The Beginner's Overview of The Tarot:

I. Introduction to the Tarot
II. The Major Arcana
III. The Minor Arcana
IV. How to Read Tarot Cards
V. Bonding with the Cards
VI. Tarot Spreads
VII. Tarot Reference Works


IV. How to Read Tarot Cards:


Tarot cards are a very powerful tool that can help us to answer the questions we have as well as help us to learn more about ourselves. Some Tarot readers believe that you should never read for yourself-only for others. There is no reason that it should be, or needs to be this way, nor is there any proof that self-readings are false. Tarot cards are meant to answer questions, and it doesn't matter who asks them. In most cases, the person asking the question is called the "querent," which the book The Mystical Tarot calls a "curious term and a nonword." The correct term for the questioning part is the "querist." Another term sometimes used is the "seeker."

Ever since the Tarot was made popular as a way of fortune-telling, a variety of spreads has been created to pull the most meaning from the cards. Many modern practitioners of the Tarot have devised their own spreads, and almost every Tarot deck on the market today comes with instructions on how to perform that deck's own spread. Later on, some of the more familiar and basic spreads will be mentioned and explained.

What to Ask the Cards:

The cards can function best as an advisor, or a mirror. They can reflect forces in motion, reveal direction, and show possible/probable outcomes. The cards, when asked a question based on direction or outcomes that do not necessarily have a yes/no answer, can tell us if were are on the correct path or if we have strayed off the path that is best for us. The Tarot can advise what to do in situations, and can give us the best course of action. However, the outcome depends totally and completely on the person and the choices he or she makes in the future.

The Tarot can also be used to divine the future. These questions call for a spread designed to pull a yes or no answer from the cards, or one that is intended to give answers based on specific time frames, such as seasons, months, or years.

One must keep in mind that the Tarot is only a tool to help you see what is or may be going on around you. What the cards tell you is not what is definately going to happen, but what may happen depending on the paths you choose to take.

Working with Spreads:

For starters, you may want to keep a Tarot journal in which you record each reading you do. Include the date of the reading, the seeker's question, and a sketch of the spread. Make notes of things you notice. This will be interesting and insightful for you to go over again at later dates.

Though each spread differs from all of the rest, they all begin the same way; the seeker comes with a question. The question, if stated out loud, should be written down in your journal for later study, then the cards are shuffled.. If the question is asked inwardly, it should be concentrated to the cards mentally by the seeker as they shuffle the cards. The cards are shuffled first by the seeker until they feel that they are done, and then by the practitioner. The cards are then given back to the seeker, who cuts the deck into 3 piles, which are not necessarily uniform, from right to left. The practitioner then reforms the deck by taking the piles and placing them on top of each other, from right to left. After this, place the cards in the chosen spread. If you are reading for another, use only a spread that you are familiar with. Never try out a new spread on someone else.

Interpreting the Cards:

When you being to interpret the cards, keep in mind that the Tarot are designed for insight and not for dictation. Decisions should never be made on the Tarot alone-or on any other divination tool. Tarot readings should be conducted with the intent of helping the seeker look at their situation in a new way. If there are any obstacles, the reading should help the seeker get fresh, new ideas for a solution. When you read for others, you should counsel them that the reading is only for giving insight, and their outcome should be weighed along with many other factors before deciding.

How to Make the Most of a Reading:

When you begin giving readings for other people, you should be familiar enough with the cards that you don't need to read the descriptions for each card during the reading. However, if you are unsure of a card, it is best to consult the description, rather than guess at a card's meaning. Reading the Tarot cards in a spread is a mix of seeing and conveying the meanings of individual cards, as well as getting the whole picture they paint for you. Do not feel limited to the literal meanings of the cards. Instead, use your imagination and your intuition to delve deeper into their meanings to give a more personalized reading. Look at them individually and collectively, and try to get a feel for the syngergism of the spread.

If the reading seems ambiguous or indefinite, don't be put off as there are many reasons of why that is. These reasons will be discussed later.

After all the cards have been layed out in their proper positions, analyze the spread carefully. Whether the readitng is for yourself or someone else, look for patterns in the spread as well as similarities and differences in the suits and arcanas. Talk about what you see or feel. Does the reading come as a surprize? Does it reveal another path or choice you may have that you could have overlooked? What does the reading say about the seeker? By answering these questions, you can make the reading more personalized as well as help the seeker in their quest for answers.

When Problems Arise:

Every once in a while, a reading just won't go right. The cards will seem incomplete and you might wish that the spread has one or two more card positions to help make things clearer. In these circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to turn over additional cards for a little more information, but do this only after the origional spread has been discussed with the seeker, and the problem seems unresolved or the seeker needs a little extra assurance. However, three cards seems to be the limit when it comes to extra help. After that, there is something wrong with the reading.

Possible Problems in Readings:

1) The seeker had not posed the question clearly.

Internal conflict or confusion may prevent the seeker from seeing the matter objectively. If this is the case, help the seeker reframe the question, and then do another reading.

2) The real question has not been posed.

The cards may be saying that something in the seeker's life, other than the question asked, is more pressing and needs attention. Perhaps it is something the seeker had been trying to avoid. Probe with gentle questions like, "Is there another matter concerning you?" and "Is your question part of a larger issue?" This may help the seeker to open up and the larger problem may be dealt with. If the seeker insists that there is nothing else, use your intuition on whether or not to do another reading.

3) The question cannot be resolved in one reading.

The reading may have multiple layers to it that must be assessed one by one. Do not try to tackle all of the layers in one sitting. Discuss the situation and decide how to best approach the situation over several sittings.

4) Your ability to tune into the seeker is impaired.

Everyone has their "off" days, and this could apply to either you or the seeker. There could be any number of reasons this occurs, but in summary, the ideal reading environment is not present. If this happens, the best thing to do is ask the seeker to come back another time, as any reading you do may not be valid.

5) You are projecting expectations.

Based upon the question and what your intuition has told you about the seeker, you may begin with a reading on what you think or believe the cards will or should say. You've allowed yourself to become attached to the outcome. In this situation, take a moment to re-center yourself and release the attachment. Look at the spread again, and let it speak for itself.

6) The reading is beyond your present ability.

This can happen to anyone who reads the cards. It means that the message the reading is trying to convey is too advanced for you to understand, yet. Be gracious about it and do not try to fake the reading. tell the seeker that for reasons beyond your control, you are not able to continue the reading. At this point, you can decide to try again with the seeker, hoping that the cards will present themselves in such a way that you can understand, or you can ask the seeker to come again at a later date.