Tarot has always been associated with witchcraft and magic, so naturally, I picked up a deck early on when I started down my own path. But, little did I know that reading tarot cards is very tricky. There is so much symbolism involved, and just learning the meanings of each card can take years to really get down. That’s without even learning different spreads and adapting the card meanings as they relate to their placement in your layouts.
Because of how daunting it feels to learn tarot, I’ve left is almost permanently on the back burner since I bought my first deck. However, I do take some time every once in a while to pick up one of my decks and practice. Recently, I’ve learned a few tips that have helped me catch on to the meanings of the cards, as well as actually reading them together.
1. Draw a Card Every Day
I’ve only recently started doing this, but drawing a daily card has a tip included in just about every tarot book I’ve picked up. It’s for a good reason, too! Pulling one card every day helps you make a habit of practicing regularly and lets you focus on learning the meaning of one card at a time.
The general suggestion is to pull a card in the morning and take some time to meditate on the meaning you get from it. I try to use the book meaning and interpret the meaning further myself based on the symbolism of the card. The card is a prediction for your day, so keep it in mind while you go about your daily tasks, and try to see where it is manifesting in your life. At the end of the day, you should then reflect on the card and where you saw it show up in your day or how it was a prediction of how the day went.
I work early and don’t give myself a lot of time in the morning, so I’ll usually pull a card the night before and spend a few minutes considering it’s meaning and writing a little down to help me remember. During the next day, I’ll look for the meaning/prediction from the card, but sometimes I’ll completely forget about the card until later that night. Before bed, I’ll journal about the day and reflect on where I saw the card appear. Then I’ll pull another for the next day and start the process over.
2. Tell a Story with the Cards
Maybe my love of storytelling makes me a bit biased, but this is probably one of my favorite ways to learn the meanings of my cards and how they can be read together. I will sometimes also use this method if I’ve got writer’s block to help me get started on a story.
I usually start by just pulling one card, but you can pull however many you need to get a story started. Use either your personal interpretation of the card, the book meaning, or a combination of the two to start a narrative. You can write for as long as you like just on the first card(s) you pulled before pulling another card too! Usually, I’ll write a paragraph or two and pull more cards to help build up the setting, characters, and conflict of the story. Then, as I incorporate more cards, I will be able to just write and write without needing to pull more. After that, I’ll only pull a card if I get stuck for where the story should go next.
Even if you don’t think you’re good at writing, try this method out! I find that it really helps you develop a stronger relationship with the cards, and build up a better understanding of how the cards can interact with each other in a reading.
3. Stick to Simple Spreads
Obviously, this is only for when you’re first starting out and getting to know your cards, but many readers will continue to use simple layouts even if they’ve been practicing for years. Starting simple is a great way to begin practicing actual readings without getting overwhelmed trying to remember the associations of card placements within a complex spread. As I mentioned before, just doing single card readings can be a great place to start. However, it can limit your ability to read the cards together if that’s the only spread you do.
My favorite simple spread is a 3-card spread, which can be a variety of different things: Past, present, and future; or the issue and what’s influencing it.
Past, Present, and Future
This spread is pretty self-explanatory. Pull three cards to represent the past, present, and future of your question or problem and lay them face down. I usually suggest flipping the cards one at a time starting on the Past card to read them individually, then read them all together at the end.
The Issue and Influences
I tend to stick to this layout because it helps me get a better idea of the problem at hand and the bigger picture surrounding it. I’ll lay the first card representing the main situation, and then two more cards below it for the elements influencing it. You can also read this spread one at a time, then all three together at the end, but I like to read the top card by itself, then the two lower cards together before connecting all three.
4. Bonding with Your Deck
I’ve seen plenty of tips on how to bond with your tarot deck, from carrying them with you wherever you go to sleeping with them under your pillow. Admittedly, some of these seem a little excessive to me, but I do still think it helps a reader to bond with their deck. Honestly, there are so many different ways to connect with your deck, so if sleeping with it under your pillow or keeping it with you at all times works, then do it!
For me, just making sure I’m touching my deck regularly is how I bond with them. I’ll take a deck out, shuffle them, look through the cards just to familiarize myself with the artwork, and put them in order again. If I’m feeling particularly bored or restless, I’ll just do that over and over again until I am ready to stop. It helps me get a feel for the cards in my hands, as well as build up a deeper familiarity with how the artwork relates to their meanings.
Always, always, always keep a journal of your practice with tarot. Do your daily drawing journal; meditate on your cards, reading goals, and learning progress; and write down all of the readings and spreads you do!
Keeping a written record of your tarot learning will help solidify the cards in your mind, and it will give you a way to monitor your progress to identify areas that you need more work on. If you make it a goal to journal a little bit every day (or however often you would like) then it will help you to make it into a habit to do reading and journaling daily which will help you stick with it long term.