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How to Accurately Interpret 'Bad' Tarot Cards

How to Accurately Interpret 'Bad' Tarot Cards

The Devil, the Hanged Man, the Tower, and Death—these cards can be intimidating to draw when seeking guidance navigating a challenging situation or decision. The striking and bold imagery of these cards can express and inspire serious and grave emotions. Do not fret! Remember that we seek the guidance of the tarot to illuminate possibilities and paths. Nothing is ever black and white in the world of tarot; receiving a particularly “disturbing” card does not mean your situation or decision is doomed. Read on to find out why!

Don’t Judge a Tarot Card by Its Cover

Things are not always as they seem—this sentiment has been the moral of countless fairy tales and folklore and applies directly to the tarot. Being communicated with by the powers and wisdom of the tarot is an extraordinary experience. This is why we put a lot of weight and stock into what these cards are telling us. When you turn over a card with symbols of death, this can immediately strike fear and trepidation. However, remember, things are not always as they seem. What might a card like “Death” be trying to tell us? Below you will find some of the most common “bad” tarot cards and a reframing of their meanings to understand they are not out to hurt you.

The Devil

The devil may indeed be the most intimidating yet curious figure across culture, religion, and literature. What people don’t know is that the Devil in tarot does not automatically mean you will succumb to evil. If you receive the Devil in a tarot meaning, think about what it might be saying about pleasure, playfulness, rebellion, and freedom. There are two sides to every devil.

The Hanged Man

A man hanging upside down on a cross-like wooden post—trapped and unable to move. This could mean something negative, but this card is complex in its meaning. The Hanged Man can also suggest a shift in perspective—he is upside down after all. Perhaps this card tells you it is okay to pause, surrender, and consider a whole new path.

The Tower

Bodies falling from a tower that is aflame—what could be positive or uplifting about that? Well, a lot. The Tower offers some of the most frightening imagery; however, the Tower can mean something surprisingly hopeful and optimistic. Once our towers burn and fall, there is an opportunity to build something stronger in its place.


We don’t like to think about death; however, it is one of life’s unavoidable promises. Just because it is an inconvenient truth doesn’t mean it cannot offer us wisdom. The Death card in the tarot wants to tell you something, and no, it doesn’t mean that you will die. The card is suggesting a change or transition and perhaps the beginning of a new life cycle.

Don’t be fooled into taking each of your feared tarot cards at face value. Just with any “good” card of the tarot, the sad, grave, and intimidating ones offer necessary messages of change, hope, and success.

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