Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

A young couple came in for a reading on a big upcoming change. The first three cards that turned up were Death, the Ten of Swords, and the Nine of Swords. Although I didn’t see it immediately, these difficult cards would remind me to use the two most important words in a tarot reading.

A skull flanked by creepy crawlies hovers over a white rose in the Death card, while the man in the Ten of Swords writhes painfully as the swords behind him perhaps pierce him or perhaps not. A woman lies wide awake in the Nine of Swords while wispy hands stretch towards her and swords hang over her head. These tarot images are melodramatic, so remembering to use the two most important words in a tarot reading helps put them in perspective.
XIII Death, 10 of Swords, and 9 of Swords from Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti, published by Llewellyn 2009.

Tarot Cards are Melodramatic

“Ouch,” said the client.

“Yeah,” I said. “Those don’t look good. But they’re balanced by these down here.” The remaining cards in the spread were very positive and energizing.

I proceeded to interpret the cards. The first three cards could indicate bringing something to an end, depression, and anxiety, to kick it off with some basic interpretations. I wasn’t worried about any of these being severe, and said so to the client. First, everyone goes through things like this; these experiences are universal. Second, the remaining cards showed a counterpoint of energy and success with a positive, fresh outcome. Nevertheless, I took the cards at face value and indicated that worry and stress might take their toll. Addressing these was the client’s first step so that the good stuff could move in.

The facts of the situation surfaced in the cards: a job change was coming up. However, even when a new opportunity arises from promotion or to achieve a better fit, it can bring rocky spots that are difficult to navigate.

At the end of the reading, the client said, “I’m sorry, but these three cards aren’t me. Everything else makes sense, but I’m not depressive, and even though I can get a little bit of anxiety, it’s not this extreme.”

“Oh!” I said. “The cards are very melodramatic. And I tend towards hyperbole myself. These cards indicate extreme stress FOR YOU. So if you tend not to stress much at all, although they might represent worse stress than usual, they certainly won’t forecast something debilitating.”

The couple laughed over that, saying a day in bed is one thing, but then it was up and at ’em; there’s work to be done!

For You: The Two Most Important Words in a Tarot Reading

The cards remind us of two lessons with this reading. First, always keep in mind that the cards are melodramatic. They’ll turn anything into a soap opera. Second, remember the phrase “for you” when offering your interpretation. Ascertain either through the surrounding cards, or by simply asking, to what degree the querent normally experiences these things. This particular batch of cards will represent extremes, but proportional to the client’s normal range of experience.

Everyone experiences stress, anxiety, and feeling blue. The combination of cards shown here can represent the worst of that. But it’s all proportional to the norm. When you use the two most important words in a tarot reading, “for you,” you can help put things in perspective and bring the most accurate interpretation to the table.

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

Articles: 472

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