How to Interpret ‘Bad’ Tarot Cards

Tarot Cards of Death, The Tower, and The Devil

Some people get a Tarot card reading for entertainment purposes only. In contrast, others genuinely rely on the insight the cards can provide when going through a tough time, making a significant life decision, or coping with loss. Of course, panic can set in if cards like The Devil, The Tower, Death, or The Three of Swords show up in your spread. But let’s be clear: There are no “bad” tarot cards in the Tarot deck. Sure, there are not-so-great cards. For instance, you’d rather not see the Three of Swords (the card of betrayal) appear in a relationship spread. However, it’s cards such as these that expose us to potential truths we’ve become blind to ourselves. Without them, Tarot readings would be as useful as not having one at all. 

While negative tarot cards such as The Devil, The Tower, Death, and The Three of Swords continually get a bad rap, they provide the same purpose as any other card in the spread: to illuminate improvement points. There’s really no such thing as getting a negative tarot reading. However, once you develop a stigma against a card, that perception can continue to haunt you. So, if you’ve come to the point where you cringe at the sight of Death and your mind frantically starts to race — relax. This guide will help you see that beauty resides in all the cards, even the “bad” ones like The Devil, The Tower, and Death. 

What Are the Bad Tarot Cards?  

The Devil

When The Devil appears in a spread, it’s a sign that you’re not your most authentic self. You’ve become a slave to someone or something (such as a substance or habit). And while it may suggest that your relationship is toxic or that you should probably put down that bottle, it does not, however, mean that you cannot change. In fact, The Devil appears to tell you that now is the perfect time to turn that corner — given that it typically arises when you’ve been thinking about it for some time. All in all, it’s a blessing to you; although things have been taken too far, this is your signal that a fast positive resurgence is possible if you can fully accept the issue.

The Tower

Things are about to get messy. You’ll be caught off guard, you’ll lose things (and hope), you’ll feel helpless, but your life isn’t going to be over. The thing with The Tower is that whatever it brings down was always meant to end. There’s a certain level of fate that we’re playing with here, and while life will be difficult for a while, it will be better in the long run! So that disastrous breakup with “the one” that sent you spiraling out of control? That “super promising” business deal that ended up sucking your bank account dry? That’s The Tower at work. If it’s been enough time between these events, looking back, you’re probably glad it happened the way it did. That ex wasn’t right for you anyway, or your business partner wasn’t as righteous as you thought. Those things fell because they were negative influences. With time, you should feel grateful they ended when they did because now you have something better. 


Everyone’s immediate reaction when they see this card is that something is ending, something is dying. That’s only partially true! The Death card is similar to turning pages in a book: You’re simply moving from one chapter of life to the next. It doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the end of the book. Death appears to suggest that while a part of our life is coming to a close, there’s also something new preparing to take its place. For that reason, it’s a card of transition more than anything else. Consider it the moment that you shed old ways, old habits, and old relationships in pursuit of the bigger and better. The Death card is like a confirmation to let you know that change is good — and likely, necessary, too.  

The Three of Swords

Are you feeling alone? Abandoned? Betrayed? Have irreconcilable differences divided a once healthy relationship? The Three of Swords is a card that represents your pain. But this is also a card that appears to warn you that you may be inflicting cruelty upon others. Are you prepared to accept a neutral opinion of your contributions to an abusive or volatile situation? Swords represent words, ideas, and attitudes that we express.  

How To Interpret Negative Tarot Cards 

There are different ways to interpret tarot cards, including: 

Look at the Entire Tarot Spread

All tarot cards — even the “good” ones — have positive and negative sides that tap into our strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and victories. However, it’s essential to look at the big picture, aka the entire spread, not just singular cards, as the context is key. So, while death with The Three of Swords could show a difficult breakup, The Tower preceded by the Six of Wands could represent a surprising breakthrough due to a drastic change. Connecting the cards is a great way to get a deeper, more detailed meaning concerning your situation. 

Consider Tarot Card Positions 

The meaning of tarot cards in different positions has a significant impact on reading. Let’s take, for example, the famous Celtic Cross spread. Position three is the root of your current situation, four represents your past, and five is your desired outcome. Where the tarot placement of a card like Death lands alters its meaning. Maybe you’re currently having a hard time getting over the fact that you have to move (position three), you still can’t get over a breakup (position four), or you’re looking for ways to cope with the loss of a job so you can find better opportunities (position five.) In short, there’s more than one meaning behind these “bad” cards, so don’t immediately take them for face value alone. And again, how all of these cards work together as a whole provides even greater clarity. 

Shift Your Perception 

Just as each reading is different, no one card represents a static situation. Life is continually evolving, and so are we. These patterns are influenced by the changing attitudes, perceptions, and actions of the querent. As new probabilities are brought to light, possible outcomes evolve.

A lot of the anxiety that comes with tarot cards is because of fear that you’ll see something in your spread that you won’t be able to change, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the tarot goal is to show us what energy and potential outcomes our life can have based on past and present. What you do with this interpreted information is in your hands as only you have the power to change your destiny. 

Interested In Exploring More Tarot Card Meanings? 

Channeling and understanding the most powerful insights the tarot reveals requires an open mind and a willing spirit. Still, it also requires something else: knowledge, self-awareness, and the ability to protect oneself from negativity, both on a spiritual and psychological plane. Learning to embrace the changing messages tarot cards reveal is crucial to finding a path that’s truly your own. Why not let a KEEN advisor help point you in the right direction and better understand what the cards have to say?

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