What are Tarot Clarifier Cards
Added at 14:44 on 06 April 2023
What is a Clarifying Card?
Traditionally, a clarifying card, or "clarifier," was used to help clarify an entire spread. A single card was added to add definition where the reader needed an extra piece of information or confirmation on the cards laid. It would have no position assigned to it as with the other cards laid out in the spread and was put to one side to sum it up.
Today, especially among those new to the study of tarot, several "clarifier" cards can be confusingly added to a reading, and often many of them are added, one for each card originally drawn. Often, those original cards are not laid out in a position within a spread, which can leave them without definition as the position's title, the other cards, and the question help define the cards. The cards can be laid with no positions, so they are just a mass of cards or in an unsuitable or too large a spread for someone new to understand with ease. To then add an extra card to a spread that already makes no sense, or even to each card laid can often leave the student doubling the cards used, just adding to the mix of cards already used and creating more confusion for the reader.
The Problem with Clarifiers
The problem with clarifiers is that new students can just add confusion to confusion.
They are often laid as the reader does not have enough tarot knowledge, and while adding another card may seem logical, it can just muddy the waters more. A three-card spread is started and ends up being a six- or more-card spread, and the message gets lost as the extra cards bring no clarity at all.
Clarifiers can also come about if the reader has not used positions as mentioned. When a spread is used with positions, the angle or perspective of the card, also related to the other cards and the question asked, can be seen easier by the reader.
Another issue is the reader using them to try to gain a rosier glow from the reading they have, which shows a lack of faith in the message given.
When should they be used?
Quite simply, when needed.
If you find they are needed with each reading, then holding fire and taking more time with the original cards may be needed, especially if the clarifier, or clarifiers, just confuse you more—that is key; if it confuses you more, ditch it.
When they become a crutch, then it is time to review their use. Yet as your study of the tarot increases, you will find that you use them less and less.
Many will pride themselves on never using them, but they are fine to use. Using or not using is not a badge of honour either way. I will occasionally do so myself, one card for the entire spread, when I am left with a fork in the road as to which way to proceed. For example, The Wheel of Fortune in the "Outcome" position, and as it is the end card, see which way it will turn with a clarifier.
When we are new, it can be hard to be patient with our readings; we wish to have the answer. We stare at the cards, wondering what they mean, and so we add more. I see it time and time again within my Facebook group Understanding Tarot, and the students just find themselves frustrated and confused even more.
Before you take a single clarifier, stand back, and study the cards. See the nature of the cards, how they link to the position they are in. How they link to the other cards. What in the other cards would change or compound the cards about it? Don’t rush.
But before that, take your time over a well-worded question. Pick a spread suitable for your question as well as your level of experience; if you’re new, a 10-card Celtic Cross may not be best; stick to 2, 3, or 4 cards with positions that fit the view you are needing. You can find out a lot more on how to read tarot in my book Understanding Tarot, and the clearer you are at the start before you even begin the reading, the clearer it will be.
I feel guilty using one, or a whole load!
Without restating all the above. We can feel guilty, as we can feel that we are failing by using a clarifying card. While one clarifier can bring a reading together, it can also dilute or completely derail the message. Especially if the extra card is one with which we have no relationship and struggle to understand. See it as a sign that more study is needed; forget the guilt; that will just hold you back. Tarot is a system, and it can take time to learn.
When you’re learning or even experienced. At times, a reading can make 90% sense to you, and you just want that extra confirmation. At such times, a single clarifying card can work wonders.