I was going through a sample spread with a student and the 10 of Swords came up. The deck she used didn’t provide scenic images for the minor arcana and so her interpretations were based purely on memories. She struggled with that card for a few seconds and then asked, “…that’s a bad card, right?”
One of the first things I try to teach my students is to not think about cards in terms of good or bad. Of course, it is difficult not to be frightened when you get a visit from The Devil or see a body lying on the ground with ten swords stabbed into his back. However, it must be remembered that even ‘good cards’ can have negative meanings when the card is used to represent an extreme of a situation.
Fearing ‘bad cards’ can lead to inaccurate readings. Some readers may over emphasize their fear and predict the worst. Others might try to gloss over the implications of that card and not give it its due attention.
When we move away from the good/bad dichotomy, we begin to understand that there are cards that represent difficult situations but difficult and bad aren’t the same things. Yes, a situation may be painful and it may even get worst before it’s over. The key is to see beyond the unpleasant predictions and remember that the tarot never just predict hopeless doom.
Every card has a lesson to teach. When we receive cards that represent upsetting / difficult situations, these lessons become even more important. If we can approach the current situation without denial or resentment, we can hear the warning, constructive criticism and advice that the cards offer and use them to make better decisions.
It’s not easy being given bad news or told that we are wrong but by listening to wise counsel, we can begin to work on improving the situation. In contrast, the longer we hold on to fear, the more we try to run away, the more difficult the situation will get.