When you decide to learn how to read tarot cards, it can be tempting to just plunge into the millions of resources out there right away – and by all means, go for it! The world of tarot is exciting and magical to discover, and if you’re lucky you’ll end up learning about yourself along the way, too. But with so much information out there and so many people with their own ways of doing things, it can be hard to know where to start or what to do. I’ve brainstormed the top 10 things I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out, so I thought I’d pass them along to you!
(these party animals believe in you!)
1. Get a deck that you love.
As much as it would have made my life easier to start with a Rider-Waite-Smith deck, ultimately the reason I stuck with tarot instead of getting bored is because I loved the deck I had and I wanted to get to know it. The symbolism can vary either slightly or entirely from deck to deck, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you buy one! But you can always learn the “traditional” meanings of the cards even if you don’t have the RWS. It’s more important that you connect with the cards you have.
2. That said, don’t get hung up on memorization.
The cards do have meanings that are widely recognized, but nothing is set in stone. You’ll hear all the time from tarot readers that you should trust your intuition and it’s true! Your initial feeling when you look at the cards is just as important, if not more important, than the definitions that have been traditionally assigned to them. It’s certainly helpful to learn these traditional meanings, but at the end of the day anyone can memorize some keywords and call themselves a tarot reader. To truly know the cards is to go deeper than just that, and in some cases the vibe you’re getting from a card might be totally different than what it’s “supposed” to mean. Trust your gut!
3. Go at your own pace.
It can be frustrating when you’re starting out if you feel that everyone else already has a mastery of the cards, but there’s no need to compare yourself to others – take your time! It’s okay if it feels like it’s taking you forever to remember what the cards mean or to feel confident doing a reading without consulting a guidebook. Everyone learns at their own pace, and if you do it right then you’ll never stop learning since there’s always more to learn. It’s okay to not be a tarot pro right from the start – no one is. Every tarot reader out there has had to start from zero at some point, and whether you’re five or fifty when you start learning, the important thing is that you DO start.
4. Define your mindset.
What does tarot mean to you? Do you believe in divination, or do you want to use it as a tool for meditation and self-exploration? Maybe you want to use them to contact spirits, or maybe you just see them as playing cards. There are so many ways to use the tarot, and although it might not be immediately obvious to you what you want to get out of them, it is important that you take the time to think about it at some point. If you’re using them to predict the future without really believing they have the power to do so, you’re going to be wasting your time. If you’re only using them for self-reflection when you think they can do more, then you’re not getting the full experience. See what feels comfortable for you, but really do take a moment to figure out why you’re using the cards to begin with.
5. Don’t feel pressured to read for others.
As soon as you bring up tarot in conversation, people are going to ask you for a reading. It’s pretty much guaranteed! Reading for others is a great way to test yourself and can be incredibly rewarding for all parties involved – there’s no better feeling than helping a friend work through a jam because of your mad divination skills. But you never have to say yes. For one thing, if you read for others before you feel ready or comfortable doing so, it might leave a bad taste in your mouth and prevent you from trying it again in the future. For another, reading the cards takes time, effort, and energy, and a lot of the time friends and family will expect you to do it free of charge! There’s nothing wrong with that and they probably don’t mean any harm, but it’s a service and it’s your choice to perform it or not – and you’re within your right to gently state that you don’t do free readings if you don’t want to.
6. Carry your cards with you.
When you’re first learning to read tarot, I really recommend carrying them around with you as you go about your day-to-day life. It’s a great way to form a bond with your deck, and you never know when they’ll come in handy! You can do a quick one-card draw to see what you should focus on at work that day, study up on the cards on your lunch break, or maybe even read for a friend who needs it if you’re comfortable doing so. My cards have started plenty of conversations and I always make sure to have a deck with me just in case!
7. Connect with a community.
When I joined Tumblr, I found an amazing community of tarot readers that proved to be an indispensable resource. Not only will you meet like-minded people and hopefully make friends, but you learn so much from bouncing ideas off others and seeing how they’ve learned what they know! If Tumblr isn’t your thing, there are other ways to engage – check out the #tarot tag on Instagram, for example, or stalk Twitter and Facebook for people and pages. Of course, it’s totally cool if you’re more of a lone wolf kind of reader, but there are so many great resources to take advantage of if you pick someone else’s brain every once in a while!
8. Have others read for you.
Whether in-person or online (there are plenty of Etsy and Storenvy shops where people sell their tarot readings, like mine!), I think it helps to see how others deliver their readings and interpret the cards. If you do join Tumblr, people often offer free readings in the “tarot community” tag, so you don’t even have to pay a dime if you don’t want to! Sometimes seeing others’ reading styles helps you form one of your own.
9. There is no right or wrong.
At the end of the day, there’s really no right or wrong way to read tarot. It’s so subjective and so much of it depends on the reader, the deck, the client, or some combination of all of them. You could give two tarot readers the same card and they could interpret it in completely different ways, and that’s part of what makes tarot so great! Don’t be afraid to say what you feel is right, even if it might be different than what the norm might think. Whether it’s something like not reading card reversals or not wanting to do certain types of readings, what matters most is what works for yourself. You’ll get the most out of your readings if they’re true to you.
10. Don’t get overwhelmed.
My last piece of advice is this. There’s an infinite amount of knowledge and resources out there about the tarot – don’t feel overwhelmed by it all. It can feel impossible at times to be able to remember all the information you need or to read every good book/website/whatever that’s out there, but you don’t HAVE to do all that. Take it step-by-step and you’ll be where you want to be in no time. Don’t let frustration or fear keep you from being a part of the wonderful world of tarot!
Do you have any tips for a tarot beginner? Let me know if mine were helpful!