A Beginner's Guide to Reading Tarot Cards
People are drawn to the tarot for many reasons. Some find the
symbols and mystical meanings intriguing, others may be drawn to
the intricate artwork and many are fascinated with the perceived
power of the cards.
Whatever your reasons for choosing to study the tarot, you are
entering into a centuries old practice. The origin of tarot cards
can be traced back to a 15th century Italian card game called tarocchi.
It wasn't long before the cards were used for divinatory purposes.
Choosing Your Tarot Card Deck
From those original tarocchi cards, there have evolved
hundreds of tarot card decks representing different cultures, spiritual
practices, art movements and hobbies. It is recommended that you
go for the deck that speaks to you. Reading the tarot is an intuitive
art and you need be able to communicate with the deck that you
choose. The colours, images and overall design should be appealing
to you. If you are purchasing a deck in a local store try to get
to hold the cards in your hands. Look for a deck that you feel
connected with, as if it was just there waiting for you.
Tarot Card Types
If you are familiar with a regular deck of playing cards then
you can adapt that knowledge to the tarot deck. In card decks,
there are the numbered suit cards and the court cards. Tarot cards
have the same breakdown and have ten numbered cards plus four court
cards per suit. These cards are called the 'Minor Arcana'. In tarot,
the suits are generally 'Wands', 'Cups', 'Swords' and 'Pentacles'.
There are some decks with minor variations such as 'Coins' instead
of 'Pentacles' and 'Staves' instead of 'Wands'.
Tarot decks also include twenty-two 'Major Arcana' cards. These
cards are numbered from 0 to 21 and depict different steps of growth
and understanding in a person's life. The cards of the Major Arcana
is sometimes referred to as 'trump' cards because they hold more
weight in a tarot card spread than the other cards. If you are
doing a tarot card reading and you draw all Major Arcana cards
for a spread, then you know the person you are reading for is going
through a significant period in their life.
Interpreting the Tarot Cards
The suits all have particular meanings that can help you learn
the interpretations of the cards. Each card in a suit will be a
variation on the suit's theme and will be related to the same area
of life. The Wands suit denotes energy toward action and outward
activities. It is also associated with the element of fire and
masculinity. The Cups suit is representative of all things emotional
and subjective. It is the suit of water and femininity. Cups are
also associated with psychic energy, intuitive nature and love.
Swords denote mental and masculine energy. All of the sword cards
refer to thinking and ideas rather than outward action or emotions.
Finally, the Pentacles (or Coins as they are referred to sometimes)
are associated with the element of earth. Pentacle cards concern
matters of finance, the material world and feminine energy.
The Major Arcana of the Tarot reflects some of the themes that
are in the Minor Arcana but to a greater degree. To help you learn
the Major Arcana, you need to look at the cards as if they are
telling a story. These cards follow the path of the character in
the first card, 'The Fool'. The Fool is normally numbered zero
in the deck, which indicates he is ready to learn from the world
around him. The Fool's path continues through each of the cards
in the Major Arcana. He learns from the characters on the other
cards and overcomes obstacles. The Fool's journey is representative
of our own journey toward better understanding of the world around
Reading the Tarot Cards
As a new tarot card reader, you may find yourself referring back
to the booklet or guide that came with your deck. While the booklet
insert can give general meanings and keywords for the tarot cards,
you should make an attempt to get to know the cards intimately.
Using the cards with keywords exclusively provides a basic understanding
of the interpretative meanings. If you study the cards consistently
your understanding of them will have much more depth.
You can learn the meanings of the cards by studying your deck
and working with it on a daily basis. For practice, you can lay
out tarot card spreads for yourself and use the booklet to guide
your interpretation. There should be a basic tarot card spread
in the booklet that came with your deck. There are also are many
web pages that feature tarot card spread variations.
A simple one-card spread done per day will help increase your
understanding of the tarot significantly. Once a day at a specific
time, draw a single card from the deck and think about its meaning.
Search the illustration on the card for meaning and symbolism before
you refer to the guidebook. Gleaning your own impression of the
cards is very important to learning your deck. After you've decided
what you feel is the meaning of the card, refer to the booklet.
This is not to see if you were 'right' or 'wrong'. There is no
such thing when reading the tarot. Rather, referring
to the booklet after interpreting the card yourself will deepen
your understanding of the card.
Over time, by practicing with your deck, you will discover your
personal meaning for each card. The process of reading tarot cards
will become natural to you with continued practice. The key in
learning the tarot is combining the traditional meanings with the
interpretations that resonate with you. Tarot is a tool for self-discovery
and as you deepen your knowledge of card meanings, you will discover
more about yourself.