How it works
What you need to do to start using tarot cards.
- Get a Deck
Before you can start reading tarot cards, you’ll need a tarot deck. There are many on the market. Picking art that speaks to you is the first step on your Tarot journey. We have a great article on how to pick a deck here.
- Prepare the Deck
Many Tarot readers pass their cards through save smoke to clear them. However, others keep them in a silk scarf to keep clean energies around them. Additionally, Reiki masters may clear them with Reiki or use the shuffling to clear their minds and their cards.
- Read the Cards
Most decks come with a book of interpretations for each card. The book will have the authors’ opinions on what the individual tarot cards should mean. If your deck has 78 cards, it is probably a derivative of the Rider Waite deck. If so you can pretty well count on the interpretations being similar. Even if the art looks different. But, you are the reader, and you can interpret the art any way you see fit. This is a hobby with a lot of room for interpretation. If you need a jump start on your own creative interpretation; check out our article on symbols in the Tarot.
- Consider the Spread
Both the individual meaning of the tarot card and the question being asked should be considered. We have many examples of tarot spreads on our site and how to interpret them.
A Brief History of Tarot Card Reading
Whether you’re just starting on your tarot card journey or you’ve long been fascinated by tarot cards but you never bothered to learn the meanings behind each card, this guide is for you.
In recent years, tarot cards have experienced something of a renaissance. In times like these, it’s good to remember that there have always been times like these. Some people just pick it up as a hobby and treat Tarot like a fun game. While others may see tarot cards as a powerful tool that should only be used or practiced by experts.
Our stance is that as long as you get something valuable out of it, tarot cards can be a great way to make connections and understand more about yourself and the people in your life.
That’s more in line with the invention of tarot cards as a parlor game in the mid-15th century. It wasn’t until the 18th century that divination and occult interpretations started to creep into tarot card meanings and lore.
In fact, tarot card readings weren’t popularized until Antoine Court and Jean-Baptise Alliette started doing readings in Paris in the 1780s, but that’s not to say that tarot cards have to be either magical or a joke — the beauty of tarot card meanings is that you can take what you’d like from it and use it to inform your path, whether you’re interested in some fun or something more.
Get A Tarot Deck
Before you can start reading tarot cards, you’ll need a tarot deck. The most popular tarot deck is the Rider-Waite tarot deck. It is also known as the Waite-Smith, Rider-Waite-Smith, or simply as the Rider tarot deck, the cards were illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith under the instruction of the mystic A. E. Waite and published by the Rider Company, hence the Rider-Waite name.
Many people like the Rider-Waite deck for beginners because the tarot card meanings are intuitive and the imagery is simple with a restricted color scheme of yellow, light blue, and gray. Even so, most tarot decks — the Rider-Waite included — come with a cheat sheet with common interpretations for each card.
That said, the Rider-Waite isn’t the only tarot deck in town. There’s The Wild Unknown deck, the Morgan Greer deck, and other modernized decks that serve just about any artistic or color palette need. Ideally, you should pick the deck that interests you, both with imagery and symbolism that resonates with who you are. In this way, you can think of a tarot deck as an extension of your personality.
Prepare the Tarot Deck
While much of a tarot reading is open to interpretation and individual preference, there are common threads across most tarot readings.
Doing a reading for someone else is usually prefaced with a question, which is used for “clearing” the deck while shuffling.
After shuffling, it’s common to ask the querent or the person you’re reading for to cut the deck while they think of their question, though some readers prefer to cut the deck themselves.
Following the cut, you’ll then pull as many cards needed for the spread, arranging them between you and the querent.
Read the Tarot Cards
The most popular way to read tarot cards and derive meaning is to pick a spread and arrange the cards accordingly.
Common spreads include the three-card spread, five-card spread, five-card relationship cross, five-card love cross, Celtic cross spread, seven-day spread, six-month spread and twelve-month spread. However, there’s a spread for just about any situation, and you can always develop your own spread once you’ve practiced a bit.
As the name suggests, a three-card spread is accomplished by pulling the top three cards after shuffling and cutting, displaying them face-side up and next to each other between you and the querent.
The first card pulled represents the past, the second card the present, and the third card the future. The tarot card meanings are up to interpretation based on the question being asked and what card was pulled.
Another type of tarot card reading is the daily reading, which means pulling only one card after shuffling and cutting. The card pulled would speak to the day ahead, meaning that daily readings should occur earlier in the day.
Consider the Spread
When pulling a tarot card during a reading, both the individual meaning of the tarot card and the question being asked should be considered.
But don’t forget the spread.
Any apparent symbolism or other meaning in the spread can alter the meaning of a given card, and it may also depend on what the symbolism itself means to the querent. You’re not a mind-reader, and by brainstorming the meaning with your querent, you can come to a greater realization and meaning than you could accomplish otherwise.
Sometimes the cards won’t cooperate and won’t match up in a straightforward way.
Other times it’s hard to derive anything but what the cards are telling you. It’s important to be open to what the cards are saying and to switch gears if they’re suggesting a love life when the querent asked about money.
Keep in mind that reading tarot cards and understanding their pictures, meanings, and how the spread plays into it can be complicated.
After all, there are 78 different cards and an innumerable number of combinations and spreads, so it can take time to get up to speed. As long as you keep practicing, you’re sure to develop your style and insight in no time.
Read our F.A.Q. to learn more, or send us a message to connect.