How (and why) to Learn Tarot


As a New Age comes into its fullest light, it is becoming clearer that the boundaries between varying faiths are blurring and that we, both women and men, are recognizing that having faith in something, anything, is profoundly unifying.  Tarot reading, in particular, is experiencing an enormous re-awakening in popular consciousness. As the scales tilt from the polarities of the patriarchy, toward the Divine Feminine, more and more seekers are being drawn to the rich visual brand of spirituality the Tarot has to offer.

The subconscious uses symbols to communicate with our waking mind. Therefore, suspending one’s rational, literal, and analytical mind is essential to giving and receiving a clear Tarot reading. Take heart; making this shift in consciousness becomes easier with practice. What most aspiring Tarot readers don’t realize is that anyone can read Tarot. For those of us who were raised in a tightly laced religious setting, the Tarot may seem both enticing, yet daunting (or even frightening.) Acknowledge the call to explore it, but don’t pressure yourself to practice or learn it a certain way. As counterintuitive as this concept may be, the Tarot works best when it is allowed to flow into one’s heart without specifications or force.

The Tarot, I’ve often heard (and believe), is a mirror of one’s own subconscious, a helpful and generous oracle. A traditional Tarot deck contains 78 cards that form countless combinations to help us better understand our current life situations. Getting started is easily done and requires only a deck, an open mind, and following a few short steps.

First, select a deck that speaks to you and get to know it. Tarot has definitely undergone a major makeover in recent years, so the new options may surprise you (in case you are picturing medieval themes, fairy illustrations, and the like.) Take time to hold your new cards and silently introduce yourself. You will soon be developing a relationship just as you would with a new, trusted friend. Spread the cards out, light a candle, and set an intention for how you would like the Tarot to work in your life.

Now, gather your cards and clearly form a question in your mind--an area of your life where you could use some guidance. For many of us, this may not be a specific issue as much as a desired snapshot of what the heck we are supposed to be doing with ourselves in general. This is fine. A single card reading is a great place to start.

Next, shuffle your deck. I was taught to shuffle with my non dominant hand (left) in a circular clockwise direction. Feel free to experiment with different patterns and methods until it feels right. Gather your cards and cut them twice to the left, resulting in 3 stacks. Then, begin with the far right pile of cards and restack towards the left. Draw the top most card and lay it face up. This is your single card reading.

Reading your cards is a combination of intuition and intellect. Yes, your deck comes with a guidebook and you should definitely consult it (over and over and over.) However, first and foremost, pay attention to your initial reaction to the image that is now facing you. Does it remind you of anything? Does it stir up any emotions? What colors, patterns, and symbols do you immediately notice? Now read about your card in your new guidebook and ponder how its presence, or lack thereof, has been affecting you. If it’s a positive card, how can you learn from it and allow it to guide you? It it seems negative, how can you make adjustments to free yourself from its influence? Remember, even a negative card shows up to help you and bring necessary awareness to a problem area. Keep your thoughts fluid and resist the urge to judge yourself as you take a look at your inner landscape.

When you are finished with your first reading, gather your cards and say a silent thank you for their help, blow out your candle, and return your deck to a safe and special place. Make your own pouch to hold them or place them on a shelf or altar where you keep other sacred items. To further absorb your reading, you may wish to display your chosen card for the day or even sleep with it under your pillow tonight.

Learning to read Tarot takes patience and the sharpening of one’s intuition. The path to mastery is not linear and can be confusing at times. However, more often than not, you will be surprised by the images’ familiarity and comfort. The true magic, of course, is not in the cards, but in the relationship between the reader and unseen spirit of the Divine who knows us better than we know ourselves.

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