Tarot Talk: how to get started reading Tarot for yourself

tarot-talkI had a friend ask me recently if I would help her learn Tarot.  It was a happy surprise.  I wasn’t sure what I’d say at first because I actually haven’t ever taught someone how to read and use Tarot before.  But that old saying “the best way to learn something better is to teach it to someone else” is absolutely true.  So I said yes!

And we had a fun time the other night while I rattled on about suits and patterns and img_0429majors and minors with a tiny bit of history that I could remember.  We had a great time and I think it went pretty well.  And I’ve been thinking a bunch more since then about how I might go about the process in the future so I wanted to share those thoughts.

One note that I wanted to mention before I launch in:  I am not an expert, nor do I play one on TV.  I’ve been slinging cards for a while now, but I wouldn’t call myself a guru.  I’m just a person who reads intuitively and believes that there is always something new to learn or a way to improve.  While I wouldn’t be comfortable teaching a class or branding myself that way yet, I’m happy to help someone else take their first steps into Tarot.

Rules of the Road
My first and most important thing are my two rules of Tarot.  These are really the only things that I am absolutely firm with, if you want to learn Tarot here’s what you need to know:
1. Anyone can read tarot if they’re willing to learn, there is no specific set of faith guidelines or practices that Thou Shalt Adhere to.  You take your practice of tarot and make it work for you.  You do not have to be psychic or a witch or an insert-special-thing-here in order to use Tarot.
2. If there’s something that I say, or someone else is teaching you and it feels wrong to you, don’t do it.  I do recommend learning about the “rules” that are floating around out there, like the fact that you have to be gifted or steal your first deck (which every Tarot reader I’ve met agrees is total garbage), or that you have to wrap your decks in silk.  If you dig down into some of these so-called rules you can see what they were driving at.  Silk = treat your tools with respect and you’ll get more out of them.  The being gifted or stealing thing is the one exception, I’ve got nothing on that one.  Do not steal your Tarot decks, can you imagine the bad energy that would follow that around?

pentacles-07Finding the Right Deck
The next thing I recommend is that you have a good deck to work with.  My friend had a deck that she’d taken a first few tentative steps with but she wasn’t really connecting to.  I pulled out decks that I used in the past but have grown out of, and she flipped through my old Robin Wood deck and found that she liked it.  I’ve written before about choosing your first tarot deck.  I like a Rider-Waite-Smith deck or a RWS inspired deck when you’re just starting out because it’ll match a lot of examples you’ll see online.  Choosing a good deck can really be a huge help in learning to read.

Also know that there is no One True Perfect Deck.  You might love the first deck you see, you might buy several before you find one that resonates.  This is okay.  The decks you love with change and evolve as you grow in your Tarot practice.

If you can’t afford to buy a Tarot deck that’s okay, there are a number of aps out there that you can absolutely use to read the cards.  A few that I like are The Fool’s Dog Tarot Aps, the sampler versions are free and the entire deck ones are just a few dollars.  Another is the Golden Thread Tarot.  Personally, I prefer to have the cards in my hands, I like to feel the texture of the cards and the motions of shuffling and laying them out.  But if you can’t afford them or if you have mobility challenges and it would cause you pain, digital is absolutely fine!  That goes right along with the “If it feels wrong, don’t do it” rule.  I firmly believe that Tarot should be accessible and if an ap makes it open to you when it otherwise wouldn’t, an ap is great.

Clearing and Dedicating
If you’ve gotten a hand-me-down deck, or really any deck that you get, I recommend cleansing/dedicating the deck before you get started.   It’s a good way to clear out any old energies and to help you set some intention for your Tarot practice.  Some ways to do that: you can use sage to smudge the deck, you can leave your deck in full moonlight, or you can meditate with it.  I strongly suggest that you use a cleansing ritual that resonates with you, it’s all about the energy and if you think something feels ridiculous and fake it isn’t going to work for you.

Card Meanings
Your next step is going to be actually working with the cards.  There are 78 of them and IMG_0453they all mean different things.  Now, I’m not going to give you the 78 meanings here in this post, because there are lots of great resources out there that already do that.  Some places I’ve found fantastically useful:  Learn Tarot – This is Joan Bunning’s website and it has the same info that her published book has.  I own the book and I use the website a lot as well.   Another great course is Little Red Tarot’s Alternative Tarot Course.   As of this writing it costs $35 and is worth every single penny 🙂

Now that I’ve recommended some course options here’s a note that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out.  Don’t get hung up on memorizing every last detail and keyword of every single tarot card right out of the gate.  It’s perfectly okay to look cards up in the booklet that comes with most decks or on a website or the book you picked.  It’s more important to get comfortable working with the cards, examining them, meditating over the symbols on them, exploring your thoughts and feelings when you look at the cards.  The more you work with them, the more familiar they’ll start to become.

Trust your Intuition.
IMG_0561There was a card in one of my favorite decks that I struggled with for far too long.  All the books I read said that this particular card meant “X” and whenever I looked at that card I just knew that it meant “Y” instead.  I spent so much brain power trying to make that card mean “X”, trying to force a reading connection where there wasn’t one for me.  And finally I read somewhere that not every single tarot card reads the same way.  The Fool from one deck might read very differently from another.  And that’s okay.  I’m not saying race out there and make up entirely new meanings from every card (archetypes are archetypes for a reason after all), but if there’s one in your deck that you feel strongly about and it differs from the book, then go for it.  That’s your intuition talking to you.  Listen to it and let your understanding grow over time.  The way you read Tarot now will be different from how you read it next month which will be different from how you read it in a year.  It’s okay to grow in your understanding and to change your mind.  Even multiple times.  There are as many ways to interpret any given card as there are Tarot readers.

Last Thoughts

Just jump in and try.  Everyone has to start somewhere, everyone is a beginner at some point.  I encourage you to read lots of blogs about Tarot, you can see some of my favorite tarot bloggers on the right side of the site.  You can also check out the #TarotRap hashtag on twitter for some really great community Twitter chat.  Read. Read. Read.  I read every Tarot book I can get my hands on and the more you keep learning the better your skills will be.  Embrace viewpoints that differ from yours because in comparing understanding you can really grow in your confidence in your own reading abilities.

If all else fails, you can always Book a Reading with me 🙂

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