How to read the tarot

tarot spreads meditation

Tarot reading always gets a bit of a bad press in the movies, what with people not really understanding the cards and making it out to be a dark and sinister art. Then you get those booths on piers and at fairgrounds where someone does a basic cold read on you that feels more prophetic than it actually is. The best thing to do with Tarot cards is learn to read them yourself, or read them with a friend. And it’s not really all that difficult.

Choosing the right tarot deck for you

The first thing you need, obviously, is a good pack of Tarot cards. Nowadays, what with spirituality being one of those marketing targets, you don’t have to find a small magic shop in the dark corner of town to get a Tarot set; they sell them in bookshops. The important thing to do is get one that feels right to you. The most famous is the Rider Waite Tarot, which is the one you usually see on web-sites that discuss Tarot meanings (more on that later). There are, however, a vast number of different styles of deck around there, that cater for just about every need or belief system. I would advise you to get a full deck, rather than just the Major Arcana.

Getting to know your tarot deck

Once you have your deck, it’s a case of just handling them, shuffling them, studying them to get used to them and build up a bit of a vibe with them. You should build up a good relationship with your cards, because this is important, no matter how silly it sounds. For years I found my Rider Waite cards to be quite grumpy, so I used a Hello Kitty set instead, which were much happier. However, I’ve since returned to the Rider Waite set and actually started listening to them more and found them much more illuminating.

Do I have to be an amazing intuitive tarot reader straight away?

Tarot decks come with a little book that gives you a quick breakdown and divinatory meaning to the cards and it’s worth looking at. But there’s also a ton of books on the subject, which it may be worth picking up. Or you may want to check out the internet, as there are plenty of sites out there that cover tarot readings. When you first start reading the Tarot, don’t be afraid to refer to these books. There are 78 cards, each of which have complex symbolism and a number of meanings, (and that number’s doubled if you take the cards as reversed too). There’s no way you’ll learn all the meanings so quickly.

How to do a quick 3 card tarot spread

The quickest and easiest style of Tarot read is a quick three card spread. Whilst shuffling the cards, think of the question you wish to ask. Then cut the deck three times with your left hand and take the top three cards. The furthest left represents the past of the situation you asked about, the middle card the present and the remaining card the future.

How to do a Celtic Cross tarot spread

However, my personal favourite spread is the Celtic Cross. It’s a nice spread that gives you a better understanding of a situation.

You may, if you wish, choose the first card, the significator, before starting on the spread, so that you can get a card that truly means you. However, until you know the meanings behind the cards well enough, it may be best to let the deck choose this for you. It’s also a good way of being shown an aspect of yourself or the situation you had hitherto ignored.

First, shuffle the cards, whilst contemplating the question you wish to ask. Then cut the cards three times with your left hand and put the cards back into one pile. Place the first card in the centre of your table. As I said, this is the significator, the card that represents you (or the person for whom you are reading.)

The remaining cards you place face down, turning them over in order once all the cards have been dealt. The second card, the cover card, is placed across the significator – this represents the situation. It reveals another aspect of the situation that you may not have understood.

  • The third card is placed below the small cross you’ve formed. This is the Root card, which show the past experience that has lead to the current situation.
  • The fourth card goes to the left of the small cross, this represents the more immediate past. Something that has happened, but may still have an effect on the querent.
  • The fifth card goes above the cross and represents a possible outcome, nothing fixed, just the overall trend for the future.
  • The sixth card goes to the right of the small cross. It’s known as the near future and represents a coming development, something that will happen to either help or hinder the progress.
  • The six cards then make up the Celtic Cross.

But you’ve not finished yet. The remaining four cards you choose will be placed to the right of this main cross. They are known as the Staff, and are dealt from the bottom up.

  • The seventh card is the self, it shows what the person is contributing to the situation.
  • The eighth card is the environment, which reflects what outside influences are affecting the situation.
  • The ninth card is the querant’s hopes and fears.
  • And finally, the tenth card is the outcome. It’s not an inescapable fate, just where things are currently heading.

Interpreting the tarot cards

Interpreting the cards is where the art of a good reading comes in. Once again, don’t be afraid to consult books or websites to understand each card’s individual meaning. Initially, look at each card’s position in the reading, but be mindful of its surrounding cards. Once you’ve read all ten cards individually, look at the way they sit as a whole. Look at the suits that have been drawn, whether there are court cards or major Arcana. How they sit with each other and if there’s anything you can deduce from that.

Negative meanings in tarot cards

You shouldn’t worry about drawing cards that have a negative meaning – this does not mean that bad things will happen, they just serve as a warning that you should be more aware of a situation, before it gets out of hand.

Does a tarot reading set my future in stone?

Nothing the Tarot tells you is a fixed future. It’s best to use them as a guide, to help you look at a situation from a different perspective. Or to add with a decision, or, maybe, to settle your mind on a course of action.

Tarot Card meanings: