In the deck of tarot cards, each one of the seventy eight cards carries its ain meaning. The twenty two cards in the major arcana have the most important meanings when considered separately. This is because the major arcana cards signal potent people and issues in a tarot reading. The underage arcana aid determine some detail about those potent people and issues.
1) One at a time
Each tarot card is considered individually first and then it is noted how it relates to the other cards in a reading and how it relates to the position it takes in the card spread.
I want to use The Emperor card as an illustration about the interpretation of individual cards. The Emperor can be represented in a tarot deck in several ways depending on the style of the cards.
On some cards The Emperor is shown as a ram and on some he is depicted as an eagle or as a throne. This card means leadership, power or strength. It can also mean tyranny or impatience because each card can have a more positive meaning and a more negative meaning based on its placement and other contributing factors.
Simply looking at this card in its singular tell could tell you many things and you must always remember that you ask to make a connection between this card you have selected and the question you have asked.
Perhaps you have The Emperor in your selection of cards and based on your situation and your question, it makes more sense for The Emperor to take on the negative state to mean a lack of rule or a lack of respect for authority. You must use a creative approach when deciphering such cards.
2) Location, location, location
Each placement in a tarot card spread has intend. If I continue with the example of The Emperor as I used above, The meaning of the Emperor tarot card now shifted or is refined in meaning to correspond with its position.
There are many different spreads, so I will not get into each one. If The Emperor card is placed on the spread in a spot which signifies motivation for example, you can further read that the power and leadership meaning of this card may be what motivates the individual who has selected these cards.
If this very same teased were to be placed in a spot which signified service it would have an entirely different meaning. While The Emperor still represents power and leadership, it could now be understood that this individual is in a leadership position and that serving people is what puts them there.
So you see that placement is important in the interpretation of every single card. You could compare it to colours. If you tell someone that you bought a red jacket they will get a mental picture in their head of what a red jacket means.
When they see you in that jacket however, they discover that it is really more of a muted wine colour and that it is much more subtle and understated than they imagined when they heard the term red jacket. Placement of each tarot card actually helps define the strength and attitude of that card.
Another thing that affects each card in a placement is the other cards. For example, the Two of Cups is in the reading along with The Emperor. This card must be studied on its own just as The Emperor was and then, after that it must be redefined based on its placement and the other cards accompanying it.
Firstly, the Two of Cups represent a relationship and usually will mean love. Let us imagine that the Two of Cups has been placed on a spot which indicates motivation. We will then have to consider that this person who is in a powerful leadership role and is dedicated to the service of people is motivated by love.
This tends to indicate a person who is very interested in the service of others for the sake of love. Sure, this person may be powerful but that power seems to be focused in a way that benefits many people.
4) No-one is an Island
As you can see, the single meaning of each tarot card is important and each card should be seeing on its possessed.
The entire reading will be unbalanced however if the positions of each card and how they may relate to the other cards in their respective positions must all be taken into consideration. Seeing the whole picture is worth much more than any single card.