His business or work partner (3 of Cups) could either step in to rescue the deal or be the cause of the melee.

All of this feels a bit sour. It seems he has done so. The Knight of Pentacles does not usually wear rose-tinted lenses and romanticise a situation. The Lovers may be a clue or confirmation. The 9 of Cups’ smugness could indicate a more arrogant side of his character. It appears that the seduction was a direct result of the Page of Swords’s excellent sales pitch or the Knight of Pentacles’s desire to be dynamic and more active in his life. This would explain his apparent dissatisfaction with his new job and life.


The count is complete when we reach the Page of Swords. Golden Dawn’s instructions don’t show any further analysis, but this could be a development.

His business or work partner (3 of Cups) could either step in to rescue the deal or be the cause of the melee.

All of this feels a bit sour. It seems he has done so. The Knight of Pentacles does not usually wear rose-tinted lenses and romanticise a situation. The Lovers may be a clue or confirmation. The 9 of Cups’ smugness could indicate a more arrogant side of his character. It appears that the seduction was a direct result of the Page of Swords’s excellent sales pitch or the Knight of Pentacles’s desire to be dynamic and more active in his life. This would explain his apparent dissatisfaction with his new job and life.


We expect that when we arrange a set of tarots in a traditional spread, each card will be interpreted, whether in isolation, in its position, or as a group or combination. The only problem we might have is with understanding a card in a certain position.

There are many problems that can occur when card counting.


The count can be short and not tell us a lot about the situation. It can be a sign that there isn’t a whole lot to say, or the most important information is in that count. A lot of information can be gleaned from one card, so even though it may seem limiting at first, you should focus on the information that you have gathered. The short count will also tell you, very bluntly, that your options are restricted.

The Long Count

It can be confusing to keep a long count going. You may forget what you started counting, or where you started. It may even be a bad thing. Too many options, just like in life, can make you blind. And too many chefs, can ruin the pot. You would want to find the best option. Focus on the cards which scream out loudest to you and explore them.


It can be a combination of the long and short counts, but it is essentially a counting that goes round and around in circles and achieves nothing. This can be a sign of repeated behaviours that are not conducive to achieving the best result. In tarot, it’s common to think that you keep drawing the same card for readings or your daily spreads because there is a lesson we need to learn from that card. Loops are the same in card counting.


You have a variety of options, but you can use them even if the count isn’t having any issues, such as in the example I gave earlier. These techniques allow you to explore the cards in greater depth, but they can also complicate counting. Using more complex techniques to count cards is different from learning how to do it.


Golden Dawn states that the Aces are 5 since they represent the four elements of nature plus the fifth element, spirit or aether. Aleister Crowley says that the Aces should count 11, as he believes the number 11 is magical. Paul Hughes-Barlow introduced me to this idea and I can confirm its effectiveness.

You can also count the cards in the same way if there is an Ace, but you should also count them in the opposite direction if the Ace is present. This can be used to increase a small count, break up a long one and explore a string more in depth.


Golden Dawn stipulated that if the court card is inverted (reversed), the counting will be done the opposite way. The Golden Dawn rule is too rigid for me, as I rarely use reversals.

It works for me to reverse the count whenever I get a court card. This is because I want to show that I am interacting with another person and, depending on how I proceed, this interaction could change my direction or decision. I can go back to seek another path, or I can continue and see what happens.

As we move through life, our path changes and meanders like a river. The interaction we have with people or allowing them into our homes and hearts can change us on multiple levels.

When we look at this string of cards, we can see that the Knight and Page are facing each other but, in essence, they are facing in opposite directions. We could reverse direction if the counting led from one to the other. The card you used to count from will not be the card you use for counting because the card you land on is the one you’ll use. If you land on either card and reverse, you won’t be locked into a Loop until the cards have the same value. The court cards are locked down when the knight, queen, and king count 4. This can be read as only looking at each other. It can also indicate that the person is stuck in a situation or refuses to move forward.


There are other techniques that can help you read a linear spread of tarot cards. These techniques are not exclusive to linear tarot spreads; they can also be used for any other style of reading. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of these techniques when counting cards.


This technique is similar to Reversed Counting but takes it further by using the entire deck. This technique can be used in any Tarot spread or reading. It works well with the Celtic Cross, as well as other spreads which have cards in different positions.

You can change the count when you strike any cards of people that face a certain direction. This can be a sign that they are looking in the past, future or at another person. You can explore these options to learn more about the other people in the card and their interactions with you.

Reversed counting allows us to see that the King of Wands and the Queen of Swords are locked on eachother. The Queen of Swords & the King of Wands are both facing each other, indicating that they have only one eye for each other.

The cards between the King and Queen are also part of the story.

Miss Organized is the Queen of Swords. She has everything running smoothly and in balance (2 of Pentacles), but she’s bored (4 of Cups), and she spots the King of Wands. The King is bored too (4 of Cups), and sees some action (2 Pentacles), and wants to find out more.


This technique will help you see situations and interactions from the perspective of other people. What are they doing? What are they up to? What will you do? You can count the court cards and other people cards to simplify your reading. It can be confusing to have so many counts. You may feel unsatisfied.

Checking these counts in your early learning stages of tarot cards counting will give you more practice. It’s not possible to check all the counts. You can see more influences if you limit alternative counting to the court cards.

This technique can be used with any spread, even if it seems contradictory to use the Celtic Cross, which has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It is actually quite restricted as the story can start with the people, and not only the opening card.

If you’re going to count cards in a spread that has no obvious beginning, middle or end, it is important to remember this. These techniques were developed from the Opening of the Key Spread. It was circular and the counting started with the card representing the seeker or querent in the reading.

Putting it into Practice

Remember the spread we did earlier? The one count was simple and straightforward. The length was good and there were no problems. Now I’ll look at other strings in that spread and use the techniques you have shown.

Counting from different cards is a good way to start. We will start with the Page of Swords, who is also in this card.

To keep things simple, I’m not going to assess each card like in Part One. Instead, I’ll give a short summary at the end. The interpretations are not important, as you’ll have your own. You should use them to count these strings.


We are immediately faced with directional dignity. The Page of Swords of the Rider Waite Smith is facing to his right. This could be seen as looking backwards or at the Knight of Pentacles which is the focus of this reading.

If we count from right to left and follow his direction, we will land on the World. Keeping the right-to-left direction, we land on the World by counting 9. We count 3 to the left from the 3 of Wands. This will lead us to our first challenge, the Knight of Pentacles.

We know the direction of the Knight if we use our original counting. What does it mean? According to the original meaning, this shows two people coming together for a common cause. They are again overseas. Their paths will cross and their lives will be intrinsically linked.

If we count from the Knight of Pentacles, and continue counting right to left for the sake of exploration then counting four will land us on Judgement. This is the first time we’ve landed directly on this card. We count three cards left from Judgement and land on 7 of Wands. We then count seven cards leftwards and arrive at the Ace of Cups. If we use its Golden Dawn value, then it will take us to the Judgement Card and so end the count.

What does this number suggest? The nature of tarot counting is very similar to other interpretations. It can reveal subtleties and nuances but also some details you may not have noticed before. The 7 of Wands follows the Judgement Card, suggesting that the Knight of Pentacles’ opposition and difficulties began almost immediately after answering the call. The Page of Swords may have also been unaware of the events that were taking place in the background if we include him. It is possible that dissension existed before the Knight arrived abroad.

You will notice that the Ace of Cups is included in this string. We can now explore the card’s value using a different number. What will happen if we use 11 instead of 5? Take a look.

After counting 11 cards to the left of Ace of Cups we arrive at the 3 of Cups. This brings us back to Ace of Cups. The love interest of the Knight of Pentacles seems to be his best option. He will be happy if he stays abroad and not because of his business.


Uncounted Cards are a phenomenon that occurs often within a linear spread. Paul Hughes Barlow, of Supertarot first noticed these uncounted Cards in isolation. He concluded that these cards were the key to the future of the questioner and named them Source of the Nile because they represent the beginning of everything.

The 6 of Swords is the only card that has not been counted in this spread. If you were to count each card individually, it would be missed. This indicates that the card is about the future or what’s unknown.

This card confirms our suppositions that the Knight of Pentacles was moving abroad. It’s fascinating to count the cards and see how they affect and interact with what we know already about this situation.


We count six cards right, using direction dignities. This will land us directly on the Ace of Cups. We know the direction of this card if we have previously counted 5. Let’s count to 11 and then see what happens.

We land, surprisingly, on the 9 Pentacles. (Our love interest?) We can continue to count right, pushing past the 9 of Pentacles. (In other words, we ignore her) This will land us on the 7 Wands. The Ace of Cups is reached by counting 7 cards right. The Knight of Pentacles is likely to succeed, with or without his help. However, he will have an easier time doing so if she helps.

The Ace of Cups is reached after the 3 of Cups. The count goes on through several cards, and finally ends with two Aces (using either of the counting values for it).


All of the people in this reading seem to be linked together, and their futures are intertwined. I’m inclined to believe that the lady on the Page of Swords is a financial supporter who becomes a lover. It’s also possible she takes over the reins when the deal with the Page of Pentacles falls through.

It’s interesting that none of the counting with the Pentacles 9 touched the Lovers. This can mean a few things but here it could be a casual fling. She could be someone who initially isn’t seen by the Knight, or a silent supporter. She could be the one to cause the opposition of the 7 of Wands, divide and conquer. She creates division and moves. This could be a clever method to avoid breaking contracts or having legal departments involved. I’ve had enough of my cynical thinking…


We haven’t yet discussed how to deal the cards in order to get a new reading. This was deliberately left until now, so you could learn how to read the cards by following this tutorial.


It’s an excellent question, and there are no rules that you must follow. Except perhaps your own. Any number over 12 will work for you if you prefer larger spreads. It allows you to have a decent count and provides you with a lot of information, without being overwhelming. You should not do too many cards at first to keep the reading within limits.

If you want to follow Crowley, then deal 11 cards. However, be aware that the zodiacal card always counts as 12 in an eleven card reading and will stop any movement. It’s a great starting point to deal out 9 cards. It is magical from a numerological perspective and doesn’t have too many cards.

It is best to choose the number of cards that you will be dealing out in advance so that your tarot card can provide the right cards.

Working Outside the Box

You should have already had a chance to review the tutorial. You may still have questions if you haven’t done so. I had many questions when I first learned this technique. Paul Hughes-Barlow taught me tarot counting. He was my teacher and we wrote together a book called Beyond the Celtic Cross.

Paul was able to help me with a Tarot reading. Paul is the foremost authority on the Opening of the Key Spread which includes Elemental Dignities and Card Pairing. I was curious to see if these techniques could be used to read my spread. It was the first time this had been done, and I also needed to sharpen my skills. Paul had to deal with a very young learner, but he did it. Our book is the result of this intense time spent together.

What is the connection between this tutorial and that?



It’s safe say that almost everyone who knows tarot can read a Celtic Cross Spread. You can use a Celtic Cross Spread to help you develop the story in your card-counting spread.

You can then assess the reading. Once you are satisfied, keep the order of the cards and lay them out in a straight line. The first card should be on the left. Now that you have a familiar reading, you can start counting. You might even see something that you hadn’t seen before, like I did when I read Beyond the Celtic Cross.

This book, which Paul and I co-wrote together, teaches both these techniques as well as elemental dignity. You do not have to know them in order to count cards or follow the basic premise behind Beyond the Celtic Cross. If you are interested in learning to read and use elemental dignities I have already written extensively about them on the blog as well as Beyond the Celtic Cross.

This first operation of the Opening of the Key uses these techniques to determine the current state of the querent. This is also my experience, when I perform the first operation or a linear reading. When I start with a Celtic Cross there is always an element of prediction, which makes this approach valuable for those who want to know what they may face or where they will be headed.


When you count cards, it’s easy to keep going in circles. It can feel like you’re going around in circles. This is why I think the Golden Dawn was very literal and strict in their definitions. Card counting can fill in subtle shades while highlighting distinct themes and actions. How many shades of gray are needed?

It can feel like a never-ending round of nonsense and useless counting that shows the same thing repeatedly. Once you become familiar with the counting and numerical values, as well as the techniques to make reading cards easier, this can be the case. It takes practice to become fluid.


Card Pairing is a technique that will bring your tarot readings to life. Golden Dawn readers in the UK have made this technique popular, but it was used before then as Eittella mentions in his writings.

Card pairing works particularly well for linear spreads because it is easy to pair cards together. Card Pairing, in my opinion, is the most effective way to enhance your tarot experience.

It is usually applied at the end a reading. This can help reinforce the message and, in some cases, give you extra information or provide a new perspective. It is particularly useful to use Directional Dignities when two cards are paired, especially if they are court cards or people cards. The interpretation is fairly obvious if they are facing each other or back-to-back. If they both look backwards, they may be looking at happier times in the past. However, if they both face forwards they could both be looking towards the future. A court card or a people card facing toward or away can reveal the current state of affairs and/or the mood of the person. If he says he likes you but is facing away in a pair then you know otherwise.


The best way to pair cards is with a linear spread, which means that the cards should be laid out in one straight line. With practice, you can pair cards with any layout. It’s best to stick to linear spreads for now. They can be any number of cards. Even a three-card reading can make use of card pairing.

Take the outer pair of cards and put them together. The cards now form a pair, and they can be combined to tell their own story.

After you’ve read the first pair, move on to the next and read it. Continue inwards until you’ve read the middle pair if your spread has an even number.


Pairing cards that have an odd number will result in a single card being left at the end. The single card is the focus of the spread, as it doesn’t get affected by the other cards and sits in the middle. You can compare this card’s energy to that of light and imagine it moving among the cards.

We’ll look at some cards to see how the pairings work. You can use the same cards as before to consolidate your understanding of the spread and card counting. It’s best to look at the cards with fresh eyes and not be influenced by the interpretations you made during the main reading. However, sometimes the connection between the two is so strong, you will find it impossible to separate the two.

This card string creates six pairs.


The Knight of Pentacles is the first pair. Next, the 9 of Pentacles. This is clearer now when viewed as a romantic item. He cannot take his gaze off her, while she looks indifferent. This may show the business nature to the relationship. It’s interesting that he appears to be giving her a pentacle extra for her pile. It makes me think he’s desperate to impress her, and is trying to prove his value with what he brings her.