Reading Tarot: A Starting Point

I read my cards in my living room, in my bedroom, in my garden, even occasionally in my car on a quiet backroad at a stopsign. Yes, sometimes that’s all the time I have to pull a card for the day and work with my deck. Wherever I read, I am always surprised at the perception the cards show. Never doubt that wherever you work becomes, as you read, a sacred space.

When we ask our question, and perhaps even declare to whom we’re addressing the question (God, Goddess, Source, even Mother Mary or Jesus), we set our intention. When we read, the cards are the language we use to talk to the Divine. As we draw our cards, lay out the spread, and interpret, we are in conversation with Divinity.

Getting Started

Learning the cards may start with a book or with an open connection to Google. That’s as it should be. But as time passes and you work with your deck you’ll find that you begin to interpret the cards based on your previous experience with them, the stories attached to the deck by the spreads that you’ve read and the artist’s original design. That organic understanding is where you’ll begin to see relationships between the cards and to read the spread as a whole. Let it happen.

A One-Card Reading

If you’re just starting out, work with one card for the day – a “Meditation Card”. This card will embody something that you need to work with, to be aware of, in order to make the most of your day. Maybe it’ll show you a challenge you need to overcome or a tendency you need to be aware of, in order to be your best self in this moment. Maybe it’ll provide a warning that can help you navigate rocky events. Maybe it’ll be a little encouragement just when you need it. Only you know what that card means for you on that day.

1. Set Your Intention.

Shuffle your deck in a way that works for your and your surroundings. As you shuffle, think about your question. In this case, you’re seeking a “Meditation Card”, some insight into your day and how you can best approach it. Mull that over as you are turning your cards in your hands.

2. Read.

Cut the deck, and draw a single card. This is a good daily practice for beginners and experienced readers alike. Building up this awareness and interaction with your deck over time creates a relationship with your deck. With this kind of regular work, it becomes far easier to remember what interpretations might be attached to a card when it comes up in a more complex spread.

2. Interpret.

Study the card carefully and look for visual cues to help with your interpretation (these also become memory cues to help you remember the card’s meaning the next time you see it). Use your resources — your intuition, the book that came with your deck, the internet, knowledgeable friends — to work with that card during the day, to get a sense for what it means and what it implies about what’s going on in your world.

3. Remember.

If you can, write the date and your card in a journal. When you have time, write down your impressions of the card, and/or come back the next day to record what happened in your life on the day you drew that card. It doesn’t have to be the same everyday. No rigidity required.

4. Keep going.

Out of the last 730 days or so (two years, give or take), I’d say I’ve drawn a card and recorded the results in some form on about 680 days. Sometimes it’s nothing but the names of the card or cards I drew. (And on those busy weeks, I may just catch up on five days of card draws at once, squirrelling my drawn cards into pages of my notebook until I can catch up.) When I’m lucky to find the time, I might write a paragraph or a page on  an exploration of a card, of an event in my life on that day, or of my interpretation of a spread. What has improved my understanding is the regular and repeated work, not the format of the notes.

Recording the cards I’ve drawn over times helps me to see patterns — cards that show up at particular times of year, or around particular events. I learned this practice from other Tarot readers in my circle, and it’s been an invaluable lesson.

The Tarot format is intense, varied, and big… If you’re feeling overwhelmed or at a loss for where to start, keep it simple. Like getting to know a new friend, the cards will reveal themselves to you slowly and over time. Don’t rush. Just enjoy.

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