You may be familiar with the tale of Oedipus who, upon arriving at the gates of the city of Thebes, was challenged by a Sphinx to answer a riddle before he could enter. Like the sphinx, the tarot and each of its symbols poses a riddle that the tarot reader must answer to enter the realm of secret knowledge. To everyone who approaches, the tarot poses the same riddle: “What is the passkey?”

For the novice reader, and even for the experienced one, it is a challenge to answer this riddle correctly. To answer it incorrectly can lead to poor or vague advice for the questioner. The passkey is the main message, idea, or information that unlocks the truth of each card and the entire reading. It gives the tarot reader a psychic direction and clear insight from which to advise the questioner. The difficulty in answering the riddle, however, is that every card in the deck has a laundry list of possible passkeys that could apply at any time. So, which one is the right one? To solve the riddle of the tarot, the reader must have a technique for deciphering which keys are in play at the time of the reading.

Without the passkey, a tarot reading can sound more like a multiple choice test than a useful tool for finding answers. “You have the Magician card,” a reader might say while advising an entrepreneur. “It means mastery of special knowledge, or focused energy. It can also represent modern technology and marketing yourself. And it shows that you are able to master new situations and take positive action.” All of these interpretations of the Magician card are technically correct, but how helpful are they? What if the tarot reader had solved the riddle, and realized that what the card was really trying to say in that case was “show them what you can do,” and that the entrepreneur would see success if he focused on giving captivating live demos and presentations as his main marketing strategy. Would that have made for a more helpful reading? I think so. But you may be surprised at how many readers give readings more like the first one, in which they essentially rattle off a list of possible interpretations for the cards, leaving the questioner to fend for him of herself in deciphering the cryptic message.

Solving the riddle of the tarot is about more than just pickup up on the correct interpretation of cards in a reading. With the proper passkey, the reader can open a gateway that leads to greater specificity in the reading. The cards transform from a jumble of symbols into a clear stream of pictures that tell the story of what’s going on.

For each person, there’s a different reason why the riddle of the tarot may be hard to solve. We’ll explore that in an upcoming series on mastering the tarot (get on Dr. M's mailing list at to receive the series). What do you think will help you to solve the riddle of the tarot and improve your readings? Keeping in mind what we’ve discussed so far, why not pick a card from your deck and see what answer you come up with! Share your thoughts and answers at

Author's Bio: 

"Inner Power Doctor," Antonia M, PhD author of the Inner Power Workbook, is a holistic self-improvement and whole growth expert. Her work combines a unique blend of eastern, western and indigenous self-development practices, including meditation, martial arts, and energy medicine. An author and master metaphysician, Dr. M empowers people to be unstoppable in living their ultimate dream. Invite Dr. M to speak or write for your show, publication or event.