So you want to learn how to read the Tarot cards? A lot of people who have had a reading or seen the cards used in a film get curious and want to learn how to read the cards for themselves. Most people get pulled in by the mystery and want to know if they too have the gift. Relax. If you are human, you have the gift. The Tarot cards operate on the principle of synchronicity and you usually use a combination of intuitive guidance and book knowledge when you read them.
You can also bypass the book knowledge side of things entirely, if you wish, and read quite successfully relying on nothing but your intuition but you will get more out of the Tarot (and have more to offer to others) if you study and learn.
***1. Is the Tarot for you? This may sound like an obvious one but many people who are drawn to do cartomancy are not necessarily meant to work with the Tarot. It could be that Angel Oracle cards are more your cup of tea or that traditional fortune-telling with playing cards or the Lenormand is what will truly make you happy. So how do you know if the Tarot is for you? If you answer yes to all three of the questions below, you are on the right track in picking up the Tarot cards on your Journey:
- Do you love to study and do you geek out over symbols/archetypes?
- Are you interested in using the cards for personal growth and shadow work?
- Are you looking for a complete divinatory system which will allow you to connect the dots between all metaphysical disciplines?
***2. Find the right deck to start learning with. I recommend you get two decks right off the bat. Why? Because you will need a traditional deck for learning with – typically the Waite Smith (aka Rider Waite), which most Tarot study books are based on. But you will speed up your learning curve immeasurably by starting with comparative readings ASAP and it is great to jog your intuitive reading muscles with a deck that really holds strong visual appeal for you.
If the Waite Smith is the visually most stunning deck you have come across I congratulate you. It is easy to get hold of and all text books will be about your favourite deck. I still recommending getting a second deck. Look at it as getting a second expert opinion on all your daily draws, as well as learning to truly look at the cards before you. Check out this list of 11 Tarot decks that come highly recommended for the beginner.
***3. Treat your tool right. Some may argue that it just a deck of cards and that they will read just as well no matter where or how you keep them. However, I look at it this way: A deck you treat right is one whose advice you are more likely to heed. It’s a simple mind trick perhaps but i works. The decks I truly love quickly become trusted friends.
So how do you treat a Tarot deck right? Keep it away from dirt and grime – obvious one, I know! Keep it in its original box or wrapped in silk. Some of my decks live in beautifully carved wooden boxes. It is also good to keep crystals nearby for cleansing and energising your decks. Allowing the deck to rest on an amethyst cluster over night works beautifully for cleansing and recharging it.
I also recommend blessing and dedicating the deck when it first arrives into your home:
- Start by cleansing it. You can use Reiki or pass it through incense for this purpose. Another simple method is to just knock on the deck three times with the intent to cleanse it of any stagnant/unwanted energy.
- Next you hold your hands over the deck and say a prayer to your Patron Saint, Spirit Guide, Guardian Angel, Higher Self or Deity. The point is to connect with a Higher Intelligence, the part of you/the Universe that is connected and informed about the Highest Good of All. Ask this higher power to bless the deck.
- Complete the blessing ritual by lighting a candle and dedicating the deck to something you are passionate about and that would also be for the Highest Good of all such as your studies, the awakening of all mankind, personal growth, metta, enlightenment, service to your Deity etc.
Finally, cleanse your deck regularly. Here are three favourite easy ways of making sure the deck’s energy is flowing freely:
***4. Really look at the cards. The first thing you should do to beginning learning the card meanings is NOT to open a book and start reading. That is definitely part of the journey but I want you to understand that you will always mainly be reading what you see. If you do not wish to work with images, there are plenty of other divinatory tools to choose from.
Lay the same card from both decks next to each other. How are they the same? How are they different?
***5. Keep a Tarot journal. Write down your observations from above. A sentence or two for each card. Doing this will take a couple of hours but by the end of those two or three hours, you will know a LOT about the Tarot and you will effectively have done 78 mini readings. You may well find that you use a whole journal for this first exercise.
You will need more journals because you will keep taking notes for your daily draw. Rather than pulling a card and looking up the meaning in a book, I suggest you pull a card and ask ‘What do I need from you to best handle what lies ahead today?’ Then use your imagination to step inside the card and enter into dialogue with any persons or beings in the card. This contemplative approach is very effective for gaining access to your own intuitive Self, which (surprise, surprise!) is where all Tarot wisdom originates.
You may also wish to keep a ring binder with one page for each card (in the right order) that you can easily add info on to, as your understanding increases.
If you want to get a bit more advanced you can keep separate (colour-coded) ring binders for different subjects: health, work, spiritual development, shadow work and relationships. That way you can easily find information when doing readings on either of those subjects.
***6. Invite the cards into your dreams. Take either your card of the day or choose a new card for the night. (You can even work your way through the whole deck.)
Spend some time looking at the card image and truly contemplate what you see. Set the intent to encounter the archetype of the card or to enter the card in your dreams that night.
For optimal dream recall lie with your eyes closed when you first wake up and try to recall your dream(s) as vividly as possible, like a film playing in your mind’s eye. Then record your dreams by writing them down or using a voice recorder.
I recommend keeping a separate journal for Tarot dream messages.
***7. Embody the Tarot. Learning to embody the energy of the card as well as to sense the energy in your physical body, is probably best way to truly understand the Tarot. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you can’t do this, you don’t really know the Tarot. That is why, as part of your daily draw, I recommend engaging in multi-sensory learning to as high a degree as possible.
You can also play ‘Spot the card! when you are out and about. Look around you… Which card does this image that I took on my afternoon walk remind you of?
***8. Learn the traditional card meanings, structure of the deck and correspondences. Study, study, study! I recommend the New Tarot Handbook by Rachel Pollack, Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer and Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen to get you started.
If you can’t WAIT to start building your knowledge data base, I have a FREE keywords and correspondences eBook for you HERE.
I also offer a couple of more eBooks with in-depth card meanings for relationships, life purpose health and more… Instant download HERE.
***9. Upside down cards. Decide from the start if you want to learn to read with reversals or not. If you do want to include reversed cards in your readings, I recommend Tarot Reversals by Mary K. Greer. My personal choice is to not use reversals and to instead focus on the intuitive message from the images and how the energy flows between the cards (synergy).
Either is fine. When you first start learning, it is important to stick with the system of your choice. Chopping and changing will confuse you, so if you do choose to go with the upside down cards, my top tip is to persist until they begin making sense to you.
I read with reversals for several years until I started reading with my first round deck. It got me thinking and ever since I’ve not bothered with reversals. You can read more about why I don’t use reversals HERE.
***10. Get started reading for others. Don’t be shy about using your loved ones as guinea pigs to hone your reading skills. You can get started with intuitive one card readings for others pretty much straight away, as long as you let them know it’s for practice and that you appreciate feedback in return.
Start with simple questions that can be answered with a one card draw. Focus on where the energy of the question meets the energy of the card. I call this method ‘reading the gap.’ The beauty of this is that you don’t need any book knowledge to start giving deeply meaningful messages if you have taken time to know and embody the cards intuitively.
As you progress to more advanced spreads and people begin asking you for readings, you may wish to read THIS in order to avoid some of the most common mistakes people make when they first start reading for others.
I hope you find this information useful and I wish you all the best on your Tarot Journey!