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About the 1 Card Tarot:
The humble and very much overlooked One Card Spread is a form of Tarot Reading and is not commonly practiced; as humans like to complicate things by making them long and difficult. Many new readers make the mistake of attempting to do Tarot Spreads that are ten cards or more, which often ends up being very confusing and overwhelming, and can make them never pick up the cards again. Most students new to Tarot tend to try and bit off far more than they can chew, and this misguided approach can take the wind out of their sails too early on.
Cue the One Card Spread. It may seem too simple, and we could turn our noses up at it, but this deceptive little spread can give us all the answers we need, and help us to grow in confidence at the same time. We can use this spread right at the beginning of our Tarot Journey, or we can use it when we have plenty of experience – either way, we learn a lot each time and it can offer a useful, quick way to getting insight into a situation.
Because the Tarot Cards are so very rich visually; they can offer so much symbolism to us to work through. Back in the day, the Hermetic Scholars of Tarot, the mystics, would meditate on a card for a year or more, delving deeper and deeper into the meaning of it and using the card as a way to climb the ladder of consciousness. In these busy and rushed modern times, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of deep study and the value of investing time into a slower and perhaps more meaningful way of doing things.
About the 1 Card Tarot
There are quite a few types of questions we can do with the One Card Spread – the possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started (and some examples further down the page)
A Love / Relationship Question such as: Does he love me; Will we get married; Will she come back; What can I learn about my relationship with so and so etc. etc.
A Career Question such as : Will I get my job back; Will I be laid off; Will I get the job I applied for; What does my boss want from me; What can I do to resolve the issue between my coworker and I etc etc.
A Family related Question such as : Will my mom do okay with her operation; will we move to the new house; What can I do to improve my relationship with my brother etc etc
An Emotional/ Mental or Physical Question such as : What can I do to improve my health and wellbeing; Why am I feeling this way; How to I resolve these challenging emotions; How can I work through my anxiety etc etc
There are many questions we can ask of the One Card Spread, and so there really are no limits here. Let’s look at how to begin and prepare to do a One Card Reading.
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How to Begin your 1 Card Tarot Spread
Prepare your space, even if that is a little piece of your desk at work – you can be discreet or you can use your alter space at home, it really is up to you. Just make sure that the space you use is clear of debris and uncluttered so that you can study the card meaningfully without any distractions.
Then, focus on your question. Your question is the most important part – if you have a vague question, you will get a vague answer. However, if you don’t have a question, sometimes it can be useful to do this reading to perhaps illuminate how you are feeling or what you are dealing with just beneath your consciousness. After all, that is what the Tarot is here to teach us – to link the unconscious and the conscious.
Finally, shuffle the cards and keep thinking of your question. Cut the cards in three with your left hand, which represents the intuitive side. Pick the deck that most draws you and then put the other two away. Be aware that you can use ANY deck for this reading AS LONG as it has pictures on the Minor Arcana Cards (some decks only have numbers, and if you don’t have a really good knowledge of numerology, then things may get tricky).
Either fan your cards out or pick from the top and lay the card face down in front of you. Slowly turn it over and begin your interpretation:
How to read the Card
First, notice the feeling that appears when you turn the card around. There may be an instant feeling of understanding, of relief, perhaps of fear. Note this feeling. I would suggest and recommend keeping a Journal to note these impressions down and to help you be less confused in the process.
Then, notice the feeling of the card. Does it seem gloomy like the five of cups? Or upbeat like the Sun card? Look at the colours to see if they are bright and positive, like yellow or orange, or if the colours are grey and black, which can signify something more serious.
The symbolism is the most important part. Is there a sword in the picture – what could that mean? Perhaps cutting to the Truth, Justice or Mental clarity? Is there a white rose symbolizing a pure soul? Water in the picture commonly symbolizes emotions, whilst rocky mountains symbolize hardship and obstacles. A boat could symbolize a trip, a sunflower can symbolize joy. A young child can talk about pregnancy, and horse symbolism freedom. It is useful to perhaps find a website or a book that can assist you in deciphering these symbols at first.
Notice if the card is a Major or Minor Arcana. Major Arcana cards talk about Spiritual forces that are sometimes beyond our conscious control, and are about a Spiritual Journey that we are on. Minor Arcana Cards talk about more “earthly” forces that pass quickly, and that we have quite a bit of control over.
Notice which element of the Minor Arcana it is which can give us a great deal of guidance:
- Swords – Air – represent the mental world and our thoughts surrounding an issue, words and communication.
- Wands – Fire – represent the creative and energetic world, what we are driven for and can talk about our work and energy.
- Cups – Water – represent our emotions and relationships and talk about things surrounding these issues.
- Pentacles – Earth – represent our physical world, money and resources and talk about things like finances, work, property and our bodies.
The number on the card is also symbolic – more for the Minor Arcana than the Major Arcana. The number of the card can give us deeper insight into the issue at hand:
- Aces talk about beginnings, the start of something.
- Twos talk about choices, decisions, options and balance.
- Threes talk about the fruition or results of our choices as represented by the two.
- Fours are about stability, the situation being stable or even stuck. Four is a foundational number.
- Fives always represent change that comes from the stuckness of Four. Fives are often quite difficult and chaotic unless we are equipped and ready for change.
- Sixes communicate moving on or resolution from the change thrown in by the fives.
- Sevens also talk about change, like the five, they can be quite tricky. They are more about calculated risks and change rather than change thrust upon us.
- Eights are double Four, so have a hint of that stability and certainty – they talk about new goals, structure that is more solid that the four and hard to change for better or for worse.
- Nines are about endings, but unlike the tens, they don’t show new beginnings so much. They ask for things to be wrapped up.
- Tens wrap it up, there is a finalization to the number ten, and the promise of a new dawn, a full circle.
The Court cards stump some people, but they are in fact very easy to work with. They represent people in relation to the querent; older people as symbolized by the Queen or the King, or younger people as shown by the Knights and Pages (or Princesses). The suits – swords, wands, cups or pentacles, talk about the types of people they are (intellectual, fiery, emotional or grounded).
Example of a Love Question
Let’s work with the idea of a Love Question. Betty would like to know about whether she should pursue her relationship with her ex. After she focuses on her question and sets up a good space for the reading, she shuffles the deck, cuts it into three, and then picks the card from the top. The card that she pulls is the five of cups.
Firstly, the fact that it is a Minor Arcana Card illustrates that the situation is within our control; this is perhaps, right now, less of a spiritual journey than a worldly lesson. The five talks about change thrust upon us, and the cups say the change is of an emotional nature – and fives are known to be tough.
The colour that jumps out the most is black cloak of the figure in the card. Black speaks of depression, sadness, despondency. There is not much brightness in this picture other than the gold of the cups. The feeling one might get from this card is regret or sorrow, as the figure hides themselves under their cloak, almost as if they are masking their face so that one doesn’t see the tears they have been shedding. By this, we can understand that Betty has been going through a large amount of personal pain.
We can see that three cups are knocked over, with what seems like blood spilling from them. Cups are feelings and relationships, so we know we are looking at an emotionally difficult situation of loss. The figure is staring at the cups fixedly, as if they can’t tear their eyes away from them. They have failed to see the two remaining cups behind them, and this is where we can see the picture becoming a bit brighter.
There is a bridge further on, over a river, which also symbolizes emotions. The bridge can symbolize moving on, getting “over it” – IF the figure turns around and chooses to see what remains.
Betty is therefore enlightened to her deep feelings of loss and regret, and encouraged to try and move on, to no longer dwell in her misery. She has to turn around and choose to see the good that remains, either in her relationship or in her life. There can be hope if she moves away from the feeling of regret and loss. It might be quite difficult for her, but as soon as she gets over the proverbial bridge, with her two cups in hand, she might be feeling very much restored – keeping in mind that the next card after this is the six of cups, and a six always represents moving on.
We can, without pulling another card, get a glimpse into the future when we know the next card that is after the one we pulled, and the same applies to looking at the card that would have been before. In this case, the four of cups, which symbolizes being “stuck” – and cups representing emotions. Hence, we can go back and forth, filling in the blanks if we need to, which gives a bit of a richer and fuller picture into the situation.
One can therefore see how much deep, rich and powerful symbolism that the Tarot might offer use if we choose to see it – just with one “simple” card. There is often no need of other cards, if you get to know all of your cards one by one and know which cards follow before and after, what the numbers mean, what the symbols mean and what the elements mean. This simple and easy to remember structure is a lifesaver when we feel overwhelmed or are unsure, when we doubt out own insight and interpretation.
Pros and Cons of the One Card Spread
- It’s quick and easy – you can do this reading anywhere!
- It enables you to get to know each and every card, one by one, if you commit to this type of reading as you main “go to” reading.
- It’s a brilliant first timers reading, bu also appeals to those older to the game for its simplicity.
- It can offer only one meaning, and one only, for a complicated situation where you might need more clarity.
- It can be a little boring to some who like to get into the meatier types of Tarot readings.
- It might feel too simple for some; and lacks the flow of a story, which has a starting point, a middle and an end.