What It Means When You Get Bad Tarot Cards
If you’re just learning the tarot and you pull the Ten of Swords in a reading it can be daunting and intimidating. So what do you do when you get bad tarot cards?
Tarot = Life
Remember that the tarot cards encompass all of life itself, the whole journey from start to finish complete with highs, lows and everything in between.
Life can be messy, life can be gross, life can be heartbreaking. Who among us hasn't spent time in darkness?
Every tarot card, whether it’s the Sun or Death itself has good and bad to it. Light and shadow. We need both in life!
When I’m reading the cards for someone who isn’t familiar with the tarot, I’m hoping that we don't get any “heavy” cards because they can be quite challenging. Some of the cards in the tarot deck are downright scary—at first!
In this post, I’ll show you a few cards that I consider to be the “worst”. These cards are bad bad bad, bad omens and they’re among the most iconic of the deck! But here’s the thing, they actually aren't all that bad and they show up exactly when we need some medicine.
There are a handful of Major Arcana cards that are hard to face for sure like Death, for example. But there are also cards in the Minor Arcana, particularly the Threes, Fives and Nines that can be challenging.
I’d like to invite you to lean into the darkness and the most uncomfortable cards of the deck. They’re the ones that teach us what we’re really here to learn. They’ll actually help you level up in your self-awareness and help you break through to a deeper understanding of yourself.
I’ll use The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck because vivid and sometimes disturbing imagery that quickly hit home the innate message of the card and connect to the old darkness of tarot.
What To Do When You Get The Three of Swords
The Bad: pain, agony, heartbreak, deceit
The Good: growing stronger, communicating better, learning to walk away
I’ll start with my favourite card of the deck and one that I have been studying for many, many years—the Three of Swords. Many moons ago, when I was sitting on the floor of my bachelor apartment reading tarot cards for myself atop my guitar case coffee table, I pulled this card for myself and instantly was afraid.
That fear is what drove me to get the imagery of the card actually tattooed on my left arm! I carry it with me now everywhere I go because I believe it has so much to teach me.
A heart pierced by three swords is the most traditional depiction of this card, and I like the Wild Unknown’s vision of it as three sharp swords entangled together dripping with blood.
How scary! What possible good could come from a card with such painful and heartbreaking connotations? Betrayal, heartbreak, turmoil, pain, wrath, lies, cheating….
It invites us to look at the relationships in our lives and see where we’re creating or causing unnecessary pain. Whether the message is to be truthful to yourself, be realistic of your expectations or be aware of where you’re becoming entangled, there’s something here that urgently needs your attention.
This painful card is actually quite empowering. Things happen for you, not to you. The pain you have felt in your life serves a higher purpose. It’s bringing you closer to who you really are by showing you where you are vulnerable, where you can grow and that it’s ok to feel bad sometimes especially when we’ve been lied to or let down by others.
The swords are all about communication and words and the three of swords shows you how deep words can cut. It invites you to sit in that space where you feel hurt. That’s the first step to letting go and moving on.
What To Do When You Get The Devil
The Bad: stuck, out of control, negativity, vices
The Good: self-awareness, breaking the cycle
I love it when the Devil card shows up in in a reading because it’s time to get ready for a takedown! If you can humble yourself before this powerful card, it will gift you with knowledge.
Just as Eve gained knowledge after she ate the fruit, once you wake up to the Devil’s influence in your life, nothing will be the same.
Simply put, the Devil represents anything that takes you away from your true self. In the most obvious examples, these are things like sex, drugs and alcohol. In a more everyday sense, it represents any behaviour that’s numbing.
Watching too much TV, overeating, habitually lying, filling your calendar to avoid spending time alone, gossip and negativity, unhealthy relationships—the Devil card is inviting you to see your shackles for what they are.
The Devil is strong and his hooks run deep. Deeper than you know. He wants to keep you perpetually stuck in a cycle of pain and negativity so that you are forever spiralling out of control in a chaotic mess. It’s not going to be easy to break out of your chains.
Now that you’re awake to your self-sabotaging behaviour, what will you do? Will you continue to go through more cycles of pain and numbness? Or, will you use the knowledge of recognizing your predicament and taking concrete steps to break out of your chains?
What To Do When You Get The Five Of Pentacles
The Bad: worry, anxiety, not having enough
The Good: learning abundance, practising gratitude, being unshakeable
The imagery varies from deck to deck, but in the Wild Unknown Tarot, the message is simple and sad. A once gorgeous, luscious red rose is drooping and wilting. One petal falls off and looks like a single tear coming from the head of the fallen rose.
What’s the message here? Wilting? Sadness?
Remember that the suit of pentacles deals with earthly, physical things like the material world around us, our home and belongings and also our work. This is obviously a card of lack, of not having enough and of falling from grace.
This is a card of hard times. Whether it represents actual illness and sickness or just temporarily not being able to pay your bills one month it’s a total set back! This card is the fear of not having enough, not being enough and not ever having what you want.
There is so much anxiety and grief in this card that it’s hard to see your way past it. The message here is to find stillness and peace in yourself so that even when hard times come, you’re not shaken.
It’s easy to be nice to your friends when everything is going well in your life. It’s hard to be nice to your friends when you’re worried about not having enough money to pay your phone bill and they are blind to your issues as they order another round of drinks.
Where in your life can you have more gratitude for what you do have and learn to be at peace with what you have? Once you learn that, you’ll be rich beyond your dreams and you’ll actually be inviting more prosperity into your life. How do you face adversity? Do you crumble like a wilting rose or will you rise up like a phoenix?
What To Do When You Get The Tower
The Bad: life upheaval, foundations crumbling, destruction
The Good: rebirth, release, new way forward
When the tower card shows up in a reading it will leave you breathless. It’s natural to resist change. Change is scary. This isn’t a card of gently letting go of what no longer serves you, it’s a card of having your comfort zone ripped right away from you!
Just like the Children’s story Going on a Bear Hunt—you can’t go over it, can’t go under it, you gotta go through it. This card is here to tell you it’s time to walk through the fire. It will burn you and as it burns away, so does a layer of yourself.
The good news is that you’re still yourself. In fact, you might be more of yourself than ever before. The Tower also can represent personal breakthroughs as a result of this turmoil.
That said, I don’t want to take away from the important painful aspects of this card that you’ll have to come to terms with. The sudden chaos that can ensue in your life as a result of this card’s energy is no picnic.
With the tower destroyed, it’s time to rebuild this time with a more solid foundation, a better understanding of yourself and goals that are more aligned with your higher self.
Questions? Comments? Use my contact form to reach me with your tarot questions about getting difficult cards!