On my own tarot site the phrase, ‘tarot combinations’ is always in the top three search terms. So many new (and not-so-new) tarot readers want the holy grail of tarot reading: definitive meanings for combinations of two or more cards. Yet, if they spent a couple of minutes thinking about it, they would realize two things. The first is that there are 6,006 possibilities of tarot card combinations for just two cards (456,456 three-card combos), and secondly, that any combination of cards, has meanings that are entirely subjective. That their meaning depends on the reader, the seeker, their circumstances, the question, the deck used, and the spread.
That’s why you won’t find books with a whole list of tarot combinations. Sure you can find examples, but they are still only that writer’s opinion. The key to knowing the meanings of combinations of cards is to be able to work them out yourself.
Basic Two-Card Reading
The obvious method is to treat your two card combo as if they were a straightforward two-card reading. Read the cards as you normally would. Get a feel for the energy of the cards, combine their known meanings to come up with a third. Here’s an example:
Question: What should I know about my relationship?
The Page of Swords and Six of Pentacles
The general meaning of the Page of Swords is an astute, mentally sharp young person, sometimes prone to sarcasm. The general meaning of the Six of Pentacles is ‘give and take’. So putting these together in the context of a relationship reading would mean that perhaps one partner is behaving in a hurtful, childish manner while the other is maintaining a generosity of spirit.
Reading them as a combination, i.e. a single amalgamated interpretation I’d go for, “Don’t allow your mouth to run away with you, but instead cultivate a generous, give and take nature.” That’s a little trite and over-simplified, but you get the idea of putting together the traditional interpretations to form a single combined meaning.
The second method is based wholly on the interaction between the cards. Place the two cards side-by-side. Do the figures look at each other? Can you imagine what they are thinking about each other? Could there be some sort of conversation between them? What if you switch them around? Or place one above the other? Do you get any flashes of insight? Here’s an example:
Question: Where am I headed in this job?
The Tower and the Hierophant
So in this case, we simply look at what the illustrations convey. I see all hell breaking loose, perhaps some sort of unexpected and devastating occurrence in the Tower card, but then the Hierophant is offering a calming influence. Advice to remain steady and stable. So, in response to the question: looks like the present job is about to end abruptly, but the advice is to remain calm and look to a mentor for guidance. Again, simplistic and the cards deserve a deeper interpretation, but this is just to get an idea of putting the meanings together in a literal way.
Tarot Card Numerology
This is the easiest method I know for working out a combination of meanings. It’s particularly helpful when dealing with multiple cards. For simplicity’s sake, I count the Court cards as follows: Page = 11, Knight = 12, Queen = 13 and King = 14. It’s probably a little tricky to grasp at first but easy when you know how. Let’s look at an example reading.
Question: What is the energy surrounding my relationship with my best friend?
The Nine of Cups and the Page of Wands
Once you have done with the two-card interpretation and looking at the imagery, you can turn to the numbers. I’d probably do this in the first instance, to be honest. We have 9 and 11, so 9+1+1 = 11, 1+1 = 2. So the energy of these cards is two. My favorite numerology website cites these keywords for the number two: Diplomat, friend, artist, enduring peacemaker, gentle, kind, charming, insightful, sensitive, team-player, ambitious, spiritual, well-mannered, placid, just, unselfish, harmonious, sociable, supportive, attention to detail, co-operative, decisive, poise, intuitive, adaptable, agreeable, cautious, considerate, emotional, flexible, loving, understanding, consideration, grace, devotion, the subconscious, balance, mediation.
These keywords seem to sum up quite nicely the dynamics of a friendship. I would then go on to interpret the two cards individually to see if they resonate with the seeker’s question. The numerological interpretation is a good basis from which to begin.
The last way is far and away the most reliable method of interpreting a tarot card combination, and that is by relying on your own intuition. You may have already done that when doing the two-card reading method, described above. If not, then allow your intuition to guide you. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that – you should have a favorite way of ‘tuning in’. For me, it is to allow old memories to surface. They pop words into my conscious that somehow seem to make sense in the context of the reading and the question. Here’s an example, but remember, this is my feeling about the cards; it might not coincide with yours.
Question: What spiritual guidance can the tarot offer me?
The Hanged Man and the Nine of Wands
Immediately, I can see that these two cards are saying ‘stop, rest, wait’. My intuition is that the seeker, is perhaps trying too hard and they are attempting to battle through some spiritual or life crisis and they need to hold up and wait for a little time to pass. I use my intuition fast. I don’t stop to think or analyze, I just go with my immediate gut feelings. The cards remind me of trying to push through a situation and getting nowhere.
Of course, intuition never, ever comes up with the same interpretation more than once, yet it is immensely useful in adding another layer of meaning to your tarot combination toolbox.
I’d be really interested in hearing how you manage tarot combinations. Do you prefer to interpret the cards in isolation or to combine them together to create one meaning?