Tarot is very subjective, and no two people can be expected to use and read tarot cards exactly the same way, so if you do any research on tarot reading you are bound to come across a myriad different styles and techniques that are used to learn and read the cards. In learning tarot, as with learning any new subject, you will find there is a wealth of new information to discover and learn. It could get quite daunting and prevent you from making progress.
The main thing to remember is to find techniques that work best for you.
Here is a quick guide with some tips and techniques for tarot beginners that I have come across and used in my own personal journey. I hope you find them helpful.
CHOOSING A TAROT DECK
Writing this in 2021 there are now hundreds of different Tarot decks on the market to choose from. This is so very different to 20 or 30 years ago, and the great thing is most are available online so it doesn’t take too much effort to find them.
There are a myriad of styles and a variety of systems too. Some are based on traditional esoteric symbology and some involve more modern interpretations. Many decks are based (closely or more loosely) on the Rider Waite or Thoth deck systems. Some decks have pip minor cards which means cards 1-10 in each suit will have simple symbols representing the number of the card rather than a scenic illustration of the meaning that you will find on the court cards and Major Arcana cards. Pip cards aren’t for everyone, so it may take some trial an error to see if you like that style.
My personal experience of tarot is that imagery is key to stimulting the intuition, after all we are looking some kind of image or symbol on the cards. So it’s useful to be aware of how you connect with the design of a deck before buying it. This can be easily be done by watching deck walkthroughs on Youtube. It’s a useful way to see all the cards in a deck and decide if you like them. Find a deck you love the look of as there’s no point in looking at cards you don’t find pleasing, or wiht imagery that just doesn’t resonate with you, and using them will be more enjoyable experience.
I’d advise against being swayed by someone telling you that you must use a particular deck to start with. That’s just not true. For example you don’t have to start with the Rider Waite deck, if really are not attracted to it. Otherwise you may find that you can’t connect with the cards and struggle with readings. It can cuase frustration, or make you think that you are not able read the cards, when really you just need a different deck. A deck based on that system is useful in order to get familiar with the traditional meanings – just pick one that you do like.
If you buy a deck and find your’re not connecting with it don’t worry. You may find you connect better with it at a later date. Or it might that you need to just relax and let your intuition guide you as to their meaning, rather than relying too heavily on the guide book meanings.
Whatever the reason, relax! Don’t get hung up on it. Get another deck you feel more able to read with and come back to it another time. I still have a couple of decks I bought when starting to learn tarot that to this day I still can’t read with, but other decks that are just fantastic for me (and I didn’t start with, nor have ever used the Rider Waite Smith deck….).
STORING YOUR BEAUTIFUL NEW DECK(S)
This is one topic that there seems to be a general consensus on in the community. Most tarot users like to store their cards in a box, bag or container of some sort. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a reader just leaving their cards lying around loose!
One rational is that storing the cards in a bag or container keeps them energetically ‘clean’ which is better for readings. This comes from the concept that energies can be transferred from one thing to another, so you wouldn’t want negative or influencing energies on your card. This subject could be a whole blog post on it’s own though, so I won’t delve into the subject of energies here.
Furthermore it’s nicer to keep them in good condition. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and could even make your own tarot bag from spare material you have, or use a suitable tin or small box (clean of course). This is one practice that I personally do adhere to, and would recommend. If you prefer to buy something there are a variety of tarot bags and containers to be found online easily with a simple Google search.
STARTING A READING
There are different ways you can start your reading. There’s no one correct way and what you do will probably be determined by your own spiritual practises or beliefs. Some of the various methods I’ve come across are:
- Taking a moment to relax or take some deep breaths to center oneself
- Meditating beforehand
- Saying a prayer
- Setting up crystals or incense
- Asking for guidance from spirit or guides
Don’t feel you have to do any of these things. If you feel you need techniques to prepare yourself before a reading then by all means do that. There are plenty of articles, books and videos on those subjects online that you can find. Equally if you are not into that and feel you can just get to reading that’s fine also.
Monitor how you feel and adjust your way of starting a reading accordingly. I think the key thing is to do whatever helps you be calm and relaxed.
SHUFFLING THE CARDS
I’ve seen tarot readers with impressive shuffling skills in tarot videos on YouTube. But not having the skill of a Casino Croupier doesn’t mean you aren’t doing great tarot readings!
The basic goal is to mix them up well, but there is an additional benefit in that it helps focus the mind and connect with the cards. The deck can be shuffled like a traditional deck of cards, or spread out on a table and mixed up. Another technique is to also cut the deck a few times or fan it out first before drawing a card. There are various methods for both shuffling and cutting, but again there is no one correct way. Do whatever you feel works for you, and then just stop shuffling/cutting and draw the card(s) when it feels right.
It’s probably easier for a beginner to start with simple spreads, for example:
- 1 card reading
- 3 card spread (e.g. Past/Present/Future)
You can get an awful lot of insight from one card and starting off with something like the 10 card Celtic Cross can be a bit overwhelming to interpret which can dent your confidence. So my advice would be to start simple and build up to doing more complex spreads.
A common, but effective, technique is to do a daily draw of one card. This can be done at the beginning of your day – note down the meaning you get from it and see how it manifests throughout your day. An alternative is an evening draw to see what the card shows you about your day – does the meaning you get align with your experiences that day?
Using spreads with defined position meanings whilst learning, rather than free form, can be more helpful as it gives more structure to the readings and helps focus the interpretation.
You can make up your own simple spreads too. For example instead of the 3 card Past, Present, Future you could assign the positions as 1) Nature of the problem, 2)Cause of the problem, 3)Solution. If you create your own spread keep a note somewhere of the position meanings and see how your readings develop with it. If it’s not quite working as you want amend it or use a different spread. It’s up to you!
It can be beneficial to keep a journal of your tarot readings. Simply note the cards, positions in the spread used, and your interpretations. These entries can be really useful to look back on, not just to see if you were more or less accurate in the reading, but you may find that as you progess your interpretations change, expand, or become deeper. Perhaps a card you found hard to understand intially makes more sense when you look back at the reading later. Tarot journalling is a great tool in the journey to learning to read the cards.
What techniques have you used that helped you in your journey with tarot? Share your insights in the comments below.
Tarot Designs©Jonathan Saiz, and Fountaintarot.com