How to read tarot: moving pictures

Would you like another way of seeing the cards? Often as we develop as readers, one of the pitfalls is sticking with the same old interpretations. It’s possible for our readings to get to get stale before we even realise it is happening. ‘Moving Pictures’ is a technique which offers an alternative way of seeing tarot cards which can bring the sparkle back to your readings. Use it with your interpretations, allow the technique to suggest new possibilities and always say what you see – tactfully, of course!

Part one of an article originally written by TheRaggedEdge for TABI (Tarot Association of the British Isles).

© This page was created by TheRaggedEdge. All rights reserved.

See tarot cards as moving pictures?

With a little imagination, you can….

Seven of Swords Universal WaiteHave you read Harry Potter? Do you recall the wonderful photographs that move, change, and wave to the viewer? What a lovely concept… and wouldn’t it be great if our Tarot cards could enable us to grasp their messages more quickly and easily in this way? Imagine gazing at the RWS Seven of Swords and being able to ‘zoom out’, to see that the ‘thief’ is actually performing a complicated sword dance on a stage; a challenge which requires grace and athleticism to execute a perfect performance. Not your usual interpretation of this card? Just as this card can sometimes connote deceitfulness, a stage performance can be interpreted as an intention to deceive – albeit with the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief.

It’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately; not the moving cards exactly but how, more often than not, we manage to pull the most accurate meaning from the card when it is needed, even though it may depart from the traditional meanings. We do, however, often hit a ‘blank’; when a certain card looks at us, we look at it and nothing happens. Out come the books and perhaps they help, but it is still hard to find a meaning which ‘jigsaws’ with the story we have created from the surrounding cards.

Never see the same tarot card twice

It’s different every time

Heraclitus, one of the great Greek philosophers, pointed out that although we might try, we can never look into the same river twice; the water is constantly flowing, fish swim in and out of the picture, weeds grow and die. This is a very apt statement to apply to the Tarot: “You can never look into the same card twice.” This is undeniable, and something I discovered for myself after doing hundreds of one-card readings online. It doesn’t matter how often a card appears, you will always see something different in it or apply it in a different way. The card itself hasn’t changed but everything around it has. The reader obviously is changed by his or her mood, experience and even the surroundings will make a difference. The seeker (client) brings a unique energy to the question, and, even with an email reading, you learn to feel this.

Say what you see

Be literal in your tarot readings

7 WandsApplying a Harry Potter/Heraclitus moving card concept, you may find that all of a sudden things start to make sense. Try pulling back from the main image to see if it suddenly takes on a different context – is the man in the Seven of Wands fighting unseen foes or is he having trouble planting his beans?

Or, stay still and listen. Is the figure in the Nine of Swords sobbing because of a disturbing nightmare or are the neighbours playing their music too loudly thus putting paid to any chance of sleeping at all? Look 9 Swordsat the surrounding cards – do they point towards a worrying set of circumstances or might this just be a temporary annoyance? Seeking out combinations of actual meanings, visualisations and intuitive suggestions may point the way towards grasping the message of the card.

Sample reading using the Robin Wood Tarot

SAHM or a little more independence?

I carried out reading, deciding to use the Changing Picture technique. This reading was for an email client whom I have never met, nor had any previous contact with. The question was based on her trying to make a decision about whether to undertake some form of education or to remain, for the time being, a stay-at-home mother. The client was torn between her desire to gain some independence and her feeling that her six-year-old daughter might need her more at this time.

Using the Robin Wood deck, I turned two cards for her. They were Death and the Six of Cups.


Death is shown as a red-cloaked, hooded, faceless figure. He (or she) carries a black banner imprinted with a white rose. S/he appears to be standing on a pathway and is pointing towards another pathway through the trees. In the back ground are silver birch trees and a yellow butterfly flits about near the figure. Violets grow along the paths and it seems to be springtime.

The Six of Cups shows two children – a boy and a girl. The boy is holding out a golden cup full of flowers to the little girl. The girl may be uncertain about reaching out for the cup and her hands are clasped in front of her body. Five other cups, all full of flowers, are in the picture. The children stand on a path, in front of a wall and a gateway. In the background is a pretty ‘gingerbread’ cottage. There is a light on in the cottage window and the sun seems to be setting behind the house.

I sit for a while contemplating the cards and registering my impressions. I start to visualise the figures in both cards moving and merging. The red-cloaked Death moves in front of the children as if protecting or shielding them. He or she is still pointing towards the other path. The butterfly flits out of view along the path as though following directions. In the Six of Cups I get the feeling that the little girl is going to reach for the proffered chalice of flowers and take them indoors.

Interpreting the cards

Let the ideas flow

Letting those vague impressions shift and settle, I start typing up the reading. I suggest that the hint of springtime in the Death card may be significant (the reading took place in mid summer) and that the client may consider waiting a few months longer before making the partial transition from stay-at-home mother to part-time student. It seemed clear that the transition would happen; the death figure points at that alternative pathway very imperiously and the butterfly was doing as it was told. I also told her that both cards gave me a very strong impression of scented flowers, not sure whether that meant anything or not.

I moved onto the second card and tried to explain my feeling that the client’s daughter was, like the little girl in the Six of Cups, in the process of gaining confidence and a measure of independence and therefore did not need so much of her mother’s time and attention. I also felt that my mental image of the little girl taking the flowers and carrying them indoors was almost akin to a gift of freedom, permission even, for her mother to take the time for herself and her new career.

Later on I received an email from the client saying that she had enrolled in an aromatherapy (scented flowers?) course that would commence in the following March. Her daughter was quite happy and looking forward to the prospect of spending a few after school hours with her grandparents.

This is an example of allowing your mind to free range, trying to ignore the memorised meanings of the cards – letting the images speak directly to the question. It’s not the way I usually read, but it worked.

One thought on “How to read tarot: moving pictures

  1. eve

    This is LONG but your post was amazing. I found an unexpected GEM while trying this. I usually will find spreads i like from blogs but rarely follow a meditation or ritual or blank out my mind and all meaning ive invested into the cards and divination process. I had my daily card right in front of me and tried it out. The concept is brilliant. I’d like to include it in my “tribal tarot,” a community blog i’ve been putting together (slowly. first time blogger. I keep getting stuck on aesthetics like logo designs.) But if its ok, i would give your blog credit and provide a link in anything i write that mentions this. If there is another source this originated from or a similar idea that inspired you, please let me know! I would still be crediting you for introducing the idea into my thinking and providing a link, but id love to know where it came from, if not you, so i can read more! Ive been reading cards for 14 years and dont often stumble upon super fresh, new outlooks while blog hopping. Im looking at The Star, which i chose to delve into today, on the personal “fools journey” i started, to refresh the cards as creatively as i could. So, bear with me but I think my realization can be mutually fulfilling! ‘m seeing a new sense of balance in it that I had not seen, before. In the Ryder Waite the nude woman (I like thinking of her as Fortuna, or an angel, or the wish granter.) Though she’s nude, barefoot, partially in the water, with spring flowers all around, a blue sky, and an odd looking crane/flamingo bird in the tree, snowy white mountains line the background. The smaller white stars add to that winter angle. The star in the card is the elven/fey star, from researching my heraldry, I know it was also added to crests to represent a divine, “celestial” gift (of course the king would present it, giving god the credit for whatever magic the receiver had shown in valour. Calling it by anything else… Magick, witchcraft, visions, clairvoyance was not a possible term to suggest, since those same skills being rewarded upon nobles were used against the ” more common” people and could be punished by death. So looking at The Star (like a Potter picture) gives it way more life! More magic. Two worlds are meeting. I’m seeing this picture now WAY WAY differently and am so glad I read this post and had this particular card in front of me. Maybe the reason it has been popping up so much! I’m so used to seeing it that I became automatic on the same meaning. Instead of Fortuna or an angel I see a Nymph (nymph, which is in my email address, is a synchronized joke/obsession/word that I always identified with). Naidias, water nymphs, live in lush green damp grassy noles and by little bodies of water in the forests. I always say, if in the fey realm, I would be a nymph. Astrologically, I am ruled most influentually by water, The Star is associated with Aquarius, I was born on a pisces Aquarius cusp day (officially pisces by a few degrees) Cancer moon. There is a type of nymph called the Melissae – honey bee nymph. Melissa is my middle name and bees have had totem animal meaning for me. The woman in the Ryder Waite deck’s depiction is blond, as I. Actually my boyfriend said it looks like me months ago. Nymphs also come from Celtic lore. The water nymph idea came primarily out of Whales and Scotland – my ancsstor’s territory. I feel like this movie playing through my imagination, as I look at the image, is an aspect of myself – which stomped into my awareness by making me notice her in every spread. I feel connected to the story playing and character in it more familiarly in a spirit guide way but most guidance I receive from spirit/higher self, comes visually as aspects of myself. Usually my inner child or as a glowing old woman, the physical identities manifested in dreams, meditation, trance states. Here I’m being introduced to the fey form of how I see me, but looking back on positions she has popped up in during recent readings on myself, I see the meaning where I did not before. I’m being reminded, gently, that I have a habit of living in between realms – can be good -but too often I get lost there and don’t act. typical Pisces escapist nature. I just wanted to share what this new perspective you have given me in this post meant to my tarot practice. The only way to relay the impact of it was to share the depth of my discovery (and the connections I mentioned were just the main ones, it would take forever describing all the links I made!) Thank you so much!


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