Q&A: Why Do Different Psychics Interpret the Same Card Different Ways?


Q. I’ve gotten several tarot readings over the past couple of years. A couple of weeks ago I asked for a general reading about romance because I was curious what the cards would say. When the psychic asked, I told him my boyfriend and I have a good relationship, but he just laughed at me. He said that my boyfriend was bored and looking for excitement outside of our relationship. The Wheel and The Lovers cards keep turning up again and again, but each time the psychic interprets them a different way. This last time was the only one that was so negative. What does the Wheel and the Lovers card really mean? Why do different psychics give different interpretations of the same card?

A. Thank you so much for asking this! Excellent question! I could write a book about this kind of thing…and am working on doing just that. Please forgive me if I get long-winded with your answer.

The real root of the answer lies in the way Tarot is more art than science. There is no standard way of doing a reading, and no one interpretation of any given card. If you look at the books about Tarot, especially the ones that come with card decks, you’ll find there are a dozen different ‘meanings’ for any given card. If you change the meaning for the times the card turns over upside-down (known as “in reverse”)…then that just doubles the problem.

If there is a card or cards that keep turning up for you, that is probably a big clue that they are particularly important, and that they have a message for you that just isn’t quite getting through the way it should. When that happens I suggest taking matters into your own hands. Read what books and the internet have to say about the card(s). Focus on any common threads about the cards that keep turning up in the readings and let the conflicting stuff go. Most important of all – what does YOUR intuition say? I see a reading as a collaboration between two people – not the psychic sitting there spewing some immutable special knowledge. YOUR insight, intuition, YOUR “ah-ha” moments are more valid and important than anything I could tell you.

As for the general romance reading about you and your boyfriend – I am very deeply opposed to the kind of reading this person did. I don’t think that a psychic (or anyone for that matter) can tell what your boyfriend thinks and feels. Even if were possible, I wouldn’t do it…looking into someone’s heart and mind without their consent would be the deepest violation of privacy and dignity imaginable. Even the pretense of it is unethical, to my way of thinking. My instinct would be to just flush that particular reading entirely.

For the wheel card, that usually just indicates change.

No matter which of the many card meanings seems right to you, it helps to put it into context. What is it about change do you need to learn? Do you resist the inevitable changes in life? Are you too stuck in your ways and slow to change? Or are you an early adopter and tend toward the reckless? Is it a suggestion to slow down or get a move on? The position of the card in the spread gives even more context, and can give subtle shades of meaning to the overall message.

The common myth is that the lovers has to do with romance, marriage, soulmates, dating, all that. In my experience that isn’t necessarily the case. The idea of “desire” can extend to anything…people, things, situations…you name it. It has to do with “your hearts desire” whatever that may be…no just lust, marriage, or grand romance.

Put the two together, and you could get a variety of messages…perhaps advice to change your priorities…change the things you desire. Or maybe you already have and this is a validation of your spiritual growth, or change in values. It is hard to say…agian your instincts are paramount here. If a reading seems off to you…it is. If a reading seems right to you…it is. Even if the psychic is totally honest, and deeply believes everything they say, the message may not be quite what you need. Not every psychic is the right match for every person. It may take some trial and error to find someone that really resonates with you. Tarot isn’t always the right tool for everyone. I believe that cards, astrology, runes, tea leaves or what have you are just tools that help us listen to our innate intuition better. The real oracle…the “modern oracle” is your own inner knowing and intuition. ¬†It’s that collaboration between the psychic, you and your inner knowing that counts.

I hope this helps clear things up a little.

If any of this process kind of stuff is interesting to you at all, please keep an eye out for my book “Modern Oracle: Intuition for the 21st Century”…I hope to have it up on amazon.com next year. It is about just this kind of question: a contemporary way of ¬†learning to listen to your own intuition. The follow up book “Modern Oracle: Tarotbytes” will be a smaller ‘how-to’ specifically about reading tarot with a look at specific card interpretations.

Thanks for your question!