Beginners Guide to Reading Tarot Cards

To those who believe that the act of tarot card reading is solely reserved for the Halloween season, you couldn’t be more wrong!

 

Tarot has long been associated with superstition but due to a surge of recent interest in all things witchy, it has once again swung back into style. Though the practice is becoming more mainstream as time goes on, it can still seem a bit confusing for newbies.

 

If you’re a complete beginner at reading tarot cards, chances are you are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and skills that you feel you need to learn to even begin the process of tarot card reading. 

 

Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to know everything by the book from the get-go. Instead, you should shift your focus to learning how to trust your intuition and allow it to guide you.

 

You must also know that every individual’s entrance into the world of reading tarot cards is vastly different. Though you will be learning to hone the same skills as other tarot readers, your journey will be unique to you.

 

The art of reading tarot cards relies solely on the connection between the tarot reader, the person who is having their cards read, and the energy of the cards. This is something that cannot be taught and must be learned.

 

So, if you’re a beginner looking to take your first steps to read tarot cards, this guide contains all of the information you could ever need.

 

Where Does Tarot Come From?

Although tarot card decks originated from Northern Italy during the 1400s, where pictorial cards were originally used as a form of entertainment rather than a tool to make predictions, tarot is a modern craft. Being able to tell or read fortunes by using a deck of cards wasn’t a thing until 1785. 

 

Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as Etteilla, was one of the first people to create a set of comprehensive links between astrology, ancient Egyptian lore, and illustrated cards. Thanks to this development, many philosophers and mystics carried on investigating the role of tarot.

 

During the late 19th century, London-based occultists went on to form the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Aurora Aurea). This group was a secret society dedicated to the study and practice of the occult, and later became one of the groups that are known to be responsible for the revival of magic.

 

Then, in the early 20th century, two individuals named Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur Edward Waite worked together to design and publish a tarot deck that was loosely based on the teachings of the Golden Dawn. 

 

This deck is known by tarot readers everywhere as the Rider-Waite deck. To this day, over 113 years later, the intricate art ensures that this remains one of the most popular tarot deck variants for all tarot card readers – from the freshest beginner to the most experienced professional.

 

Then, further developments occurred in the mid-20th century that took tarot cards to the next level. In 1943, Lady Frieda Harris and Aleister Crowley (an occultist who was also Arthur Edward Waite’s self-declared nemesis) went on to paint and publish their own version of the tarot made famous by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

 

Named after the Egyptian god of alphabets, and known as the Thoth Deck,  this tarot deck used updated art deco imagery to bring something new to the link between the divination practice and the cosmos. It incorporates symbolism based on Crowley’s imagery taken from multiple disciplines including philosophy, science, and occult systems.

 

How Many Tarot Cards Are There?

Cards within the Minor Arcana are generally split into four suits, with each containing four court cards and ten numbered cards. 

 

The progression of court cards (Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages) shows an understanding of a specific individual’s circumstances. This might include a representation of people or personality types. The court cards are generally used to interpret individual circumstances.

 

The card’s number typically reveals the stage of an event. For example, the ace card in the Minor Arcana represents a new beginning, while the number ten card symbolizes the very end.

 

One of the most important things to remember about the ten numbered cards is that they are split into four suits: Swords, Wands, Cups, and Pentacles). The suits correspond to astrological elements and unique areas of life for the person having their tarot cards read. They can also offer guidance on how to manage current circumstances and also reveal the spheres of influence that are currently being activated.

 

They have the following loose interpretations:

 

  • Wands are usually associated with inspiration and passion (the fire element)
  • Pentacles are used to represent physical realities and money (the earth element)
  • Swords represent intellectual intrigue (the air element)
  • Cups represent more emotional matters (the water element)

 

How Do I Choose A Deck?

There are many stunning tarot deck designs available to choose from. The Rider-Waite deck is often the most popular choice of the tarot deck as people believe that the individual energy from each card is portrayed. The designs are also extremely visually appealing, which might help newer tarot readers to understand the deck quicker.

 

However, we must also make sure to mention that there is no exact way to choose a tarot deck. Ideally, you should choose a deck that you thoroughly enjoy – one that looks and feels special to you as a tarot reader.

 

While many avid tarot card readers follow the belief that your first tarot deck must be gifted to you, you can also treat yourself to a deck. In this instance, the general rule of thumb is that you should only purchase a deck that you feel a connection with. Essentially, your tarot cards should choose you and your energy, rather than you choosing it.

 

As a result, seeking an intuitive and personal connection to a deck of cards is a surefire way to guarantee that the tarot deck you end up choosing is the best one for you.

 

How To Choose A Tarot Spread

A tarot spread is all about the layout, or the pattern that is formed when the cards are placed down on the table. 

 

There are lots of interesting traditional and modern tarot spreads to choose from. The Celtic Cross is a good starting point for beginners. It contains 10 cards – each with its own assigned position and meaning for said position. This makes this spread relatively easy to read if you have the basics down. Use your deck guidebook for more information.

 

A tarot deck guidance book will point you in the direction of the most appropriate spread, considering the following factors:

  • The questions being asked
  • Level of detail
  • Available time for the reading
  • The spreads you have some familiarity with

You could even create your spread, or opt to not use one at all!

 

As a beginner, this can feel like an overwhelming part of the tarot reading process – but it doesn’t need to be! All you need to do is choose a few tarot spreads that you are comfortable with and then work on figuring out the different situations that are most applicable. 

 

Begin the process by learning a simple spread with one to three cards and then go from there. The key isn’t to fill an entire table with cards but instead to use select cards to tell a story that’ll make sense to the person you are reading the cards for. 

 

You could also rely on your intuition to tell you which spread to use, although this may come more naturally to more experienced readers. As you gain experience you will also likely find yourself using the same spreads to gain clarity.

 

What’s The Difference Between Major Vs. Minor Arcana Tarot Cards?

As a beginner in the world of tarot reading, it’s also important that you understand the difference between Major and Minor Arcana tarot cards.

 

A standard tarot deck will contain 78 cards that are divided into two distinct subsets: the Major and Minor Arcana. 

 

The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana has four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles) that loosely correspond to the suits in a deck of modern playing cards. Each of these suits consists of ten number cards from Ace through to ten, and four royalty cards including the King, Queen, Knight, and Page. There is a combined total of 56 cards in the Minor Arcana

 

These cards are usually concerned with day-to-day life and represent the tasks, people, events, and decisions that tend to fill our daily experiences. Such minute details add some texture and color to the way our life works.

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana is the smaller of the two subsets, containing 22 standalone picture cards. Each card represents an archetype such as life or love, but may also be used to represent guides and individuals that have a significant role in life.

 

They also represent the pivotal events in our lives and tend to carry more significance if they are pulled in a tarot reading than any card in the Minor Arcana. However, this depends on the individual beliefs of the reader.

 

Overall, there are a few key differences between the two subsets. Most importantly, the Minor Arcana is what represents our uniqueness, whereas the Major Arcana implies the things that we all have in common.

 

What Is The Best Way To Select Each Tarot Card?

Learning how to read tarot cards is all about trusting your intuition. This applies to the method you use to select cards during a reading. You might want to consider using the following: “blind feel,” “quick sight,” or simply pulling a card from the very top of the deck. We will discuss these in more detail below.

 

1. Blind Feel

Once you’ve fanned your cards out, this involves keeping your eyes closed and waving your hands a couple of inches above your cards. This allows you to connect with the energy of specific cards and pull them during your reading.

 

Using such techniques while the cards are in your hand after shuffling or spread out on a table in front of you gives you the chance to fully connect with your cards.

 

2. Quick Sight

Much like the name suggests, this method involves quickly selecting your cards and then delivering based on the cards that your eyes are immediately drawn to. Never second guess your intuition with this method. All you have to do is pick the cards you first set your sights on and add them to your spread.

 

3. Pull From The Top

This is the easiest method of them all. You need to shuffle your entire tarot card deck and then directly pull your chosen cards from the top of the pile.

 

Learn The Cards’ Meanings, But Leave Room For Your Own Interpretations

The best way to become a good tarot reader is to study the pictures on your tarot deck, read around the meanings of each card, and practice reading to close friends and family.

 

A lot of people study tarot for personal gain, laying out a spread when they need clarity in a real-life situation. Trusting in the cards and your intuition to show you the way forward is a key way to incorporate the energy of the cards into your everyday life. 

 

You might have an in-depth understanding of some cards in the Minor Arcana, whereas it could take you twice as long to come to terms with the true meanings of the cards in the Major Arcana.

 

Regardless, once you’ve gained a basic idea of how the arcana are divided and how they work, you can begin to piece details together. Whether you focus on symbols, signs, or colors – anything on the cards can be interpreted in the way you want it to be.

 

Reading tarot cards and understanding the meaning of each one has often been compared to learning a new skill or language. This is because you begin the process by learning and studying the individual cards (the small things) and then turn your attention to understanding how tarot spreads work and interact, and how you can then put the cards together to form a coherent narrative.

 

Like words, tarot cards have vastly different meanings depending on where they appear in a spread. The direction they are facing within the tarot spread plays a huge part in the significance of the reading. 

 

However, once you are more familiar with the way a spread works, and how the cards interact, you might find it easier to understand what is being said and can then rely on your interpretation to lead the way.

 

Try Reading For Yourself Before Reading For Anyone Else

There is a myth that you aren’t supposed to read tarot for yourself. But don’t let that stop you! After all, how are you meant to help others gain clarity with a tarot spread when you don’t have the means to do it for yourself?

 

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the practice is to regularly read your cards. Ensuring you have frequent tarot practice will help you to get into the habit of accessing your intuition which will positively influence your decision-making while also aligning your actions.

 

Pulling even a card a day will also offer a window into who you are (past, present, and future) in a matter of seconds. This could do wonders for your energy and will also give you insight into certain aspects of your life.

 

Feel free to consult the guidebook that came with your deck if you are struggling to work out the general meaning of a card or two within the spread.

 

Most importantly, hold off on reading for other people before you can read your own tarot deck without needing to look up the meaning of each card. You want to be present at the moment to put all your focus on the person you are working with.

 

Use Companion Material

As a beginner in the world of reading tarot cards, you might want a bit of additional help. While there’s nothing wrong with needing this type of boost, it can often be difficult knowing where to start looking. That’s where companion material comes in handy.

 

Companion material is an excellent way of bridging the gap of understanding between you and your tarot cards. A typical companion book will break down the different meanings of the cards, show you the types of spreads available, and will provide you with information for other things you’ll need to master the art of tarot reading.

 

This enables you to form a more intimate connection with the deck and will also aid your intuition, helping you to better connect with the energy of the cards.

 

A companion book or the mini guidance booklet that came with your tarot cards will provide you with a basic understanding of the meaning behind each card. Specifically, it will enable you to understand the mystery and general message of the cards.

 

Companion material can be objective but will steadily support you through the early stages of learning the meanings of different tarot cards.

 

Use Props When Reading

It’s not necessary to use props during your reading but nothing is stopping you from doing so. If using props is something that you feel you need to successfully carry out a tarot reading, or simply as a way to connect with others, then you should do it.

 

Props have the power to completely level up your reading. These are some of the most popular props you might want to consider using:

 

Crystals

Using tarot cards and crystals together is a great way to guarantee that you have created the ideal energy within the space where you are carrying out your reading. It might turn the energy into something cleansing, empowering, and positive.

 

Crystals can be worn as jewelry or simply kept within the reading space. The overall energy that it brings depends on the crystals you prefer. Clear quartz, for example, will amplify any messages obtained from a tarot reading.

 

Crystals can also provide a sense of grounding that will help to block out the more negative aspects of a tarot reading. Again, this depends on the type of crystal you choose to have in your space.

 

Burn Sage Or Incense

It isn’t an uncommon practice to burn sage or incense when we want to give our homes a purifying cleanse. The same can be said for a tarot card reading. 

 

Burning sage is a great way of cleansing your cards. When smudging or burning the sage, you must pass each card through the smoke and then flip it over. This will give you enough time to fully appreciate the art on the cards and to keep your head at the moment.

 

Incense is a great tool to cleanse your tarot space, or the deck itself. All you need to do is hold the deck near to the smoke of a dried wand or herbal incense, and allow it to waft over and around to fully cleanse the cards. Lavender is a great option for this.

 

Other Trinkets That Can Help You Connect

Of course, tarot intention and knowledge are super important in any tarot reading. But you may not realize just how much physical props and trinkets can help to set the mood!

 

Trinkets may help to create a specific spiritual ambiance or create a calming and mysterious environment that enhances the messages and experience that the cards are offering. Some of the most common trinkets that might help you to connect include:

 

  • Mood-altering music to drift into an intuitive mindset.
  • Calming tea to transport your mind to another dimension.
  • Tarot journal to record all of your tarot readings.
  • Black candles for an added element of drama in the scene.

 

Set Your Intention

One of the most important parts of any tarot reading is to cleanse your cards. You can do this by ensuring that you set your intention, which gives you a specific reason for carrying out your reading.

 

This means affirming to yourself, the universe, your spirit guides, and anything else that the inquiry you are making is very serious. This will help to make sure that your cards are cleared of any negative energy.

 

Make sure that your spirit guides know you are the one in control and charge of the reading, and that you express your power. You rule over the cards instead of them having extreme power over you.

 

An intention in terms of a tarot reading might also be classed as:

 

  • Focus comes in handy when you have a lot on your mind and cannot figure out where to begin your reading. This will ensure you don’t spread yourself too thin.
  • Direction is a great way to understand the end location of your interpretation. It will help you to focus on where you want the reading to be heading.
  • The purpose is the reason that we exist. Setting an intention for a reading guarantees a reason for doing it, which sets your reading apart from you as an individual. 

 

Shuffle Your Deck Well

The next step would be to think of the question you want to ask and feel it as you are shuffling your deck. Shuffling is all about feeling the energy in the cards rather than the physical act of moving the cards into a random order.

 

By “feeling” the question, we mean embracing all of the emotions that might come along with the question. This could include pain, relief, or even a desire to find a solution. By focusing on this, you can push the emotional energy of the question directly to the cards.

 

The goal is to visualize the question you are asking and turn it into more than it appears. Imagining it as a 3D object will help you to get greater insight and clarity into what the cards are going to say.

 

In general, there’s no specific way to shuffle your deck from a physical perspective, and the number of times you shuffle a deck per day does not have any impact on your ability to read a tarot spread.

 

You can shuffle for a matter of seconds or minutes, although we wouldn’t recommend shuffling for much longer than this. After all, you’ll want to get to the reading as soon as you can.

 

How Long Should You Wait Between Tarot Readings?

Some tarot card readers make sure to fit in daily card reading – usually using one to three cards. Other people might do this much less frequently, maybe once or twice a week.

 

The amount of time that you wait between tarot readings depends on your preferences. The best tip we can provide to you is to wait at least a week between readings so that you do not become overwhelmed by the general gist of what is being said. 

 

Asking your cards the same question for days at a time will not guarantee an accurate response for you. Your insistent need for control could even mess up the meaning of the question and might muddle up the information that you get from the reading.

 

How Can I Care For My Cards?

You must learn and understand how tarot readings work. However, you must also know how to properly care for your cards to ensure that you get the most out of every reading that you do.

 

Cleansing

You need to cleanse your cards properly using sage or incense, store them in a place that will reduce the harm that they come to, and generally respect your cards like you would any of your other belongings. 

 

If you’d like to take things a little bit further, there are a few specific card cleaning rituals that you could perform (such as using sage and incense, as mentioned above). Other tricks to cleanse and properly care for your cards include:

 

  • Put your cards in the direct moonlight or sunlight to energize them.
  • Sprinkling a ring of salt around your deck and leaving them for hours or days.
  • Use a crystal grid to surround your cards.
  • Waving a wand of selenite to cleanse the energy of your cards.
  • Place a black stone on the cards to absorb any unwanted or negative energy.

 

Storage

Your cards can be stored in a specially designed box or bag to reduce damage and dust. The key is storing them in a way where they will not come to any harm. By treating your cards with integrity and respect, you will be doing just that.

 

You might even want to put your cards in a special box, wrapped in a velvet fabric, on a self, or even leave them on your altar! There is no right or wrong way to store your cards. You simply need to do whatever feels right for you.

 

Summary

From properly caring for your cards to learning how to choose a deck of cards, this beginner’s guide to reading tarot cards contains everything you need to know about the practice.

 

Learning exactly how to read a tarot card spread is an amazing journey that can give you lots of clarity, advice, and valuable insight. And while it might appear to be a fun pastime there is far more to it than having a feeling and trusting your gut.

 

It’s a bit of a simplified statement to say that reading tarot cards can often be quite a complex practice. This is because it requires you to pay close attention to intuitive hits after pulling a card to get the most out of every reading, which is not something that we are typically used to doing.

 

If you are looking to speak fluently in the language of tarot and are dedicated to your practice, you will soon realize that your interpretations are not simply occurring due to a coincidence.

 

Once you have purchased a deck of cards that resonates with you and have started regularly practicing on yourself and others, you’ll be well on your way to fluently reading tarot cards!