What Cards Are Saying When They Aren’t There

by Theresa Reed on June 8, 2011

This is a guest post by the winner of my Tarot Apprentice contest – Hilary Parry.  Enjoy!


It’s bad enough learning the “accepted” meanings of all 78 cards in a tarot deck. If you read with reversals, that’s 78 x 2! Add on your own interpretations if you’ve read long enough and have come to know that in your head, the Empress + [blank] = pregnancy (or whatever tarot formulas you personally have seen to be true). Tack on spreads and where each card lands positionally and you’ve got a whole lot for you and a client to talk about. But did you ever stop and think, “Which cards are NOT here?”

I know, tarot is complicated enough thinking about all the scenarios that can play out when the cards are on the table, so you might be wondering, “Why bother with discussing the cards that are not present during a reading?” Well, sometimes the absence of certain cards says more than what the cards actually dealt in a reading say.

A couple of scenarios to illustrate my point:

Someone comes to the table, asking about a potential love interest. It isn’t a yes/no question, but more of a how/when. The cards are laid out. But the solution isn’t so obvious, and there are no Major Arcana cards that arise in the reading. What do we look for? What do we note that is missing?

If it’s about love, and there are no Cups in the reading… well, there are a couple of things that could be interpreted from that, but not limited to just these interpretations (in general):

  1. a frivolous crush that isn’t substantial enough to constitute a true emotional connection; the client’s romantic intentions might be best suited elsewhere or a focus inward is in order; or
  2. the object of the client’s affections isn’t interested (again, keeping in mind this is a hypothetical)

Still talking about a potential love interest, what if there ARE Cups present, but no Pentacles (Coins)? This might indicate lots of emotion, but little stability, if any. There may be lots of love but perhaps not enough of the practical aspects that go into making a relationship work.

Moving on to another scenario. Someone has to pick between two jobs. In this case, you might choose to do two spreads, one for each of the potential jobs. In one spread, lots and lots of Coins. Of course, depending on the specific cards laid out, you might suggest the job that’s abundant in the money would be the “correct” choice. But what about job fulfillment? So you look to the other spread. Wands and Cups, but no Coins. Again, depending on the cards, you might conclude that this choice would be more fulfilling, but not likely to be as lucrative as the other choice.

These scenarios are a lot more black and white than normal readings go, I know. But as readers who spend a lot of time in the crossroads of other people’s lives serving them as a guide at the juncture of the roads, it helps to keep in mind that what isn’t present in a reading is often just as important as what is.


Contact Hilary Parry for a tarot reading:
Email: tarrytowntarot@gmail.com
Blog: tarotspell.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tarotbyhilary
Twitter: http://twitter.com/hsparry


PS I’d love to hear your thoughts on “missing cards”.  Post your insights in the comment section below!

image courtesy of  Sam Javanrouh (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wvs/2493556367/)

Dixie Vogel June 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

Hillary, what an excellent reminder to look at the overview of the whole spread and see the broader picture, not just the individual trees. Simple, but powerful. Thank you! 🙂

Mike Hernandez June 8, 2011 at 11:47 am

Great post! Hillary does a great job of demonstrating how “absent” cards can say a lot about the issue at hand. It certainly enables the querent to see the other side of the issue and think about implications and consequences that he or she might otherwise not have seen. Well done.

admin June 11, 2011 at 6:58 am

I agree Mike – Hillary really wrote a great post. And I love subjects like this – so thought provoking!


Stacy LaRosa June 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Great new viewpoint on how to read the cards! I can’t wait to try this. Great article!

Hilary June 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Thanks everyone! This article was inspired by Theresa, actually, and a Mystical Monday reading she did. The absence of Pentacles in that reading she translated to a lack of groundedness, and that really hit a chord with me. Made me change up my reading style and grow as a reader!

admin June 11, 2011 at 6:59 am

Hillary, your post rocked! Great job, shug!

abbee June 8, 2011 at 11:32 pm

This is awesome! One time I was wondering there were no cards indicating love present in a romance reading. The Lovers, 2 of Cups, The Sun, & the 10 of Cups were nowhere to be found! Haha.

kareena narwani June 9, 2011 at 6:00 am

ur post is excellent!! i agree abt the point u said abt no cups in a love reading, and that happens when the love is not real, or a person is marrying sum1 just for the money.. i usually wait for my ‘happily ever after’ 10 of cups or my ‘soulmate’ 2 of cups or ‘3 of cups’ marriage’ card to come up in a reading regarding love. if they dont come up i feel something is wrong. even if minor cards come up in a reading to a seemingly serious situation, it usually means ‘dont bother, things will be ok’. i have gone through almost all of the examples u have mentioned including the career choices one, one gives u money and the other personal satisfaction.

admin June 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

Yes Kareena – if there are no love cards in a love reading, that catches my attention too!

Mary Bee June 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

One situtation I’ve run into as a reader is when I shuffle, cut, throw the cards and an abundance of one suit comes up, and the client says something like “Are you *sure* you shuffled? That’s an awful lot of Swords/Pentacles/etc.” *sigh* 🙂 I like this post and view point; I will try in my next reading to consider the suit that is not there in order to see what Spirit is trying to tell my client.

admin June 11, 2011 at 7:01 am

Hi Mary Bee,

Thanks for your comment – I rarely have clients make comments about the cards that come up unless they are a reader also. I always wonder why they don’t just let the reader do the reading without the comment! LOL

Courtney Weber June 15, 2011 at 6:07 am

Great article–I love the thoughts about lack of Coins in a love reading possibly meaning lack of stability. Fantastic insight! xoxo

Wendy June 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

Excellent! Thanks for this amazing post. You made it sound so easy. Thanks 🙂

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