My ethos of tarot reading is this: there are no universal right or wrong meanings for you to learn; except when there are. Hunh? It’s like this, when you work with The Tarot you are building a life-long relationship that will be uniquely personal to you and will change with time and experience. Learning to read is really about learning to trust your own intuition – learning a language to communicate with your own intuitive nature.
However, intuition needs rails – a compass – in order to keep it on track, relevant and valid. Although I work in the intuitive arts I don’t consider myself an Intuitive Reader because I also place great importance on the rails of Tarot – the framework, ‘rules’, and system behind it. It’s like the safety of a cauldron that allows the intuitive ingredients to mingle and stew. The rails of Tarot include card meanings & reversals, elemental dignities, numerology, colour, gesture and more.
Taking all this into consideration I have a few tips that pare the basics down for the new reader.
Quick Tips for Tarot Newbies
1. Don’t Forget The Question
Keep the question you are asking really clear in your mind and refer back to it with each card. Keep asking yourself, how does that answer the question.
2. Tune In – Trust Your Gut Feeling
Tune into your gut instinct about each card and trust it. Look at the cards and notice any feelings that arise in relation to them. Which card are you drawn to most? Do any of the people in the cards remind you of anyone? If you could sum up each card in one word what would it be…could be a feeling or concept? Remember, first thoughts are the best thought. What is happening in each card? What happened just before the image shown? What’s about to happen next? (turn it into a story)
3. Read Tarot Card Meanings After You Tune In
After that read the card description and see how it matches your impressions. But most importantly trust your reaction to the card. You may find the card meaning really doesn’t match your own intuitive feeling. That’s ok. There’s important information in that place of conflict. It gives you some alternatives and a sense of how different energies might be at play.
4. Describe, Describe, Describe
If you can’t make a connection with a particular card just describe what you see. This will often draw in connections to the question or other cards that you weren’t aware of before.
Example: 2 of Swords.
I see a blindfolded woman sitting in front of the sea holding two swords crossed over her heart.
You could then create a more personal connection by asking yourself: What am I blind to? In what way am I protecting myself from being hurt. If I took off the blindfold, what would I see?
5. Follow The Gaze
Pay attention to who or what people are looking at. It may be something in the card next to them or even off stage. Notice what’s behind them and before them. What are they willing to face and what have they turned their back on? Generally, a person facing left is looking to the past, while facing right indicates the future.
Eye contact is a very powerful way of directing energy as well. Consider, what the effect of one card’s gaze on another might be like. Would it strengthen or weaken the other card? Does the other card appreciate this stare?
6. Learn Some Basic Tarot Symbols
Any well designed deck will have a cohesive visual language of its own. Go in with an understanding that nothing you see in the image is accidental. Everything means something. But don’t feel like you have to get bogged down. It’s ok just to work with what you know.
A few common symbols and meanings that are common in The Tarot:
- Cups = water, emotions, intuition, flow, The Heart, wisdom
- Swords = air, thoughts, ideas, clarity, The Intellect,
- Coins = earth, material health & wealth, The Body
- Wands = fire, creativity, drive, work, Desire
- Bodies of water = emotions & feelings
- Mountains = difficult times
- Walls = barriers and containers
- Roses = balance, life force, wisdom
- Lilies = purity, wisdom, spirit
- Sceptres & orbs = symbols of power & authority
- Horses = how we move forward, animal instinct, sexuality
7. Basic Numerology – It’s A Numbers Game
The Tarot is all about story cycles. In the Major Arcana the cycle is numbered from 1 to 21. Understanding that 21 represents completion and wholeness of the cycle, can help you gauge how far along someone might be in their journey.
The Minor Arcana suits are numbered 1 to 10. 1 is a little of a thing, a beginning or initiation of a thing. 10 is a lot and the completion of the cycle. Think of it in terms of a story arc, such as you might see in a movie or novel. Usually at 5, there’s peak conflict. Aliens attack the city. The heroine is captured behind enemy lines. The hero discovers his lover is cheating. That kind of thing. 7’s generally suck too, but are a less volatile conflict. Example: The aliens are defeated only to discover massive infrastructure damage and the city is in danger of falling into the sea.
Of course, not every story has a happy ending. Swords and Wands are considered the hard suits and the cycle does not end on a positive note. The 10 of Swords is also called Ruin while the 10 of Wands is Oppression. However the soft suits of the coins and cups end with prosperity and happiness.
8. Which Suits Are Present Or Absent?
Pay attention to what suits are dominant and which are absent. For example, if your question is about feelings and you draw all wands and no cups that’s important because that’s all fire and drive, no feelings. Or it could only be angry feelings. Or if you draw 3 cups, that’s a lot of emotion but no earth. Perhaps there’s a need for grounding. All swords could indicate being stuck too much in your head. A question about money with no coins is not very profitable, right?
9. The Major Arcana Are Your Heart & Soul
About The Major Arcana cards – See these as your soul’s journey through life. The Fool represents you and your process of individuation. Each of The Major Arcana marks a major life process that you will go through. Give these cards more weight and consider them in the context of a wider journey.
10. Reach Out And Connect
The Tarot isn’t meant to be a solitary journey. It’s meant to be social. We read for other people, right? Reach out to others for their opinions and alternative meanings. Read blogs, join a Facebook group. You’ll soon find writers and approaches that speak to you. Get in touch and ask quesions in the comments below. I love to help new readers developing their tarot chops.
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