How To Do A Yes-Or-No Tarot Reading For Insights On Simple Questions
What is a yes-or-no tarot spread?
Simply put, a yes-or-no tarot spread is a straightforward reading option designed to address a yes-or-no question. As Skye Alexander, author of The Modern Witchcraft Book of Tarot, tells mbg, anyone can do this kind of reading, even if they don't know anything about the tarot. "It doesn't provide an in-depth analysis of a situation, as some other tarot spreads do, however," she adds.
How the reading works.
Depending on how familiar you are with the cards in a tarot deck, you can approach a yes-or-no reading in a few different ways. We'll go over a step-by-step process a bit later on, but in general, this kind of reading involves posing your question, and pulling cards until a "yes," "no," or even "maybe," becomes clear.
Alexander tells mbg she uses the aces of the deck (the ace of cups, wands, pentacles, and swords) to signify a yes, though if you have personal connections or intuitive feelings toward certain cards, maybe your yes cards will be different. As with any tarot reading, so much of it comes down to your intuition, so you can be relatively flexible.
And while these spreads aren't meant to give you the finer details but rather a simple yes or no, they're still a great option if you're looking for clarity around a particular subject.
Prepping for the reading.
Before doing any tarot reading, it's a good idea to set the scene and get into a good headspace. Alexander suggests turning off any technology so you won't be disturbed, adding, "Usually, I take a few moments to relax, meditate, and contemplate my question. Sometimes I light a candle or incense."
She notes it can also be a good idea to write your question down, just to make sure you pose your question in a clear and direct way. Yes-or-no readings tend to be specific, so you want to be specific with your question.
When that's done, you can go ahead and give your cards a shuffle while focusing on your question, Alexander says. "Then, when I feel ready, I cut the cards and start laying them down," she notes.
Read on for her step-by-step yes-or-no reading process.
How to do a yes-or-no tarot reading:
- Begin pulling cards face-up, one by one in a pile, until either an ace turns up or you've counted out 13 cards without getting an ace.
- Start a second pile to the right of the first one, and repeat that same process, until you've pulled an ace or gotten up to 13 cards.
- You'll repeat this one more time with a third pile, placed to the right of the second pile. Pull your cards until an ace appears or you've drawn 13 cards.
- If three aces have appeared, the answer to the question is yes.
- If no aces have appeared, the answer is no.
- If two aces turned up, the answer is probably, but you may still need to put in some effort to bring the matter to fruition, or the situation may still be developing and isn't certain yet.
- If only one ace turned up, the answer is "probably not"; however, there's still a possibility.
What cards work best?
If you have a favorite tarot deck you prefer to work with, the good news is, any deck is suitable for this kind of reading. Alexander notes she likes the Gilded Tarot deck, though uses the Universal Waite deck when reading for others.
"When I read for other people, I ask them to shuffle and lay out the cards—I don't do it for them because it's important that they imbue the cards with their own energy," she adds.
What if my deck doesn't have ace cards?
If you're working with a nontraditional deck that doesn't have aces, you can use a similar method with yes cards of your choosing. Simply go through the deck and intuitively pick four cards that feel like yeses to you, and watch out for those rather than aces as you pull.
Should I count reversals in this kind of reading?
If you've dabbled in tarot, you likely know that pulling a card in reverse is believed by some to change its meaning. Whether you subscribe to that belief is up to you, with Alexander adding she doesn't usually consider reversals in yes-or-no readings. That said, "If someone wants to that's fine—interpret them as you would in any other type of reading." (Here's our guide on tarot reversals if you're curious to learn more.)
How should I pose questions?
Because this is a simple reading, you want your questions to be simple, as well. Keep it straightforward, nothing vague or complex, Alexander says. Obviously, make sure they can be answered with a yes or no, beginning with words like "Do I..." "Can I..." "Will I..." etc., as opposed to "When will..." or "What is..."
"Ask about what's most important or pressing," Alexander notes, adding to avoid asking about something that's far off in the future. "Limit the time frame for your question to no more than a couple of months," she says.
Can the cards mean anything besides yes or no?
Sometimes, these readings can provide additional details if you're looking for them. If you lay down one or more piles of 13 cards without getting an ace, Alexander says, you can also interpret the top card in each pile to gain additional information regarding your question.
"For example, if you asked whether you'll get a job you applied for and only one ace showed up, the top card on each of the other two piles could offer advice that might help you improve your chances or guide you to another job," she explains.
How should I cleanse my cards?
And of course, it's never a bad idea to give your deck an energetic refresh when you're done using it. Alexander suggests clearing your cards after every reading, "either by holding them briefly in incense smoke to smudge them or by rubbing a piece of golden citrine over them."
You'll also want to store them somewhere they'll be safe and kept in good condition, such as in a velvet pouch or a box or drawer. "Also, I find it helpful to keep a tarot journal where I record my readings and what transpired afterward," Alexander adds.
(For more information on cleansing your tarot cards, check out our full guide.)
The bottom line.
Sometimes we have questions that require an in-depth tarot spread to address a lot of moving parts. And other times, we have a simple question we're seeking clarity on. In the case of the latter, a yes-or-no spread can offer quick insight, so you can use that information to help guide your next course of action.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.