Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop
This post is part of the Tarot Blog Hop, in which tarot writers from around the world join together to discuss a particular topic. I proposed the topic for this round of the Hop, asking each of our bloggers to share how they continue their tarot education. For Tarot in Love, my site dedicated to helping you learn to do your own relationship readings, I wanted to share the things that most helped me learn tarot when I first started. These ten tips for beginners will help you love learning tarot. The links below and at the end of the post will let you hop through all the participating blogs to find out what other bloggers have to say on the topic.
1. Choose a Deck You Love
The least fun way to learn tarot is to get a standard tarot deck and memorize a list of meanings for the cards. Buy a tarot app if you want to go that route — your readings will sound just as nonsensical. But so many beginning tarot readers back themselves into a corner because they believe they need to learn the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) tarot deck first before they can advance. There will be plenty to study as you progress, and eventually you will find it important to understand the difference between the three primary tarot lineages, including the RWS.
But to start with, the only thing you need to learn is how to read images. You’ll be spending a lot of time looking at your cards, so find illustrations that you love. The more you love exploring the details of the card, the more the image piques your curiosity, the more the deck reminds you of you, your friends, and your best life, the easier it will be to use. Get a deck you love and you will love learning tarot. Here’s a list of Romantic Tarot Decks to get you started. Also, check out my list of 50 Beginning Tarot Decks (and my rules for choosing a beginner deck) at Completely Joyous.
2. Find Spreads You Love
The right spread makes reading tarot a pleasure. Using a particular layout for the cards helps shape and support your tarot reading experience. Unlike pulling single cards, using spreads helps you notice patterns and stories that weave from one card into another. And every spread you try is a new tarot adventure to embark on!
However, it’s easy to get lost in too big a spread. I recommend two- or three-card spreads until you’re more familiar with the cards and the tarot reading process. Spreads of four to eight cards seem perfect for those with enough experience and enough time to work with a larger array of images. I tend not to like nine- to fifteen-card spreads: too often they feel unfocused or like they want to pull in too many directions at once. However, when choosing these larger spreads, look for ones that have you read the cards in groups of three to five cards. That indicates the spread is focused and you can work through it in bite-sized pieces. On the other hand, I love complex, sprawling spreads like the Opening of the Key, a massive five-part spread that can use dozens of cards for each step. But we’ll save that for later!
The Tarot in Love blog features some useful and easy three card spreads for romance. Here are the Soul of Your Relationship Tarot Spreads I developed that start simple but go deeper. And here are three of my most useful everyday spreads.
3. Ask Questions You Love
When you’re learning, it’s easy to want to ask every question under the sun. But by taking time with your readings and focusing on fewer but more relevant questions, you’ll get better results. Developing questions is an art every tarot reader must master.
If you want to turn your mind to mush, ask dozens of questions, each time consulting the Little White Book (LWB) that comes with the deck. By the end of your tarot time you’ll max out on confusion and lose any chance you had at a satisfying, fulfilling experience with your cards. Contrarily, if you’re just getting started as a reader or working with a brand-new deck, it is overwhelming to ask the most important question of your life. The more the balance of your life hangs on the outcome of the question, the less useful it will be as a learning tool.
Goldilocks questions are best: Find those just-right questions, not too big, not too small, that fit you perfectly right where you’re at. You’ll love learning tarot when your questions elicit guidance, direction, hope, and clarity. If you want to work with your cards but come up blank trying to think of suitable questions, check out my post Fifteen Questions to Ask When You Don’t Have a Question.
4. Feel the Love
Before you start a tarot reading, take time to ground and center. Connect to your higher self, angels, guides, ancestors, and/or the Divine. Meditate. Feel your whole body filled with love. For many, working with the tarot is a sacred act. But even if it isn’t spiritual for you, it is still important to set aside a special time just for you and the cards.
Set a date with your cards. What will you wear? Will there be food and drink or just intimate conversation? Is it more romantic with candles and incense? Or perhaps more sacred? Where will you meet? In the sanctuary of your home? Out in the effervescence of your community? In the vast stillness of nature? The more you fill your tarot time with love, the more you will love working with your cards. And they will speak more lovingly to you.
If you’d like to try out a meditation to help you focus and relax before starting a reading, try one of these guided meditations I’ve recorded: Beginning Reiki Meditation or Fourfold Breath Meditation.
5. Spend A Lovely Afternoon With Your Journal and Your Cards
Here’s where our tarot date starts. Leave yourself plenty of time. If you rush through a reading, you’ll lose the unexpected insights that come from a slow exploration of the images. When you’re first learning, it will take time to tease out the relevant nuggets from the layout. Even veteran readers benefit from taking the time to wait for insights and deeper realizations to surface.
When I was first learning tarot, and even for many years after that, I would sit with my journal (nothing fancy for me, just a spiral-bound notebook) and write, unrestricted, about whatever problem or decision I was facing. I would fill several pages exploring all sides of the issue. This practice would clear away my confusion and sometimes answer the initial question I sat down with. But journaling helped me hone in on the more important underlying question. Once I had discovered this, I was ready to pull cards. (Apparently journaling helps you sleep better, strengthens your immune system, boosts your self-confidence, and awards you with a higher I.Q.)
After laying out the cards, I would record them in my journal. I would note similarities, differences, themes, patterns, details, and symbols that spoke to my question. After writing down my interpretations, I would conclude by answering the question I had asked.
Sometimes after making notes on every card and finding a relevant answer, I would turn to one or two of my tarot books and glance through them to see if there was something I missed. Which brings us to our next tip, on studying.
6. Love Study
The best way to learn the cards is to develop your own vocabulary through close work with the card images. I recommend book study only after you’ve started to find your own voice with the cards. Why? Because as much information as books can give you, they can’t pull it all together for you. Learning to follow the coherent narrative of a series of cards is the key to becoming a tarot reader.
Humans are naturally adept at finding patterns. Your eyes, your mind, and your intuition will naturally be drawn to the connections between the cards. If you slow down long enough to observe these subconscious processes at work, you will bring these innate instincts up to the conscious level where you can work with them intentionally.
Images, the conveyor of tarot wisdom, are understood by a different part of the brain than words. Every time you pick up the book, you turn off your intuition and turn on your logic. If your logical self could solve the problem, you wouldn’t have done a tarot reading!
Studying nevertheless plays an important role in learning to read the cards. This includes a close study of the card images, comparing the same card from different decks to note commonalities and differences, as well as book study. When you’re ready to continue your tarot education, subjects such as qabalah and astrology, metaphysical philosophies commonly overlaid onto the tarot structure, will give you endless hours of fascinating study. If you love learning tarot in the beginning, you will love all the depth and breadth focused study can bring to your understanding of the cards.
7. Love Mystery
Reading tarot is solving a puzzle. And puzzles can be confusing and frustrating! Try approaching your readings as picture puzzles instead of difficult texts to translate, and the cards will bring you greater enjoyment. Rather than letting your readings perplex you, consider them a game or treasure hunt. Having enough time to work through their mysteries results in a fulfilling reading.
8. Love Discovery
One of the best feelings you’ll get when working with the cards is the luscious bubbling up discovery of truth. Meditate on the cards. Gaze at the images. Let your mind wander over how the characters or situation in the card might be relevant to your question. Note little details and hidden clues that pinpoint the specifics of your circumstances. Follow the thread of colors, shapes, objects, animals, plants, people, and so on from one card into the next and the next. Contemplate the implication of one card starkly contrasted against another. Write down your thoughts, musings, and, most importantly, further questions that come up. Somewhere along this process your answers will float to the surface. Alternately, it’s just as useful to discover that a different line of questioning is more relevant to your plight.
9. Discover Love
Your cards want to speak to you. They want to help you. It doesn’t make sense for them to use vocabulary that you don’t understand. Like a parent, they might try to introduce new words so that you will learn, but they will nevertheless make sure that the overall message is clear, even if they have to explain it two or three different ways until you get it. Once you discover that the cards are on your side, that they will point out things you never thought of, encourage you when you’re hesitant, and tell you truthfully when you’re wrong, your trust in them will skyrocket. They can become a steadfast friend — always there for you, always supportive, always honest, always compassionate, always loving. Somewhere along the line, as your reading skills flourish and as you come to love the time you spend with your cards, you will discover that all this time you have been learning to love, support, and inspire yourself.
10. Share the Love
As wonderful as it is to spend quality time with yourself and your cards, it can also be a treat to share your love of tarot with others. Meet a friend for tea and swap readings. Attend a Tarot Meetup group. Join a local or online class. Connect with others through social media. These are wonderful supplements (but not replacements for!) your own work with the cards.
Please Visit The Other Bloggers on This Hop!
I hope these tips inspire you to begin or continue your tarot education. If you have tips that helped you get started working with the cards, please share them in the comments! And now please visit all the blogs in this hop to see how other tarot readers continue their tarot education!