(Updated Post) If you are a Tarot Newbie: Welcome! I hope you can find lots of inspiration and information on this little blog of mine. I try to mix things up enough to speak to readers of all levels with simple tutorials, deck reviews and reading tips. But I thought a little article about how to approach Tarot when you’re a total beginner really is a must. And this one’s for you.
So whether you’ve never touched a deck of Tarot cards before or have it sitting on a shelf but never use it, here are some simple steps I like to advise people to take when they ask me where and how to start.
1. Demystify the Deck.
Do not think that you’re not good enough to read Tarot. Do no think that you don’t have “the gift”. Tarot is like singing. Some people are born with the gift of singing like an angel. Some people sound more like a cat with a flu. But hey, that’s why there are singing classes and coaches. If you don’t think you’re a natural, just approach the Tarot like anything in life you have learned from speaking Spanish to baking cakes or driving a car. There are steps and tools for you to wrap your head around it. You’re as good as anyone out there. Grab the cards and tell yourself “I can do this”. After all, Tarot is all about faith. Faith in yourself and your own instincts.
2. Do your Homework.
Buy a good book about Tarot. Or buy 2 or 3 and compare the information. Take notes, underline things that strike you. Close the book and try to remember what you just learned about a specific card or spread. It’s usually a good idea to start a Tarot Journal. Every day, pick a card and write what you know or feel about a card. Writing things down help us hold on to certain information and better memorize what we are learning. For instance, you draw the Devil. Write some keywords: fear – desire – punishment ( or any other that feel right to you). Look up in your book (or on my Tarot Card Meaning page) what star sign this Devil may be? Scorpio. All these little things will add up to a great amount of knowledge overtime.
3. Card by Card and Step by Step.
Take some time for each single card of the deck. That includes the minor cards too (Cups, Wands, Coins and Swords). Start with the major arcana and divide your minor suits in 4 piles (one for each element). This will hep you see the structure of your deck and make it more approachable. Many people start doing spreads without using the minor arcana for months or years. And everyone should take as long as they need to feel comfortable with the cards. But take my word for it: don’t neglect the minor arcana because these cards can bring so much clarity to a major spread that they will make you feel like you have superpowers. I recommend to take a card or two each day and examine them in depth. Analyze the characters, the colours, the background, the number. Beyond what you’ve read, ask yourself: What symbols do I see? What story is this card telling? Who is this person? Is this card speaking to me in a positive or rather negative way? Learning the star signs and elements associated with a Tarot card will also be of great help for your future readings.
4. Start Small.
As soon as you have the cards, start doing small spreads for yourself or your close friends. This must be with people who know you are in a learning process and don’t mind you taking notes or using one of your books for reference. Don’t start with the Celtic Cross or large spreads because you might get stuck and lose motivation. When you learn playing an instrument, you play a few simple chords each day and build up. Then only can you play complex songs. It’s the same with Tarot.
3 cards spread to answer simple questions are the best way to start. 5 cards spread can also be encouraging when you feel up for a little reading challenge. Here are 2 quick and easy tutorials to get started even as a total beginner.
Example 1 – A 3 cards spread
This spread can be used with or without a question. If a question is asked it will be answered straight (as long as the question is as clear as reasonable, again, no lottery numbers will ever be given 😉 ). If no question is asked, this spread will tell what is the main thing requiring attention in the consultant’s life and what is on their mind. It will also tell you where the situation is headed.
In the example above, it’s pretty clear: something has recently ended (Tower = the end, a break up, a job finished, moving houses etc.) and the consultant is currently being guided by their star while doing introspective work (The Star = light shed on a situation, positive outcome, new dawn) towards a new beginning (The Magician= work, new beginnings, first sparkle, skills). Without knowing the situation, here I would guess the end and renewal is about work, not love. The end, which may have been painful and sudden is actually for the best and is leading the sitter towards a better phase of their life.
But this is something to look into with more cards. So 1= near past 2= present 3= outcome; simple, right?*
Example 2 – A 5 cards spread
This is one spread I like to use when someone doesn’t have a clear cut question but just a “theme” in mind. This is a quick look, I’ll give you a better and deeper spread soon in a different post. But for a beginner, this is perfect and already very insightful.
Card 1= the card representing the main concern of the consultant . In this case and without any additional context, it would be work.
Card 2 & 3 = near past and present situation. Here we have news that have already been received and they have set the wheel of fortune into motion. Things are happening fast and changes will be rather radical.
Card 4&5 = the outcome. The sitter is going towards a deep change, possibly a change of jobs. Death in this spread is a new start for the better. The World is one of the best cards in the deck, it represents among other things balance and stability. So here we have a consultant worried about their work situation after receiving important news. The changes will be deep, radical and maybe hard but absolutely for the better. Soon, the sitter will wake up in a whole new world, one that is finally what they actually needed.
5. Follow your instinct.
So you have spread the cards on the table and your first feeling while reading them went against the description you underlined in a book. That will happen more than once in your Tarot Reader career. Remember: these are your cards, your energy, your reading. Follow your guts. If the Pope “looks” worried to you, then he most probably is. If there is something sneaky today about the Magician, then so it is. And if the Emperor is not a man but a situation, then you’re most probably right.
Learning the symbolism and “regular” meanings of a card will give you the tools you need your whole life to read Tarot. You need those basics and most of the time they will be correct and guiding you towards the truth. But if your guts feeling says otherwise, go for your instinct. Tarot is all about energy and the first thought, the one that strikes you like a baseball in the face, is usually the right one. (See my article about the Moon here for more on this subject)
6. Be ethical
This is so important. Whether you read for yourself, others, for free or for a fee. There are enough charlatans out there, let me just say it! We don’t need any more. Set yourself limits and a moral code you can stand by. And stick to it. People (clients but also even your friends) can have huge expectations with Tarot. They might take important decisions based on what you tell them. You have to take this responsibility seriously. Even for yourself.
For example, if the cards are not answering the question and the person in front of you is insisting for an answer, don’t make one up. Tell them what the cards are saying. Sometimes the cards want to tell something different than what someone wants to hear. They might want to warn them about something completely different (I have seen the case rarely but it does happen). Say the truth.
And this might be obvious but let’s end on a word to the wise: never venture to the dangerous lands of health and death. You are a Tarot reader, not a doctor. If you see something related to health, advise your consultant to maybe speak with a doctor but do not make predictions and god help you, don’t diagnose anyone. Don’t tell someone they’re going to die or lose someone either! First because you might be completely wrong. Everyone can make a mistake. Some can never be erased or forgiven. That would be quite the dramatic example. Then, you are responsible for your words. Think about people’s feelings before hurting them. And also… no one should ever do this.
Be honest, be ethical, be compassionate, stay in your place & You’ll be a great reader!
* Of course much more could be said about just these 3 cards, but keep these new layers for later. Learn the cards like the notes on a piano, and soon you’ll learn to play new songs!
Want more? See my post on how to easily master different Tarot decks here.
Do you have more tips for beginners? Share them in the comments section below!