Tarot for Beginners is an ongoing series designed to take you from newbie reader to confident card slinger (while having a ton of fun along the way!)
Welcome, sweet friend, to the wonderful world of tarot!
With cards in hand and a willingness to commit to the path ahead you’re all set for an incredible adventure. And I’m honoured to be your getting-started guide!
When you’re totally new to tarot, understanding the cards and carrying out a reading can seem like quite the mountain to climb.
I remember flipping through my very first deck (the colourful Gilded Tarot, FYI) and thinking “how the fudge am I ever going to know what each of these images means?!”
And yet I’ll let you into a little secret:
reading tarot isn’t actually as complicated as it sounds.
I’m a firm believer that anyone can read tarot – yep, anyone. Including you! We’re all blessed with intuitive abilities and as such we’re all capable of tuning into the landscape of the cards and feeling our way into meanings and messages.
If delivering insightful and empowering readings sounds like your kinda thing, stick around!
Covering the card slinging basics
The aim of Tarot for Beginners is to provide you with a solid starting point for your personal card slinging practice; a steady (and enjoyable!) foundation for you to adventure from.
Together we're going to cover the basics and get you to a place of carrying out a cracking card reading with ease.
As an intuitive reader I blend traditional card meanings, energies and associations with in-the-moment intuitive hits and insights.
We’ll be diving into both approaches, giving you a good grounding in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot system as well as plenty of tips and techniques for flexing your intuitive muscles and connecting to your Soul Voice and Spirit for unique and soulful messages.
This is an interactive journey (pens and notebooks at the ready!). Throughout the series you'll find #TarotTip prompts designed to support you in actively exploring and engaging with the cards, deepening your personal relationship with tarot as you go.
Your Intuition, aka Your Super Power
Your Soul Voice is so incredibly super powerful and worth paying attention to during readings (and in everyday life away from the cards, too!)
If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take from your tarot experience over the coming days and weeks ahead, it’s that your intuition can be trusted.
If an unexpected message comes through during a reading or if you feel a need to deviate from a traditional card meaning or association, honour your instincts!
Always, always, always trust your Soul Voice - she won't ever lead you astray. Your way is the best way when it comes to your tarot practice.
Ready to begin? Grab a deck and a cuppa (tea isn’t obligatory but is totally encouraged!) and let’s dive in.
Why, sweet friend, might we turn to tarot? Why learn how to read the cards – what are they used for and in what ways are they a handy tool to have as we journey through life?
Every reader varies in their approach to the cards. While some turn to tarot for predictive purposes (the usage most often seen in films and on TV!) this isn’t the only way we can use the cards.
I’m a huge advocate of developing an enriching, empowering card slinging practice, using tarot as a tool for personal development, self-reflection and self-understanding.
The following are some of the key ways in which I use my cards:
- For exploring the present moment in order to gain a better understanding of my thoughts and feelings, an awareness of what’s going on consciously and subconsciously, a deepened understanding of the past and of my options moving forwards
- Identifying and exploring significant patterns playing out in my life and exploring what I might do in order to release/embrace such patterns accordingly
- Touching base with the energies at play during my day/week/month, considering how I might make the most of such energies while navigating my way through any hiccups along the way
- Diving into problems or tricky situations I’m experiencing with a willingness to understand the lessons available to me at this time and how I might journey through such events in an empowered, productive, compassionate way
- Using tarot as a tool for dream interpretation, creative writing, journaling
- Connecting with my Guides, Spirit Team and Ancestors in order to receive supportive guidance and insight
- Exploring pretty much any and all situations that call for clarity, acceptance, understanding and empowered action.
That’s just an off-the-cuff snapshot of how I turn to the cards in my personal practice and on a daily basis – the sky’s the limit!
Tarot really is a super versatile tool and while it may seem as if 78 cards are a lot to master, you’re already a bona fide tarot reader – own it, sweet friend!
Your intuitive knowing recognises the energies within the cards from the get-go, and with dedication and a willingness to dive into the exciting unknown (yet somehow oh so familiar), you’ll soon be slinging cards with confidence and ease.
All while having fun, of course! Because while tarot absolutely touches on serious stuff, it’s totally ok to recognise that slinging cards can be a wonderfully fun, enjoyable and exciting experience.
choosing your deck
Before diving into the cards, I thought it would be handy to share some thoughts on choosing a deck to work with throughout the journey ahead.
A quick Google will show you just how many incredible decks there are for the newbie reader to choose from.
A tarot deck subscribing to the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition is a good bet if you’re looking to learn from scratch, as many resources and sources of info are created with the RWS in mind (including this blog series, hoorah!)
What, exactly, is the RWS tradition? Essentially, a tarot deck first published in 1910 by a mystic named Arthur Edward Waite and illustrated by (the AMAZING) Pamela ‘Pixie’ Coleman Smith became, over time, the basis for a ton of modern tarot decks, thereby heavily influencing the way in which tarot is studied and read today.
All 78 cards in the original RWS deck are illustrated, meaning people (and animals and objects – you’ll soon see!) populate the entirety of the deck.
It’s worth mentioning that the RWS isn’t the only system of tarot available to explore. There’s the Thoth tarot and the Marseilles Tarot, to name a few more. I’m a loud and proud RWS intuitive reader, and so that’s the system our exploration is going to focus on here.
If you fancy browsing cards and developing a serious case of deck lust (you've been warned!) head on over to Aeclectic Tarot and sneak a peek at the variety on show.
Of course, what really matters when choosing a deck is the connection you feel - trust your intuition, sweetness! You know you and your needs best. Take that leap of faith and believe in yourself!
A super speedy overview of tarot’s structure
Majors, Minors, Court Cards, oh my!
#TarotTip - Before reading on, take a moment to look through your cards and enjoy journeying through the pictures one by one. Doing so is a great way to tap into your intuition; first impressions are super powerful!
Chances are you’ll already begin receiving intuitive hits in the form of feelings, memories and impressions.
Take your time and make a note of your reactions. It’s always interesting to read over your thoughts a little down the road after you’ve developed a deeper understanding of the cards!
Ready to dive into an exploration of tarot’s components? Here's my in-a-nutshell guide.
A tarot deck typically consists of 78 cards, and is, to put it succinctly, a tool for life - by which I mean, tarot contains and reveals everything that it is to be human, to be here as a physical being and as a spiritual being.
Which is pretty darn incredible, no?!
Tarot incorporates external and internal situations and events, relationships, creations, life stages, from the major moments to the smaller nitty-gritty details of everyday life.
The cards can be split into three main components: the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and Court Cards.
The Mighty Major Arcana
The Majors carry major energy - typically denoting significant archetypal energies, situations, moments of one's path at this point in time.
Running from The Fool (0) to The World (21), if we put the Majors in chronological order we get a journey from innocence, naivety, newness to consciousness, completion, mastery (um, yes please!)
It's worth pointing out that we often experience Major Arcana energies in our lives in a random order, rather than strictly in sequence from start to finish.
#TarotTip – gather the Major Arcana cards from your deck and begin placing them in chronological order in front of you. You’re going to tell a story!
Beginning with The Fool, take a look at the imagery on the card and speak aloud what you see – so, a figure standing on a cliff edge, a little bundle slung over his shoulder, a small white dog at his feet. Anything you can see, speak it now.
Moving beyond what you can see to the impression you get from the imagery, begin putting together a story. There are absolutely no right or wrongs here – this isn’t a test! Whatever comes to mind, weave it into your story. Let your imagination run wild!
Here’s a little snippet of my own tale to get you started:
"A young figure dances towards the edge of a cliff jutting out above the swelling ocean beneath. Monty, his little dog, yaps nervously at his feet, aware of the potential danger ahead, but our Fool doesn’t appear to have a care in the world.
As he inches ever closer to the edge, waves lashing and crashing below, he sings a song of joy and freedom, ready to dive into the wild unknown beyond.
With eyes closed and fingers crossed he takes a final look at the path behind him before leaping into the air, weightless, a feather in the wind, everything and nothing at once.”
Thread each card together in whatever ways feels natural to you, feeling your way through; perhaps imagining the Fool meeting the rest of the Majors on his journey into the unknown.
Should your thinking brain kick in and cry “what the fudge am I doing?!” simply return to describing what you can see in each card.
Pay attention to any cards that trigger an immediate reaction of some kind – how do they make you feel?
Be sure to note down your thoughts for future reference.
The Magical Minor Arcana
The Minors carry everyday energy, although like most things tarot, this isn't a hard and fast rule. Minors are totally capable of delivering super powerful and significant messages, too, and everyday doesn't have to equal mundane!
In fact, I think the Minors are pretty darn magical, detailing the intricacies of daily life - fascinating stuff.
Minor cards depict scenes of everyday living - energies, situations, interactions, moments of one's path at this point in time on a somewhat smaller, down-to-earth scale.
While a Major Arcana card might emphasise an abundance of creative energy and the importance of such a period of time, Magician-style, the Minors will show you where in your life such energy is currently manifesting and what you need to do in order to channel it constructively and successfully.
Four suits reside at the heart of the Minor Arcana - Cups, Swords, Wands, Pentacles, journeying within each suit from Ace through Ten.
- Cups are linked to the element of water, and therefore to emotions, connection, intuition, relationships
- Swords are linked to the element of air, and therefore to thought, communication, logic
- Wands are linked to the element of fire, and therefore to inspiration, creativity, drive, will
- Pentacles are linked to the element of earth, and therefore to abundance, resources, the physical world, work, health, home.
When slinging cards, context is key. I repeat, context is key!
While each suit exudes certain specific energies, such as Cups and her energies of emotion, connection and intuition, this doesn’t mean that only cards from the suit of Cups have something to say about relationships.
Every single card in the deck has something of value to offer within any given context.
So, if you’re carrying out a relationship reading and a bunch of Pentacles appear, that doesn’t mean your reading is suddenly now about work instead of the question at hand (I mean, sometimes that's what it might mean… But we’ll dive into this kinda stuff in-depth in a future post!)
As a general rule, when you’ve asked a focused question or are slinging cards on a particular topic or situation, that’s what the cards are going to cover during your reading.
#TarotTip – Gather together cards from each suit, Ace through Ten, and lay them out in front of you, one row for each suit.
Reviewing the Cups, Wands, Swords and Pentacles in turn, can you see the unfolding of a story within each suit?
How does the energy of the suit seem to progress? Can you sense moments of success, celebration, progress contrasted perhaps with moments of frustration, despair, pause?
Take a moment to compare the Aces, Twos, Threes etc across all four suits. Do the numbers seem as if they share an essence of some sort? Are there similarities between the cards?
Again, note down your thoughts.
Court Card Characters
Each of the four suits has a family of Court Cards - Page, Knight, Queen, King, with the Page being the youngest and therefore taking their first tentative steps towards understanding and utilising the energy of his suit;
the Knight, full of adolescent enthusiasm and an urge to quest further into the energy of his suit, diving into the journey with greater independence and a willingness to adventure;
and the Queen and King representing the internal and external potential, respectively, of the energy of their suit at its most mature and powerful.
During a reading, Court Cards tend to represent either an element of the seeker (so, you if you're slinging cards for yourself) or a person in your life who is somehow significant to the topic being explored.
#TarotTip – Gather together the Court Cards of the deck and group them by suit. Taking a moment to observe each character, what impression do you receive?
Who looks friendly to you? Who looks harsh or authoritative? Who looks like they might be fun to hang out with? Who reminds you of yourself or of a loved one?
Again, jot down your thoughts, sweet friend, and keep ‘em close for future reference.
Congrats! Time for a pat on the back and a fresh cup of tea
Ta-da! You've made it through all 78 cards of your deck. High fives all around! How do you feel? Did you have fun?
Before we go, I've got one more #TarotTip activity for you to try. Lay your cards out in front of you so that you can see all 78 images. Take a breath and ask yourself "how am I feeling today?"
Begin looking through the cards until you find one that you feel resonates. This is something you can do without any prior knowledge of card meanings - you're going purely with your intuition.
Chosen card in hand, consider how it connects to how you're feeling right now. Do the colours resonate somehow? Do the characters or scenes depicted feel familiar? What sensations does such a card cause?
Sweet friend, you've just completed your very first tarot reading!
Using the cards face-up is one of my fave ways to explore the energies within the deck. In our next post we'll be carrying out our first face-down reading, too.
Good times ahead!
See you in our next post, fellow card slinger, where we'll begin diving into the cards in detail.