How My Understanding Of Card Pairing Deepened – An Awesome Reading From The Golden Dawn

by Douglas Gibb on October 2, 2009

Last night I was reading “Golden Dawn, An Encyclopedia of Practical Occultism – Book 8: Divination” and found an excellent example of two card combinations and Card Pairing. I really enjoyed the author’s approach, and felt that my own understanding of card pairing deepened. In this article, I’m going to reproduce the exact two card combinations that I read last night along with the author’s interpretations. I hope it has the same impact on you as it did on me.

In the article that Catherine of Tarot Elements and I collaborated on, Two Card Combinations – Elemental Dignities Compendium, we illustrated the ‘card pairing’ technique; this was accomplished through the use of an example Tarot reading. We started the reading by interpreting the cards in the classical manner, and then, once we had developed our “story”, used card pairing to add greater depth. This is exactly the same method that the Golden Dawn used; before they paired the cards, they read them first.

In order for the card pairing section of the reading in the Golden Dawn Encyclopedia to make sense, I’m going to provide a brief overview of what was already interpreted in the Tarot cards before the author began pairing them.

Reading Overview

The client is a young man who works very hard, but doesn’t have much money. However, things are beginning to improve. He enjoys socialising and visiting friends. He lacks in perseverance and energy, though notwithstanding this, his business and money transactions will begin to improve. Although, he will lose interest in his business due to his love of pleasure and society. He has recently fallen in love which causes him much anxiety. Gossip and slander surrounding the client has reached this woman, but his improving financial and business success has lead her to view him with favour. However, she feels anxious about all the gossip she has been hearing (which is not without foundation) and he begins to neglect his business, and turns his attention towards pleasure.

Card Pairing

Golden Dawn Example Tarot Reading - Two Card Combinations and Card Pairing

The Page of Wands and the 6 of Swords, “She is anxious about this.”
The Knight of Wands and the Ace of Disks, “And he begins to neglect his business which yet is fairly good.”
The 3 of Cups and the 2 of Disks, “And instead throws aside his business for pleasures.”
The Knight of Cups and the 5 of Cups, “The consequences of this is that the engagement between them is broken off.”
The 10 of Disks and the 8 of Cups, “Still his business does fairly well though he is losing interest in it.”
The 5 of Swords and the 10 of Cups, “The matter is the subject of much gossip.”
The 9 of Wands and the Queen of Cups, (These two cards are enemy Elements and therefore of little importance) “Among their acquaintances.”
The King of Cups and Page of Cups, “He moreover, begins to pay attention to another girl of not quite so fair complexion…”
The Wheel of Fortune and King of Swords, “who, however, prefers a dark man, who is much admired by the fair sex.”
The 6 of Wands and the Page of Disks, “But he has already gained the affections of a girl with dark brown eyes and hair.”

The Conclusion

After the card pairing, we can add this additional information to the “story”:

The engagement is broken off, still his business does fairly well though he has lost interest in it. This whole situation has become the subject of much gossip amongst their acquaintances. He, however, soon begins to pay attention to another woman.

Did you find this article useful? Did you enjoy reading another authors approach to card pairing? Did you agree or disagree with these interpretations? I’d really love to read your thoughts on this. I’ll see you in the comments section below :D

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16 comments… Let's discuss

Tabitha Dial October 2, 2009 at 2:27 am

This is a pretty incredible approached I may have never dreamed up!

I can see card pairing being quite a tool for novelists …

Tarot, is there anything it can’t do?

Very cool.


Douglas October 2, 2009 at 10:20 am

Hi Tabitha Dial,

I agree, card pairing is an amazing technique, and I’m sure novelists could find a lot of inspiration in using it. Card pairing can really help to add to depth to a “story” :D


Ginger October 2, 2009 at 3:33 am

Wow…that’s a pretty detailed reading…not sure I’m ready for that…skills wise…perhaps using a layout with fewer cards I might manage…

Something I do look at ….and maybe you just do it naturally (I’ve had to teach myself)… is looking at the cards in both directions….what I mean is this….

Example using Fairy Tale tarot:

Two Cards: Two of Cups and Ten of Wands
Two of Cups: Give and Take , Loyalty
Ten of Wands: Heavey burdens, overwhelmed

Read from left to right: Your loyalty may lead to heavy burdens
Read from right to left: Decrease your heavy burdens by using a give and take approach

NOW these are very simplistic interpretations and maybe the meanings aren’t well developed BUT I am just using it as an example…I do not read from left to right only but look at pairings from different directions depending on the spread….with just two cards it’s a bit harder but if it is in a whole spread there might be multiple combinations and I use the ones that seem to make sense or appear “right” for lack of a better word.

In fact in a spread that has cards above and below you would have lots of possible pairings…sorry feel like I’m rambling…hope you sort of catch what I’m saying…


Douglas October 2, 2009 at 10:49 am

Hi Ginger,

What an insightful comment :)

I think your approach to card pairing really shows how you’re allowing your intuition to flow. As with all techniques, they are there to be modified or adapted to make them work better for the person using them.

and maybe you just do it naturally (I’ve had to teach myself)

To answer that question, I pair cards in a rather traditional way. I start by reading the cards in the ‘normal’ manner, and then, at the end of the reading, I pair them to gain greater insight into what is happening. However, I’ve read about loads of different ways to pair the cards and I think it just comes down to what feels natural for the person in question. In fact, I think it’s great that your playing around with these techniques and discovering, for yourself, what works best for you.

The only danger that I’ve ever witnessed with experimenting with the Tarot in this way, is that the person ends up being slightly confused by their own technique. However, as long as we all know (this applies to everyone) why we use a certain technique at a certain time, then I’ve found that that helps keep the mind focused on the reading – and it brings its own clarity to it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience :D


Ginger October 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Yes there can be confusion but then sometimes I get confusion just from the fact that there are multiple possible meanings for cards….LOL. I have found the more I “look” at the cards from this way…the easier it is for one paired meaning to “stand out” in my mind…and the more accurate the reading seems. However I would not want to do too many multi-directional pairings in one reading because as you say…confusion!!

I look at traditonal meanings first, then at some directional pairings (again e ones that just seem to pop out and make me go…”hmmm” As you know I am still very mucha novice at tarot…sometimes I feel more at home and more like an expert at oracles…lol… if there is such thing as an expert…I’m not sure why that is….I think because I am more likely to go with my intuition and not feel hindered by tradtional meanings etc…not that those things are bad but they really make me question myself a lot…

Anyway that is my experience on this wild and wacky journey through exploration!!!


Douglas October 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Hi Ginger,

…the easier it is for one paired meaning to “stand out” in my mind…and the more accurate the reading seems.

Awesome! Allowing one paired meaning to stand out is the best approach to take. This allows the intuition to work, and avoids confusion. I agree, more accuracy seems to occur this way :)

Sometimes, with all the different associations the Tarot has, it can seem overwhelming. I think you’re taking the right approach by not allowing yourself to become lost in all these different possibilities – especially because you’re allowing the Tarot to speak directly to you.

Thank you for sharing your experiences :)


Jason October 2, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Deja vu! I’ve spent a bit of time studying that reading and the shorter one that precedes it. I usually I lay out cards (usually a mini Marseille deck) and follow through the interpretation, both for the counting and the pairing. Every time I read the Book T material, I feel like I’m approaching it with fresh eyes, and picking up something new!

Incidentally, there are some interesting sections on the elements to be found elsewhere in the Golden Dawn material. I’m not sure if it’s still in the current editions; I saw it once when I came across an older edition in a used bookstore. Agrippa was quoted and I think expanded upon. It was outside of the tarot section, that is, nothing to do with Book T.


Douglas October 2, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hi Jason,

I agree! Book T and the Book of Thoth both seem to reveal something new with each reading. It’s strange how this happens. Perhaps it’s just that we’ve understood that little bit more than before, allowing something new to click into place.

I’ve been finding more and more interesting connections with the Elements in the Golden Dawn material. I’m going to see if I can find that quote by Agrippa – I’m sure that it will expand my current understanding of the Elemental interactions within a Tarot reading :D


Tabitha Dial October 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm

What a wonderful thread. Through Ginger and Douglas talking back and forth, I’ve come to realize that I was certainly reading pairings the other day with the ol’ Celtic Cross spread. I suppose it’s hard not to see the connections between cards, and only natural that these might fall into pairs. We think quite symmetrically all the time without knowing it.

I love having all this insight. I’m so glad this blog’s around.


Douglas October 4, 2009 at 10:09 am

Hi Tabitha Dial,

Thank you for your kind words :D

It’s a great sign that you’re allowing your intuition to flow when you realise you’ve been making connections between the cards, without even knowing it. Most Tarot readers will be using a lot of the techniques “out there” without even knowing it. The unconscious mind recognises certain patterns in the cards and informs the conscious mind accordingly. I think your comment shows you have a great connection with the Tarot :)


Sheri October 23, 2009 at 2:16 am

Hi Douglas,

I really liked the way Ginger explained how she does a two card pairing. It helped me so much to take away some of the confusion in readings.

Sheri :)


Douglas October 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Hi Sheri,

I’m glad :D

The confusion you feel is natural – I think it all comes down to trusting yourself, or perhaps, trusting the process.

When we give Tarot readings for other people, we need to guard against questioning ourselves. As soon as we question ourselves, we get into problems. One side of our minds attacks the other. When our mind is split, when our mind attacks itself, it can never bring its full attention to bear on the reading.

There is a place for self reflection, but too much of it can attack our confidence. It can have the opposite effect of what it was intended to achieve.

The Tarot is irrational. The mind feels safe with “rational” processing – the Tarot demands a level of irrational processing. It’s a knack, like learning to swim – once learned it becomes much more fluid, much more in tune with the ebbs and flows of a reading.

Confusion is natural, because the Tarot is irrational. Try to accept the confusion. Try to avoid attacking yourself with it.

Its a learning process, and it never stops. We all feel confused and unsure, but we all need to try and accept this as a necessary condition of life – and of the Tarot.

Keep pushing forward with the Tarot and you will be surprised at just how differently you’ll feel about “readings”.


Mary Christianson February 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I really love your blog. This article is priceless. Far too little work has been done with the Golden Dawn spread and it has seldom been written about outside of order instructional documents.


Douglas Gibb February 2, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Hi Mary,

Thanks for dropping by :)

I’m glad you liked the post!


Mary Christianson April 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Thank you very much for sharing your ongoing historical research into these matters.
Really incredible…..


Douglas Gibb April 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Hi Mary,

Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate it :D


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