CP and those of you who have been reading them for a long time, how did you approach learning the meanings of the cards? Whose "authority" if anyone's did you accept for what each card means?
I have the books open when I lay the cards, look up what the author says that card means, and try to "guess" how that meaning plays out in the location the card falls on the spread. Clumsy.
I use a deck that seems to me very blunt (Haindl deck) which is somewhat helpful, and I use books by an author who seems wise, but I would like to get off the crutch of the books without losing the utility of the cards.
I haven't actively used cards in a while, but I tok the advice of someone who was an unbelievable reader, he said the key is while you learn the meanings from reading books and such, and take note of the numerology (lower numbers being starts of things, higher numbers the ends normally), in the end the power of the reading is looking at the cards, the positions, and seeing what they tell you inside. You can do mechanical readings, like the tower= breaking illusions, the empress=celestial mother/helper, etc, etc, but in reality it is the image that comes in the mind that matters I feel..and that comes with practice and opening up to yourself.
I still haven't figured out why they work, if they help us bring out what is within our minds, if it taps something else, or maybe it is a combination. I would sit and say it is all wishful thinking, but i have seen too much I can't explain by that. There used to be this guy that did readings in a store that sold all kinds of new agey-wiccan stuff in the east village in NYC, that was probably one of the most incredible people I ever met, and he kind of scared me....because I saw things with his readings that no matter how anyone could look at it, we so dead on.....he did a reading on my wife where he came out and said that she was facing some horrors from the past, darkness, in the form of abuse from a loved one, and it got even more specific, it was sexual abuse...and not long before, in therapy, it came out she had been raped by her father for years....
At one point I had a job offer, and where I worked at the time wanted to talk to me about staying, etc....after the initial round they came up with an offer that was ridiculous, literally an insult, and I couldn't figure out why, when they so earnestly asked me to talk. I went to this guy, and he said what was going on was a power struggle, that one group, representing a kind of old guard, wanted me to stay but they were battling newer forces who were the ones who gave me the bad offer.......and that it hadn't played out fully, that things would happen at the last minute....
I realize this could be very generic, but I later learned (after a last minute offer that i took) that it had played out exactly like that..I hadn't told the guy what my job was, who I worked for, or any details.... and you could tell he was serious, he would never take any extra payment....
I honestly think that putting any kind of value on reversed cards, or if a card falls to the floor by accident, and things like that are a waste of time. I think the value is in how the cards react to the cards around them as others have said, and how the picture builds up when you go from the past to present and so forth on the journey..and often my biggest insights came after the reading was done, and it percolated, then suddenly I can get the 'oh shit,now I know what it is saying'..on the other hand, there are times I want to throw the cards in the fire, because the answer doesn't come:)