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Essays

A Reader’s Tarot Spread

Tarot can be a terrific way to dig deeper into our lives by connecting with our subconscious, strengthening our intuition, and distilling relevant universal archetypes, storylines, and lessons all within a 78-card deck. But tarot can also be used to clarify and expand on our relationship with core passions, like reading. In this article, I’ll share a special spread I’ve designed exclusively for book nerds who want to understand how to deepen their reading practice through the power of tarot.

First, the Reader’s Tarot Spread:

a reader's tarot reading spread demonstrating 5 cards in a cross formation
A Reader’s Tarot Spread

Position 1: My relationship with reading

Position 2: How can I stretch myself as a reader?

Position 3: What goals should I pursue in my reading life?

Position 4: How can I grow my reading practice?

Position 5: How can I engage with reading on a deeper level?

To better understand how this tarot spread works, let’s look at an example…

A sample reading of the Reader’s Tarot Spread

Now let’s go through a sample generic reading based on the randomly chosen cards.

Position 1: My relationship with reading – Nine of Swords

The Nine of Swords typically references nightmares, anxiety, and negative thoughts. The suit of Swords is deeply connected to thoughts, cognition, leading with your head, and making choices. The Nine of Swords is a card that sparks fear in many. And it’s hard not to feel uneasy as we see the maiden covering her face in a bed whose walls are decorated with swords.

But what I get from this card showing up in the space of “My relationship with reading” is that reading offers you the ultimate escape. Through reading, you’re able to transport yourself out of negative experiences and find joy in the power of story and compelling narratives. Reading is kind of like therapy for you. You crave it. You need it. It sustains you during the dark days. There is also some indication that you have an interest in reading books that help you through tough times, perhaps through self-help or books about persevering through difficult times. (Find a list of the best self-care books for anxious times in this Book Riot article.)

Position 2: How can I stretch myself as a reader? – Ace of Swords

The Ace of Swords sees the realms of the suit — again, that’s thoughts, cognition, intelligence, leading with your head, and making choices – and expresses itself as the purest form of that energy.

This card is all about new beginnings of a project connected to thinking and cognition. For a reader, this might manifest as getting more in touch with reading that expands your worldview and teaches you new things. If you’re not already a nonfiction reader right now, use this card as an excuse to start getting into reading more nonfiction books. Draft a list of topics you’re interested in learning more about, then research and consult lists like Book Riot’s guide to the 50 best nonfiction books of the last 100 years.

Position 3: What goals should I pursue in my reading life? – The Emperor

The Emperor is the fourth card in the Major Arcana. He stands for order, structure, and security. The Emperor is a planner. He is all about playing the long game to get what he wants. He understands that the best results take time to grow.

In this position, we’re looking at what goals you should pursue in your reading life. The Emperor would like you to take a moment to think about the act of goal setting itself. The Emperor asks you the thrillingly open question of: what kind of reader do you want to be? And what steps do you plan to get you there? It’s time to come in from the cold of disorganized reading and instead establish some overarching strategies for taming your TBR, reading widely, and exploring more diverse books that celebrate a variety of voices.

Another way of looking at the Emperor in this position is to take him as a literal manifestation of his power. In this way, we take the Emperor literally right now…he builds empires, and you will build a personal home library that is organized, expertly curated, and idiosyncratic to your unique taste. Check out Book Riot’s “For the Love of Books: Eight Perspectives on Building a Personal Library” for more.

Position 4: How can I grow my reading practice? – The Magician

The first card in the Major Arcana, the Magician is all about manifesting the realms of the four suits: the Swords, the Cups, the Pentacles, and the Wands. This Magician is a master at knowing which power to use when. The Magician also flows divine energy from the earth to the Universe and back.

Here we have the Magician in the position of how to grow your reading practice. Just as the Magician represents the Swords, Cups, Pentacles, and Wands, here the Magician embodies exploring new genres, which could be any genre, but for the purposes of this card we’ll say Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Romance. The Magician argues that you can grow your reading practice by reading in genres that are new or unfamiliar. This card gives you permission to dip your toes into genres you might otherwise have avoided or not felt particularly jazzed about. To grow your reading practice, expand your horizons and experiment with new genres.

Another way to grow your reading practice by expanding into new reading areas is to do challenges like the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Through the components of the challenge, you’ll definitely stretch yourself and grow your reading practice.

Position 5: How can I engage with reading on a deeper level? – Two of Cups

The Two of Cups stands for a partnership, the joining together of two souls holding cups. As a Cups card, the card deals with the element of Water, and, with it, emotions, relationships, creativity, psychic energy, the subconscious, and intuition. As a Two, it brings up themes like duality, making decisions, and finding balance.

This card has shown up in the position of how to engage with reading on a deeper level. The Two of Cups asks you to fully commit to reading on a soul level. Your soul’s purpose is to live and love books. To engage with reading more deeply, commit to reading as your reason for being. Reading is the great love of your life, both existentially and emotionally.

This card signifies entering a partnership with another person, but it could also signify starting a relationship with yourself and your connection to reading. When it comes time to decide to give your energy to other activities over reading, always follow your heart and choose books. Start a reading diary with Book Riot’s bookish journaling questions to really start getting to know yourself and your identity as a reader.


And there you have it, the reader’s tarot spread with an example of how to interpret a sample reading.

There’s even more tarot coverage here at Book Riot. Check out: