The Beginner’s Quick Start Guide to Tarot

The Beginner’s Guide to Tarot 

Are you just starting out on your Tarot journey, wondering how exactly to make your own Tarot readings happen? In this article you will walk through a step by step guide, from deciding to learn Tarot, to laying out and interpreting your first readings.

We will begin with exploring what Tarot and divination is and dispelling a common misconception.

Following that, we’ll be ready to dive right in by sampling what a Tarot reading is like, finding our first own Tarot deck, getting ourselves and the cards ready to read, and finally drawing some cards laying out our very first Tarot spreads.

I’m a professional Tarot reader from the Passing Fancey Tarot Corner. Over more than 15 years of Tarot reading, I’ve collected a solid base of knowledge and experience about the traditional meanings of the cards, different reading and interpretation techniques and psychic insights. You can visit my website here.

The cards depicted in this article are from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

First of all…

What is Divination?

Divination is the interpretation of seemingly random events in order to gain insight, guidance or messages. Drawing cards from a shuffled deck are such random events, as are, for example, tossing a coin, rolling dice or throwing small objects into a tray.

Divination practices go all the way back to the dawn of humankind, and people of any historical era have looked to divination in uncertain times.

There are different beliefs about why exactly this works, and why the seemingly random events are in fact not random, but meaningful to the question asked.

As the word divination already implies, many people believe that divination is a way to communicate with the divine, and that some form of higher power influences the cards, runes or other divination instrument in order to show results that can be interpreted as a helpful answer to the question.

What is Tarot?

 Tarot is a deck of cards originating from fifteenth century Italy. These cards were first and foremost produced as playing cards before people started to use them for divination purposes.

The first manuscript detailing divination methods using Tarot cards dates back to the eighteenth century.

History of Tarot Cards

Tarot Cards date back to the 15th century in Italy and hence the Major Arcana still named to this day as trump cards originating from first known as “trionfi“, then later named  “tarock” where you can see how the word tarot originated. At this time there where only 32 cards, only later did they increase to the 78 card deck as we know them to be today.

In the latter part of the 18th century, certain tarot decks were utilized for divination by means of tarot card reading and cartomancy. This led to the creation of specialized cards that were designed specifically for occult purposes.

The tarot, much like traditional playing cards, is divided into four suits, each of which corresponds to a different language and culture:

  • French suits are used in Northern Europe
  • Latin suits are used in Southern Europe, and
  • German suits are used in Central Europe.

In 1783 the French occultist & cartomancer Etteilla assigned divinatory meanings to the cards and there by making tarot more popular amongst other occultists .

Following the tarot’s success in France, occultists in Britain began to take an interest in the card game, which led to the founding of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in that country in the year 1888. This order improved their tarot practice throughout time, but they never made their deck available to the general public. As a result, tarot has remained the domain of skilled practitioners. The Rider-Waite-Smith Deck and the Thoth Deck are two of the most well-known variations of the Tarot, and both of these decks were devised by members of the order.

The tarot was first introduced to the general public in the United States, where a number of articles explaining what it was and how to read it were published. However, it wasn’t until Eden Gray’s book, A Complete Guide to the Tarot, was published in the 1970s that the tarot truly began to gain popularity.

 

Get to Know the Cards

A Tarot Deck Contains 78 cards, Structured as Follows:

The Major Arcana consisting of 22 Tarot Cards

The Fool - Major Arcana Tarot CardDeath - Major Arcana Tarot Card TemperanceReverse Tarot Card The World  

These cards show the big archetypal themes and life lessons that are affecting your life and soul’s path to enlightenment.

Starting in the Major Arcana with the 1st card number 0,  The Fool and completing the set with the 22nd card numbered 21 with The World card, each card representing different keywords, elements, planet, astrological,  healing crystal, & its Yes or No association. And most importantly its upright and reversed meanings.  

The Minor Arcana consisting of 56 Tarot Cards

Ace Pentacle Tarot card Ace Wands Minor Arcana Tarot Card MeaningsAce Swords Tarot Card 9 Cups Tarot Card 

The Minor arcana set is separated into 4 Suits each Suit consisting of 14 cards namely:

  1. The Suit of Wands
  2. The Suit of Cups
  3. The Suit of Swords 
  4. The Suit of Pentacles

The Suit of Wands 

(also named Staves) Connected to Fire & creativity, will, power, passion and desires.
The Suit of Wands is like a magic wand. It stands for creativity, intuition, and new ideas. Wands are active cards that have to do with the fire element. On the other hand, this suit shows strength and determination.

It’s about going as far as you can to achieve your goals and dreams. This suit also has the help of spirituality and awareness. The cards talk about what’s really important to you and tell you more about who you are and what you believe in.

The Suit of Cups

Connected to Water & emotions, memories, relationships, love and spirituality

The Suit of Cups has to do with  heart matters, love, feelings, and relationships are the main things that this case is about, and is ruled by the element of water.

Cards in this suit can also make you think about how you react to the world around you. If most of the cards in a reading are cups, it means there are emotional issues, like trouble in a relationship.

The Suit of Swords

Connected to Air & matters related to thoughts, the mind, planning, problem solving or conflict.
The suit of swords represent communication and action. They are ruled by the element of air. Their strengths help us gain wisdom and see things clearly.

The cards in this suit tell you to think things through before making a choice.
They can also be a sign that you should pay more attention to your surroundings because a fight or argument could be coming up.

The Suit of Pentacle

(also named Coins or Disks) Connected to Earth & our physical world, health, jobs, wealth, and home.

The suit  of pentacles which have to do with money, work, and success, and is ruled by element of earth. These cards are called “money cards” because they are often linked to decisions about money and sudden money gains.

When mostly Pentacles show up in your reading, it’s likely that you’re looking for answers about the things in your life that are made of matter.

Out of these fourteen cards, the first ten cards are numbered Ace to 10.

The remaining four cards are called court cards and are traditionally called

  1. Page (representing as someone which is just starting his or her journey in life)
  2. Knight (representing pursuing goals & taking action)
  3. Queen (representing as someone which is in a sharing or supporting role)
  4. King (representing as someone with authority, leadership, and experience)

Some decks rename these. For example, the page and knight may be renamed to prince and princess, or more gender neutral terms may be chosen.

What is important to remember is that though some names or labels may be changed around, each deck of cards that follows the pattern described above is a Tarot deck.

There are also other card decks used for divination purposes. Lenormand decks are also popular and contain 36 cards. There are also oracle cards.

 

Oracle cards do not have a standard structure, and they are simply an umbrella term for any deck of cards made for divination purposes that do not fit standard structures such as Tarot or Lenormand.

So can I learn to read Tarot?

 Yes! There are no requirements at all for learning to read Tarot. Tarot is an open practice, meaning no particular heritage or initiation is required.

Contrary to some stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media, no dramatic psychic powers are required to learn Tarot.

Though some Tarot readers tune in to their psychic senses to enrich their readings, a lot of other readers do not, and relying on their intuitive, creative interpretation of the cards on the table, they are just as competent, confident Tarot readers. 
Psychic Tarot reading is just one reading style out of many.

Tarot Cards For Beginners Great! Where do I begin?

 If you haven’t done so already, you may want to try sampling what Tarot reading is like.

I highly recommend those who are curious to get a reading from an experienced, professional reader of their choice to see what a detailed reading looks like and what kind of guidance can come through.

Many Tarot readers will also gladly answer questions and share their knowledge with those who are interested.

Discussing how the reader interprets the cards on the table during your reading can be a very insightful experience.

Tarot Cards For Beginners

 

The Tarot has you covered with guidance for your relationships, wellbeing, career, spirituality and everyday life, providing answers to your questions or giving general messages.
 
Click here to book a Tarot reading

Another easily accessible way to try out Tarot reading is by using online Tarot decks or apps. Many of these are free or low cost and give you the opportunity to look at some cards and their meanings.

Eventually if you wish to make reading Tarot into a more regular practice, it’s time to get your first Tarot deck!

How do I choose my first Tarot deck?

 Contrary to a common myth, you do not have to be gifted your first Tarot deck, and you certainly shouldn’t steal it!

It’s a nice gesture if someone gifts you a beautiful Tarot deck, but buying one yourself is completely fine. It can, in fact, even be beneficial to buy your own, because then you can find and choose the deck that really speaks to you.

In order to familiarize yourself with the traditional symbolism, it may be best to start out with a traditional deck. There are three core traditional decks, and countless other Tarot decks have been made inspired by them.

The Marseilles Tarot deck originates from the fifteenth century.
Only the major arcana and court cards are fully illustrated, while the rest of the cards bear symbolic representations of their suit and number.
You can get the deck here.

 

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was commissioned by Arthur Edward Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman-Smith and published by the Rider publishing company in 1909.
It was a revolutionary development in Tarot, as Pamela Coleman-Smith also illustrated all the minor arcana in full detail.
This is the most commonly used Tarot deck today, and most modern Tarot decks are based on the symbolism of this deck too.
You can get the deck here.

 

The Thoth Tarot was commissioned by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Frieda Harris, and published in 1944, years after its creation.
This Tarot deck as well as others inspired by it can be recognized by the court cards being renamed to princess, prince, queen and knight, and the renaming of eight major arcana cards.
You can get the deck here.

 

 Shadowscapes Tarot Deck by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law 
You can get this deck here.

Since the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck is the most widely used in many Tarot resources, it can be the easiest to learn with.

Still, what is most important while choosing your own Tarot deck is to find one that you can read well, one with images that you can relate to.

The RWS Tarot deck was published more than a century ago, and over this century, illustrating and printing technology has rapidly evolved.

If you don’t feel like the traditional images appeal to you, then rest assured there are thousands of other Tarot decks available today, drawn in a vast variety of different styles, representing a plethora of different cultural and spiritual directions.

Tarot decks can be found in metaphysical stores, some book or gift shops, and of course online.

The key to finding the best deck for you is to take a good look at the cards to ascertain that you can relate to each image. 

The questions to ask yourself while examining the cards are: Could these cards be laid out as panels of a graphic novel about me?

Do the images on the cards describe my thoughts, feelings, imagination and the way I see the world?

Note that the images don’t literally have to look like your life, rather, they should represent scenes, settings, time periods or characters that spark your imagination and let you glimpse aspects of yourself within them.

Some shops offer sample decks to flip through. If that is not the case or you are ordering online, search the Tarot deck in the internet and you will most likely find reviews with pictures and videos. Take your time to explore until you find a deck you feel you can really connect with.

 

Ritual of tarot readings

Once you have your very own deck, it’s time to…

Prepare for your first Tarot reading!

 Before you begin pulling cards, look through your deck, giving yourself time to familiarize yourself with each card’s imagery. Most decks also come with a guidebook which is worth reading through.

You may want to cleanse and charge your cards before you begin reading with them.

The cards have sat around in the shop or warehouse for a while before coming to you, picking up feelings, thoughts, intentions, the atmosphere around it, “psychic dust”.

With a simple ritual, you can remove these influences and infuse the cards with your intention to receive clear, helpful guidance through them.

Your Tarot deck is like a sensitive metaphysical instrument that you can calibrate.

To cleanse and charge the cards, you can do any or all of the following:

  • Light some incense, fan out the cards in your hand and let the smoke touch each card.
  • Place the cards in moonlight in your window. Any moonlight is good, but the light of the full moon is said to be especially powerful.
  • Place some crystals on your deck. Selenite, clear quartz, rose quartz, moonstone or amethyst are especially beneficial for divination, intuition and helpful guidance.

You can also come up with your own rituals that fit your belief system.

Time to read the cards!

 Find a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. Take a moment to breathe and let go of busy thoughts, opening your mind to subtle intuitive impressions.

Sit comfortably and shuffle your cards thoroughly. It doesn’t matter what method you use to shuffle as long as you end up with a well randomized deck. When you use a deck for the first time, take some extra time to make sure it’s well shuffled.

Think or say out loud what you would like to know. For a first readings, following questions can be good starting points:

  • What will happen today?
  • What advice do I need to hear right now?
  • How will (something I will do soon) go?
  • How can I make sure (something I will do soon) will be successful?

Decide how many cards you will draw. For first readings I recommend drawing one single card.

Eventually, your cards may feel ready, and you can stop shuffling. Alternatively, you can also decide in advance how long you will shuffle.

It can happen that a card jumps out of the deck while shuffling! Jumping cards carry messages that really need to be heard.

If no card jumps out, let your hand be guided to the deck and pick the card you feel drawn to. If you don’t feel up to picking the “right” card intuitively yet, then decide in advance while shuffling that you will pick the card from the top or the bottom of the deck, and now do so.

Interpreting the Card:

 Before opening the guidebook, give yourself some time to take in the image on the card. Are there any details, colors, characters that catch your eye?

What is going on in the scene depicted? Try and translate it to your current situation and question.

Note that two of the questions suggested in the previous section are predictive questions, asking what will happen or how something will go.

In response to such questions, the card you draw will be describing events. Try describing what is going on in the card, literally or symbolically, to begin with your interpretation.

The other two questions ask for advice. The card you pull will be describing what you can do in order to reach your goal, or perhaps it will act as a mirror, showing you what you are doing now that may not be constructive.

After you’ve interpreted the image, look up the meaning of the card in the guidebook. Extend or adjust your interpretation using the information found in the guidebook, and summarize it as the answer to the question you asked.

 

Example of a Reading in a Spread:

Simon draws a single card in the morning before going to work, asking “what advice do I need to hear today?” and draws the 10 of Wands.

Example of a single tarot card reading

He sees the image depicting a figure stooped under all the weight she carries. He recognizes himself in the image, as he had recently taken on additional responsibilities at work, and has felt like the weight of the world was resting on his shoulder.

He realizes that perhaps he’s exerting himself too much, just as the figure in the card, and needs to see how he can prioritize and set some things down before he becomes overwhelmed.

The answer to his question is therefore: The advice is to recognize that he is carrying too many burdens, overexerting himself. To lighten the load and make his life easier again, he can look for opportunities to prioritize and delegate tasks at work.

Asking the Questions:

  • What then?
  • Will predictions come true?
  •  Would you like it to come true?

Tarot predictions are not set in stone, and the reading reflects what may happen if you continue on your current path. Therefore, if you like what you see, make sure to continue what you were doing and keep working towards your goal.

If you don’t want the scene depicted in the card to happen, investigate what you can do to change something.

Keep Practicing!

Reading Tarot is a skill that takes a lot of practice. Don’t give up if your first readings don’t feel accurate, or if you have trouble remembering card meanings.

Do quick readings for yourself whenever you can, ideally once a day, and record your readings in a journal or by taking photos with your phone.

Eventually, you’ll be able to glean more depth from the cards, move on to multiple cards and ask more specific, detailed questions.

4 Tarot Cards

 

 

The Tarot has you covered with guidance for your relationships, wellbeing, career, spirituality and everyday life, providing answers to your questions or giving general messages.
 
Click here to book a Tarot reading