With 78 cards in a tarot deck, all with different meanings (and layers of meaning), setting out to learn them all can seem daunting. But it needn’t be! Discover 5 ways you can learn tarot card meanings without feeling overwhelmed.
In my own journey with the cards I’ve seen many suggestions for how to learn and remember the meanings. Here are a few of them that I have found useful that I hope you’ll find useful too. You don’t have to do any of them, or just do one or two – whatever resonates with you most.
I should point out first of all that using Tarot is a very personal activity, and not everyone will use or interpret them in exactly the same way. It can take time to learn tarot, depending on how deeply into the symbolism you want to go.
1. Daily draw
This is a popular method and one I think is very effective. Draw one card in the morning and make a note of the meaning, and keep it in mind. Then throughout the day be aware of moments when the card’s meaning seems relevant. It will highlight it for you and thus aid with memorisation as you are experiencing whatever that signification is, whether personally or through events around you.
Alternatively draw one card at the end of the day to signify what the day was like for you. Does the card make sense in light particular situations or events that ocurred?
When you start to feel more comfortable with the cards you can expand the draw to three cards: one to represent the morning, one for the afternoon, and the last one for the evening.
I personally found the daily draw method incredibly helpful. Cards can have very layered meanings, and as I read the imagery intuitively it helped me discover new nuances or interpretations I might not have thought of otherwise.
2. Single card daily reflection
Randomly draw a card (or choose a particular card you would like to learn more about), and place it somewhere where you are likely to see it a few times during the day. When you see it as you go about your day take a moment to contemplate it, what the traditional meaning is, or what else you see in the card. Alternatively look for moments when that card seems fitting – what kind of situations or feelings occur that align with it?
3. Start with small spreads
If you have a grasp of some of the basic meanings you might be eager to start doing readings. That’s understandable. You may find starting with only small spreads (say 1-3 card) easier than diving in and using a large spread like the Celtic Cross- that can just be overwhelming. Even seasoned tarot readers still use small spreads – you can get a lot of information from a few cards.
Initially you may like to try reading about situations that aren’t stressful or needing an urgent answer to. You don’t want the additional stress of feeling like you have to figure out the answer to something really important when perhaps you aren’t quite understanding what the cards are saying yet, or if you need a little more confidence.
There’s no better way to learn than by practising, so doing small readings where it doesn’t matter much if you think you didn’t quite get it. In conjunction with other methods listed here is a great way to start learning. Do refer to the guide book that comes with the deck if you need to – it doesn’t matter if you get a bit stuck every now and then. With time you will find you naturally need guide books less and less.
4. Keep a Tarot journal
Keeping a journal can be a great aid to learning tarot. Try writing down your spreads and interpretations for your daily draw or other readings. This can help build up a list of meanings that you have seen come through in practise. Recording your general thoughts and feelings about how you get on with particular decks or techniques you are using can also be helpful.
Looking back over time you will be able to see how you are progressing, and what works or doesn’t for you. And with the busy lives we lead it can be hard to try and remember all the readings we do, so journalling is a real help. You may soon discover that you have progressed farther than you thought!
5. Object divination
This is a fun excersise. Ask someone to put a small object into a container for you without you knowing what it is, and you shouldn’t be able to see it once inside the container. Then using your tarot cards ask questions to find out what the object is. You could aske questions like like ‘What colour is the item in this box’, or ‘What is the object in this box used for’. Draw one card for each question and see what the card says. It works well for reading imagery intuitively – you may be drawn to a shape, or colour in the card, or the card may show more directly what the object is like, used for, or associated with.
It might seem a bit mundane or trite, but in my experience it works really well to discover nuances of meanings, new meanings, and just generally excersise those intuitive muscles! It can make a nice change from doing readings for people or situations. I’ve done this a number of times with great results.
Learning Tarot isn’t just about learning the meanings of the cards but learning to have better intuition and divination skills. For more tips and techniques see my article ‘Tips and Techniques for Tarot Beginners’, and ‘What is the correct way to learn and use Tarot?’
Do you have a preferred way of learning Tarot or cartomancy in general? Share your experiences in the comments below!