How to Interpret Any Tarot Card Combination

How to Interpret Any Tarot Card Combination

When you first start learning tarot reading, your main focus is on learning the individual card meanings and spread positions.

But even when you start feeling comfortable with the basics, chances are you’ll get stuck on one thing: how to understand tarot card combinations.

This is a question I’ve seen pop-up many times in various tarot groups and forums. You’re definitely not the only one to ask this question: “how do I interpret tarot card combinations? I can understand them individually but when it comes to putting them together in a reading, I’m stumped!”

You may be so used to interpreting cards individually as you go through a spread that when it comes to understanding pairings of two or more cards in combination, it may seem very overwhelming and challenging to understand.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not as difficult as you might imagine!

Once you know the right tips and tricks it becomes much easier to understand. I’m gonna share with you here some of my best tips on understanding tarot card combinations.

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Every card has 77 possible pairings. That’s over 3000 possible combinations! Now you tell me, how can you possibly learn all that? It’s far more useful to know how to combine any card pairing than try to memorise all the combinations!

Why a tarot combinations list or app won't help you

I know you probably want a list of tarot combinations or some kind of app that you can refer to. But, honestly, that would just be a waste of your time.

Why?

Well, consider this: there are 78 cards in a deck, right? That means every card has 77 possible pairings. That’s over 3000 possible combinations! Now you tell me, how can you possibly learn all that?

Not to mention the fact that the combined meaning you read in that book or app may not even apply to your situation! Card meanings change depending on the question and situation of the querent.

It’s far more useful to know how to combine any card pairing than try to memorise all the combinations! I consider this to be an essential skill if you want to take your readings beyond single card meanings.

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Synergy is the key

The Key to Understanding Tarot Card Combinations

The first tip I’d like to give you on understanding card combinations is the principle of synergy.

Synergy is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its separate parts. So, one plus one equals three rather than two because the end result is something that is completely unique and separate from its individual parts.

When it comes tarot card combinations, synergy is when your interpretation of two or more cards produces a combined meaning that is greater than the sum of the individual card meanings.  This is what you want to aim for when interpreting card combinations.

To illustrate this point further, let’s say you have a pairing of two cards (and for simplicity’s sake we’re gonna stick to two cards only for this article). If you interpret their meanings completely separately from one another that doesn’t count as synergy.

There is a danger when you’re trying to interpret pairings of two or more cards that you fall into this old pattern of first interpret card one’s meaning and then card two’s meaning. First this set of keywords and then that. That’s not what you want to go for here.

You want to find the overlap between the card meanings of the first card and the second card. That’s synergy!

Instead of considering the two cards separately, ask yourself what unique meaning do those cards produce together? If you combine the keywords for card one with those of card two, what interpretation can you come up with that you can’t get from looking at them individually?

At first you might find this difficult to do. My own tarot mentor, years ago, used to drill me on card combinations like this. She’d present combinations of two cards and then ask me to think of a combined meaning. If she thought the meaning I gave wasn’t unique enough, she’d ask me to redo the exercise!

It took me a while to master this so what I advise you to do is practice reading card combinations just like I did and don’t worry if you find it hard to think of a combined meaning at first. It will get easier once you get the hang of it!


Instead of considering the two cards separately, ask yourself what unique meaning do those cards produce together?

Look at the dynamics between the cards

The second tip I have for you is to consider the dynamics between the cards you’ve drawn. Tarot cards are not meant to be read as standalone. They're not living in a vacuum!

Tarot meanings do affect one another and your interpretation of any given card or set of cards depends on the surrounding cards and how they interact with each other.

When you're considering card combinations ask yourself this:

  • Do the cards reinforce each other? Do they feed each other? Do they seem like they have a similar meaning?

  • Do they oppose each other? Are they opposite tarot card meetings? Are they completely dichotomous?

  • Are they card meanings neutral towards each other?

Your answer to these questions affects the way you interpret the cards and affects what conclusion you draw out of the reading.

  • If they reinforce each other, you place more emphasis on the combined meaning.

  • If they oppose one another, you place more emphasis on the differences in card meanings.

  • If they’re neutral, you read them as a normal card combination without special emphasis.

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3 quick examples of tarot card combinations

I know that all of this may still sound a little abstract to you so that’s why I’ve prepared a few examples to illustrate the points I’ve mentioned so far.

After all, the best way to learn is with examples!

The Sun and The Magician

This is a card combination in which I think the card meanings definitely go together and feed each other.

You have The Sun which is a card that's all about joy, triumph, success, and light. And then you've got The Magician which is a card that is all about ambition, willpower, manifesting, and making things happen.

Putting it together, my personal interpretation is that together it refers to the Law of Attraction. This is universal energy in action, especially considering the infinity sign on The Magician and the light energy in The Sun. In a reading, I’d make sure to emphasise the Law of Attraction.

The Sun and 4 of Swords

I feel this card combination is somewhat neutral towards each other. They don’t especially reinforce or oppose each other. So, in this case you rely on synergy alone and don’t need to emphasise its interpretation more than other parts of your reading.

The Sun is a very bright card. It’s completely filled with light and many people take it to mean spreading your light in the world. It’s also got this very masculine, vital, projective energy. 4 of Swords usually means rest and recovery. Some much needed downtime.

My personal view is that together it points to a possible stress-related burnout. Someone who has given too much of themselves to the world and really needs to take a time out to recover that vital energy.

The Sun and The Moon

The Sun and The Moon are classic opposites and as such when you read them together you would place more emphasis on their differences in your reading.

The Sun, as I said, is that projective energy, vitality, light, joy, and success.The Moon, by contract, has a very receptive energy and it brings to mind the stillness of the night. It’s all about reflection, illusions, psychic abilities, sleep, dreams, and intuition.

When you put these two meanings together, remember that they are opposing each other! What I see in this card combination is an energetic imbalance of a yin and yang energy.

I see the need for realignment of one's energy and where the imbalance is depends on which card your eye is drawn to first. So, supposing my eye is drawn to The Sun first, then I would say the imbalance is in favour of Yang energy. There's too much masculine energy and the querent needs to balance that with appropriate time for reflection.

If, on the other hand, I’m more drawn towards The Moon, I would say that the imbalance is in favour of Yin energy. There is too much reflective, feminine, energy and the querent needs to get out of their own head a little. The excessive Yin may be preventing them from taking action to spread their light or preventing them from experiencing happiness.

Remember that no answer is wrong here. Everybody may have a different idea when interpreting these cards.

What do you think of these three card combinations and maybe your interpretation is different than mine. If so, I would like to know what you think!

(+>Basic>Line) Tarot meanings do affect one another and your interpretation of any given card or set of cards depends on the surrounding cards and how they interact with each other. (+>Basic>Line)

Practice card combinations at home!

Drawing two cards and thinking of the combined meaning is something that you can easily do at home! Just shuffle your deck, pick a card pairing, then ask yourself: what do these two cards mean together?If you are having difficulty in finding that unique synergistic meaning, then I suggest that you make a list of the keywords for the first card, a list of keywords for the second card. Pick two of the key words, one for each card, and draw a line between them. Then ask yourself: if I were to merge this keyword and this keyword. What is the third keyword that I can come up with that is a unique result of the other two?

This is a very simple practice you can do every day if you so choose and rest assured that you are not going to run out of combinations! There are over 3000 of them after all! So even if you did this exercise every day, it will take you like eight years before you run out of card combinations. You can literally keep yourself entertained for quite a long time!

I hope that these two simple tips and tricks that I've given you have helped illuminate the topic of card combinations for you. Do try out the exercise I suggested and share with me how it goes!

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