Reading tarot is not an easy undertaking, but once you know the basics, you can dive right in! Today, we will be going over the basics of reading tarot: from The kinds of cards in a deck to caring for your cards and everything in between.
The Major and Minor Arcana
A traditional deck of tarot cards consists of two types of cards: The Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. Like a regular pack of playing cards, the minor arcana consists of four suits. These suits are swords, cups, pentacles (or coins), and wands. The corresponding suits in regular playing cards are spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. Each suit of the minor arcana consists of 14 cards: Ace through 10, pages, knights, queens, and kings. These cards give you insight into yourself or your querent. They provide excellent advice and a new perspective from which you can learn about a situation.
The major arcana consists of 22 additional trump cards. These cards show the reader the mindset of the querent and can provide valuable life lessons from which the querent can learn. These cards are ordered as follows: 0-The Fool, 1-The Magician, 2-The High Priestess, 3-The Empress, 4-The Emperor, 5-The Hierophant, 6-The Lovers, 7-The Chariot, 8-Strength, 9-The Hermit, 10-Wheel of Fortune, 11-Justice, 12-The Hanged Man, 13-Death, 14-Temperance, 15-The Devil, 16-The Tower, 17-The Star, 18-The Moon, 19-The Sun, 20-Judgement, and 21-The World.
Questioning the Cards
Before you begin shuffling the cards, you must form a clear question that you want to ask the cards. The question must be open-ended. Tarot doesn’t tell you the future, it tells you where your mind is and where you are headed. Your future is always changing so asking fate-based questions like, “should I do this?” aren’t going to get you very clear answers. Instead, asking questions like, “what can I expect if I do this?” is a much better question because the cards you draw can give you insight so that you can go on with your life in a more informed way. If you aren’t sure what you want to ask, you can start by asking the cards “What do I need to know right now?” and go from there. Once you have a clear question, you can begin shuffling and laying out the cards.
This is really up to you. You can shuffle the cards like you would shuffle playing cards. I find that this bends my cards and wears them out faster so I use the pile method to shuffle my cards. I place them in a pile on the surface I am reading on and carefully spread the cards around for a bit and then bring the cards back into a neat stack. There are other ways to shuffle the cards and these are just two of the options you can choose from. After they are shuffled you can choose to cut the cards as many times as you like or not at all.
There are many different ways to select the cards for your reading. You can lay out each card face-down and select the cards that call to you; you can pull all of them off the top or bottom of the deck; you can pull two from the top and one from the bottom and repeat as necessary; or really any other way you can think of. After you have a method that you like to select the cards you can begin laying them out.
There are many traditional layouts you can choose from, but I tend to make my own based on the querent’s needs. Each card in a spread represents a different aspect of the querent’s question so when you create a custom spread for a client, it is important to note what each card represents. One or three card spreads are great for when you are starting out and still learning the meanings of each card. Once you are comfortable with three card spreads, you can start branching out and trying new creative layouts. If you find elaborate spreads overwhelming, you can just lay them out in a line. Whatever you choose to do is up to you.
Reading the Cards
When I read the cards, I tend to read intuitively. I inspect the card and interpret the scene in the card based on the situation as well as its place in the layout. If I get stuck, I will then consider the “official” meaning of the card. It definitely helps to have the cards memorized, but sometimes the cards can take on alternative meanings in a scenario, so I find that I get more accurate readings when I read intuitively. If you are stuck on a card and the “official” meaning isn’t helping you with your interpretation, ask the querent what they see in the card. Sometimes what the querent sees can give you insight into the meaning of the card for this particular scenario.
Caring For and Storing Your Cards
If you haven’t used your cards in a while, if you have used them frequently, or you have a particularly draining reading, it is important to cleanse your cards. There are many different ways you can do this. Whatever you choose is up to you. I like to sort my cards, put them back in order, and then knock three times to clear any unwanted energy from the cards. You can also bury them in salt by placing the cards in a plastic bag, placing some salt into the bottom of a container, place your cards into the container and completely cover the cards with more salt. You can also store them with some healing crystals like black obsidian, black onyx, black tourmaline, etc. For Storage, you can keep them in their original packaging. Some people like to wrap their cards in silk and store them in a pine box. Those things are certainly not necessary, but if you like that then feel free to get fancy!
Bonding With Your Cards
It is generally suggested that you form a relationship with your cards. Some people say you should place them under your pillow when you sleep, some talk to their cards, and others interview their cards with a reading. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you maintain that relationship with your cards. If you go a long time without bonding with them or doing any kind of reading, they become dusty and not tuned to your personal vibrations which can lead to inaccurate readings.
Now that you know the basic mechanics of tarot, go ahead and try reading for yourself, friends, and family! The more you practice, the better you get!