Do you worry you aren’t reading far enough into tarot’s symbolism?

When I was first learning tarot, I used to look down at my cards and feel completely lost as to what to focus on first.

I kept hearing that tarot was full of rich symbolism, but I was taking that advice a little too far.

I’d look at the number of clouds in the background of a tarot card and wonder, “Do those have numerological significance?”

Or I’d look at the colour of clothes a figure was wearing and wonder if I should take up colour theory and psychology to be able to fully understand tarot.

The problem was that by taking such a granular approach to my cards, I was overwhelming myself with details. I couldn’t see the full story of a card because I was so distracted by the little things instead.

And often, these were things that didn’t add to the insight or overall message I was looking for.

I wish someone had told me back then that not every symbol or detail had to count in every reading.

Sometimes, there are certain details in a card that I’ve never ended up using to form an interpretation – and that’s okay.

But when you’re not sure what to focus on yet, there can be a fear of leaving out a crucial detail. Which is why a lot of emerging tarot readers get stuck on the smallest details, even when those things don’t help them to articulate any deeper meaning for a card.

One realization that helped me immensely on my journey into tarot was understanding that tarot is an art form: Every illustration within a tarot deck has come with artistic choice. A tarot illustrator’s style, preference, creativity, and concepts all end up in the final product that is your tarot deck.

Sometimes, the pressure to read into every detail comes from the assumption that everything has to count when you’re looking at a tarot card. In reality, sometimes an extra flourish on a queen card’s crown, or the colour of the Hermit’s robe, are just reflections of an illustrator’s personal preference.

The pressure to read into every detail also comes from wanting to go as deep as possible into a reading – which is a valid desire.

For me, as time went on, I came to learn that simple, straightforward readings can be just as powerful as detailed ones – sometimes even more so, because they are direct and to the point.

If you are reading with too many metaphors and speaking with too much symbolism, your sitter might not always know what to make of it all. Especially if you feel that you’re forcing the information to come by reading too far into every possible detail rather than deciding whether it’s relevant to mention or not.

In other words: If it feels complicated to the reader, it will probably feel complicated to the querent, too.

So how do you know which symbols to focus on in a reading?

Every tarot reader has to determine their own direction in an interpretation. Some guiding questions to help include:

  • Does the symbol or detail feel relevant to the question?
  • What is the reason you think it’s jumping out at you?
  • Does it complement or contrast with the other cards in the reading somehow?

Sometimes, you’ll have to work out whether you’re just noticing a detail, or whether it truly matters. When you’re looking down at your cards, all kinds of things might jump out at you at first, but parsing those visuals down into a cohesive reading is the aim.

Learning how to take in the visual information you’re seeing, and how to edit those images into a meaningful narrative, is part of the learning curve.

All this is to say that if you’re feeling pressured to talk about every single detail you see in your cards, remember that it’s okay to leave some of those images to the side. Notice them, stay aware of them, and know that they are there for you to pull from if and when you decide it’s necessary – but there’s no rule that says you have to go deep into each nook and cranny of your cards with every time you do a reading.

Hope this helps.

Until next time,


p.s. If you found these tips helpful, you might enjoy my book The Power of Tarot


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