Should you read your own Tarot cards? This is a common question for Tarot beginners. We can distinguish between two questions: “can you?” vs “should you?”
Can you read your own Tarot cards? Absolutely. There is no metaphysical “rule” preventing this.
But the more important question is: should you?
If you follow the advice of Aliza Kelly, Professional Tarot Reader, you should not read your own Tarot cards:
Slowly, I began to realize that while the tarot itself is a wonderful tool, I don’t recommend reading your own tarot cards.Pulling one card each morning, as many do, is absolutely fine (and totally lovely!) because this practice is intended to give you a theme to meditate on throughout your day. But when it comes to actually using tarot cards to offer an in-depth deep-dive into a complicated situation…well, I can’t cosign on reading your cards yourself.
Why? What’s her argument?
Unlike astrology, which is extraordinary technical, our ability to interpret tarot cards is limited by our consciousness. You’re not working within short-term and long-term cycles, like the planets’ orbits—you’re working with your individual interpretation of the cards. And when you’re using the tarot to deepen your understanding of a challenging moment, it’s hard to see past your immediate situation. Sure, you can see all the cards laid out in front of you, but in order to put them together, you need such an expansive perspective that it’s almost impossible to interpret the card’s full narrative. Basically, your tarot reading is always going to reflect whatever biases you’re already bringing to the table! [bold emphasis mine]
Basically, Kelly’s argument against reading your own Tarot is that since Tarot interpretation is “limited” by your consciousness, and your consciousness is inevitably biased and limited to the “immediate situation,” it cannot provide an “expansive perspective” that provides the full narrative of the situation.
However, this is completely wrong.
Not only is it completely possible to read your own Tarot in a productive way, but I would also argue that if you want to improve your Tarot intuition you absolutely should be reading your own Tarot cards on a frequent if not daily basis.
But first, I want to address Kelly’s supposed alternative to reading your own Tarot cards: having a friend read them for you.
This is bad advice for multiple reasons.
First of all, as she herself mentions, you might not feel comfortable admitting your deepest, darkest secrets to your friend. And if you cannot be honest, what is the point of a Tarot reading?
Second, are we all just supposed to have a friend, available on-demand and skilled in Tarot, who is capable and willing to give us Tarot readings when we need them most? No, of course not. That’s ridiculous.
Third, if we never read our own Tarot, but only read for our friends or have our friends read for us, our progress in learning and mastering Tarot will be painstakingly slow. It would keep you in the beginner stage forever.
Fourth, her argument collapses on its face when you realize that your friend’s consciousness is also “biased” and incapable of objectivity. Does Kelly think that bias only applies to our understanding of ourselves?
And fifth, and most importantly, speaking of “biases,” I am very suspicious of a self-proclaimed Professional Tarot Reader, who makes their living by styling themselves a Tarot expert and giving readings, who argues that one should not read your own Tarot. Because, after all, suppose you took her advice to heart and did not have a helpful friend to read your cards? Who would you turn to? Oh, I dunno, maybe a professional Tarot reader like Kelly herself! Thus, her “advice” is incredibly self-serving and we should therefore take it with a huge grain of salt.
But I want to take her argument seriously: how do we overcome the biases of consciousness when reading our own Tarot cards?
How to Read Your Own Tarot Cards
So on its face, Kelley’s argument is correct: our egoistic consciousness is biased and self-serving. The Mind is notoriously good at protecting itself from comfortable truths about itself.
Suppose you have a cigarette addiction and you ask the Tarot how to best heal yourself.
You get the Death card. Everyone knows that Death means “change” right? Well, if you are deep in the throes of your addiction, you might rationalize to yourself that healing involves changing something other than immediately ceasing your addiction. After all, you might as well finish this pack, right? You know at an intellectual level that smoking will kill you, and at some level you want to quit. You might have even tried to quit numerous times.
But when you see the Death card, your mind rationalizes your addiction and tells yourself some excuse like, “I can quit anytime I want. Just not now. I’ll quit next week. Or next week. Or next year.”
Your mind glosses over the literal interpretation of Death and the thought of your actual Death from smoking does not arise. Instead, you tell yourself you need to meditate more. Or go to the gym more. This is what Kelly means: the biases of your mind prevent you from seeing the big picture.
This is just an example, of course. You can multiple the examples endlessly. The conscious mind is very skilled at rationalizing.
But can we conclude, therefore, that there is no benefit to reading your own Tarot cards? No!
Your conscious mind interfaces with the unconscious, both directly and indirectly.
And because of this fact, human consciousness contains within itself the capacity to grok the cosmos, both within ourselves and without, in all its wisdom and beauty.
And moreover, human consciousness contains within itself the faculty of reason.
Often our deepest biases come, not from consciousness, but from the unconscious, what Freud called the Id. It is the Id that wants to smoke cigs, binge drink, binge eat, take needless risks, and live an unhealthy life.
It is human reason that is capable of forming the second-order desire which says: I do not want to smoke anymore. When someone quits cold turkey, that is human consciousness. Sheer force of human will.
In other words, human consciousness is capable of lifting us up into the greatest heights of humanity.
Are we to therefore put limits on consciousness, saying it cannot read Tarot cards for itself, to give itself wisdom? Hardly!
And furthermore, when the conscious and unconscious mind align, we achieve the greatest ecstasies. It is via this relationship that reading your own Tarot has the potential for revelations and epiphanies, far beyond what is possible from having someone else read our own Tarot.
After all, when someone else reads our Tarot, and that reader’s words conflict with our own deepest understanding, we will not assent to that interpretation. We will nod align and say “thank you,” while knowing, deep down, whether their words align with our reality. In other words, it is ourselves who give meaning to the Tarot cards. No one else can force us to assent to the Truth of any particular Tarot reading, no matter if that person has been reading Tarot for decades.
Does that mean we can never gain insight and wisdom from having our cards read by someone else, professional or otherwise? Absolutely not. Having other people read our cards is a great source of potential insight and wisdom. Of course we can learn from the wisdom of others.
But in my opinion, the goal of Tarot should be to increase our own wisdom, which gives us the insight necessary to read our own cards.
Moreover, I highly recommend people to pursue reading their own cards in a ritual manner, taking it seriously as a spiritual exercise, and not merely as a tool for divining as to whether our ex-lover will take us back.
Kelly makes the point that so many people are reading their own cards and are confused as to what it all means. She concludes from this that the problem is people reading their own cards instead of the more obvious conclusion, which is that people are confused by their own cards because they themselves are confused, about their life and their desires.
In other words, the problem isn’t reading your own cards, but lacking wisdom!
And how can you develop your own capacity for wisdom? By outsourcing it to other people? No!
The only way to develop your own wisdom is through contemplation which lies at the heart of an effective Tarot practice.
Thus, Kelly’s advice to not read your own Tarot deprives people of the very tools needed to get better at reading their own Tarot.
In our society, too often we want to find the easy way for everything. We want to read just a single book and “learn Tarot.” We want to find a single guru and “become wise.”
Reading your own Tarot requires wisdom and acquiring wisdom is a journey of a lifetime. There is no shortcut. No weekend course that will teach you everything you need to know.
So should you read your own Tarot cards? Yes, but only if you are willing to do the work.
Tarot as a Quasi-Universal Neopagan Spiritual Practice
How to Do a General Tarot Reading
Can Tarot cards ruin your life?
Tarot and the Occult: Still Growing