What is up my weird, wild, and wonderful witches?!?
While Tarot cards have been pretty popular for a while now, the uncertainty 2020 has brought seems to be increasing interest even more. Thanks to my witchy mama, I grew up with these beautiful cards, and can personally vouch for how helpful they are to have as guidance for navigating life. After years of studying and using Tarot cards, I have decided it’s time to share what I know by putting together this guide.
I am so excited to share how to read Tarot for beginners and beyond! Today you will learn how to read for yourself and for others, using your intuition for a deeper understanding. Ready? Let’s do this!
Ok, first I have to be super clear here: there are many, many, potentially infinite layers to the imagery and symbolism of Tarot cards, so there will always be more to learn. While this guide covers everything you need to know to get started, I HIGHLY recommend reading a book that delves even deeper into this subject. It really helps to gain a deeper understanding and this helps you to learn and remember as much as possible.
My favorite Tarot books are:
There is even a Reddit page now with online resources, too!
First, what are the Tarot cards? And what are they for?
Their origin is shrouded in mystery; they are cards that incorporate symbols and elements from a wide variety of different cultural sources. They are thought to have been used in ancient Egypt. Their imagery is designed to stimulate your subconscious mind, which can help you come across realizations you may not otherwise have picked up on.
While the Tarot has been used as a form of fortune-telling or divination, I personally use them as a tool for inner reflection. To me, they don’t “tell the future” exactly, but they can let you know where things are heading based on the current situation.
So while Tarot cards can sometimes seem to reflect your surroundings, they most often will give you insight on your internal states. (After all, our outer landscape often reflects our inner landscape.)
Each scenario depicted in a Tarot card is designed to reflect an essential and universally relatable aspect of the human experience.
I recommend thinking of Tarot cards this way: they tell the story of life. It really is the story of the universal human experience. The journey of the soul. (It is sometimes referred to as “the soul’s journey.”)
I personally like these cards for introspection, processing life events, even working through trauma. There are many other ways to use them; you can also use these cards for meditation and in spells, which we’ll delve into shortly!
So where can you find Tarot cards?
I recommend looking around online or in a metaphysical shop to find a Tarot deck that you feel drawn to. Some say that your first gift must be a deck, but that is totally not true. (Although that is always nice, and thank you to the sweet humans who have gifted me decks over the years!) Keep in mind, you can also find oracle cards out there. While they are awesome too, they are different from Tarot.
Some of my favorite Tarot decks include:
You can also practice Tarot using a deck of regular playing cards, although you will be missing some of the cards and this can be more difficult to intuitively read.
If you are using playing cards:
Spades = Swords – thinking
Hearts = Cups – feeling
Diamonds = Pentacles / Coins – having
Clubs = Wands – creating
You can keep your cards in whatever type of container you like. I often use makeup bags and drawstring pouches with crystals inside to keep the cards company. Fancy people apparently wrap their cards in silk, which is going above and beyond!
In general, each card of the Tarot describes an essential element of the human experience – altogether making up the story of life – and the soul’s journey. Out of 78 cards total, there are:
Arcana is Latin for “secret,” so these are the major secrets of life, ok? They are numbered 0-21, starting with the Fool, working all the way up to the World. If you look at these cards in order, they describe an adventure through different states of being, along a journey of self-realization: finding your soul’s purpose and journey in life. The Major Arcana cards describe major life events.
If you lay these cards out in order, you will see that they depict an adventure through different states of being, told by archetypes (figures representing aspects of our consciousness). They describe the process of adventuring through life and evolving through different phases of attaining life’s wisdom.
(For a very brief and simplified walkthrough of the Major Arcana’s story, please reference the video at 4:50.)
When these cards come up in a reading, especially when there are multiple of them, pay attention: this is a major turning point in your life.
Especially when you first get your deck, look through these cards; can you relate to the story being told? Can you relate to any of the characters? Looking through these cards and taking a moment to study each one can help you intuitively connect with them.
The Minor Arcana – the “minor secrets” of life – relate to universal life experiences on a somewhat smaller scale. These cards are composed of four suits:
Swords deal with mental states, matters of the rational / intellectual / thinking mind. (Air energy.)
Cups depict emotional states. (Water energy.)
Wands represent inspiration, creativity, transformation, and endeavors. (Fire energy.)
Pentacles / Coins involve physical, material, and financial matters. (Earth energy.)
Each suit has 10 numbered cards, and a court: a Page, a Knight, a Queen, and a King.
The 10 numbered cards describe various universally relatable situations involving the suit’s subject.
Pages usually appear when something is being worked on.
Knights describe progress actively being made towards a goal.
Queens and Kings represent various levels of self and life mastery over that which their suit represents.
For example, if you see the Page of Pentacles / Coins, you are working on something that may bring you material or financial gain. The Knight of Wands indicates progress being made on a journey fueled by inspiration that will transform you.
Intuitively reading Tarot cards
Honestly, I wouldn’t get too caught up in trying to memorize the meanings of each card, especially if you are just getting started. There is so much power in accessing your intuition by just looking at the cards and listening to what they mean to you.
The more you spend time with your cards, the more you will naturally understand them, so from the start, try these tricks to get in touch with your psychic senses:
-When you first get your cards, just take a good look through the whole deck!
-Pay attention to how each card makes you feel.
-Notice if there are any you are drown to.
-Ask yourself, what story could the imagery, symbolism, coloring, and overall symbolism of the cards be trying to tell?
-How can you relate to the situations depicted in the cards?
Your first thought when you see a card is probably correct. Try at least guessing what a card might mean before looking it up. You might find that the readings are similar, or that your initial inclination felt more accurate than the traditional meaning. This practice is all about your intuition, so how you feel about a reading is the most important thing! Trust yourself! If you get a hunch it’s trying to tell you something, you are probably right.
To quickly look up thorough descriptions of each individual card online, I highly recommend using Biddy Tarot. It’s usually the first thing that comes up if you Google a card, even if you just type like “6 of Wands.” This is definitely a convenient way to deepen your reading skills from your phone or device.
Oh, and I personally do not do “reversed” cards. (I shuffle like a crazy person, so all of my cards are in various states of upside-down-ness.) Instead I consider that the reversed meanings could potentially always be included within the many aspects and implications of each card. (Reversed meanings are usually either the opposite or more negative version of the original meanings.) The question you have asked and the other cards you have drawn will usually give you a good idea of which meaning is most applicable to the situation. Up to you though!
What to do when you first get your deck
So you got your first deck and you are ready to party! In addition to taking a look through your cards, you will want to energetically “clear” your deck of any funk so it can speak straight to your soul. You can do this by waving some incense smoke around your cards, resting a crystal on them, leaving them on your windowsill under moonlight, or by visualizing them bathed in a purifying white light. (There are other ways – if something feels right to you, do it!)
You may want to repeat this process every once in a while, perhaps after an intense reading or after someone else handles your cards. (If you allow that – not everyone does.)
I also like to clear my cards before each reading by blowing on them, as if blowing the dust off them, and knocking on them as if on a door. I feel like it’s the card-reading equivalent of “hello, anyone home?”
Oh, and in terms of where you can read your cards, anywhere that works and feels chill is fine. I heard once that they are most effective when done on a wooden surface, but that isn’t always realistically an option. While I have had plenty of success reading on “unnatural” surfaces, it does feel nice to read on a stone or wooden surface and get a little boost of earth energy.
Reading for yourself and others:
First, you will need a question to ask.
This can be as vague as, “What do I need to know / hear right now?” Or as specific as “What is in store for my career in the next 6 months?” You can ask about general things, or particular areas of your life – love / relationships, career, finances, mental and emotional states, you name it.
You just can’t ask a yes or no question, because there are no yes or no cards. But a reading can tell you if something is likely going to have a positive or negative outcome, so it can still help you gain the insight you may need to make a decision. And while they cannot spell out the name of your future spouse, you can certainly ask them to describe the type of person you are attracting.
So focus on your question as you shuffle! When I read for someone else, I like to have them shuffle the cards whenever possible, directing them to focus on their question as well. (This is a personal preference and totally up to you.)
It is super important to shuffle the cards before each reading to keep it fresh! There is no right or wrong way to shuffle. (You should see me. I have no idea how to actually shuffle, so I just swirl the cards around on a surface messily. Even my super supportive mom tells me, “You’ll never make it in Vegas.” But hey, it works for me!) You are done shuffling when you feel like you are done (when you want to stop).
You can draw off the top, off the bottom, out of the middle, or even just spread the cards out and randomly select them. When I read for others, I like to also have them pick out the cards if they are present.
If cards pop out, these are important messages for you! Use them in your reading and pay extra attention to what they are trying to say.
Drawing cards & Tarot spreads
Generally I like to draw anywhere from 1 to 11 cards. It is totally up to you!
If I draw 1-7 cards, I usually just lay them out and read them all together. Otherwise, I tend to do the classic 10-card Celtic cross spread, sometimes with one extra clarification card. In this spread and in many others, the particular placement of each card has a meaning. There are different spreads for every purpose, and there are tons online! (Just try searching “tarot spreads for…”)
I wrote a whole article explaining Tarot spreads with a Celtic cross spread walkthrough here, so check it out for the full lowdown!
Often I hear the question, “what’s the difference between getting an answer from more or less cards?” Well, with more cards, you will have more information. However, this doesn’t always make it the better option. More cards and more information can make your answer more complicated, so sometimes it might be a little more confusing.
A great way to get started is just to pick one card. It keeps things simple and allows you to focus on one important life lesson.
You can also try three cards, reading them all together, or by considering them as representing Mind, Body, Spirit. (Or Past, Present, Future.)
If you are reading a few cards together, an easy way to understand their collective meaning is to look at the cards like a storyboard. What relationships could the characters have with each other? Do they appear to be interacting with each other in any way? What story do you feel like they are trying to tell?
If you are looking up the individual meanings, try next to put them together; how do these cards come together to describe the different aspects of a situation?
Remember to trust your intuition and listen to your first impression of the cards before you look up the meanings!
Meditating with the Tarot
One of my favorite ways to use Tarot is by picking a card to meditate on just by leaving it somewhere where I’ll see it throughout the day. If there is something you are trying to focus or work on, try picking a card that represents that. Put it in a prominent place in your home where you will gaze upon it often, subconsciously infusing its symbolism in your mind. This has seriously helped me get through some tough days. (Shout out to the Strength card.)
To dive deeper, you can meditate “in” a card. To do this, choose a card to look at it for a while, and close your eyes to visualize being the character inside. What do you see around you? How do you feel? Especially if you keep drawing a particular card and wonder what it is really trying to tell you, this can help you gain a deeper understanding of its message.
Spells & Tarot
Similarly to meditation, you can choose a card or multiple cards to use as a focal point to concentrate your energy in spells. I usually like to leave cards on my altar. You can do a simple spell that is also a meditation by choosing a card, lighting a candle, and contemplating the image and meaning of that card. Meditating on what elements of the card you would like to manifest into your life is a magical way to gain a closer relationship with your cards.
Well there you have it, your trippy Tarot training is complete for now!
So just make the Tarot a part of your daily life! Pick a card a day! You will learn fast and it will be fun. And I think you’ll find it’s nice to go through life with this wise companion at your side. Especially in uncertain times, it is helpful to have a tool for guidance when you feel stuck. Tarot is seriously awesome for getting un-stuck or helping you deal with your problems with the help of beautiful symbolism and gorgeous cards.
It’s also great to reflect when things are going well, but hey, when things are crazy that is when we need the most guidance, right? If you are thinking about getting Tarot cards, you are likely being called to do some powerful inner work, and you can do it! I believe in you!
I will continue to keep laying eggs of magical knowledge here for you – comment and let me know if you have any questions! And if you are an awesome human (and I know you are if you’ve made it this far), hit me up for a reading sometime!