5 Simple Steps to Read Tarot with Confidence

Narratarology: Using the Tarot to Increase Your Empathy… with Kelsey Lynore

By March 27, 2013Everyday Tarot

Today, Kelsey Lynore, from The Tarot Nook, shares an experiment in narrative using the Tarot. Working with 25 cards, she’s created a spread that is designed to help you empathise with yourself, with others, and connect to the various stories you juggle day in and day out. Not only is it a new way of working with your cards, you can see how Kelsey has interpreted her own Tarot reading/narrative.

Over to you, Kelsey…

The stories that we tell ourselves, be they private, familial, national, etc. allow us to position ourselves in relation to others and articulate ourselves as an individual.  Being conscious of these stories allows us greater control, healing, and freedom within our own lives.

Today, I want to take you through an experimental exercise with the Tarot that will draw upon these stories to create a true narrative for your own life.

The exercise consists of five identical spreads of 5 cards in the following positions:

  • Position 1: Foundation/Distant Past
  • Position 2: Recent Past or Influence
  • Position 3: Present
  • Position 4: Near Future or Influence
  • Position 5: Far Future/Outcome

Since you’ll be doing five spreads, the Tarot will be telling you five separate stories.  Sound complicated?  It’s not.  You have only one task – to try to identify with every single story.  Keeping a record will aid you greatly in achieving this.  It will also aid your facility and speed interpreting the card meanings and finding conjunctions.

Since this exercise involves so many spreads, I recommend staggering it out over the course of one day. Do one spread and process it. Leave the Tarot, and then come back and repeat.

When you have finished processing the first five spreads and recorded them in your journal, you’ll reveal all 25 cards to yourself so as to identify themes.  Often times, this will change the context of each spread and give you a much deeper understanding of how these narratives interconnect.

Finally, you’ll gather all the cards and throw one final summation spread.  This final spread will be more objective, whereas the first five reveal something about your current subjectivity.

Let’s Start!

You’ll need a large flat surface covered by a sheet.  Invoke and shuffle.  Don’t ask any particular question of the deck, but do be focused.  Lay out the first row low on the sheet, leaving enough room for the four spreads which will follow.  You’ll need the upper half of the sheet to cover each spread as you proceed.

I have shared with you an example of my own reading so you can see how it works out.

Row 1


Summary Insights: There’s an overburdened feeling in the past wherein the querent accepted too much responsibility.  Recent influences see the querent realizing that they have all they need to succeed, leading to a fresh creative start.  But beware of becoming overly ambitious.  The querent could become a slave to their own desire, success, or others.  They should instead focus on their capacities and what makes them unique.

Key Themes: Beginnings and Endings, Creativity, Career, Personal Power.

Record the first row in your journal, hopefully spending more time on it than I did.  Cover this row with the uppermost part of the sheet.  Do not reshuffle the deck, simply cut it and move on to Row 2, immediately beneath the first.

Row 2


Summary Insights: The querent’s background includes a loving, stable community/family.  There has been a great deal of diligent work done by the querent and they may be starting a new career or business.  Their originality and inventiveness will be central to their success.

Key Themes: Fulfillment, Others in the Querent’s Life (particularly as pertains to career; these people may also be Earth and Fire Sun Signs), Hard Work, Finances, Individuality, and a Progression from Community to Autonomy without Sacrificing the Former.

Log this into your Tarot journal, cover both rows, cut your deck, etc.

Row 3


Summary Insights: The querent’s past is founded upon the exchange of rarefied knowledge.  It’s not clear if the querent gave this information away, received it, or did both.  This exchange has led to current stability, a sense of wealth and wellbeing, and a desire to put down roots.  However, be careful!  Overwhelming passions, desires, or a new/young love – an event resembling an emotional deluge — could destabilize the querent in the near future.  This might lead to travel and the experience could be quite pleasurable, although it risks leaving the querent dazed.  This future event might leave their life just as quickly as it came, but their circumstances will never again be the same.

Key Themes:  Having/Not Having, Knowing/Not Knowing, Circumstances and People Beyond the Querent’s Control, Stability, Finances, and Upheaval.

Log this into your Tarot journal, cover, cut, etc.

Row 4


Summary Insights: Quite some time ago, the querent struck out and distinguished themselves from communal standards.  This led to a time of conflict with competitors.  The intervention of an institutional agency will cause a squabble to turn into a fight.  There is no way for the querent to win.  If the querent insists on fighting, they will be left wounded and at odds with others.

Key Themes:  Power, Struggle, Strife, Competition, Imbalance (2, 5, 5, 5, 9), Creativity and Individuality, Loss.

Log this into your Tarot journal, cover, cut, etc.

Row 5


Summary Insights – The querent’s background was happy and fulfilled.  There was perhaps an inheritance and they may be investing it now or they may have spent much of it.  In either case, they presently have some accumulated wealth.  The future indicates the querent tending lovingly to a new creative project, relationship, or perhaps even a child.  The Wand of the Page has new growth, indicating health and fragility.  Combined with the Empress and the Ace, it’s difficult not to see this as pregnancy, motherhood, and child-rearing from a position of great comfort.

Key Themes:  Wealth, Abundance, Happiness, Fertility, Motherhood, and the Future.

Log this into your Tarot journal.  Uncover all the cards that you have drawn and consider them carefully.

All 25 Cards


Things to Note Immediately –

  • Predominant Colours: The upper centre is a block of alternating yellow and black which indicates an emotional rollercoaster ride.
  • Predominant Suits: Pentacles are the dominant suit, followed by Wands and Trumps.  In all 25 cards, there is only 1Sword.  This is not a time of deep thought, but rather a marked era of financial and creative discipline, preoccupation, upheaval and transformation.
  • Predominant Numbers: The dominant number is 5, followed by 1’s, 2’s, and 10’s.  This supports the colour theme.  The querent’s fate is tottering back and forth like a see-saw.  There are no 7’s or 8’s, and there are 6 Court Cards.  Others have a huge impact on the querent’s life right now.  There’s perhaps a feeling of being at the mercy of others, particularly as regards to fiscal solvency.
  • The Centre Card: The King of Pentacles.

Finally, follow each thread and decide which storyline corresponds to each aspect of the querent’s life.  With the cards that have been pulled, a few things are quite clear:

  • Energetically, the querent has recently recovered from an overburdened, unproductive standstill.  This recovery risks being too quick however, and the querent must take pains to maintain balance and not get overambitious.
  • The querent can rely upon their loved ones for support and recognition of their talents.
  • Exchanges of knowledge and/or promotions with powerful individuals might give rise to sweeping and unforeseen changes.
  • Avoid institutional and corporate power struggles.  Indeed, in light of all the positive Court cards in this spread, I’d recommend avoiding all hegemonic environments in favour of positive one-on-one relations.  Invest energy in specific people, only.
  • The querent should be grateful and tend to themselves, those they love, and their immediate environment.

Now, Go Deeper

Now, identify when, and if, any of these plots have already played out in your life.  How current are they?  Do they have different speeds?  Which ones do you identify with the most and which seem the most baffling?  Since you know your own past and present, you’ll be able to connect each spread to specific aspects of your life, as well as noting recurring issues.

In my case, since I pulled these cards for myself, I know that all five story lines have already happened.  There is no new storyline.  However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not surprised!

What I realize when I gaze upon all 25 cards is that these are the stories I have been telling both myself and others without even thinking about them.  They should have been conscious, but they weren’t before this exercise.  In seeing them all together, I am much more aware of those past experiences which haunt me, as well as the information that I give to others about myself.  These story lines are my subconscious baggage.  Now that I can see them, I can decide what I want to do with them.

Grand Finale

After having recorded all of your interpretations, shuffle the cards back into the deck.  Throw one final reading.  After the five previous spreads, this last throw will reveal new information you weren’t aware of and give indications of where you’re headed if you integrate and transmute the past.


This is a new storyline that has yet to unfold, however we do have two repeat cards, The Empress and the 9 of Pentacles.  The addition of The Hanged Man, 4 of Cups, and The World, puts a fresh spin on those ghosts we scrounged up in the five previous spreads, as there were themes of power and abundance taken to extremes on either side, as well as a stress on the role of key individuals in the querent’s life.  Again, the absence of Swords is notable, as is the appearance of three Trumps.

Exhausted?  Me, too.  This exercise can be quite taxing, psychologically.  However, in my experience, it’s always worth the effort.  Being confronted with those key stories that have left the deepest impressions can be a bit scary, but it can also lead you to greater personal freedom and healing.

Over to You!

I would love to hear how this experiment goes for you, as well as any other alternate interpretations that I may have missed in my own spreads.  I’m sure there are tons…. Let me hear them, as well as your response to your own narratives!  Did they surprise you?  Or were you conscious of them already?  For me, I’m almost always surprised!

About Kelsey Lynore

KelseyLynore1Kelsey Lynore is a professional Tarot Reader currently residing in San Diego, CA.  If you’d like to have your cards read by her, you can visit her at The Tarot Nook.  You can also follow her on Google+ where she posts updates, recent articles from her website, and will gladly welcome you into her circle.

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  • Aasheeshh says:

    Hi Kelsey,
    This is an amazing spread. A nice way to understand your current life trends and acting as per the dictates of situation.In this respect the rows third to fifth are very important indeed.Once you know how the future is going to play out as given by row five ,you can take guidance from row three and our cards.This becomes very important so that you do not miss an important opportunity by being impulsive,arrogant or lazy etc .If the cards are denoting happy period ahead then one can avoid falling into the trap of negativity.Like in your case row five has Empress,Nine Of Cups,Ace of Pentacles.These are powerful card indeed and so you can skillfully avoid the negative enegies of wands and swords in row four to reach the desired goals.
    In your case Empress and Nine Of Pentacles are clearly indicating a period of excellent professional success which can really make you stand out in your circle in a tuly unique way.
    I think one can use this spread while asking a specific quetion too.That would be quite interesting.
    Thanks Kelsey for this wonderful spread.I feel it would enlighten us a lot while enountering life’s uncertainities.

  • Kelsey Lynore says:

    Hi Aasheesh,
    I love your interpretation and attention to detail, and I agree — Falling into the trap posed by Row 4 is most definitely something to be avoided, and as the cards clearly indicate it, it is avoidable! 🙂 I must confess, I’ve had a lot of positive results with this spread and it’s really helped me to clarify the energies I want to feed, as well as the energies I want to sidestep. It’s also helped me to let go of a lot of baggage and really focus on what I want out of life. I’d love to hear how your own experiments go with this spread, particularly asking one specific question. I’ve never tried that, so if you give it a whirl and have the time, do check back in and let me know how it goes!
    Warmest regards,

  • Kim says:

    Hello Kelsey. Thank you very much for this spread! I think the Universe wanted me to read this; when I got the email about this blog post, the time stamp was 2:22. 🙂 I would like to share mine simply because I’ve never had a reading hit me so hard. (Also, I’m just now noticing there are no reversed cards, but at the time I used reversed cards. (oops?) But what I received was nonetheless very telling.)

    Row 1: Page of Wands, Page of Pentacles (rev), The World (rev), Queen of Wands (rev), Page of Cups (rev)

    Row 2: 8 of Wands, Knight of Cups, 2 of Cups (rev), 6 of Swords (rev), 1o of Cups

    Row 3: The Fool (rev), The Lovers, 4 of Swords (rev), The Moon, Page of Swords

    Row 4: The Devil (rev), Temperance (rev), 4 of Cups, 5 of Pentacles, Ace of Cups

    Row 5: The Magician, 4 of Pentacles, 6 of Cups (rev), 7 of Wands (rev), The Empress (rev)

    I believe the prevailing theme is that I have a lot of latent ability, but for various reasons I’ve been denying it and getting in my own way, leading to disenchantment and lost opportunities. Row 2 in particular referred to a very recent breakup (Knight of Cups/2 of Cups), but apparently the departure is necessary and will be for the best.

    What really shocked me was that I pulled ALL the Pages, three in the first row alone! The colors were interesting, too; a lot of blues and grays, with a couple of black cards (Devil and Five of Pentacles). As for numbers, predominant 4’s and 6’s (the only number I was missing was 9). I also received mostly Cups and a lot of cards with water imagery, but the other suits were pretty much equal in number, and in the image of the Magician, there’s one of each. I took that to mean that what is affecting me ultimately has an emotional basis, but healing that will have an effect on everything else.

    But it was the final spread that put a smile on my face: Page of Pentacles (rev), Hanged Man (rev), The Moon, 6 of Wands, and The Sun. In the past there’s been a lot of frustration, loss of faith, and stasis. Ultimately, the Moon says to confront my emotions, and more importantly, just go ahead and walk forward, darkness notwithstanding. And if I can heed my own words, “the Sun” will come out and take the place of the Moon.

    The only things I’d say about your spread is that you also pulled 3 nines. This with the 5’s and 10’s suggests upheaval (5), but with the long-term payoff of reintegration and completion of one’s goals (9/10). Also, seeing all 25 cards together, the first card is the Ten of Wands, while the last card is the Page of Wands. Letting go of that initial burden until your left with the single wand, and the fresh energy of the Page. 🙂

    • Kelsey Lynore says:

      Hi Kim,

      I’m so happy to hear that this spread was of use to you! And I love your input regarding the 10 of Wands as a start and the Page of Wands as the last card in the 25. I had completely missed that. 🙂

      Whether one uses reversals is simply a matter of taste, so no “oops” there.

      I think the Pages support the absence of 9s in your spread (pretty amazing when something’s flat-out missing, no?) I see Pages as saplings — very delicate and easy to crush, but with great potential, as you mentioned. 9s are the inverse — fully ripe but not yet rotting/overburdened. With the 4s, I’d be concerned that you’re blocking yourself off from opportunities, or even struggles in which you should engage (the Moon in the finale), in the hopes of protecting yourself — which makes sense, but you may be underestimating yourself as you have *so many* latent capacities!

      I love your interpretation and integration of the Magician. I’d add that with the rev Page of Pents, the emotional basis may have had physical/financial ramifications. Perhaps there was even a specific trauma.

      The final spread, in my experience, is a real opportunity to let it all go and grow past those narratives. Yours is happy indeed, and I could not agree more with your interpretation of the Moon –don’t be afraid of the darkness!

      Awesome spread, Kim. Thanks so much for sharing it!


  • Michaela says:

    Kelsey, Wow! I have come back to this spread a couple of times, and spent time with it today. I am learning so much from it. It is so detailed and reveals the inside story in a clear, concise manner. What I really appreciate is that the spread has a depth and bredth to it, and your courage in being willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable by sharing something so personal. Right away, I recognized the value to taking time to do this for myself, and what it would be like to share this experience with clients. There’s no hiding here! Thank you for spending the time to develop this, and explain it so clearly. As I am studying the cards in your spread, I am seeing a mirror of myself. Much of what you have revealed in your spread is a great reflection for me. I also noticed that Row 4 was an “edge” for me, reflecting back what I was uncomfortable in seeing, especially the outcome. I have a different interpretation about Row 5. What I see is satisfaction and abundance — knowing that success is much greater than material wealth — it is an inner state of being. On that foundation, I see a sense of ease, creativity, passion and enthusiasm being expressed with maturity and being grounded, as well as having a feeling of child-like wonder and joy. I recently had an “AHA” moment about III The Empress when I shuffled the cards with the intention of drawing a card that would best express a message for a group of entrepreneurial women. She’s All That — receptive, open, at ease, welcoming, nurturing, grounded, successful, abundant, and creative. Although she sits alone, it is clear that she is waiting for the next collaboration. She “plays well with others.” That was the message that I shared with the women!
    Warmly, Michaela

    • Kelsey Lynore says:

      Hi Michaela,

      Wow, indeed! Your re-reading of the Empress card is spot on, particularly in light of the Page of Wands. I’d like to add to it, as some time has passed since I initially wrote the article. I now consider the Empress card to be one of two top entrepreneur cards (the other is the Magician.) I keep getting the Empress, and what’s so surprising to me is that it’s a reflection of how I *feel* about my baby business — which is exactly what I call it.

      The Tarot Nook is just now going into it’s 11th week. Before I commenced, however, I spent some time nannying for a 2-4 month old infant, a gorgeous little girl! Watching her grow, watching my own innate responses to her, and learning so much about early child development during that time (I only had experience with 4 years and up before that) really helped me prepare for being an entrepreneur. My business seems to be no less demanding than she was and it passes through stages not at all dissimilar from her own. As a consequence, the theory that I operate off of now is that a healthy business grows twice as fast as a healthy human and you should expect to spend your time, efforts, and anxiety (is my kid “normal”? does it have a fever? am I a terrible parent?) accordingly. Of course, there’s no “normal,” just general guidelines. But the rewards seem to pan out, too, as pertains to first smile, “tummy time” and back strength, crawling, etc. during which time you can expect to feel mega proud over these tiny but major steps. So, while I subscribe to Entrepreneur, Copyblogger, KISSmetrics, etc., I also keep an eye on babycenter. It’s no less helpful.

      According to those lights, you couldn’t have pulled a finer card for a group of female entrepreneurs. 😉

      And I also agree about the women sharing. The clarity and concision that you noted in the article — well, when I first wrote it I just wanted to get it out as quickly as possible and move on to the 101 other things that needed my attention. The first draft that I sent Brigit was too long and had some serious typos (mom wasn’t getting enough sleep.) She sent it back very sensitively, I edited it and realized what a mess it had been, and then she did one final edit before publishing it. It reads well now and I’m really pleased with it. But it took time, patience, and help from others (Brigit).

      I’m glad you got so much out of the spread. Thank you!

      Take care,

      PS — There’s strength in vulnerability. (I know that you know this or you wouldn’t have noted it, but it can’t be said enough so I say it 😉 )

  • Anith says:

    This is an amazing spread. Is there also an opportunity to read a narrative from top to bottom in each position? For instance, the two 10’s at the top ending with the nine at the bottom, might show a story of completions ending with a sense of satisfaction from your far past. I think I’d be tempted to look at the vertical stories as well– or is that beside the point?

    In any case, thank you for posting this; there is plenty to look at already, with or without adding another layer!


    • Kelsey Lynore says:

      There absolutely is, Anith. (I love your name!) And the two diagonals. The mention of the King of Pentacles in the center alludes to this, but it can be an overwhelming spread. It’s a bit impressionistic, actually, and you could spend several weeks unpacking one. I figure those who might read in other ways will, because the spread invites this. And those who want to keep it simple and linear can most definitely do that, as well! Regardless, it is most definitely open to modifications by each unique reader. 😉
      Thanks, and take care,

  • Brigit says:

    A big THANK-YOU to Kelsey for sharing her wonderful spread and inspiring many others to do the same!

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