Most often as Seekers we have specific questions to ask the Tarot, such as “How do I move forward with my career?” Other times, you might hear people simply ask for a “general Tarot reading” where this is not a specific intention. This trips up a lot of novice Tarot readers but I actually love these readings. This post will show you how to do a general Tarot reading and provide an example reading I did for myself.
Forming intentions in a general Tarot reading
The Tarot is all about the intentions we bring into a reading. With specific Tarot questions, our intentions can often be laser-focused on particular topics like love, money, or creativity.
But with a general Tarot reading, we still have an intention, it is just much broader. The way I approach it in my personal practice is with an intention like: Oh, Tarot cards, what is it that you want to show me right now?
Alternatively, you might form the intention like: Oh, Tarot cards, what do I need to know right now?
You might not even address the Tarot cards directly. Depending on your spiritual beliefs you might form an intention towards your particular Higher Power of choice.
You can even directly address your unconscious mind.
Sometimes I won’t even form a particular “general” intention in my mind like that. Instead, I will simply put my mind into a state of receptivity and kind of “mind meld” with the Tarot deck to allow it to send me messages directly from my unconscious mind.
Regardless, the point is that you are opening yourself up to a message from the universe. And with a general Tarot reading, you are in a sense “relaxing” your anxieties about such and such topic and simply letting the cards speak for themselves.
And this is why I actually love general Tarot readings: they operate as the ultimate Rorschach inkblot, upon which we can project our deepest beliefs, values, and desires.
In other words, when we open our minds in a calm, contemplative manner, we relinquish our desires for particular answers and instead become grateful for whatever synchronicities arise.
As above, so below.
How to interpret a general Tarot reading
If you’ve ever done a daily Tarot card pull, then you already know how to interpret a general Tarot reading.
With a daily Tarot card pull, you don’t necessarily ask the Tarot a particular question but rather, just pull a “card of the day,” which provides a motif for you to reflect upon for the day.
A general Tarot reading is very similar, except that you remove the temporal aspect of the “day” and instead make the temporality general.
For example, suppose you pull three cards:
[Knight of Swords] – [Justice] – [Wheel of Fortune]
The reading might go something like this:
Justice operates as a natural balance or equilibrium between the opposing forces of yin and yang. On one side of the fulcrum is the Knight of Swords, representing intellectual ferocity and cunning, and on the other side the Wheel of Fortune, which represents the balance of karma, and the natural cycles/ups and downs of life.
So perhaps this reading is suggesting that you seek to find balance between the cutting edge of your adventurous ideas and a more harmonious relationship with the forces of Fate. Often the Knight of Swords charges ahead with his ideas recklessly. When faced with an obstacle he attempts to hack and slash his way forward with intensity, using the raw intellectual power of his ego-consciousness.
But Justice reminds us that there is a counter-balancing reaction to every action and that reckless thought/action often has karmic repercussions, either in this life or the next one. So while the Sword of Logic can be a powerful force when wielded with care, when our rational mind becomes imbalanced we can easily hurt ourselves or others.
This is too much yang energy. Find the balance of yin and go with the flow of Tao, the watercourse way.
Ok, so where to go from here? If you’re content with that answer you can leave it at that. But the wonderful thing about general Tarot readings is you can pull clarifier cards and take the reading to a deeper level.
Suppose you pull the following clarifier cards:
[The Devil] – [The Hanged Man] – [Page of Pentacles]
The Devil as the great Goat represents Capricorn, who is ever climbing up the mountain of ambition towards greater heights of Earthly power. This tells us that the ambition of the Knight of Swords is coming from a deep and powerful place. The Devil is not an “evil” figure but rather a figure of the Eternal Rebel, Satan, or Baphomet, the Hermetic symbol for alchemical balance. The Devil is not a bad guy, but tortured Hero in his own right, battling for his own firmly held beliefs, refusing to back down in the force of overwhelming odds.
Thus, the intellectual ambition of the Knight of Swords is itself a kind of balance, perhaps against an excess of emotion or weakness of will. So the balance of Justice might justify the ambitions of the Knight. Or it might be a further warning about the dangers of such great heights, flying too close to the Sun.
The Hanged Man reminds us that in order to find the harmonious balance of Justice we need to sacrifice some aspect of ourselves, like Odin on Yggdrasil, or Christ on the cross – each sacrificed themselves in order to find a greater meaning and purpose in the Universe.
This is a spiritual card telling us to go below the surface of appearances. To look into the alchemy of the soul, to seek balance within our psyche.
The Page of Pentacles gives us clarity that our Journey is focused on the material realm, either with respect to bodily health or something pragmatic related to our career.
Perhaps we have been sacrificing our spiritual selves in order to make a new career work out. Perhaps we are chasing money at the expense of our spiritual well-being. Regardless, the point is that karma will always remember and process that transaction, either in this life or the next one. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
Lessons from General Tarot Readings
As you can see from my example reading, general Tarot readings can go in many different directions depending on how the cards fall. They are, in a sense, the ultimate test of your intuition because you are faced with the challenge of crafting a story from the images before you and relating them to either your life or the life of the Seeker you are reading for.
If you’re reading for someone else, I recommend focusing on the cards themselves. Let the cards speak. Do not try to “read” the person and the cards at the same time. Look at the pictures and use your intuition to tell a story. Often the first thing that comes into our head is a good thread to follow.
As a rule, I tend to work with probabilities and possibilities, not certainties and pre-destined outcomes.
I tend to see the Tarot as a synchronicity generator that operates through the randomized creation of archetypal possibilities. It is a window into the many branching layers of our life, either emerging from the past or going forward into the future. We sit as spiders in the center of the web of the present moment, weaving a story from the thread of the past with an eye towards the future.