Did you know that anyone can read Tarot cards? Although accurate readings require practice, knowledge of the cards, and belief, anyone can develop this skill.
This page is your ultimate guide to Tarot basics. Using your combined knowledge of the Tarot card meanings and intuition, there is no limit to the answers and wisdom you might find.
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Which Tarot Card Are You?
A Tarot spread is a pattern in which the cards are placed to be interpreted by a reader. There are many types of Tarot spreads. They can be as simple as a 1-card yes/no draw, 2-card Tarotscopes, or complex enough to require all 78 cards.
One of the most popular spreads is a 3-card spread, which answers immediate questions about love, your relationships, career, finances, and life in general. You can also use 3-card spreads to represent a possible past, present, and future.
The 22 cards of the Major Arcana tell the story of one’s journey through life.
Some refer to the Major Arcana as “trump” cards representing more significant, life-changing events. The Major Arcana story begins with the innocent and carefree Fool (number 0) and goes through all the stages of life until the final World (number 21) card, representing the journey’s completion.
Each card represents an important life lesson or archetypal theme.
As you get to know the Major Arcana, you’ll see that the first 11 cards represent your journey out into the world while the last 11 represent your journey into your own awareness.
The 56 Minor Arcana cards act as a support system for the Major Arcana, speaking to smaller-scale life events.
Divided into four suits (much like playing cards), each suit has:
- One ace
- 9 numbered cards
- 4 court cards
Traditionally, the court cards are:
Suits of Tarot
Each of the four Minor Arcana suits corresponds with a specific area of life. Some decks use different names and symbols for the suits, but their meaning and rank in the court cards’ hierarchy remain the same.
Each suit contains an ace, plus nine more numbered cards that conclude at the number 10. Each number has its own significance and, combined with the power of the suit it accompanies, reveals a very specific meaning.
Reversed Tarot Card Meanings
Also known as an inverted or upside-down card, a reversed Tarot card means a stifling or blockage of the energy expressed in the card (in its upright position).
Reversed cards do not necessarily mean something negative, but they suggest that the energy prevalent in the upright card is somehow hindered.
It’s essential to embrace the message of the reversed card, even if it appears to give you bad news.
An example would be the 6 of Wands. Upright, the 6 of Wands represents success, victory, accolade, and confidence. Whereas reversed, the card means lack of success, falling from glory, confidence that has stretched into arrogance, failure, and low self-esteem.
By reading with reversals, readers can pinpoint exactly where things have gone wrong and figure out the best way to rectify the situation.
How to Use Tarot Cards
While there are many resources online as well as experts that can give you readings, Tarot is a fantastic hobby to take up in your spare time.
It is best to start with a basic Tarot card deck to familiarize yourself with the cards. While it is a simple process, it can take a long time to master.
When you begin reading your cards, you might need to check a resource for meanings quite a bit, but remember that no matter what, the following things are entirely yours to play with:
- When you do your readings
- The questions you ask
- The energetic intentions you set
- The Tarot spreads you create
It can also be beneficial to keep a Tarot journal where you can write down card meanings and keep track of your readings. This way, you can go back to your journal and discover any patterns, see where you got the cards spot-on, or where your interpretation may have gone awry.
Before you start reading, you might want to consider bonding with your Tarot deck.
We recommend trying out smaller spreads rather than larger ones (like the Celtic Cross) when starting your Tarot journey. For example, pulling just one card daily is a great way to practice and familiarize yourself with the card meanings and bond with your deck.
Once you start to master Tarot readings, you can even create your own unique spreads.
Choosing a Deck
There is no right or wrong way to choose a Tarot deck. Finding the deck (or decks) that is right for you is an individual experience.
Today, there are hundreds of different types of Tarot decks to choose from. Trying to understand the subtle differences between them can be overwhelming and confusing. The deck that is truly right for you is the one you feel most drawn to on an intuitive level.
It may be that you connect with the images and artwork style of a particular deck. It could be that you feel instinctively drawn towards one, or perhaps you’ll find your deck simply because it just feels right holding it in your hand.
Everyone interprets messages from the Universe differently. If one deck doesn’t seem to work for you, it doesn’t mean you are not a good Tarot reader or doing something wrong! Different decks work for other people.
How to Shuffle Your Cards
Once you feel comfortable with your deck, you can prepare to do your reading.
Find a quiet, contemplative space. You might want to create a special area with candles, crystals, incense, or any other divination tools you like.
Take a deep breath and cut your deck—once, twice, or however many times feels right to you—just like cutting a deck of playing cards. Mix around the cards in whatever way you like.
Use the video below as a visual guide for card shuffling techniques.
How-To Tarot Videos
When to Do a Reading
The Tarot can be used for many different purposes. The archetypal images on the cards reflect your story, helping you better understand a specific moment in time and your greater journey through life.
Those same images make good meditation companions or can provide you with a “thought for the day.” There is no limit to how these images can be used. As you do more readings, you will notice more nuances and numerical connections that will make readings more meaningful.
Of course, before immersing yourself in the Tarot, you must know a few basics.
The divisions may seem complicated at first, especially because each card provides context for the others in a spread. Still, once you recognize the underlying organization of the cards, you too can master the mysteries of the Tarot.
Bestselling author, business coach, and professional Tarot reader for more than 20 years, Brigit Esselmont founded Biddy Tarot in 1999.
This video series covers readers’ most burning questions.
How to Cleanse Your Cards
Since Tarot cards work directly with a reader’s energy, many people like to “cleanse” their cards of any residual negative energy trapped in the deck.
This is especially important for Tarot decks that get a lot of use, brand new ones, and decks that have been used by/for other people besides the owner of the deck.
You can (and should!) cleanse any divination tools you regularly use, including crystals, pendulums, and rune stones.
How do Tarot & the Zodiac Relate?
Tarot cards and the zodiac correspond with each other!
Each suit of the Minor Arcana is associated with an element and specific signs of the zodiac:
Each zodiac sign usually has one card from the Major Arcana and another from the Minor Arcana that captures the traits of the sign.
The representative card within the Major Arcana corresponds to the deepest part of the zodiac signs’ personality, the part that not everyone gets to see. This part of each sign will often manifest over time and become stronger as an individual gets older.
The card representing each zodiac sign from the Minor Arcana demonstrates the core traits of each sign. This card shows who the individual in each sign is in the present moment and covers the traits that they’ve naturally had their entire life.
Additionally, within the Major Arcana of the deck lies the significator cards, meaning the cards that represent people (including ourselves) in our readings. This can be determined by zodiac sign, preference, description, or even if we feel that a “stalker card”—a card that is “following us”—at a certain point in our lives.
Knowing which cards represent which person is a great tool to use during readings because you can look to interpret them based on a card that may appear that is attached to a specific person in your life.
A Brief History of Tarot
The Tarot dates all the way back to the mid-15th century, first seen in Europe among French and Italian nobility. It was originally known as Trionfi but was later popularized as the French word Tarot.
Initially viewed as a game in the 1700s, occultists in France and England discovered the Tarot and realized it could be used as a helpful divination tool due to the deeper, symbolic meanings in the cards. At this point, the Tarot spread throughout occult circles worldwide, culminating in the practice of the Tarot we see today.
Some believe the Tarot originated in Ancient Egypt. Though there is no viable evidence for this, it does seem plausible, as the city of Alexandria was, for a long time, a hub for magical individuals and occultist societies. Alexandria was the birthplace of hermeticism, encompassing astrology, alchemy, and, quite possibly, Tarot reading.
The Rider Waite deck is one of the most popular decks, having been around for over 100 years. For those using Tarot—people across the world in present day—you are most likely familiar with the imagery and symbolism of these cards.
For Tarot devotees of the past, present, and future, this kind of intuitive reading is a fundamental part of life. Believers agree that the insight and wisdom that even a single-card reading can reveal is invaluable in making big and small decisions that will shape their lives.