For most people, reaching for a deck of tarot cards for the first time can be quite overwhelming. With 78 total cards, most of us wonder: how will I ever fully understand all of these cards, and how many books will I have to read to do it?
To be honest, this is one of the many reasons I hesitated to begin reading the cards, to begin with.
When I bought my first deck years ago, I scathed the internet, bookshelves, and how to videos, quickly becoming overwhelmed at the various interpretations of the cards. Even after reading the book that came with my Sharman-Caselli deck, I had a difficult time conducting my first few readings. However, when I quickly started to feel as though I would never get it, I came across an article online about intuitive reading. (If you are interested in the Sharman-Caselli deck, click here. I suggest ordering the set with the book and the stand alone set. )
According to the article, reading the tarot has more to do with your own intuition and interpretation of the cards than it does with memorizing each and every meaning. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to learn and understand all facets of tarot if you intend on fully understanding the cards, but you don’t have to be a tarot scholar to start reading. In fact, from personal experience, the sooner you begin conducting readings, the sooner you will begin to build your relationship with the cards, and that is the most important part of reading tarot.
And by the time you finish reading this, you will be ready to do your first reading.
First, it’s important to understand the symbology found on most standard decks. The most popular and well-known cards are the Rider-Waite tarot, which contains the base symbols that are found on most cards. Of course, with thousands of decks to choose from, there are some variations, but to make things simple, start with the Rider-Waite, or the Sharman-Caselli. When I first began reading cards, I heard that the Sharman Caselli deck was perfect for beginners. And I definitely heard right.
Each suit is covered in symbols that relate to the card and its meaning. For example, the Wands are usually associated with fire, so each wand card has rich, red coloring, and other symbols associated with fire. Not only that, but fire’s relation to creativity is definitely alive in the imagery.
Another helpful tidbit is to think of each card as a different story, or a person encountering a life experience. When I look at my cards laid out in front of me, I try to tell a story with the cards. You can practice this by setting out three card spreads in front of you and making up a question. Now, interpret the story in front of you as it relates to the answer to your question. Think of the cards as movie scenes. Is the scene in front of you a love scene? Or is it a scene of hardship?
If you are worried about intuitive reading, don’t be. The entire premise for tarot is to use your intuition and subconscious to tune in to your third eye, or even to the diving energy that flows through all of us. In the end, your intuition is your guide and will continue to be, even after you have memorized each card’s standard meaning.
So where do you begin? Well, I am glad you asked. Here are a few helpful tips to begin your first reading with little to no experience.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Being Wrong
Most beginner readers get lost in their cards in fears that they will read their cards wrong. Relax, and trust your instincts. While each card does have hundreds of years of interpretive meaning behind it, you don’t need to know or even completely understand it in order to interpret the cards in front of you.
2. Trust What You See
Sheknows.com put it best when they said that tarot’s power is found in it’s reflection of the human psyche. When reading, if a card strikes a certain chord within you, then go with it. Trust what your intuition is telling you about the card, and relate it to the other cards in front of you.
3. Embrace Your Ability As A Born Storyteller
One of the greatest pieces of tarot reading advice I have ever gotten was from a YouTube video. In the video, the man who is teaching says to think of the cards as pieces of a story. Think about it, throughout our days, we are constantly telling stories in our mind. We tell our friends stories from our day, and we narrate our own personal story each day.
Place a few cards in front of you now as an exercise. What story do you see unfolding? Try this over and over again, coming up with different scenarios and different stories. It doesn’t have to be in relation to anything, just use the cards as story-telling ammo, and continue to do this until you feel comfortable.
4. Learn to Describe the Cards Properly
During a reading, you will be asked a question. Your job is to describe the card in relation to their question, and to take into account the story that all the cards in front of you are telling. Remember to use adjectives and descriptive phases. What do you see transpiring? How do the figures in the card feel? Do you sense joy or prosperity? Or do you sense struggle and hardship? Think of the cards as a movie scene.
5. Learn to Read Your Environment Like a Tarot Card
Look around you….your environment is similar to a tarot card, as it is rich with symbols and ques just waiting to be understood. What stands out? What symbols and colors do you notice? What is on your left? This is the side of intuition and creativity. What is on the right? This is the side of action.
6. Use Common Sense
When reading, don’t focus so much on textbook meanings and such, but instead, use your common knowledge. If you ask a question about your current relationship and draw cards that bring struggle to mind, what does that tell you?
7. Don’t Focus So Much on Standard Spreads
A quick visit to your local bookstore, or to tarot forums online will show you how many spreads there are, many of which were created by readers like you. Sometimes, I use standard spreads, but most often these days I create my own spreads as I go.
Above all, practice. Sit down with your cards daily. Draw one card a day, and get to know it. Understand what is taking place on the card, and the emotions surrounding the situation. Think of the cards as friends, or even as experiences from your own life. Do ‘fake’ readings by yourself, and get comfortable. There is nothing worse than doing a reading for someone, and not being comfortable or confident enough to properly answer their question. People can sense when you are nervous, and they will be less likely to take your reading seriously if you are nervous.
9. If You Get Stuck, Don’t Hesitate to Draw Another Card
Many of the cards in the deck can be difficult to correlate to your reading when they are standing alone. For me, the cards that depict a king or queen can be difficult to interpret, because they aren’t actually doing anything. When I draw a throne card, I usually draw another card to bring the reading into focus.
Once again, I am not poo-pooing the knowledge necessary to fully understand the tarot. Knowing and understanding the symbology of your cards, and the history of each one will only enhance your reading experience. But don’t get lost in the standard interpretations to the point of not being able to read a spread without a book. Also, remember, you don’t need to be a tarot expert to start reading.
By reading from the get-go, you are learning to understand how the cards illustrate different scenarios. As you learn, you will only get better. Below, I have included a tarot YouTube course that goes along with what I have discussed. This is the video that gave me the best advice when I was overwhelmed by standard meanings and tarot textbooks. If you apply my tips above, and his tips to your reading, you will be a novice in no time!
Image via Allure