Learn How to Read the Tarot in 5 Easy Steps

Learning the Tarot

So you want to learn the Tarot? The good news is, you absolutely can and you definitely do not have to class yourself as ‘psychic.’ Perhaps you already bought your first deck but aren’t quite sure what to do with it? If that is the case, let me begin by congratulating you for not falling for the myth that you have to be given your first deck – choosing and buying your own deck is perfectly fine.

If you are still wondering which deck might be best to begin with, please know that trusting your own guidance and going for the deck that you feel most drawn too is more than OK. However, if you wish to stick with a traditional approach to learning the Tarot, you may want to check out this post.

Before we delve into the five steps to learning to read the Tarot, I know from experience (both as a learner and a teacher) to be most helpful, let me give you a piece of advice about the little guidebook that usually comes tucked in with the cards in most standard sized Tarot decks: don’t bother. Seriously. Learning the Tarot from keywords is a left-brained approach and a somewhat counterintuitive way of learning a language of symbols.

Also, don’t worry too much about how these symbols ended up in pack of 78 pieces of cardboard. The truth is, nobody knows the history of the Tarot, although plenty of Tarotists love to hypothesise at great length. Perhaps it is enough to know that the first packs were in circulation in the Med in the late Middle Ages, where people still use them to play a game called Tarock.

If you want to get metaphysical about the true reason for the creation of the Tarot, the most likely answer is that it happened over many decades (possibly centuries), in the hands of many different artists (who, as we know, have the ability to tap the Source directly) and was a response to a subconscious calling to gather all the key elements of life found in the collective unconscious mind, in one easy-to-find place for the betterment of mankind. At least, that’s how I like to think of it 🙂

The language of symbols speaks to our feelings first and that is why we must learn to look and listen different to how we would approach the written word. A more lyrical approach is needed here.

Shhhhh… Don’t tell anyone, but you don’t actually need to read a single book on the Tarot to be able to use it straight out of the box!

‘Really, Lisa?! But how is this possible?,’ I hear you asking. It is possible because the Tarot is a mirror of all the key archetypes and symbols already at play in your life. Some of them are more prominent at various times in our lives (and those are the ones that mysteriously end up on the table) but all of them are always present, just as all the parts of your body are always present even when you are not using them.

Speaking of the body… If you can learn to feel the Tarot in your own body, you will quickly become a Master of Tarot.

5 Easy Steps to Learning and Mastering the Tarot

  1. Just Look. Spend your first whole day with the cards just looking at them as you would any other works of art. Don’t write anything down yet. Just observe your emotional reaction to each of the card and which details stand out for you. You may not need a whole day for this exercise but make sure you can set aside at least a couple of hours. Then divide the cards into three piles. The cards you love, the ones you hate and the ones you feel neutral about.Make some notes of what you have learned this way. ​​This is an exercise you can repeat for every new deck you get and is not limited to beginners!
  2. Befriend the Archetypes of the Major Arcana. These are the 22 archetypes that show you all of life’s most important lessons and they are also the key to helping you understand the Minor Arcana.​​Spend at least one full day with each of the Majors and do some dreamwork with them too, recording your dreams on waking. To incubate a dream with one of the cards, meditate with it last thing at night and place it on your bedside table. Ask Archangel Gabriel to reveal what you need to learn about this archetype in your dreams. Write everything you can remember down as soon as you wake up. It may not be instantly recognisable as relevant to the card. Write it down anyway because much can be learned this way and it may become apparent further down the line how your dream is connected with the card.

    ​​Take the poses shown by the characters or beings in the cards and try to feel what they must be feeling. Use props if you like. Move, walk and dance like each of the Majors might dance. Think about what they might like to eat and how they would decorate their home. Choose a piece of music that you feel resonates with the image before you.

    ​​Take notes and add them to either your Major Arcana journal or ring binder.

  3. Connect with the Four Elements. Sit in a circle, remove the Majors and divide the four suits up in four smaller packs. Lay them out around you, with the Ace on top, facing up.​​Begin with Fire in the South. This is usually the Suit of Wands in the Minor Arcana. Here you find the Zodiac energies of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. There is inspiration, vitality, raw sexuality, courage and even aggression connected with the Element of Fire. Sit facing South and focus on drawing the energy of the Ace of Wands into your body… really feel the Fire.

    ​​Once you feel that you are done, write your impressions down in the ring binder or journal that you have created for the Minors.

    ​​Next you turn to face West and the Suit of Cups. This is the direction of the Element of Water, connected with emotions, intuition, dreams and psychic ability. Here we connect to the energies of the Zodiac signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Look at the Ace of Cups and draw the energy of Water into your body. Make some more notes.

    ​​Next up is the Suit of Pentacles in the North and the Element of Earth. The energy here is cold, dry and stable. This is everything that manifests into our 3D reality and is the reason why the suit is symbolised by Coins or Pentacles. Earth connects us with the Zodiac energies of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. The Suit of Pentacles show us matters relating to work, health and money. Take a few minutes, looking at the Ace of Pentacles and breathe in the Element of Earth into your body. Write down your findings.

    ​​Finally we arrive in the East, the Suit of Swords and the Element of Air. The Zodiac signs represented by this suit are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. This is the suit of the Mind, our intellect and our ability to problem-solve. Because most of the ‘problems’ we experience are literally only in our minds, this is the reason why find the most visually disturbing cards here, such as the 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of Swords. But in each of these ‘troubled’ cards we also find the remedy. This suit’s gift is the ability to use the Higher Mind (aka the Observer) to detach, analyse and solve what is troubling us. Take a few minutes to focus on the image of the Ace of Swords and feel Element of Air. Make some final notes and close the circle by gathering your cards together.

    ​​Top Tip:
     Pay particular attention to where in the body and how you feel the energy of each Element, as well as what the Element feels like… Light or heavy? Hot or cold? Smoth or spiky/jagged?

  4. Connect the Numbers. Each of the ten number cards 1-10 relate to the I-X Major Arcana cards. Try getting an intuitive feel for this connection by spending some time with all five of the 1’s (Magician + all the Aces), then with High Priestess and the four 2’s and so forth. Make notes of the intuitive connections you get from the combination of the suit Element and Number for each of the cards, as well as how you feel the Number cards relate to the Majors.
  5. Get to Know the People Cards. My top tip is to view each of the four courtiers from the same suit as a family, where the King is the Father, the Queen the Mother, the Knight a young adult/older brother and the Page a tween/child/younger sister. Perhaps limit it to visiting with one family a day over a period of four days (it can get intense!).​​If you start with the fiery Wands family, you would draw to mind the qualities and the feeling you experienced in circle while facing South. You would then think what these fiery, passionate and extroverted people might be like as a family unit. Interview them. Have them talk to each other. Is their family home organised or messy?

    ​Are they loud or quiet? Do individual family members remind you of someone you know or someone famous? What kind of decorations can you see in your mind’s eye if you look around their home? Write a story titled, My Visit with the Wands Family. Repeat this exercise with the other three ‘families.’ It is up to you if you have a separate journal/ring binder for the Court Cards or have them together with the other Minors.

I hope this helps you to truly begin connecting with the cards beyond the level of just words or keywords. The 78 Keys of the Tarot are what make up the Book of Life. Once you get to know them, you will not only know how to read the Tarot, you will know yourself and begin to understand how you can begin co-creating your destiny to manifest your full potential in this incarnation.