This month I am going to talk about the keywords on the cards. Many people dislike the keywords on the Thoth cards partly because they can lead clients you see face to face to misunderstand what a reading is saying based on the keywords they can see and partly because a reader can feel limited themselves when they see a keyword for a card and it almost shouts or dictates the meaning when another, more subtle but more accurate, meaning may actually be relevant.

I have always been quite a wordy person and find associations to words more easily than to pictures so I have personally enjoyed the presence of the keywords and the richness they offer me in interpretation before even going into the cards imagery. The more challenging cards of failure, defeat I see primarily as the ‘fear of x’ rather than the actual eventuality, this approach then leads us as readers to see the circumstances around the defeat or ruin possibilities. I see the inner world of the client and thus the place where the client has control and the ability to make changes and prevent their fears from occurring, showing them how to increase the positivity and joy in their lives through this work.

In face to face readings I am careful to point out the meanings of the cards with the more difficult titles in much the same way as ensuring people don’t take one look at the death card and fear they or someone is going to die. This is also a good practice in email readings, though I am coming to feel that not even mentioning the keywords attached to the card title is better in email readings, only mentioning keywords in the prose of the card guidance if it feel appropriate in that reading.

It is not only keywords printed on cards that is interesting to me though. I am aware that when we read the tarot we all have such a plethora of meanings, connections and deep understandings of the cards that sometimes we develop a person shorthand of description of what we are seeing and meaning. In effect we develop our own sets of keywords that we use with cards and from this we develop our readings. We need awareness though, that a single word may now describe a whole plethora to us, but to the client they need to have the details explained – the connections we make, the understanding we have of the words we initially say, in order to ensure we have actually delivered the message we received. Sometimes to us, the reader, it can feel like we are ‘going on’ and surely should not need to say so much – but in many cases it is better to be explicit about our meaning and our underlying assumptions of meaning in order to be of the best service to our clients.

Have a think about the meanings you attach to the various Thoth cards, and perhaps even another deck that you use frequently. Do you use a personal mental shorthand when you read for others? Do you need to explain more perhaps? This shorthand can be very useful for readings for yourself, though even in this circumstance it can stop you hearing more innovative and creative guidance in your own situations.

One way to overcome the ‘shorthand’ in our processes is to just describe rather than interpret what you see. You can do this out loud or do it silently in your own mind – as you do so you hear yourself say things that are strong for you in the specific reading you are looking at – the cards, how they appear together, the specific images on the cards you are noticing – then as you listen to yourself, guidance and interpretation can come from there. This helps keep you in the now of the reading rather than taken back into the past of readings before, with often unspoken nuances of meaning that would be better said rather than assumed.

Living With a Card

Often when we read tarot for ourselves with the Thoth, we have a position in the spread which is the main focal point – it might be the outcome card, it might be the ‘card to focus on’ it might be the ‘key’. Whichever it is the card that we are most drawn to and seek answers from. Sometimes in readings this card is the very one that we understand the least – or in this particular reading it seems not to provide the direct answers we usually gain or expect. This is a good time to build your tarot knowledge, both in a traditional way and in a very personal way.

These, perhaps confusing, yet central cards hold a key for us. There are a number of different ways to approach this:

  • the academic study
  • the meditation
  • the journey
  • the holding the card with you through life

I want to focus on the last of these here this month, but before I do I will briefly talk about the others to give you an idea of what I am not meaning with the last one.

The first is to go to the books you have, the online resources you have access to and to read all anyone has ever seen in the card and go with those statements and concepts you have an intuitive reaction to. You are starting to gain a deeper understanding of the card and how it relates to you specifically in your situation and you are adding to your remembered bank of card meanings.

In this section I would also include studying the things that have been associated with the card by the deck creator, so you may also be going to references about the astrological associations of the Thoth card you have, the Kabbalistic position of the card, the meanings of the sephiroth or path connected to the card etc. Perhaps even looking further into that into the associations from the Kabbalah correspondences.

All of this can lead to great depth and often when we experience a one of card’s many meanings it stays with us much more strongly than others we have just read about. So picking out the parts that you feel a ah-ha with of a click is a powerful way of learning.

Then we come to the second way of working with the card – to do a traditional meditation on the card – sitting quietly and still in front of the card and allowing the different parts of the card to draw you and to wash over you – once quiet within and at peace with the card then you can allow intuitive understanding and inner wisdom to arise within the session. Also within this there is the Inner Discursive method of meditation where you can allow yourself to first describe the images you see within the card and the to allow yourself to think about what this image means and what other concepts and situations also are connected with the image.

There is then the creative visualisation, pathworking or journeying technique where you prepare yourself for an inner journey in your usual manner and then allow yourself to walk directly into the card, initially seeing some or all of the pictures on the card but as you progress you see the environments change and you may travel on a very personal journey into different terrain even with the same card on separate occasions. This gains you intuitive insight as you assess and reflect on your journey after you return you ordinary consciousness.

Then we come to allowing the card to work with you.

In many ways this allows all the above to process within you – but it can also be done on its own. You look at the image and see it clearly in your mind’s eye, then you take it with you in your mind as you go about your day-to-day activities. You set your unconscious mind to work on the issue of finding this cards true message to you. As you intend this you then can forget about the card and watch out for patterns of action, behaviour or events around you in your day. Any time something stands out to you hold the card in your mind and against the activity or event.

Ask yourself what is the connection between these two things – if any?

      <li”>Sometimes a connection will clearly be made and you can log this as a confirmation of a certain slant of meaning of this card at this time for you.

<li”>Other times there is a tenuous connection – this you can hold in a ‘maybe this’ pile and wait for further confirmation or a missing link between two things the card and that event to show itself to you.

  • Sometimes there will be no connection – here you can leave the situation as being about a different part of the process you are in currently – perhaps it relates to one of the other cards in your reading, perhaps it is just in a different realm of your life.


You can also look out for connections between your thoughts on the topic you have asked about, when you find yourself reflecting on the issue and exploring it in its own nature then remembering the card and looking for these same connections, the card its images, energy and possible meaning and the relation of this to your situation of enquiry.

As you work through the process of a card you can find its meaning and your understanding changes, you begin to see the whole story of a card rather than just the initial concepts your intuition and mind was able to latch onto. When flowing at its best you can experience moments where everything feels very connected – both in your life as well as how it is mirrored in your reading and this specific card.

As we set intentions like this with our unconscious often these processes of inner analysis take place almost by themselves, we come in and out of awareness of the process through our day. As we become more conscious of this process we start to become conscious of our own intuitive and inner being knowledge making its voice known in our conscious world – we come to know what we have been seeking for, often triggered by the tarot, and sometimes feeding back into a depth of knowledge of the tarot for future use with others.

You can encourage this process by having the image of the card about you – perhaps as a backdrop on your phone or desktop on your computer, or just out by your side when you are working.

Have a go at this process yourself, see it working in your life. All the processing of understanding the meaning of the card to you are valid and worthwhile, and if we use them together then our learning process becomes a very rich and personal experience which accelerates our own inner growth and the skills we have to offer others.