Getting Started With Tarot


Tarot isn’t as easy as it looks, but with a little bit of effort and some practice, it will become much easier. Many new tarot readers and those who don’t read the cards (but who get readings for themselves) seem to think at first that reading the cards is just that and nothing more. Ask a question, shuffle the deck, lay them out at random and interpret. On the surface, yes, that’s exactly what it looks like.

But tarot reading is much more than the surface. I know from personal experience that it can be draining and sometimes frustrating. Last year my Pagan Student Union held a fundraiser for charity. We were more popular than we ever dreamed–four of us read tarot for four hours straight. When we finally took a break we could barely think straight. The literally hundreds of readings we did drained all of us to the last dregs of our energy, mentally and physically. (Rookie mistake–next time we’ll charge more!)

Tarot readers do more than the question-shuffle-layout-interpret. It involves using the intuition, opening yourself up not only to what is inside you but also to the other person’s energy. The combined effects of actively employing your own intuition (instead of letting it for the most part lie in the background) and reading other people is exhausting. Add to this mix that this energy must then be used to interpret a series of cards and you have one giant headache!

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from learning or using tarot. I wouldn’t have believed how tiring it could be when I first began, and that’s all I’m trying to say. With practice, it becomes easier to read the cards–which means you expend less energy on learning the cards themselves and more energy on reading the person you’re doing the reading for.

The books that come with most decks are useful for beginners in that they are a starting point. They provide the absolute basic information on each card and set you loose. For starters, that’s fine. But for those who want to use their cards better than a beginner level, there are some steps to take.

First, find a deck you feel a connection with. My first deck came from my mother as a gift. That’s all well and good, but the deck never meant much to me because I didn’t connect well with it. I bought some other decks for myself eventually that I worked better with, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine gave me her (cleared) deck that I found the right cards for me at that time. You can use a deck that you don’t feel connected to, of course, but it’s harder, and interpreting I think doesn’t come as easily.

Next, put your cards under your pillow for a few nights (or in your bed next to your head if that’s uncomfortable) and sleep with them there. This will establish an energetic connection between you and the cards, even if you don’t feel any particular connection with them at first. It’s sort of like marking them as yours in an energetic sense.

Then practice. Get some of your friends to ask random questions. Warn them that you’re still learning so they won’t take it too seriously (many people do), and then let loose. Find out what the cards mean to you beyond their general meanings. They are open to interpretation, and while there are some “rules” to what the cards mean, the decks are generally open to what you make of them. The only way to really find out what they mean to you in interpretation is to practice a lot and, if you’re still stuck on a card’s meaning, meditate on the elements of the card and try to figure it out. That’s the best way to get started on actively using tarot.

Some typical meanings in the cards:

  • Pentacles: earth, prosperity, stability
  • Swords: air (this connection is debated), knowledge, intellect
  • Wands: fire (this connection is debated), sexuality, sometimes anger, love
  • Cups: water, emotions, intuition, psyche, the soul, religion
  • The 22 Major Arcana tend to have a bigger impact and represent larger life issues in readings
  • Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages (also known by other names) can at times represent people.
  • The Death card doesn’t mean death…it means change, metamorphosis.

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5 responses to “Getting Started With Tarot

  1. You could spend several life times studying the tarot and not really scratch the surface as they are so multi-layered.

    I find the tarot is a good jumping off point to another level of consciousness.

  2. You are completely correct – Tarot is absolutely exhausting. I know I set out a few personal rules for important readings – no more then three readings a sitting/night, not doing it while emotional or too sleepy.

    With recent and upcoming duties, It seems I’ll have to adjust my rules in order to be able to do readings for charity – since I’m sure I’ll end up doing more then three readings.

    But there are some important key ideas to keep in mind when doing readings – not to be emotional to avoid misinterpretation, not to be too sleepy or energetic to avoid missing details.

    But wonderful article – and, when do we get your comprehensive tarot article series?

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, tarot next Wednesday is going to be hard, I’m trying to hold some energy in reserve for it so I won’t be worthless afterward, haha!

      What, you want me to do a series like Weekly Deity but for tarot cards? Talk about what each card means and the symbols? I could do that, if you think it would be interesting…

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