It’s anything that makes you feel really present and grounded and centered.”
Next, you ask your question and draw your cards — again, there are many ways to do this, but one way Giberson suggests is spreading the cards on a table and choosing ones to which you feel a connection. They feel a vibration in their hands, but for others, it’s more of a gut feeling. For beginners, Giberson recommends drawing three cards and reflecting on their meaning.
“Some things people can look at include looking at how the cards reflect each other, the relationships between the cards that come up, and the element that comes up the most,” Giberson says. They add that you can also examine the numerology of the cards (“for example, if you pull four cards and three out of the four cards are sixes, I would look at what numerology says about the number six”), recurring symbols, what the card means traditionally, what the card means to you, the predominant colors and how they relate to color theory or chakras, and how the living beings represented on the card interact in the spread.
Feel free to consult reference materials or even Google to help you decipher the possible meanings. And if this all sounds complicated, you can also start with a single card — and keep in mind that, as Giberson says, “because every tarot reader is different, there’s no one right or wrong way to read tarot.”