Updated with Video! How to Read a Square Tarot Card Deck
In this blog post I’ll be sharing three ways to read square-shaped Tarot cards like the Mother Tarot or the Dark Days Tarot. The four equal sides of the card allow the card to be read differently than most decks. The three methods I’ll be mentioning here are:
The Compass Method
The Pendulum Method
The Simple Method
Those who find reversed cards challenging to read should consider the Compass Method of reading square cards. This is where you read the card like a compass, calling on the four directions, elements, lunar phases, and/or seasons for clarity in your readings.
The Pendulum Method is ideal for those who are used to and/or prefer to read cards the traditional way, as in upright and reversed. This method turns the cards into little pendulums that can tip right or left from their upright position.
The Simple Method is ideal for those who find all of this confusing and unnecessary. In cases like this, readers should simply turn the cards upright and focus on the images, disregarding directions. Reading cards directionally is not a necessity, it’s only something that is available if inspiration calls.
Here is a post I put up on my Instagram page to demonstrate all three of these methods:
My personal beef with reversed cards:
Those who have used a regular rectangle-shaped Tarot deck know that a card can land upright or “reversed” (upside down). Depending on the reader and their preference, an upright card can mean manifestation, reckoning, the present, potential realized, or a path less fraught with challenges as a reversed card might imply.
“Reversed” cards can be hard to read. Some say they represent the opposite of the card’s meaning, others say they represent challenges or hardship. An old friend taught me to read upside down cards as “potential not yet reached” and I have stuck to that mindset when I read with rectangular tarot decks. It feels more attractive and less negative.
When I created Dark Days Tarot and Mother Tarot, I envisioned cards that transcend the upright/reversed binary, and here I am going to teach you the “compass method” of reading square Tarot cards.
The Compass Method
Think of interpreting card directions like putting on an extra pair of glasses. You may see things in more detail, or in an entirely new way.
The four edges of a square card can line up with any quarterly structure in our natural world. The four seasons, elements, directions, and moon phases are examples that I reference in my guidebooks.
The four directions:
Pointing right: east
Upside down: south
Pointing left: west
The four elements:
Pointing right: air
Upside down: fire
Pointing left: water
The four moon phases:
Upright: new moon
Pointing right: waxing moon
Upside down: full moon
Pointing left: waning moon
The four seasons:
Pointing right: spring
Upside down: summer
Pointing left: fall
Note: The cards themselves are already aligned with elements, so reading cards this way will create natural overlap. For example, the Suit of Cups is associated with the water element. A Cups card pointing right using the Compass Method can indicate that the air element is also available.
The Pendulum Method
When reading using the Pendulum Method, and a card lands sideways, think of it like a pendulum that has swung in one direction from its upright position. Apply meaning using the left and right side of the body as guidance. A tipped right card can invoke the right side of the body, which is more masculine and could indicate more accelerated energy, or the giving of energy. The left side of the body is more feminine and soft, which can represent receiving, slower energy, or even hesitancy or deceleration.
The Simple Method…
...is always available to those who are either not ready, not interested, or are not aligned with the other two methods. In this case, remember to disregard any sideways or upside down card landings. Turn them right side up and focus on the imagery in the card, which is the most important aspect of the reading.
My hope is that my decks help to challenge any rigid thinking around Tarot and encourage readers to think and interpret for themselves. My decks are designed to build magical independence in their owners by offering new ways to approach the craft.