A Beginner Guide to Reading Tarot
You have developed an interest in Tarot and are considering starting to do your own Tarot readings, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are five things to consider when starting out with reading Tarot.
Tarot is about intuition
Tarot cards aren’t something magical, they are in essence just printed pieces of paper. Rather they are a tool to help you access your intuition.
I find it useful to think of intuition as accessing insights provided by the subconscious. We all have both a conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind is responsible for our daily thought process and the endless chatter inside our heads. In order to make this manageable, the conscious mind can’t process the vast amounts of data collected by our senses (including our psychic senses) so it filters this information to what it thinks is important. What the conscious mind thinks is important is heavily biased by societal norms, previous experiences, and a drive for self-preservation.
The subconscious mind on the other hand can gather and process the full range of data collected by our senses. This allows the subconscious to have deeper and more accurate insights about both ourselves and the world around us. The subconscious mind will sometimes send us these insights, often manifesting as a gut feeling or lightbulb moment, or in other words, intuition.
Tarot is about gaining direct access to the insights produced by our subconscious minds. Consequently, the most important thing that you bring to a Tarot reading is not the cards, but your intuition, and as such it needs to be nurtured.
There are many ways that you can nurture your intuition, but if you are just starting out, developing a meditation practice is one of the most useful things you can do. There are many different ways to meditate, but in essence the point of the practice is to quiet the conscious mind. Many people describe meditation as thinking about nothing, but this is not exactly right, and also pretty much impossible, as anyone who has ever tried to think of nothing will attest. It is more about recognising conscious thought for what it is, and pushing those thoughts to one side, creating space and capacity, allowing the conscious mind greater access to the insights developed by the subconscious mind.
This access to the subconscious mind is essential for a productive Tarot reading, and quieting the chatter of the conscious mind is good for our mental health. We all know that our conscious minds can have thoughts that are unhelpful, and frankly, down right cruel. This is not a reflection of us as a person, but rather our conscious mind trying to protect us by keeping us within a safe space. When our conscious mind tells us that we are not good enough to achieve what we have in our hearts, it is usually because the endeavour involves stepping outside of the comfort zone that our conscious mind wants to keep us safely within. When it sends us negative thoughts about other people, it is often a mechanism for preventing us from having to deal with hard truths about ourselves. Recognising what these thoughts are doing and putting them to one side rather than dwelling on them is one of the first steps on the path to greater happiness.
Get to know your cards
While the Tarot cards may only be a tool to access your intuition, having the right tools and treating them well makes the process significantly easier.
The first step is to find the right deck, and yes you can buy your own, the myth that they need to be given to you is exactly that, a myth. There are many different types of decks out there with different symbolism and different approaches and meanings. Finding the deck that is right for you largely depends on your intuition, so spend time looking at different decks and see which one speaks to you most vividly. While looking at images of decks online is an extremely useful thing to do, make sure you hold the deck in your hands before you purchase if possible as the visceral feeling you get from holding the cards will tell you a lot about whether it is the right deck for you.
Once you have your cards it is important to build an affinity between your cards and your subconscious, imbedding an innate understanding of the cards in your subconscious so that it can add this information to the other data that it is processing. Therefore, spend time with your cards. Carry them around, hold them in your hands when possible, shuffle them and move them around so you know how they feel.
Also spend time with the individual cards, drawing them from the deck. Read the meaning of the card as laid our in your Tarot guide, and then spend time examining the card and seeing which aspects of the meaning speak most strongly to you through the imagery, and what other meanings you can detect.
You do not need to wait until you have memorised the meaning of all 78 cards and know all the different Tarot spreads to start doing readings, especially not for yourself, and the quickest way to learn how to use your cards is to practice!
Look up a number of different spreads and try them out. Like with the Tarot deck itself, which spreads work best for you will depend on you personally. When starting out begin with simple three card spreads and build up, rather than jumping straight into a ten card Celtic Cross. There is a lot going on when there are ten cards on the table, especially since it is not just the individual cards that are important, but also how they relate to one another.
It is also a good idea to keep a Tarot journal, recording your questions, the cards dealt, and how you interpreted them. Revisit your diary often and re-examine your readings with the benefit of hindsight. Where was your vision clearer and where was it clouded? Where do you need to focus your mind for greater clarity? Looking back at your spreads will also help you notice patterns, especially if you are dealing with the same or related problems.
Develop a ritual that works for you
I suggest starting to do readings before developing a Tarot reading ritual, as again only trial and error will help you know what works for you. But you need to think about where you will do your readings, and what you need to do in order to prepare yourself.
In terms of preparing yourself, you need to have as clear a mind as possible, to ensure optimum access to your subconscious, and also make sure you are not overly concerned with worries or emotions (or that you are intoxicated). When emotional situations are at the front of our minds they can cloud all other thoughts, blocking access to our subconscious insights. Develop pre-reading rituals that let you clear your mind and balance your emotions. I recommend a quick meditation practice, just 5 or 10 minutes can be enough, but you may find that other rituals or prayers are what ground you best.
In terms of space, you need a space that is tranquil, safe, and free of negative connotations. You do not want to be disturbed during your reading as it is a private matter. This is especially important if you are doing the reading for another person as a Tarot reading often means talking about difficult and private things, the person needs to feel comfortable doing that in the space. While for most of us it is challenging to have a dedicated Tarot space, avoiding spaces with negative or stressful connotations is important. Don’t do readings in your office if it is a stressful space, or at your kitchen table if that is where your stress lives. Never do relationship readings in the bedroom!
Adopt a growth mindset
While some psychics use Tarot decks as one of their tools, Tarot is not about telling the future, but rather about understanding the here and now better so that you can make better, more well informed, decisions.
As such, you shouldn’t approach a Tarot reading with a fait accompli attitude and ask questions like, will this business venture succeed or fail, will my relationship succeed or fail. These types of questions suggest that the outcome is beyond your control.
Rather frame questions with a growth mindset. What can I do at this present moment to bring success into my life? What can I do to ensure I love myself, and therefore attract the love that is right for me and give that love to others?
As with many things, life is about mindset. While things that are beyond our control happen, what this means for us is determined by how we respond to it. Go into a Tarot reading with a positive ‘what can I do to make life better’ mindset.