Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

We all have those cards that we hate to see come up in a reading. These are the difficult cards. For me, it’s often based on the image used in a particular deck–I had a Two of Cups in one deck that I didn’t like and a Two of Pentacles in another deck that always put me off course. But there are also many cards that have a more universal lack of appeal. Whether they are threatening, bleak, scary or sad, these cards often seem to speak only of doom and gloom. We’d rather just put them back in the deck and not deal with them.
I’ve compiled a few anecdotes from readings I’ve done that show how these cards can be used positively in readings–not sugar-coating them, but speaking their honesty in a way that finds a truthful connection to the querent and their situation, and hopefully through speaking their truth helps them find their way on their path.

“Death” from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, author, Arthur Edward Waite, artist, Pamela Colman Smith. 1909. Image from Sacred Texts.

This reading took place a long time ago–I was just starting out. I was working a psychic fair and got Death for a client and was going on and on about change and transformation and endings and leaving things behind and was generally trying to New-Age it up. Finally she said, I’m moving–do you think I should get rid of some of my crap? I said, Yes, that would be it!
The Devil
Once I got the Devil for a very spiritual person and after talking about it with her I realized it meant she was not grounded enough. I had the same thing happen several years later for a client who herself had a little experience reading tarot. She got the Devil and proclaimed that she was overly bound to the material due to working a job at Walmart. I said, no, I think you need more material grounding—Walmart doesn’t pay enough!
The Tower
A client I was reading for was hesitant because she once had a scarily accurate reading and so she was firm about only receiving positive info and only on the subject of her job. I got the Tower in her reading and had a slight twinge, but realized that since she was a Libra, and Mars (the Tower) was in Libra, it was transiting her Sun. I told her that since Mars represents among other things ambition, that this was the time to really go for it in her career and not play it safe. This directly addressed a choice she had about which job offer to accept.
Five of Pentacles
When I was reading at the Mercury Café, I had the Five of Pentacles followed by the Ten of Wands come up in a reading. I was using the Tarot of the Old Path, and the Five of Pentacles showed an older man and woman, wounded and bleeding, in rags, near a tree from which hung five pentacles. The Ten of Wands showed a man fumbling with ten staffs that seemed to have fallen. As I looked at the cards, I was suddenly moved to speak them quite literally and said, you have lost your house and are trying to build a new one, but it’s difficult. It turned out the man had just given up all that he owned so that he could follow a Buddhist path. He was currently staying in a hostel. The new home was a spiritual one (the spiritual realm being associated with the suit of Wands).
Read an article I wrote on the Five of Pentacles.
Nine of Swords
I was participating in a discussion on a teleconference and the topic was qabalistic interpretations of the cards. When considering the Nine of Swords from the place of Yesod in the world of Yetzirah, it represents a drastic editing away of what doesn’t work. Yesod also has a bit of a gestational quality to it, and the Nines can all be read as the gestational term. We were also considering the fact that the quilt is covered with astrological symbols. To me, this card always represented birth trauma. One person in the discussion concluded that the character in the card is crying due to a failed pregnancy, a miscarriage or abortion.
Ten of Swords
“Ten of Swords” from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, author, Arthur Edward Waite, artist, Pamela Colman Smith. 1909. Image from Sacred Texts.

I was working at the Mercury Café. I had a woman and we drew the 10 of Swords in the spread. I said that it represented depression and asked if that was something she was dealing with. She confirmed. Then I went with the energetic flow and talked about how the experience of depression creates a sense of emptiness but it’s our choice how to fill that emptiness. Generally, due to the mental and energetic states that accompany that particular diagnosis, we tend to fill the emptiness with negative thoughts (thoughts corresponding to the element air and associated with Swords), like the swords piercing the person. But if we take this as an opportunity to let in the light of Spirit/the Divine (Swords also symbolizing light) then we can heal our emptiness. She was very moved and it was a lovely reading.
What are your difficult cards? How have you interpreted them in a way that was meaningful and helpful to you or your querent?
Joy Vernon has been studying and teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup, and Fort Collins Tarot Meetup and served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association. She is one of the Psychics of Isis and has been featured at SpiritWays, the Mercury Café and psychic fairs throughout the Denver Metro and Northern Colorado. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit
© 2014 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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