You’re excited about learning the Tarot until you thumb through the 400-page how-to book you bought to accompany your shiny new deck. Suddenly, you’re intimidated by all 78 cards and the rich symbolism in each, and you fear you’ll never learn the meanings of every card, not to mention mastering numerous spreads for every occasion.
After meticulously following the instructions for shuffling and placing the cards in the Celtic Cross spread, you soon realize that it’s going to take years of study and practice before you can deftly handle your cards like the pros at psychic fairs. An hour later, you’ve looked up the meaning of each card you’ve laid out, your confused brain trying to put it all together for some sort of central thesis. What you come up with is this: I’m terrible at Tarot reading and will never get any better.
This is where many people give up, but there’s a much easier way to master the Tarot, and it doesn’t involve strict rules, intensive study or memorization. The method is intuitive Tarot reading, and anyone with an open mind and pure intentions can pick it up with ease. While Tarot books provide a wealth of knowledge, they simply offer too much information for the novice to take in all at once, so set the book aside for now, turn off your thinking brain and let your intuition take over. You won’t need nearly as much practice and study as you may think to master the Tarot.
Here are 16 things that you need to learn to master the art of Tarot reading.
1. Trust in your intuitive abilities
This is paramount as you simply cannot find the answers you seek for yourself or others without trusting what comes to you. Every human being is intuitive and has the ability to connect with the spirit world. What sets some people apart is that they are fully aware of this fact and not only open themselves up to intuitive guidance but also trust in the answers they receive. Think about all the times you just knew that a person or situation was bad for you. Where did you feel it? Was there a nagging voice inside your head or a sick feeling in your gut?
Think about the times you felt prompted to take action, and the outcome was positive. Was it because your heart swelled with good energy, or did you feel an actual push that propelled you forward? We all receive intuitive nudges from the universe (also known as God, the spirit, source energy, the light or universal energy), so start paying attention to the ways this loving energy speaks to you. You’ll be amazed at how often you receive physical sensations, have seemingly random thoughts and see signs all around you that tell you exactly what the universe wants you to know right now. Take note of the special signals it uses to communicate with you. This awareness will make you a better Tarot reader.
2. Create a sacred space
Once you are an experienced Tarot reader, you’ll be able to read for anyone anywhere. Beginners, however, can benefit from practicing in the same space every day. This is because you leave an energy imprint behind every time you perform a spiritual ritual. With regular Tarot practice, the energy builds up in this space, making connecting with source energy easier and faster each time you initiate a session. This area can be as simple or elaborate as you like. You may be fortunate enough to have a whole room that you can devote to spiritual endeavors, but most people make do with a small table or desk in the corner of a room. Candles always help set the right ambience for a reading, as do crystals, silk spread cloths and other objects that have special meaning to you.
The point is to create a comfortable and inviting energy so that you’ll be happy to spend time there each day connecting with your cards. Eventually, the connection will become automatic. You will sit down, pull out your cards and instantly feel your spirit guides around you. Each time this happens, your confidence grows until you reach a point where you intuitively know that you can branch out and perform a reading in any location.
3. Meditate regularly
With any sort of divination practice, the answers come through you, not from you. However, you cannot receive wisdom from the universe if your channels are clogged with fear, anger and other types of negative energy. Meditation can help you clear these energy blocks. With a regular meditation practice, you’ll feel lighter and more connected to source energy as well as everyone around you. Your sense of compassion and empathy will grow, which only enhances your ability to read for others.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of sitting quietly in meditation, you’re not alone. Many feel that they lack the attention span to establish a regular meditation practice, but you don’t have to start out with hour-long meditations from the get-go. Start small by setting a timer for five minutes, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Don’t try to “do” anything at first. Just commit to not doing anything for those few minutes and enjoy the stillness. Once you can master five minutes without wondering when the time will be up, you can add more time to your daily session until you reach 30 minutes to an hour. You can additionally start to experiment with various meditation techniques or listening to guided meditations that can help you achieve certain goals, such as meeting your spirit guides, letting go of bad habits or opening up the energy centers of the body.
4. Choose a deck
You may eventually use several different decks, but it helps to start out with just one that you really connect with. Like your sacred space, your cards absorb your energy when you use them. Using the same deck for readings is like spending time with a familiar friend–you establish a strong energetic bond and develop a special mode of communication with it. Sometimes a deck chooses you, so pay attention to suggestions from others or signs that point to a certain deck. A friend may give you one, or a deck may literally hit you over the head after falling off a bookstore shelf.
If the perfect deck doesn’t show up right away, take your time in shopping around. Many metaphysical shops allow you to browse sample decks to get a feel for them, and some websites display images of full decks so that you can check out the artwork in detail. Here is where trusting your intuition can be put to the test, so take a look at the images and symbols on the cards and notice your first reaction to them. Do the cards give you positive, uplifting feelings? Can you picture yourself connecting with them and using them every day? If not, move on to the next deck until you find one that resonates with your spirit.
5. Clear your cards
Whether you have acquired a new or used deck, you’ll want to cleanse it of any energies it has absorbed during its journey to you. There are as many ways to do this as there are decks, but the most important aspect of this ritual is your intent behind it. You may simply meditate with your deck in hand, visualizing a white light cleansing your cards. You can also sprinkle salt on your deck or place a crystal on top of it for a few days to absorb negative energy. Another option is to burn a smudge stick made of sage or rosemary and pass your deck through its smoke. Placing your deck under a full moon, the sun or your pillow at night can also clear it.
You can perform any of these rituals periodically if your deck has been exposed to negative energy–in time, you’ll become so in tune with your cards that you’ll know exactly when they need clearing. It also never hurts to do a quick cleansing between each client, and this symbolic ritual can be as simple as swiping your hand over the deck or rapping at it with your knuckles three times so that the energy is cleared for the next reading.
6. Connect with your cards
Your deck is akin to a new best friend, so you must commit to knowing it intimately. Start by looking at each card, one by one. Really take your time and check out the people, animals, symbols, colors and backgrounds. Each card is a work of art containing powerful universal symbols, so take notice of what feelings arise with each one. Some cards have a positive vibe, while others appear more neutral or have a darker feel. You need not look up any of the standard meanings right away. It is far better to establish what each card means to you rather than what the “experts” say. This is intuitive Tarot reading, after all, so relax and have fun with it.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to your interpretations. You’ll notice that the cards are divided into two major categories. The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana resemble a standard card deck and consist of four suits: wands, cups, swords and pentacles. Then there are the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, and they represent The Fool’s journey through life. When Major Arcana cards show up in a reading, they indicate significant life events and carry more weight than Minor Arcana cards, which have more to do with the smaller details of our daily lives.
7. Protect yourself
Opening yourself up to receiving guidance from the spirit realm can leave you vulnerable to energies that do not serve your highest good. This is not meant to scare you; rather, you need to be aware that these energies exist and know how to shield yourself from them, which is not as complicated as you might think. Prior to a reading or meditation session (or even just to start your day off on the right note) visualize yourself inside a clear protective bubble filled with pure, white light–think Glinda the good witch from the Wizard of Oz. Set your intent that only positive energy can penetrate this shield. Anything negative will bounce off the walls of your bubble and be sent on its way.
This visualization is simple but works wonders to prevent negative entities from interfering with a reading or attaching themselves to your energy field. It also protects you from absorbing the negative energies of your clients, who will often come to you filled with anger, sadness, fear or worry. You’ll still retain your compassionate nature, but shielding yourself allows you to remain in a state of neutrality so that nothing interferes with the messages your clients need to hear.
8. Invite your guides to help
We all have spirit guides who are continually with us to help us navigate the complexities of life on Earth. The problem is that most of us don’t know how to communicate with them and tune in to their answers. The Tarot is designed to help us make that connection and receive the guidance we need. After shielding yourself from negative energies, invite your guides to enter your sacred bubble of white light. There is no need to use a formal invocation or say the same thing each time unless you want to. You may simply ask your guides and angels to surround you and speak to you through the cards.
If you have never connected with your spirit guides before, you may not feel their presence at first or even know what to look for. Keep in mind that they are here to help you, and they are happy to make themselves known in whatever way makes you comfortable. A great way to connect is to ask them to touch you in a certain place, such as your ear or the back of your neck, to let you know they are with you. You won’t have to wait long before you feel a tingling sensation in the designated area.
9. Ask the right questions
Getting the answers you need begins with learning how to ask questions effectively. Many people, especially those who crave instant gratification, make the mistake of asking yes or no questions, such as, “Will my boyfriend propose?” While you can certainly receive answers to yes or no questions, you may not realize the limitations you are placing on the reading by doing so. The answer to that question may be a “yes,” and the client will go on her merry way thinking that she’ll live happily ever after with her sweetheart.
If you had posed the question differently, however, you may have found out that the boyfriend will propose, but right before the wedding, he’ll steal his fiance’s car and run off with the maid of honor. A much better question would have been, “What do my guides want me to know about this relationship?” Because we cannot think of all the variables, it’s always better to ask open-ended questions. Furthermore, we all have free will, which means that the future is not set in stone. A reading can tell us what will happen if we stay on the same path, but we always have the option of making a different choice, especially if we don’t like what the reading reveals.
If you’re reading for yourself, shuffle the cards any way you’d like as you think of the question or say it aloud. When reading for someone else, it is up to you whether you do the shuffling or the client does. Some Tarot readers do not want other people’s energy on their cards, while others find that the reading is more accurate if there is an energy imprint. Whatever your preference, keep in mind that you can and should clear your cards between clients.
The person shuffling should stop when it feels right, which can take a few seconds or a few minutes. However, don’t fall into the trap of overthinking things and spend half an hour shuffling. Your spirit guides are in control and will always make sure the cards align perfectly to deliver the right messages to you. After placing the deck down, you or the client can cut the cards into two or more piles and restack them. Again, this is a personal preference, and as the Tarot reader, you can experiment with various methods and choose what feels natural to you. You may not find it necessary to cut the deck at all and simply launch into your reading with whatever card is on top of the stack.
11. Choose a simple spread
Attempting an elaborate spread at the beginning of your Tarot journey is a surefire way to become discouraged, so start with something simple. A three- card spread is a great option for beginners, and you can decide before you lay out the cards what each position means. From left to right, the cards could represent past, present and future. Alternatively, the middle card can represent a dilemma you are facing, and the cards on either side can give you insight into two different options you’re considering to solve the problem. Another simple spread involves laying out five cards from left to right that represent the past, the present, hidden influences, advice and the probable outcome.
You may also want to try the “waterfall,” in which you lay down a card and interpret it quickly before laying the next card on top of it and repeating the process until your intuition tells you to conclude the reading. Sometimes the cards will be upside down when you lay out your spread. Reversals generally mean that the card still has the same meaning, but these qualities may not be fully developed or ready to manifest. Professional Tarot readers are pretty much divided down the middle on the value of reading reversals, and you can decide later if you’d like to incorporate it into your practice. For now, however, it is easier to see and interpret the cards when they are upright, so simply flip them around when you get a reversal.
12. Say the first thing that comes to your mind
This is the “intuitive” part of intuitive Tarot reading. You’re probably alone and doing a reading for yourself the first time, so there’s no need to be self-conscious. Putting your analytical, critical mind aside, just look at the first card and start talking out loud about what you see, even if it feels silly and oversimplified. For example, if you’re looking at the Queen of Pentacles, you may say, “I see a serene woman sitting on her throne. She has what appears to be a large coin in her hand. There is a brown rabbit at her feet. I also see brown dirt, green grass and lush foliage all around her. This card has a very earthy feel, as if this woman is very secure and grounded.” It’s really that simple.
Over time, as you connect more with your cards and your guides, you’ll develop a more sophisticated language and understanding of the symbols. However, for now, just go with whatever pops into your head, and most importantly, trust what you receive. Then, move to the next card and repeat. Once you’ve talked about your first impressions of each card, you can look at the reading as a whole, trying to understand what each card means in its position and how they all fit together for a cohesive message.
13. Close the session
Congratulations–you’ve just completed your first intuitive Tarot reading! After you reassemble your deck, take a moment to hold onto your cards and thank them for their guidance. You should additionally extend your gratitude to your guides and any other entities in spirit who assisted you during your reading. As a matter of reverence for your divination tools, store your cards with gentle care until you use them again. This may mean wrapping them in a silk cloth, storing them in a decorative pouch or placing them in a special box–anything that holds meaning for you and keeps the cards covered and safe from damage.
While still sitting in your sacred space, you may want to meditate on what just happened or write your thoughts down in a journal. Tarot journaling is a great way to document your progress, and it need not involve formal, elaborate writing. Just jot down your impressions of the cards and what each one meant to you. Later, you can look back and see if your interpretations have remained the same or changed over time. As you grow spiritually, you’ll often find that the cards you once thought of as portraying events will contain glimmers of hope when viewed in the right context.
14. Practice every day
You can make your daily practice as quick or lengthy as you see fit, but the point is to get in touch with your cards and your guides regularly. In doing so, your connection to the spirit world becomes automatic, and so does your impression of each card the second you lay it on the table. Even if everything in your life is going smoothly and you don’t have specific questions, you can always benefit from a quick reading, especially at the start of your day. As you shuffle, ask, “What do I need to know about the day ahead?” Then, let your intuition guide you on how many cards to lay down–often, just one will do. This will take mere minutes but can help set the tone for your day and prepare you for any unexpected issues that may arise.
Alternatively, you can do the same before bedtime, asking about the day’s significant events and learning experiences that you need to examine. Another method for connecting with your deck is to pull a card without asking a question and just study the images and symbolism. You can then write your impressions in your Tarot journal or close your eyes and meditate on what you have just seen.
15. Don’t be afraid to experiment
While there are strong traditions in Tarot reading and established meanings for the universal symbols on your cards, you must remember that there are no rules. No one is going to tell you that you’re not a legitimate Tarot reader if you deviate from standard practices or interpret a card differently than everyone else. Getting caught up in doing everything “right” pretty much guarantees that you cut yourself off from your intuition and spiritual guidance. Keeping the process light and unrestricted, however, can only benefit you and your clients.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take grave matters seriously, but you should do everything possible to put your thinking mind on hold while you read so that you can get to the truth. This means going with whatever intuitive nudges you receive, whether that means allowing the client to shuffle even though you normally do it yourself, making up a new spread on the fly or laying down a few more cards for clarification. Your guides may urge you to hold the client’s hand for a stronger impression (always ask permission first), or you may be prompted to hold onto a crystal as you interpret the cards. Your task is to surrender, allowing source energy to work through you for the highest good.
16. Hit the books
After you have established a strong, intuitive bond with your deck, you can go ahead and crack a few Tarot books or attend classes if you’d like. Once you’ve mastered a few simple spreads, you’ll feel confident enough to study more complicated spreads and give them a try. You can also begin studying the traditional meanings of the Tarot deck. You’ll learn what pentacles, swords, cups and wands represent. You’ll find out that each numbered card has a special meaning and that the court cards often represent the people in your life. You’ll also discover that the Major Arcana cards often point to karmic life events and demand your attention.
Patterns, such as an abundance of wands or a certain number appearing repeatedly, will also start to jump out at you during readings. What may surprise you the most is that the intuitive impressions of the cards that you established before embarking on any formal study often align with the traditional meanings. This is because your soul already knows and understands the universal symbols in the cards. By taking measures to get your cumbersome intellect out of the way and connect with your intuition, you have merely accessed the information that was already there.
The only difference between you and professional Tarot readers is that they have put in the time and effort to develop their intuition, connect with their cards and spirit guides and wholeheartedly trust the answers they receive. By following these 16 simple steps, you can easily reach the same level of openness and awareness as the people you once paid for spiritual advice.
The best part is that once you begin your Tarot reading journey, you can seek answers and guidance whenever you’d like rather than when you have the time and money to devote to formal readings with someone else. You’re sure to stumble and feel insecure about your abilities at first, but time and practice will increase your skills and confidence, and it won’t be long before you know without a doubt that you are capable of receiving the guidance you need to navigate your life’s path. Don’t be surprised if your loved ones notice a profound change in you and begin to hit you up for readings. In time, after combining your well-developed intuitive abilities with a bit of formal study, you will have no qualms about calling yourself a Tarot master and offering your gift to the world.