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 🙂

Buy a Tarot Bag and Help Fix my Pipes

wooly-thoughtsI was home yesterday while our pipes were being replaced so I had some sewing time!  I added six new bags to the shop and they’re all ready to ship right now if you’re looking for a classy way to carry your decks around with you look no further.  Wooly Witchy has you covered!


Each of my bags are fully lined with a coordinating color drawstring closure.  There are no exposed seams to catch on your cards .  They’re made with high quality cotton and have room to carry a standard sized tarot deck with a little extra room for crystals, a reading cloth, or a small notebook.  You can order yours now or request something custom made!



Wooly Wednesday


You guys, I have been SO SICK for the last few weeks!  It’s been just a cold, but I have asthma so for me, just a cold turns into this interminable coughing jag that lasts forever!  Poor me 😉

But what that means is that I’ve been out of work a handful of days and I’ve spent those days making things!  I picked up quilting and I just cannot stop making quilts!!


My gramma, who passed away January of last year, was an avid and accomplished quilter.  She made so many quilted things in her life.  I have a quilt that she made for me when I went to college and so do my brothers.  And while she was alive, I liked her quilts, thought that they were beautiful, but I had no real interest in making one myself.

I inherited a bunch of her fabric and her quilting books after she passed last year and I’ve just suddenly got the quilting bug.  My gramma, when she was alive, could be a little bit difficult at times, and towards the end when she was struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia it was tough.  For me, this sudden surge in QUILT ALL THE THINGS, is giving me a way to remember her with more fondness and less difficulty.  It feels rather like an inheritance in and of itself.  As though she’s given me this ability, passing it on to me even after she’s passed.

After all, I have her books and some of her fabric.

I’m having so much fun making things.  So, thanks, gramma.

Help me pay the plumber: book a reading!

Over the last weekend my wife and I have been dealing with some not so fun plumbing issues and now we’ve got a plumber scheduled to replace a whole lot of pipes… which lands us with a not insubstantial bill we really weren’t expecting.  So if you’d been considering booking a reading I’d love to entice you to go for it!


I offer readings in a range of price points; you can get a simple one card check in for just $5, and it’s a great way to get a sample of my reading style if you’re uncertain.

I’m also thinking about offering some custom-made quilted tarot bags and reading mats. So if you’ve seen the flurry of quilting I’ve been doing on my Instagram and you like what you see, I’m interested in working with you to make an awesome fabric tarot accessory.  I have a range of drawstring pouches ready to ship right now.  A fully lined zippered tarot pouch will probably be around $20 and a quilted mat will range from $20-30 depending on the complexity.  The sunburst (11″x11″) mat would be simpler than the one with the black zig zag (13″x9″ ish).  Each Drop me a line woolywitchy (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll chat!


Re-imagining the Hierophant

tarot-talkThe Hierophant, the enthroned pope with his kneeling monks, dispensing Christian justice from on high, distant and unreachable, inscrutable and impassive, and the earthly representation of the Church’s heavenly authority.

The Hierophant is one of my least favorite Tarot cards.  I used to cringe whenever he hierophant rwswould show up in a reading.  I’m a witch and a queer woman and I’ve got lots of experience with people who call themselves Christian spewing hate in my direction and trying to write all kinds of laws to strip me of my basic human rights and take away all the protections and things like health insurance that I have to cover my wife.  So you can understand how a Pope like figure might make me feel uncomfortable when he’s supposed to represent authority and a venerable wise teacher.  The Hierophant is a symbol of authority and working within the rules of a system, he represents getting an education.  He represents the political systems that oppress and marginalize me and people like me.  My gut instinct is to chafe at his authority which has so often told me that I am lesser, that I’m bad, sinful, or that I’m going to hell.  To me he reads as Donald Trump, Fred Phelps, Steve Bannon and their ilk.  So how can I respect this guy’s authority?

It was during The Tarot Lady’s weekly Twitter Tarot Rap that someone shared this awesome insight that helped me break free of that confining interpretation.  I believe it was Hilary Haggerty who said it, but I’m not positive.  For me it was what I call a “Duh! Epiphany”.  Something that once you’ve heard it seems so obvious that you can’t believe you didn’t realize it before.  She said that Hierophant represents a positive authority figure.  The people who designed the RWS tarot were Christian, and to them the Hierophant represented what was good and true, to them that was the teachings of God.  And that I can understand.  When you get down to it, a lot of the things that Christianity teaches are positive things when you don’t decide to mis-apply them, things like loving your neighbors and helping the poor.

In order for me to read the Hierophant in a positive light I need to look past the robes hierophantand symbols that he wears and see what the ideals are.  The Hierophant is supposed to represent a trusted teacher.  Maybe that’s the herbalist who custom blended some tea for my cold this weekend (slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and so much more amazing stuff), maybe it’s the knitting teacher who helped me fix the mistake in my lace shawl, or my yoga instructor who encourages us to be present and be where we are, maybe it’s the activist who helps rally us together to protest injustice and stand up for what is right and true.

I think the card on the left, the Hierophant from Elisabeth Alba’s Everyday Witch Tarot gets it pretty right.  She’s a teacher, not preaching wisdom from on high, but helping her students to work towards their highest good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Hierophant is always a good teacher, he definitely can still represent negative authority.  But through realizing that he doesn’t have to be, I was able to move that card off my cringe list.  Hooray for expanded and nuanced understandings!

Weekly Readings


A spell to unblock your creativity.

Little Red Tarot shares: Five Do’s and Don’ts for beginner tarot readers.  I completely echo the don’t get too hung up on memorization part.  That was a big stumbling block for me and kept me from becoming the reader I am for a really long time.

Popcorn recipes!  Curried and Spicy Sriracha.

I started this HUGE knit shawl this week and I am loving it!  It’s called the Find Your Fade shawl.  It’s basically a socially acceptable way to wear a blanket around and I am 150% percent behind that idea 🙂  Mine is going to be blue and purple and grey and white.

There’s going to be another Yarn Love Challenge on IG this month!  I can’t wait!!!

Asali has a new tea blend in stock right now called Breakthrough and it sounds awesome!  Check it out.

What I’m eating: a crap ton of tacos!
What I’m watching: Supernatural again 😄
What I’m playing: Lego Jurassic World (SO MUCH FUN)
What I’m fighting: an asthma flare up.  booo.

Weekly Readings


How to be of Service  In spiritual communities, it’s often believed that at your lowest point, to be of service to someone else can turn your entire situation around. That looking past our own suffering for ways to alleviate the suffering of someone else is a key to happiness and fulfillment.
No time like the present to test the theory, right?

Use Your Words: how speech can shape the revolution.

A new tarot spread from Asali Earthwork about transitioning from Winter to Spring.

Also from Asali: Ritual and Honey for casting away.

What I’m knitting: Eternal Spring socks: because everyone needs some red lacey socks!
What I’m playing: Lego Jurassic World (SO FUN)
What I’m eating: I’m experimenting with meal replacement bars because I’ve been making lots of terrible eating choices and my health is suffering because of it.  These are helping me keep my blood sugar in check.
What I bought: All the unicorn related sock yarns!  From the Lemonade Shop and Sheepy Fibers.
What I’m learning: how to quilt!  I found a craftsy class I liked and I’ve sewn a simple patchwork quilt top!  Then I went on to make a wee pieced block.  It turned out all wrong and wonky, but I learned!  Who knew you had to add on seam allowances?   Well, I would have if I’d read the instruction section 😉  Sometimes I have too much Swords (I-know-how-to-do-it-already!) energy and not quite enough earthy Pentacles (let’s-read-the-instructions-first) energy.  I’m great at starting and less great at finishing.  Did I mention that my sewing machine wasn’t working and I figured out how to fix it all by myself?  Pretty proud of that little feat 🙂



Weekly Readings


From Lavender Moon: What to do when spirituality becomes a struggle.

From Northern Lights Witch: a glimpse inside her studio.

Make this Soup!  Seriously: Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea soup.  It’s vegetarian and you could easily make it vegan by omitting the heavy cream at the end.  And it was delicious.

 Check out the Fearless Girl Sculpture that just appeared on Wall Street.

A little late since it was Wednesday but: What to do if you can’t take off work for international Women’s Day.  I would have liked to call out of work, but since I didn’t hear about that idea until Tuesday I wasn’t able to.  I guess that means I need to get on some more mailing lists or something.

 What I’m reading: Big Magic – the title kept buzzing around me and I kept seeing it mentioned in important places, so I took the hint and I’m giving it a shot.
What I’m knitting: Pegasus Parade Socks
What I’m looking forward to: A local thrift store is having a 99 cent book sale this weekend, so my wife and I are going on a book date :3
What I’ve been up to: teaching a friend to wheel spin and playing a lot of Lego Jurassic World (we finally got a WiiU and the new Zelda game is on its way!)