Fear of Tarot: 7 Tips for Trying Tarot Without Getting Spooked

Several people recently have commented to me that they would like to have their cards read, if it wasn’t such a spooky idea. “What if you see something negative?” “What if the Death card comes up in my reading?” “Isn’t it better not to know what might be about to happen?”

If you’re not comfortable with tarot, it’s always an option to skip it. No one has to have a reading. Different strokes for different folks. To each her own. Etc. But, if you are really hungering to try tarot and just feel a bit nervous about taking that first step, try my tips below.

1. Don’t be afraid of spooky-looking cards like Death, The Devil, The Hanged Man, and The Tower. These cards look spooky, but they can often be the bearers of good, not bad, news. First, remember that the symbols on tarot cards are just that — symbols. They are not necessarily meant to be taken literally — and usually aren’t. Personally, of these four spooks, The Tower and The Hanged Man are actually two of my favorite cards to see in a reading. The Hanged ManI love the Hanged Man because it speaks of a change in perspective — on a spiritual level. Sometimes we need to be hung upside down by life. (Hanging upside down can get the rocks to fall out of our brains–figuratively speaking, of course.) The TowerI love The Tower because I’m a Scorpio — and to me, The Tower speaks of fast transformation. And when it comes to needed transformations, my feeling is always, why dilly dally? Jump into the pool, don’t ease in. Fast change isn’t always pleasant, but it gets the job done, and the air feels clear afterwards, like the air after a thunderstorm.

Death, too, is a card that speaks of change that may or may not be welcome, but tends to come as a relief once it has happened — and it doesn’t necessarily mean literal  physical death. In some cases, it can even mean sex (the French sometimes call orgasm a “little death”).  Death can also mean the death of an idea, or of a way of life. It could mean being dead to someone in particular (we’re in drama queen territory with that one). But most of all it’s a major, radical change, for good or bad, or a change that simply is.

DeathThe first tarot reading that I did after starting to read for others was for a woman who told me that her daughter had died the year before. She was terribly afraid that the Death card would show up in her reading. And, it did–it showed up in the position of the Celtic cross spread that represents hopes and fears. We both laughed. She didn’t need tarot cards to tell her that she was afraid of death!

Of these four cards, I think The Devil is the trickiest. To me, The Devil speaks of addiction. But in matters of addiction, recognizing the existence of a problem is a healing step — a step on the road to recovery — even if the addiction is to something minor, like procrastination, or chocolate. Seeing this card tells you there is work ahead, that’s all.The Devil

2. Meditate on the cards that scare you. If you are doing readings for yourself with your own deck, take time with your most hated cards, and meditate and reflect on why these particular cards scare you. Journal about it. Interact with the card until you are no longer afraid of it.

3. Try not to mistake the message for the thing itself. Being afraid of a card and what it may mean is just being afraid of the messenger. Your life is your life. If there is scary stuff in it, looking at the scary parts, or not looking, is not what will make the scary stuff appear or disappear. It’s there, whether or not you look at it. So take a deep breath and ask yourself, is there something in my life that I am afraid to look at? If so, you don’t need the cards to tell you what it is — seriously. You already know. In fact, you probably already know everything the cards could possibly tell you. So why be afraid of hearing what you already know? And if you already know it, then don’t ask about it. Instead, ask: what is the best way for me to react to this situation?

4. Don’t ask a big, serious question. If you want to try tarot out, but you are afraid that something scary will come up, then don’t ask about something serious.

  • Ask about the weather. If the Death card shows up in a weather reading, you can breathe easy: it probably just means the weather is about to change suddenly. (Maybe you live in the Midwest?)
  • Ask a silly question. My then-eight-year-old once asked Doreen Virtue’s Magical Messages from the Fairies deck if she should go to bed (it was her bedtime, but she hoped the cards would say no). She managed to pull the one card out of a 48-card deck that said, “Yes!” On another occasion, bored and wanting to try out the deck, I asked, “is everything okay?” and pulled “Everything’s okay.” You can ask the cards anything — they don’t care! You may get a saucy answer, though. When I asked the Corporate Flash Cards if I should rename my site (which used to be called Intuitive Blogging), they replied, “I only work here–I don’t reverbiagize.”
  • Ask what you should ask. In other words, ask the cards what would be a good topic for you to ask about. One time I was trying to decide what to blog about, and asked the cards what they would suggest….and proceeded to pull a card depicting meditation. So…I wrote about meditation that day. Nothing scary about that! 🙂

5. Don’t use a tarot deck — use an oracle deck. Oracle decks can give you readings that are just as accurate as tarot readings, but from a more universal perspective — and all problems, when looked at from a universal, eons-long history of time perspective, will become less overwhelming. Oracle decks are wonderful for producing positive, grounding, calming messages that will absolutely not scare you. These types of cards are very good for bringing your spirit back into your body — not for scaring it away. An oracle deck reading is also definitely the way to go if you need a reading about something that is upsetting you — if your spirit has already fled the premises. At such a time, you probably aren’t calm or grounded enough for tarot anyway.

6. Let your reader know that you are spooked by the idea of tarot. He or she will help you to form questions that are less spooky, will guide you to an appropriate deck, and will help you to have a grounding, down to earth, non-spooky reading — or will let you know if it seems like delaying the reading until you feel better about it might be advisable.

7. Take your reading with a grain of salt. Don’t take it TOO seriously. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. The accuracy figure I’ve seen tossed around for tarot is that good readers tend to be about 80% accurate. That leaves 20% wrong answers — a pretty big mistake rate. Consider intuition as a sixth sense, and as such, just one of your senses. You also have five other senses, and a brain, and a heart — all providing data continuously. Integrate the results of a reading with the data from all your other senses, and then run that data through your brain and your heart. Yes, I have Asperger’s — only an Aspie could tell you to envision your heart as a computer! But it’s true: the results of a reading are just data, like the data that comes through your other senses, and like your other senses, intuition will sometimes get it wrong — and like the data that comes from your other senses, the data from intuition needs to be filtered through your brain in order to be correctly and accurately interpreted. Don’t try to operate purely on intuitive results, unless you’d be equally willing to, for example, operate in the world with just one of your five senses and not the others.

Tarot readings should be grounding, or spiritually uplifting — not eerie and spooky (in my opinion). Readings should result in practical, actionable advice — not shivers down your spine.


  1. My experience of being spooked by the Tarot involved using the cards for meditation. I was using the Connolly deck, a rather benign deck with innocuous images. I picked a card with an image that included a woman looking out of the picture. As I looked at the woman, suddenly she was looking back at me! I dropped the card and put Tarot away for several years. When I felt more grounded and mature, I took it up again. I don’t use the Connolly deck any more, not because of my experience, but because I’m not comfortable with the Christian imagery in many of the cards. I prefer Ciro Marchetti’s Tarot of Dreams. There is a time and a season, and now is right for me. I’m enjoying spending time meditating with the Tarot, but it was right to put it away for a time. Now I enjoy collecting decks to share with my friends when we get together to study. I have 21 decks, and there is something positive about every one of them, even if it just humor. I have a couple of oracle decks, and one parody deck called The Fantod Deck with images by Edward Gorey that isn’t good for anything but amusement.


    1. Wow–I can see how that would spook you!

      When I first started reading tarot, I didn’t see the point of having more than one deck, but as I’ve gotten more into it, I’ve also gotten drawn into collecting. I find that for different purposes, I do prefer different decks — and sometimes a particular deck seems to be calling itself out to be used on a particular day. I LOVE decks that are parodies and often find that they do get a message across that is sometimes much more pointed than the gentler messages coming from my other decks…

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂


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