When the Cards are Speaking Gibberish


As a new reader, it’s always fun (and sometimes scary) when you lay out a spread and the answer comes to you magically in a flash of insight. You just know it was meant to be. You are a reader, and you have the amazingest insight skills of all the peoples! (Yay!)

These moments of clarity and insight are amazing to experience and can motivate you to dig deeper into the cards and your connection with them.

But what about when that insight is not there? What happens when you lay down the cards, take a deep breath, and the result is pretty much gibberish?

Don’t Give Up

The fact is, all readers have days when the cards can’t (or won’t) cooperate. The questions and answers don’t mesh, or the meaning is unclear, or you just can’t find the words to express what you’re seeing. Or, on the worst days, you’re basically looking at a bunch of playing cards with pretty pictures on them. (That’s me with runes–I see nothing but lines.)

When this happens to an experienced reader, it is frustrating as hell. But with it happens to a new reader, it can be devastating. If it happens enough, a new reader might become frustrated and just give up altogether.

Kat and I work often with new readers, and this is one of the biggest hurdles they seem to face. They’ve had some success with the cards, but now they can’t seem to get anything to happen. But a bad spell doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your reading practice. Here are a few ideas of what to do when you and your cards are not the same page.

Ask a Different Question

Framing the question properly is half the battle in a good reading. As I mentioned in a previous article, there are just some questions you should never ask your reader (even if you are your reader.) Legal or technical questions, questions about other people who haven’t given consent, etc. can block the energy of the cards.

But even if it’s the right kind of question, you may not be asking it in the correct way. Closed questions are a great example. A closed question results in a one or two word answer, usually yes or no or maybe. “Will my business be a success?” is a perfect example of a closed ended question. There are only a few possible answers–yes, no, meh. Your cards don’t have anywhere to go from here, and you’ll wind up with a mediocre answer at best.

Rephrasing close-ended questions can often loosen the grip on the cards, allowing them to dig deeper and give you a better answer. For example, the question in the previous paragraph could be changed to “What is my next move to ensure the success of my business?” or “What is blocking my business from achieving more success?”

Just a slight reframing of the question is often all you need to do to turn a reading from gibberish to gold.

Clean Your Cards

There are so many myths and superstitions about clearing and cleaning cards that it can get confusing. Whether you are of the “never let anyone touch my cards” or “hey, they’re just cardboard–touch away” school of card hygiene, the fact is eventually you are going to have to clean your cards.

When I talk about cleaning your cards, I’m not talking about wiping off the strawberry jam that’s smeared all over the Prince of Wands (although you may want to do that. Seriously. Clean that mess up.) I’m talking about something a bit more esoteric.

If you’re on board with the idea that tarot and oracle cards work, then it’s not too far of a stretch when I say that all beings emit energy. Whether it’s plain old electromagnetic energy or spiritual auras, I don’t know. What I do know is that the energy of a place can affect your ability to get or give a good reading.

If you’ve been using your cards in public places (as Kat and I usually do), your cards will soak up all the energy around them. Not just you and the person you’re reading for, but the couple at the next table arguing, and the server at the restaurant who hates their job and wishes they could just quit without notice. Good, bad, or indifferent, all this spiritual and emotional energy is going to affect your cards.

I use a pendulum to clear my cards before each use. Actually, I used to use a pendulum. Now I use the chain of rings I wear around my neck every day as a pendulum. These rings lay above my heart chakra during most of my waking hours and have become infused with that energy. Just a few moments to clear usually does the trick.

Now if you use your cards a lot, you probably want to give them a good cleaning every few months (or more frequently, if that floats your boat.)  There are several ways to clean your cards, including smudging, a moon bath (best on the full moon), a salt bath (be sure to put your cards in a plastic baggie before submerging them overnight into an airtight container of salt), or just plain airing out.  New Moon is a great time to clean your cards.

Put the Cards Away

So much of the success of readings depends on your energy, your attitude, and your connection both to the cards and the questioner. Sometimes, one or all of these are just not up to doing a reading. And the sooner you learn to identify those times, the less you will worry when the cards come up blank.

Your energy: Reading cards will take a lot out of you. There is a certain amount of energetic surrender required to do a good reading, and if your body is off-kilter, the reading will reflect it. If you are exhausted, overstressed, out of sorts, or ill, clearing your energy to the point of doing a reading may be more than you can handle. Usually, all you need to do is ground and center, but if this doesn’t work, there’s no crime in saying, “Hey, I just can’t do this today. Can we reschedule?”

Your attitude: I start every reading with a prayer: “Through me, not from me, please.” Kat and I both have very strong opinions about life, the universe, and everything. It is difficult to keep those opinions from coloring a reading. Difficult, but not impossible. Often what appears to be gibberish from the cards might just be a reading that does not jibe with your personal worldview. If this happens, take a moment, step away from the reading, ground and center, clear the cards, and try again. You may want to shuffle the deck and redo the reading with an open mind.

Your connection: My tarot mentor, Miss Dawn, has been doing this for years. She says skeptics are her favorite customers, because she loves watching their expressions as she turns them into believers. Sadly, some people come into readings for the specific purpose of debunking your skills. They will sit there like stones, offering no visual or verbal feedback, leaving you twisting in the wind emotionally without any clue whether you are “hitting” or not. This type of client can rattle even the most experienced reader, and can be a nightmare for a new reader. But sometimes even a customer who sincerely does want a good reading just won’t click, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get a hit. This does not mean you are a lousy reader. It just means that for some reason, you are not energetically compatible. This has happened to Kat and I before, and we always refer them to another reader we feel might be more compatible with them.

It’s a Conversation

In the end, a good tarot or oracle reading is a conversation between the reader, the cards and the questioners. Some conversations flow easily and dig deeply into the emotional and psychological realms of all parties involved. Other conversations are light and frothy and skim the surface like small talk at a lovely cocktail party. And sometimes, you just don’t connect.

The most important thing to realize is that reading cards is as much an art as a skill to be learned. You don’t need to wait for the Muse of Oracles to place a golden feather of inspiration onto your deck, but you also can’t force it when it doesn’t come.

Stay light, keep the communication open with your cards, and don’t freak out if you have a bad day here and there. The more experience you get, the more you’ll be able to deal with road bumps along the way.

If you liked this post and would like to follow us on social media, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram. We are also available to readings in person, over the phone, or online. As always, please don’t forget to like and share this post. Comments are greatly appreciated.

Peace and Love,


Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash.

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