When reading the tarot cards for other people, I’m fond of resorting to shared cultural, historical, social or literary metaphors to make my point, especially when more conventional interpretive devices fail to elicit an affirmative response from my sitters. It can help bring on the elusive “Aha!” moment when nothing else about the narrative makes sense to them. Over time I’ve developed a list of favorites that often repeat in my readings. This is mostly for fun but can also be highly instructive if some thought is given to the associations listed at the bottom (which might also lead you to read or listen to some of the source material). These suggestions are all based on the imagery in the Waite-Smith minor arcana; with a few exceptions, I’ve found the trumps and court cards to be less amenable to this approach, but I’m working on it

Ace of Wands — The “burr under the saddle” card (aka the “itch that needs scratching” card)

Two of Wands — The “one foot in the past, one foot in the future” card

Three of Wands — The “patience is a virtue”card

Four of Wands — The “enlightened self-interest” card (aka the “bring home the bacon” card)

Five of Wands — The “collision of competing ambitions” card (aka the “aggravation” card)

Six of Wands — The “pride goeth before a fall” card (aka the “overconfidence” card)

Seven of Wands — The “fight fire with fire” card (aka the “from the frying pan into the fire” card)

Eight of Wands — The “discretion is the better part of valor” card (aka the “strategic retreat” card)

Nine of Wands — The “bloodied but unbowed” card (1) (aka the “last stand” card)

Ten of Wands — The “slouching toward salvation” card (aka the “lookin’ for a place to hide” card [2])

Ace of Cups — The “All You Need is Love” card (3)

Two of Cups — The “lovers’ pledge” card (aka the “puppy love” card)

Three of Cups — The “three’s a crowd” card (aka the “lovers’ triangle” card)

Four of Cups — The “one big yawn” card

Five of Cups — The “take the best and leave the rest” card (aka the “ashes of remorse” card)

Six of Cups — The “Neverland” card, where nobody grows up (aka the“don’t worry, be happy” card [4])

Seven of Cups — The “I don’t know what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it” card

Eight of Cups — The “poisoned well” card

Nine of Cps — The “fat, dumb and happy” card

Ten of Cups — The “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” card (3) (aka the “Mr. Creosote” card [12])

Ace of Swords — The “light-bulb moment” card (aka the “bright idea” card)

Two of Swords — The “mental block” card (aka the “horns of a dilemma” card)

Three of Swords — The “no pain, no gain” card (aka the “wrestling a porcupine” card)

Four of Swords — The “pause that refreshes” card (5) (aka the “lying down and avoiding” card [6])

Five of Swords — The “might makes right” card (aka the “kick in the pants” card)

Six of Swords — The “betwixt-and-between” card (aka the “unsettled mind” card)

Seven of Swords — The “false pretenses” card (aka the “gaming the system” card)

Eight of Swords — The “follow your heart, not your head” card

Nine of Swords — The “dark night of the soul” card (aka the “it’s darkest before the dawn” card)

Ten of Swords — The “scorched earth” card (aka the “feelin’ ‘bout half-past dead” card [2])

Ace of Pentacles — The “ace in the hole” card (aka the “golden opportunity” card)

Two of Pentacles — The “if you see a chance, take it” card (7) (aka the “tipping point” card)

Three of Pentacles — The “we can work it out” card; “plan the work and work the plan” card

Four of Pentacles — The “I, Me, Mine” card (3)

Five of Pentacles — The “beggars can’t be choosers” card (aka the “Born Under a Bad Sign” card [8])

Six of Pentacles — The “embarrassment of riches” card (aka the “salving a guilty conscience” card)

Seven of Pentacles — The “unfinished business” card

Eight of Pentacles — The “perfectionist” card (aka the “nose to the grindstone” card)

Nine of Pentacles — The “Garden of Earthly Delights” card (9) (aka the “Hotel California”card [10])

Ten of Pentacles — The “Pangloss proposition” card (aka the “all is for the best” card [11])

References: (1) William Ernest Henley, from “Invictus;”(2) The Band, from “The Weight;” (3) the Beatles, various; (4) Bobby McFerrin; (5) Coca-Cola slogan; (6) Monty Python, from the “Australian Table Wines” sketch; (7) Steve Winwood; (8) Albert King; (9) Hieronymus Bosch; (10) The Eagles; (11) Voltaire; (12) Monty Python from “The Meaning of Life.” Also various adages, homilies, platitudes and biblical aphorisms.

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at www.parsifalswheeldivination.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store