If you've never done a one card tarot pull, it involves intuitively selecting a single card to inform a question or situation. This tarot 101 technique simply requires a bit of self-reflection (especially if you're pulling for yourself), and a little bit of research if you're still brushing up on your tarot card meanings. And according to astrologer and tarot card reader Maria Sofia Marmanides, you can use a one card tarot pull for more than yes/no questions, and you don't have to use a full spread all the time.
"One card pulls can provide as much clarity, while also helping you sharpen intuitive reading skills." —tarot reader Maria Sofia Marmanides
"One card pulls can provide as much clarity, while also helping you sharpen intuitive reading skills," says Marmanides. "Think of the one card as describing the entirety of the situation—past, present, and future—to remind us that the solution is often found in the problem. Whatever card you pull, it’s about empowering you to use that energy to move forward or leave it behind with clarity."
In addition to making folks feel empowered, what are other benefits of doing a one card tarot pull?
Benefits of a one card tarot pull for a reading
1. They’re quick
“One card readings are one of the quickest and most satisfying ways to build a relationship with your deck, especially if you’re just beginning to study tarot,” says Marmanides. She adds that the quickness with which you can do this might lead you to doing more one card tarot pulls—which will, in turn, help you build and more fully trust your intuition as it relates to the messages from the deck.
2. They’re easier to interpret
According to Marmanides, soul searching for answers through tarot can get more complicated when you add more and more cards. When you only have one card, you don’t have to worry about synthesizing the messages they’re all trying to give you. “The one card method is a fairly disciplined practice in that by only drawing one card, you are building your trust with the Universe that the answer you need in that moment is the one you will receive,” says Marmanides.
3. You can focus on the energy of the card
When you do a tarot spread with multiple cards, you might miss a message from the primary card because, again, you’ll spend energy synthesizing what you got instead of fully embracing the message of a single card. For instance, if you pull the Justice card in a multiple card spread, it’s possible you’ll miss its message of balance and fairness with self and others if you’re too focused on the other card you pulled and how that fits with the rest of the cards in the reading. It also gives you the opportunity to “grow more comfortable” with the misunderstood cards, says Marmanides, like the Death tarot card (which, for the record, doesn’t signal you or someone you love is going to die).
All that being said, how do you master the one card pull effectively? Below, Marmanides shares three easy steps for getting the clearest answers when doing a one card tarot pull.
The right way to pull one tarot card
1. Lay some simple ground rules with yourself
"Think about what your intuition is telling you about the answer before you even pull your card," says Marmanides.
While we're supposed to look at the tarot guides for wisdom or guidance, we also want to follow our gut. So whether you're doing a tarot card spread or simply tarot pulling, you want to make like the High Priestess and think inward; focus on the ways you want to be led, how you feel about a particular situation already, and pour that energy into your reading.
2. Ask a very clear, specific, and heartfelt question
"Then see what you’re being invited to understand about the situation that you may not be consciously aware of," says Marmanides.
There are a few important things to highlight here. First, you want to make sure that you're asking a question that you want an objective answer to, not confirmation of the answer you want to receive. Second, you want to avoid grabbing another, "what do you mean?" clarification card (if you’re going to trust the deck, trust the deck). Lastly, says Marmanides, it's crucial to make sure that you're focusing the questions on yourself.
"Of course, you can ask for advice on people in your life, like a boss, a friend, a crush, a lover, or a family member," she says, offering this caveat: Keep the questions related to your relationship with that person instead of asking about them personally.
A one card spread, says Marmanides, is best used when you have a very simple, straightforward question that you want a clear-cut answer to. Here are her examples:
- Will I get this job?
- How does my boss/friend/lover feel about me?
- Is this person I just met going to be a serious relationship for me?
- What do I need to know about [insert situation]?
- What am I being invited to focus on today?
3. Meditate on the card you pulled
Consider "The artwork, the symbolism, the traditional meaning, and also any personal meanings that come up for you," says Marmanides. "What I think is best is to then write down the card and those keywords somewhere—your notes app, a tarot journal, a sticky note—to refer back to and see how the answer will manifest in your life."
When you're working with a solo card, you have the ability to really delve into what its message could be. And, again, grant yourself the kindness to be honest about what it could mean.
"Particularly if you’re pulling this card for yourself, it’s about treating yourself like you would a client," says Marmanides. "Don’t shortchange yourself from fully exploring and explaining the situation to yourself, using that card as the framework for your advice, as if you were telling it to someone else."
When a one card tarot pull might not be enough
Sometimes, people are faced with problems that seem a little too complex for just a one card tarot pull—regardless of whether they’re tarot experts or tarot newbies. For instance, let’s say you asked “What will happen with X?” in a one card tarot pull.
“Once you have your answer, you may want to know ‘why,’ ‘when’ or ‘how,’” says Marmanides. “Subsequent cards can help shed more detail to the base card’s answer.” Those subsequent cards, essentially, are what make up multiple card spreads. There are different types of spreads, of course—including the Celtic Cross spread—but we’ll be focusing on two, three, and four card tarot spreads in this section.
Two card spreads
“I like to use two cards spreads for this-or-that situations, where you’re faced with a choice,” says Marmanides. “Based on the card in either position A or B, you weigh how each card intuitively makes you feel.”
As far as questions for two card tarot spreads, Marmanides suggests:
- Should I quit or stay at my current job?
- Should I move or stay in my current home?
- Should I travel to X this summer?
Marmanides adds that two card spreads are also helpful when you have a situation (which card A represents) for which you’d like advice (card B tells you “how to meet that challenge,” says Marmanides).
Three card spreads
A three card spread is commonly done when you want to know about your past, present, and future. This type of spread “is really wonderful because it confirms the situation, validates present circumstances and emotions, and then offers a glimpse into how the energy is shifting in the near future,” Marmanides says. To be sure, card A represents the past, card B the present, and card C the future.
Four card spreads
Similar to how the two card spread can give you advice for moving forward, so, too, can the four card spread. “Adding a fourth card to this three card spread is great, too, to show if the tarot has any insight on what advice you should follow,” says Marmanides. She adds that depending on the card pulled, you can take action or be more passive. For example, if you draw a wands card, you’ll know to actively move forward because wands represent manifestation and the element of fire.
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