Working with the Tarot
At any level of Tarot experience, the Tarot provides insight, perspective, focus and healing.
- When we learn the Tarot we are both learning the meanings of the cards and incorporating their lessons in our lives.
- Tarot is a tool for personal introspection (reading for yourself).
- Tarot is a tool for guiding another person in their journey toward personal understanding (reading for a querent.).
Look at the Pictures
Even if you don’t know what they mean traditionally, the Tarot images are evocative and meaningful. See what each image says to you and how it makes you feel. Look for elements within each image that correspond to your own life.
Separate the cards into groups by color, or by elements within the images, or by how you feel about the pictures. Take cards whose images appeal to you and see if these images pertain to you in any way. Do the same with cards whose images are not pleasant.
Read the Books
Tarot books are easily available in libraries and bookstores. Websites have comprehensive listings of Tarot interpretations. Most decks come with at least a small booklet. If you read more than one book, you will see that there are many possible meanings for the cards, some of them conflicting. Take the meanings that make sense to you, and don’t worry about the ones that don’t.
Keep a Notebook
Have a notebook that is just for your Tarot studies. Use it to develop your own interpretations of the cards and to record your readings. Of all the Tarot books in the world, your notebook will become your best reference.
Memorize Key Words and Phrases
In your notebook list and memorize key words and phrases for each card. Develop these keywords from the books you read, the classes you take and the way the cards speak to you.
Find Stories in the Cards
Put the cards in numerical order, and see how each card projects from the last.
- In the Major Arcana, see the Fool as the star of the story, and see each of Cards One through Twenty-One as his lessons on his journey.
- In the Major Arcana, divide Card One through Twenty-One into three groups of seven. Cards One through Seven represent the Fool’s journey through the material world. Cards Eight through Fourteen represent his journey through the emotional world, and Cards Fifteen through Twenty-One represent his journey through the spiritual world.
- In the Minor Arcana, find a story in each suit. Start with each Ace as the beginning of the story, and see what happens in each card. Card Ten will be the end of the story. Now, do the same exercise, but start at Ten as the beginning and work your way to the Ace as the ending.
- Look at the sixteen Court cards as particular characters. Think about people you know and decide which Court Card best represents them. Now look at the Court cards as aspects of your own personality, and decide which aspects of your personality are most helpful, and which cause the most difficulty.
- Divide the cards into groups of three, by suit and number, so that you are looking at the Ace, Two, Three of each suit, and the Four, Five, Six of each suit, and so one. See a story with a beginning, middle and end in each group of three. This will work with both the Major and Minor Arcana.
COTD, or Card of the Day, is a great way to learn and work with the Tarot. Simply pull one card at random each day. That card becomes your Card of the Day. You will need to write about it in your Tarot notebook, read about it in your reference books or online, and see how this particular card pertains to you at this time. In this way you are both learning one card a day and also becoming proficient at reading for yourself.
There are many techniques for picking cards.
- Pick one, two, three or more cards at random in answer to a specific question.
- Fan the cards across the table; hold your palm over each card until you feel one pull.
- Cut the deck into piles, and turn up the top cards on each pile. Want to know more? See the cards on the very bottom, or turn over one or two more cards from the pile.
- Lay the cards in a Tarot spread, such as the Celtic Cross, a three-card spread, or the Rainbow spread.
- Make up your own spread to use in general or for a specific situation.
- Look at the cards, and pick cards that particularly attract you, and then interpret them as you would if you had picked them at random.
Ask the Right Questions
The best questions get the best answers. It is perfectly acceptable to read cards without a specific question- to simply say “What’s going on?” or “What do I need to know?” It is wise to ask questions from a spiritual perspective. “What is my lesson in this situation?” and “What resources to I have to devote to this challenge?” are better questions then “When will things get better?” and “Why is my life such a mess?”
Most readers feel it is acceptable to ask questions about people who are not present, simply by saying “What’s going on with Bill?” or “How’s Eric doing?” These sorts of questions can be asked about those who have passed into spirit as well as those who are still living.
Give Formal Readings
You can perform a formal reading for yourself or for a querent, either a friend or family member or even a complete stranger. To begin the reading, create sacred space with breathing, ritual, prayer, or even something as simple as lighting a candle. The cards should be shuffled and cut, and then the reading can begin.
Remember that the best readings allow dialogue, and allow the querent to ask questions. At no time should the reading cause fear. Readings should help us to be aware of our challenges, our allies, our lessons, our gifts, our resources, our options and our possibilities.
The more readings you do the more you will understand how the cards speak to you.