Why might you want to learn how to read tarot cards?
Well, do you wish you had a tool to help you make better decisions? Need help quieting all your fears and worries so you can get to the heart of what is bothering you? Do you deny or hide certain parts of yourself from others, or even from yourself?
Learning how to read tarot cards has helped me with all of the above. The best part about learning how to read tarot cards is that it is WAY easier than you think. In this post, I’ll share how I got started with tarot and how you can start reading tarot for yourself right away.
Reading tarot helps you practice using your intuition.
Each and every one of us is an intuitive person. Reading tarot cards helps me access my natural intuition and get in touch with myself in a way that weighing pros and cons and ruminating (my therapist’s favorite thing to accuse me of) cannot do.
No offense to all the professional tarot readers out there who want us to think it is an exclusive super power that we should pay them big bucks to demonstrate, but anybody can learn to read tarot. At least for themselves, that is. I rarely, if ever, read for others and don’t claim to be psychic or anything like that!
(Of course, if you don’t want to learn to read for yourself, getting a reading from a trustworthy and intuitively gifted channeler might be really helpful for you in the same way that a great cleaning service is invaluable if you don’t have the time, energy, or skill to clean your house yourself. Do you!)
In fact, I should probably clarify my personal beliefs about how tarot works.
What is Tarot?
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards, each with unique, symbolic imagery designed to clue you in to what your intuition (your Higher Self, the universe, cosmic consciousness, God, your spirit guides, or whatever label resonates with you) wants you to know so you can live your best life.
Contrary to popular belief, tarot isn’t a tool for divination exactly. Rather, as Holistic Tarot author and blogger Benebell Wen puts it, it’s a psychological tool. Tarot allows us to open up to our intuition and interpret the cards in a way that guides us into our deepest—perhaps even subconscious—thoughts, wishes, and fears. According to Brigit Esselmont, another fantastic tarot blogger and podcaster, “you can use [Tarot] to gain instant access to your intuition and your inner source of power and wisdom.”
Everybody’s going to read the cards just a little bit differently. That’s why reading Tarot for yourself is the ultimate self-therapy and self-discovery. Who better to dive into your psyche than you!?
How do Tarot cards work?
By acting as a mirror into our own intuition, the Tarot grants us an intimate understanding of ourselves so that we are able to make positive changes in our lives in order to bring about our deepest desires.
Again, tarot is not divination or fortune telling. You don’t have to worry about drawing the dreaded Death card and bracing yourself for some tragedy.
Although I have had beautiful, reassuring, and positively joyous self-readings, I’ve also had some ugly and dark readings as well. And it doesn’t mean that the sky will soon fall and my life will be over. At least I don’t think it does—yikes! Check back in with the blog in a week to make sure, will you!?
It means I am going through some dark stuff right now. The cards are showing that to me to help me recognize it, understand it, work through it, and let it go so that doom and gloom doesn’t become a product of my own making.
When you take into account the fact that tarot can help you predict likely outcomes and consequences to your actions, tarot’s divination and fortune-telling reputation starts to make more sense. It doesn’t seal your fate though! At least that’s my take on it.
How I Started my Tarot Adventures
Have you been wanting to read tarot cards but aren’t sure how to actually begin? I got the Rider-Waite tarot deck as a gift and didn’t open it for over a year because I was so clueless and confused. But if I can figure it out, so can you! Here’s how my journey began.
My Very First Tarot Reading
My very first self-reading was so eerily accurate that I literally jumped back from the spread and had a moment of, “Oh my gosh, am I a witch now? What have I done? Have I unleashed some dark force that is going to follow me around forever?” Then I calmed down enough to meditate on the cards in order to really understand what my soul and the Spirit guides were trying to tell me about myself. In fact, to illustrate, I’ll tell you exactly how my first Tarot reading went.
How can I possibly recall my very first tarot reading? Because I keep a tarot journal. More on that below.
Having gotten serious about paying down our debt, my husband and I had started keeping a monthly budget and tracking our expenses. Our financial situation was weighing heavily on my mind.
Winding down a business that wasn’t speaking to me anymore and teaching part-time meant my income was in flux. I was also in the throes of depression, which I’ve been battling on and off for about a decade now. So, I was beating myself up about how I was failing at life and how I was supposed to be a millionaire by now and I can’t believe we’re talking about limiting Starbucks and dining out to once a week and I was feeling awful. My law school loans were well beyond six figures and I remember uttering the words, “I just need to give up the idea that I am ever going to own a home. I’m so embarrassed.”
I Found a Simple Tarot Spread on Pinterest
My husband eventually left for a rehearsal, so I had a quiet Saturday afternoon to myself. I coaxed Jagger (my dog) onto our bed with me and I took out my Tarot cards. “Learn how to read Tarot” had been on my to do list for a year now. Today was the day, I decided.
Taking advice from Biddy Tarot, I looked online (on Pinterest of all places) for a simple spread I could do. Nothing fancy or complicated. I just wanted to see if I had a knack for getting any meaning out of the cards. I found a simple spread and decided to give it a shot.
In fact, diving head first into readings is probably the best way to learn how to read Tarot cards if you ask me!
The Spooky Accuracy of the Cards
Anyway, the results were terrifyingly accurate!
First of all, my signifier card—the card that signifies who I am in this exact moment—was the Judgment card reversed. I had only an hour ago spiraled into an episode of self-loathing, and here I was drawing the Judgment card reversed to signify this seething ball of negative self-judgment.
Spooky! I almost stopped right there.
Next, despite my thorough shuffling, all three of my Minor Arcana cards were from the suit of Pentacles. Pentacles represent earthly matters, like money and material possessions. My husband and I had spent the morning reviewing our expenses and making sure we had enough money to make ends meet this month. The last thing I said out loud was, “I’m never going to be able to own a home.” And now you’re telling me that in a stack of 56 cards of 4 different suits, all 3 of my cards were from the suit that represents money?
I won’t go into the details of each card here, but it’s safe to say Tarot hooked me then and there!
I started to read everything I could find to help me read Tarot cards even more accurately and in more detail.
How do I figure out what each card means?
The reason I love Biddy Tarot as a beginner’s source for learning how to read tarot cards is because her philosophy is not one of memorizing a bunch of symbols and key words and flash cards (although she has those on her site if that’s your thing). She made me realize that the illustrations themselves—at least in the Rider-Waite deck—tell you everything you need to know.
Sure, she has a glossary for every card in the Tarot deck that can help deepen your reading when you’re drawing a blank. But everything you really need to gaze into the depths of your soul are right there in the pictures. If you can read the pictures, you can read your soul.
So where do you start?
Here are four suggestions for how to start working with Tarot right away.
1. Start with the Rider-Waite deck.
Also known as simply the Rider deck, this is the classic deck you probably envision when someone mentions the word Tarot. The imagery is important to understanding the card, so I think every beginner should start with this deck. Once you know the Tarot well enough, you can switch to a really modern, minimalist deck.
2. The Daily Draw
Many tarot practitioners suggest drawing one card a day when you first start working with Tarot. This not only helps you learn the tarot in a fun, gradual way, but it’s a great meditation practice. The card allows you to meditate deeply on this theme for your day and reflect on it all day.
In fact, I have a beautiful free Daily Draw journal template for you to download to help you get started.
3. The Four-Card Check-In
The following Four-Card Check-In is the very first spread I ever did. I think it’s a great starter spread because it’s simple yet comprehensive. It allows you to tune in with your physical, mental, and spiritual realms.
For this spread, you need to separate your Major and Minor Arcana cards. You draw one Major Arcana card as your signifier card. Then, draw three Minor Arcana cards, each to represent one of the three realms of your life: the physical, mental, and spiritual.
Here’s what the spread looks like:
The signifier card (Card 1) drawn from the Major Arcana, tells you who you are in this moment. What’s weighing on your mind, what head and heart space you’re in, or a major theme in your life currently.
As for the other cards, drawn from the Minor Arcana:
- 2 tells you what you need to know about your physical realm right now;
- 3 tells you what you need to know about your mental or emotional realm right now; and
- 4 tells you what you need to know about your spiritual realm right now. This card could also be a message or special guidance from the Spirit or Universe.
While you should interpret each card on its own, also pay attention to how the cards fit with or respond to each other.
Also, notice trends in the reading overall. If one suit is prevalent, your life may be out of balance, or you may be disproportionately focusing on a certain aspect of your world (remember all my pentacles?). Or, a bunch of reversals may indicate some instability, doubt, or stuckness that you need to sort out.
Again, I like this spread for beginners because it covers a lot but it’s straightforward at the same time. No fancy Celtic crosses with cards lain diagonally over other cards in a cross pattern or what have you. I’m simply not there yet with my practice!
Check out my tarot Pinterest board for dozens of different tarot spreads to try! I also have a bunch of helpful tips and tricks for interpreting the cards on my all-tarot-all-the-time Instagram account.
4. Keep a Tarot Journal
Virtually every tarot source insists that you keep a tarot journal to keep track of your studies and readings. You want to record each of your spreads and jot down your interpretations and reflections on those spreads.
Follow Up on Your Readings
I like to check in days or weeks later to see how my insights from readings actually played out. That way you can fine-tune your intuition and revisit old spreads to see if you still agree with your interpretation.
For example, I didn’t understand why my depression was suddenly kicking my butt one week. I consulted my tarot journal and realized that the dark mood began right after I reunited with an old friend. She didn’t give me the best vibes, and at least two of my readings had warned me about it!
I stayed away from her and my mood improved.
Easily Spot Repeated Messages
Certain cards will follow you until you fully receive and internalize the message and no longer need to see it. With a journal, you can revisit each time that card popped up and find repeated or missed messages.
During this blog’s hiatus, I repeatedly drew the Hanged Man, which encourages us to consider different angles before diving into a project. I spent months clarifying what I actually want to blog about and how I want to approach this project. When I felt like I was in a good place, guess who disappeared from my readings?
Let me know if you’re curious about or have experienced this phenomenon. I’d also love to hear what cards keep showing up for you!
To learn from these persistent cards, I jot down my state of mind before I do a reading. When I review that entry, I jog my memory and see if I notice any patterns or trends.