When Tarot Cards Don’t Want to Play

When Tarot Cards Don’t Want to Play March 23, 2018

three oracle cards: "know your power", "know your fears" and "hear the ancient ones"
deck: Messengers/image: K. C. Alexander

really hope you like posts in no particular order. Like my (mostly stabilized) moods and headspace, they go from one endpoint to the next. Like a pendulum. So from questions galore to a bit of insight I learned not so long ago.

What do you do when it seems like your cards don’t like you?

I never thought it would happen to me… (Ahem.)

Guinevere from King Arthur legend, getting tied to the stake.
Legend: Arthurian Tarot – Guenevere at the Stake

I’ve been reading for years. I found my first deck at one of those patchouli-dealing headshops (which I frequented often because who doesn’t?). Legend: the Arthurian Tarot rang every bell I had. The art was gorgeous, the story had been one of my absolute favorites as a kid, and over the years, it developed a subtly sarcastic streak that never failed to lift my spirits.

That was, as it turned out, 20 years ago. It’s an irreplaceable part of my magical history, as it were; when my ex kept it in his possession, it stole a little something from me.

Which isn’t to say that I’ve stopped reading or collecting!

I have… like… twenty tarot and oracle decks? Or something? I haven’t counted lately (they’re all packed up from moving at the moment). So, you know, a lot. I love them.

Mind, I’m fairly discerning. I don’t just buy every deck I find. But I’m also not totally picky. The connection many tarot readers talk about can be a nebulous thing to explain (“you just know” has never gelled with me; I’m too much in my own head for that, fucking Virgos), but I suspect my type of connection isn’t quite the same. (Or it is and, uh, over-analyzing again…)

Things that get me:

  • art;
  • theme and narrative;
  • symbolism;
  • sheer bloody whim.

There are a few decks (okay, many) that just didn’t speak to me. Some I outright recoil from. But those are few and far between.

Thus… many, many decks.

tarot cards spread out

Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot

Coincidentally, I found this deck right around the time I started thinking about witchcraft more seriously. The moment I saw it, I fell in love with it. As soon as I got it, I thumbed through the cards, admired the images; greedily read the author’s thoughts and drew a few to get a feel for it all.

I really, really like them.

But they? They don’t seem to like me much.

At first, they gave me some sound insight: primarily about launching on a new spiritual path and rejecting tradition. They encouraged me to proceed, gave me some positive premonitions about my work and my dreams.

And then… nothing.

Over and over, the cards related specifically to romance started turning up, foretelling  the shattering of a current relationship, the unhappiness of the person represented in the card (a dead ringer for my partner), and the end of all things romantically for me. Then they started to give me gibberish. They haven’t stopped since.

Have You Tried…


Every day, I’d shuffle and pull a card, and write it down in my tarot journal. I’d contemplate it, hold the card, consider it.

Carrying Them Around?

I carried them, carefully wrapped, in my bag. I put them beside my pillow at night. I simply let them be with me, and let myself be with them.


Thoroughly. And then began again to bring them back to my energy.

Other Things That Begin With ‘C’?

Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot: the Hermit

What, like… conditioning? Cohabiting? Calling for help?

Yeah. And for some reason, they just don’t want to play. The last cohesive thing they told me was that a spell—a talisman for success I’d pulled together using the cards—had failed. And then nonsense. No matter what I tried.

Am I looking deep enough? I am. Promise. I can be very objective about my own life, and no matter how I stretched, I just couldn’t make it fit.

I had been, perhaps will always be, rejected.

I was beginning to think I’d lost my abilities to read—one of the few mystically oriented things I am comfortable in saying I am good at. My confidence took a beating. Finally, I reached for another deck; an oracle deck called the Messengers Oracle. The spread I drew is the one above, featured at the top of this article.

Immediately, I felt a flood of relief.

Then What’s the Solution?

For me, it was… acceptance. Acknowledgment that these cards either found something lacking in me, or I simply am not ready to tap into them. It doesn’t mean they are bad cards! I will keep them, because they truly are beautiful, and I hope one day to earn their trust (or perhaps earn my own trust in connecting to them…?).

I use other decks, primarily the Messengers right now, for my daily draws, and the guidance they deliver is clear and often gentle… if not gently direct.

Accepting a deck’s unwillingness to play comes with the territory. Sometimes, no matter how badly you want it, it just isn’t the right time for you, for it, or for your state of being.

Not Every Spread Has to Make Sense

Not every random card draw has an answer. It’s important, I think, to remember that sometimes, if your intuition is telling you that the spread doesn’t make sense, you need to listen to it. It’s easy to say that all cards drawn mean something; that we aren’t looking hard enough, or that we’re biased and blocking the real answer.

But that’s like expecting all spells to work every time. It’s just not reasonable. And intuition and feelings matter a lot more here than can be obvious.

So Let’s Play a Game

What do you read in the spread above? What do you think the Messengers are saying to me; or perhaps, if you feel the tug of timing and coincidence, what do they mean for you?

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