Another story is being told right under your fingertips…
Every time we shuffle and lay out the tarot cards, we’re telling a story. A story about our lives, about those around us, about any hope or wish or fear or dream that we want insight on. The cards become characters in our lives, ideas and events just waiting to happen. Their inherent meanings inform the reading, and answer whatever query we want to ask.
But the cards themselves tell a story, even before we begin reading.
Because each card does not exist in a vacuum. The entire deck is a narrative: the Major Arcana tell a saga of grand enlightenment, while the Minors explore the trials and triumphs of everyday life. Once you learn these stories, your own readings will gain a greater meaning — and another dimension is added once you start to see how every card is connected…
What are card connections?
Because tarot was designed to tell a story, different cards mirror each other in interesting ways, picking up narrative threads and continuing them in a grand kaleidoscope of meaning. Which is a very fancy way of saying that sometimes the cards connect in cool ways. Before we dive into some examples, lay out the Major Arcana. Which cards are similar to each other? How do they differ? And what do you think these differences mean?
One very clear parallel is between Temperance and The Star. They each depict very similar scenes: a figure stands with one foot on (or in) a pool and the other foot on land. Each figure is pouring water from or between two containers. It’s day, and in the distance there are mountains.
So why would there be two such similar cards in the Major Arcana? The thing is, they’re stages on a journey. Temperance is all about balance, but also about structure and control. Between Temperance and The Star is The Tower — a card that is all about bringing down these structures. Seen from this point of view, Temperance and The Star are essentially before-and-after pictures.
The Star is what happens when all boundaries have been transcended — the figure is relaxed, a foot in the pool rather than on it, pouring the water out rather than trying to contain it. These cards are very much connected, in that they tell a story.
Once you’ve learned this extra dimension, you can apply this narrative to your readings.
This is when it helps to keep a journal — say The Star pops up in a reading. You can then check your record to see if Temperance or The Tower appeared in any previous readings. When did they appear? And how does that relate to this mini narrative? Does this add anything to your interpretations of the cards?
How to spot connections between tarot cards
Of course, this is just one connection in a grand tapestry. We’ll dive into some more examples in a bit, but here’s an easy guide to spotting card connections…
Look for recurring figures. For example, there are three angels in the Major Arcana, all with red wings. The repetition of these angels draws a connection between these cards. Tarot scholars have identified these figures as distinct angels (eg: Raphael is said to be the angel of The Lovers), but that’s just one interpretation. In the tarot, the angels represent higher knowledge and greater understanding. This is an added meaning for each card they appear in — and again, keep an eye out for when angels are appearing in your readings, in different cards. Do they tell a particular story in your readings?
The scenes in some cards mirror each other. The scene in The Lovers looks very similar to The Devil card, and through this parallel we can understand how these cards are connected. Both tell a story of people attaining another dimension of wisdom through a concept: love, for The Lovers, and materialism in The Devil. In Modern Witch Tarot, The Moon card depicts a similar scene, which creates a new connection.
Geographical features also connect the cards. The best example of this is the river that flows through the Major Arcana. We first see it in The Empress (though some scholars argue that its true fountainhead is the skirt of The High Priestess, and some decks depict this clearly). The river then flows through The Emperor and Death cards. In Death, a boat has appeared on the river, perhaps ferrying souls like Charon down the river Styx in Greek Mythology. Perhaps the river connects with other bodies of water in the Majors, like the pool in Temperance, The Star, and The Moon cards, or the sea of Judgement. All water represents the divine unconscious, so the river’s path takes on a greater meaning once we realise this. Look at which direction the river is flowing in your readings — and see if you can spot it in the Minors, too.
Other symbols draw similar parallels, like the pillars in The High Priestess, The Hierophant, and Justice. In The High Priestess, the pillars are black and white, representing extremes and duality — the sphinxes of The Chariot are also black and white, taking on the same meaning. The Hierophant’s pillars are grey, representing a knowledge that transcends duality, while Justice’s are white, denoting the purity of true justice. Some objects also repeat — The Magician and The Chariot have the same wand, and The World has two wands.
What card connections mean for your readings
The connections between the cards start to tell another story on top of the linear tarot journey, one which is non-linear — all the cards connect out of sequence, which works with the method of shuffling the cards. Every time you do a reading, the cards are resequenced, but the connections remain. How they appear will add a greater depth to your readings, and once you start to understand the connections, you will be able to understand the tarot better and better.
There’s a wider kaleidoscopic pattern playing out above your readings. Keep a journal as you tarot, learn what the symbols mean to you personally, and this kaleidoscope takes on a personal significance. Your readings will tell a story about you, one that stretches through time and out into all the connections in your own life. So be sure to keep a track of what cards have appeared before, and then you’ll be able to see the threads that run between each different reading to weave that glorious extra-dimensional tapestry.
Put simply, it gives you another layer of advice for your readings. And who doesn’t want that?