Beginner’s Guide To Learning Tarot
Tarot is an ancient form of divination, dating back many hundreds of years in terms of cartomancy, with an even lengthier past rooted in various forms of rune and tablet readings.
The earliest contemporary evidence of tarot (that is to say, as we practice it today) originated in medieval Europe, with regular playing cards employed for entertainment purposes.
The specific pictorial suits used now actually date back to the late 15th century, with many occult scholars crediting the courts of Milan, Italy with the creation of the first major and minor arcana decks.
There are many reasons to learn the art of tarot reading, and only you can determine your true intent. Whether you are looking for a fun way to pass the time or are considering a career as a tarot reader, there are a few basic universal steps and pieces of advice everyone can benefit from.
The first task of the tarot reader is to find his or her preferred deck. This can seem a little daunting at first, as there are many tarot decks to choose from, each one representing a specific aesthetic and energy.
The Italian Visconti and Marseilles decks are arguably the oldest tarot decks still reproduced today, while a number of Tao and Pagan interpretations have since been curated. Take your time when finding the deck that is right for you, as this will have a deep impact on the quality of your readings.
Many tarot professionals will advise “going with your gut,” and selecting the deck that immediately appeals to you. Examine each card closely, and meditate on the impressions you feel when viewing the illustrations.
Don’t be discouraged if there’s some trial and error when starting out; you may select one deck in full confidence, only to realize it doesn’t resonate after all. This is perfectly natural! As with any divination method, your intuition is your greatest asset.
The next step is the most obvious but difficult one: learning each card’s meaning. Tarot decks are divided into the major and minor arcana, with the major arcana including familiar icons such as The Wheel of Fortune, Magician, The Lovers, and Death, while the minor arcana consists of numbered clubs, swords, pentacles, and wands, as well as the ruling kings, queens, knights, and pages for each element.
Each card in the two arcanas carries a specific meaning, however fundamental, and it’s important to learn each one before forming your own unique interpretation.
The figures of the major arcana will likely be the easiest to learn, as each stunning depiction is pretty hard to forget! A number of tarot readers prefer to read only with the major arcana, while others strictly forbid the exclusion of the minor arcana. This of course is up to you.
If you do decide to utilize the minor arcana, try to break it down into a simple system. For example, you can first learn what the numbers 1-9 mean, as well as their elemental representations, and from there explore each of the corresponding minor arcana figures. Above all, go slow and enjoy the process; even the most skilled tarot readers don’t learn everything overnight!
When you feel that you have grasped each card’s underlying meaning, you can then begin to explore your own personal interpretations. Drawing one single card a day and meditating on it can be a wonderful intuition sharpening exercise. Ask simple but straightforward questions such as “what should my daily focus be?” or “what outside factors do I need to be aware of?”
Listen closely to how the card answers. Remember, no two tarot readers will have the same intuitive reaction to the same card, and this is actually a crucial key to mastering the art. What The Devil card represents to you may mean something else entirely to the next reader; what connects all readers of tarot is the very thing that makes them special.
When you begin to practice your readings, it’s generally advised to start with the simplest spreads, such as the 3-card spread. These may not offer the most in-depth answers, but they can quickly prepare you for the more advanced Celtic Cross spreads. You can practice giving readings for yourself or a trusted friend, but be mindful of the familiarity rule.
It’s easy to fudge a little when reading for yourself or an intimate acquaintance whom you know inside and out. For this reason it’s often advised to get a tarot “study buddy,” someone who is also learning the tarot with whom you can swap honest and critical feedback from a non-personal standpoint. From there you will naturally evolve into a wider circle of participants, and perhaps even clients.
The art of tarot reading is truly a lifelong process, and you will likely never stop expanding on your craft. There is a wealth of information available, and the most successful tarot readers never stop researching, practicing, and learning.
Above all, it’s important to trust your intuition and form a sincere connection with your tarot deck. Try to avoid asking the same question over and over in hopes of getting a different answer, and focus instead on truly listening and honing your divining skills.
For all its eccentric occult appeal, the tarot seldom bends to the whim of the reader. Each card has a life of its own and lesson to impart; if you pay close enough attention the tarot will not lead you astray, but open a world of abundance and possibility.