Tarot 101 – The Ultimate Beginners Guide

Welcome to the enchanting world of tarot, and thank you for being here. Soon you will be on a journey where mystery and guidance intertwine in a dance of symbols and meanings. If you’re new to tarot, you’re in for an adventure that transcends mere card reading.

However, I do need to warn you. This is an ULTIMATE beginner guide. So if you feel like you can’t read it all at once, that’s completely fine. Bookmark the page, and you can come back as and when to make sure you have all the knowledge you need!

Tarot isn’t just a passing fancy, it’s an ancient art, blending intuition, history, and a touch of the unknown, offering insights into life’s complexities and helping you understanding yourself, your circumstances, and the best decisions to make moving forward!

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything a beginner needs to know about tarot cards, from their rich history to the intricacies of interpreting them. You’ll discover:

  • What Tarot Really Is: Uncover the essence of tarot and how it differs from other forms of divination.
  • Choosing The Right Deck: Learn how to select a deck that resonates with your soul, for tarot is not just about visuals, but about the feel and connection.
  • Deciphering the Deck: Learn about the Major Arcana as well as the suits of the Minor Arcana (Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles)
  • Symbolism and Beyond: Understand the common symbols found in tarot and how to intuitively interpret them.
  • Mastering the Art of Reading: From cleansing your deck to choosing spreads, learn the steps to conduct insightful readings.
  • Demystifying Myths: We’ll talk about common misconceptions and learn how to avoid them in your practice.
  • Daily Practices for Proficiency: Tips on using tarot in your daily life for continual learning and enjoyment.

And if you’re wondering why I am qualified to tell you about tarot, that’s the beauty of it. I’m not actually a very intuitive person by nature, but by using the tarot, learning the cards, and understanding the symbolism and imagery, I’ve been able to use tarot in my own life and in the lives of so many people around me to help guide them and show them their life from different viewpoints. Which helps them make the best decisions possible for themselves!

What Is Tarot?

Tarot is a tool that has been used for centuries to provide guidance and insight into life’s challenges and opportunities. It consists of a deck of 78 cards, divided into two main groups: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

Some people believe it is able to predict the future, some think it’s the universe guiding you, and some feel it’s just a tool for introspection and understanding yourself more. I personally believe it’s a combination of the last two, but as you go through this journey, you’ll need to make your own decision on what tarot means to you.

Tarot Cards By Alina Vilchenko
Tarot Cards By Alina Vilchenko

What Are Tarot Cards

As you now know, tarot cards are the deck of 78 cards of the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. They can be used to explore and express our inner selves. The cards themselves are inert; it’s the reader who brings them to life, interpreting their symbolism and weaving them into a tapestry of meaning that resonates with the reader’s unique perspective and experiences.

When we approach tarot with an open mind and heart, we open ourselves up to a wealth of personal wisdom and guidance. The cards can help us to connect with our intuition, tap into our inner wisdom, and make more conscious choices in our lives. They can also provide solace and support during difficult times, helping us to find strength and resilience in the face of challenges.

What Deck To Choose

Now you know about tarot and tarot cards, it’s time to choose a deck. There are literally hundreds to choose from! When you’re just starting out I’d pick the Rider-Waite Deck. (The real name of the deck is the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck, however, because Smith was a woman of color, her name was never included on the deck. So to help you find it easier, it’s best to just look for the Rider-Waite Deck. I’ll explain more in the history of tarot at the bottom of this article.)

How To Choose A Deck?

While I’d always recommend the Rider-Waite Deck for beginners, choosing a deck isn’t just based on what’s going to be easiest. First of all, I’d recommend looking at a few different decks. Find the deck that resonates with you, the one that you feel most drawn too. While each card does have it’s own meaning, another way to interpret the cards, is based off the imagery and feelings you get from the cards.

When you’re a more experienced tarot reader, you’ll begin to use the meaning, your intuition, and the circumstances of the person you’re reading to give an amazing reading. But until then you should pick a deck that resonates with you.

The Rider Waite Deck, however, is a great deck if you want to get the most comprehensive meaning of each card. (I’d say it’s like getting a formal education, rather than learning from just experience)

Understanding Tarot Cards

Now we can move onto the cards themselves, as you can see it’s not as complicated as you might have first thought, and once you, split the cards up, they actually become even easier to remember!

How Many Tarot Card Are In The Deck And How Is It Split?

There are 78 cards in the tarot deck, 22 in the Major Arcana and 56 in the Minor Arcana. With the Minor Arcana, having 4 suits (much like a normal deck of cards.) Here’s a bit more information about them

The Major Arcana: These cards represent universal themes, archetypes, and significant life experiences. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, numbered from 0 to 21, with 0 representing The Fool, the ultimate beginner, and 21 representing The World, representing completion and fulfillment.

The Minor Arcana: These cards represent the everyday experiences and challenges of life. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards, divided into four suits:

  • Wands: Symbolize creativity, energy, passion, and drive
  • Cups: Represent emotions, relationships, love, and compassion
  • Swords: Depict intellect, communication, logic, and challenges
  • Pentacles: Represent material wealth, stability, security, and everyday life

What Do The Different Cards Mean In Tarot

Learning the cards is going to take time, however, this really shouldn’t deter you. Even if you have a basic understanding of the cards you can slowly do your own readings, as well as readings for your friends. (I’ll also show you a few ways to learn the cards quicker later on in this article.)

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana In Tarot

The Major Arcana represents the significant life lessons and spiritual journeys everyone will go through at some point. Each card in the Major Arcana symbolizes a different archetypal aspect of the human experience, offering profound insights into key life events, personal challenges, and pivotal moments. These cards are not just about telling fortunes or predicting the future; they are more about understanding deeper truths about oneself and the broader journey of life.

Starting with The Fool, card zero, which signifies new beginnings and adventures, the Major Arcana takes you on an amazing journey through various stages of life and consciousness. This journey culminates with The World, card 21, symbolizing completion, unity, and achievement. Along the way, each card – from The Magician representing creativity and power, to The Hermit indicating introspection and inner guidance – tells a story about different life lessons and experiences.

In a tarot reading, when a Major Arcana card appears, it often indicates an important issue or a significant change or event in the person’s life. The presence of these cards can highlight deeper emotional, spiritual, or existential themes that are currently playing out or are about to unfold.

NumberNameUpright SymbolismReversed Symbolism
0The FoolNew beginnings, optimism, adventureNaivety, foolishness, taking unnecessary risks
IThe MagicianPower, resourcefulness, skill, unlimited potentialManipulation, poor planning, untapped talents
IIThe High PriestessIntuition, mystery, subconscious mindSecrets, disconnected from intuition, confusion
IIIThe EmpressFemininity, beauty, nature, nurturingDependence, smothering care, emptiness
IVThe EmperorAuthority, structure, control, fatherhoodTyranny, rigidity, coldness
VThe HierophantTradition, conformity, morality, guidanceRebellion, subversiveness, new approaches
VIThe LoversRelationships, values alignment, choicesDisharmony, imbalance, misaligned values
VIIThe ChariotWillpower, victory, assertion, determinationLack of direction, aggression, poor control
VIIIStrengthCourage, persuasion, influence, compassionWeakness, self-doubt, lack of discipline
IXThe HermitSolitude, search for truth, inner guidanceIsolation, loneliness, withdrawal
XWheel of FortuneChange, cycles, inevitable fateBad luck, resistance to change, breaking cycles
XIJusticeFairness, truth, law, clarityUnfairness, lack of accountability, dishonesty
XIIThe Hanged ManSacrifice, release, martyrdomStalling, needless sacrifice, fear of sacrifice
XIIIDeathEndings, transformation, transitionResistance to change, unable to move on
XIVTemperanceBalance, moderation, patience, purposeExtremes, excess, lack of balance
XVThe DevilBondage, addiction, sexuality, materialismFreedom, releasing limiting beliefs, exploring dark thoughts
XVIThe TowerSudden change, upheaval, chaos, revelationDelaying disaster, fear of change, avoiding tragedy
XVIIThe StarHope, faith, rejuvenation, inspirationDespair, lack of faith, disillusionment
XVIIIThe MoonUnconscious, illusions, intuitionConfusion, fear, misinterpretation
XIXThe SunPositivity, fun, warmth, successNegativity, depression, sadness
XXJudgementRebirth, inner calling, absolutionSelf-doubt, refusal of self-examination, indecision
XXIThe WorldCompletion, accomplishment, travelIncompletion, no closure, feeling stuck

Minor Arcana

Now we’ve done the Major Arcana, it’s time to move onto the Minor Arcana, as you’re going to see, each suit of the Minor Arcana has its own overarching theme! When you’re learning, try and do what feels right for you, but I found learning my favorite suits first motivated me to then read the suits I didn’t align with so much.

Suit Of Wands

Suit Of Wands

The Suit of Wands in tarot is one of the four suits of the Minor Arcana and is deeply imbued with the element of fire. It’s most often associated with passion, inspiration, determination, and spirituality. It reflects the energy and enthusiasm of human spirit, creativity, and the power of will.

The Suit of Wands typically represents our ambitions, goals, and desires. It’s about our drive to create and to bring our dreams into reality. When Wands appear in a reading, they often indicate situations related to enterprise, business, or some form of adventurous undertaking. The element of fire that governs this suit ignites the spirit of enthusiasm, adventure, and courage. It also ties in with our own personal power. Sometimes I’ve found the suit of wands can help me remember how strong I am, even when I feel lost.

Starting with the Ace of Wands, which symbolizes a new beginning or creative spark, the suit progresses through various challenges and actions required to achieve one’s goals. The numbered cards (Two through Ten) depict different scenarios and aspects of this journey, like the struggle for balance in the Two of Wands or the competition and conflict of the Five of Wands. The Court Cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King) represent the personalities you may need to use or may already be using to suit certain situations.

In a reading, the Suit of Wands is a call to action. It encourages us to pursue our passions and dreams vigorously. However, it also warns against unchecked aggression and haste. The fiery energy of Wands is a double-edged sword that can lead to great achievements or cause conflict and hasty decisions.

NumberNameUpright SymbolismReversed Symbolism
AceAce of WandsInspiration, new opportunities, growthDelays, lack of energy, missed opportunities
2Two of WandsPlanning, future action, discoveryFear of unknown, lack of planning
3Three of WandsExpansion, foresight, overseas opportunitiesObstacles in long-term goals, delays
4Four of WandsCelebration, joy, harmony, relaxationLack of support, home conflicts
5Five of WandsCompetition, conflict, tensionAvoiding conflict, respecting differences
6Six of WandsSuccess, accolades, achievementFailure, lack of recognition, ego issues
7Seven of WandsDefense, perseverance, protectionOverwhelm, giving up, being overrun
8Eight of WandsRapid action, movement, quick decisionsDelays, frustration, resisting change
9Nine of WandsResilience, courage, persistenceParanoia, inner challenges, exhaustion
10Ten of WandsBurden, extra responsibility, hard workFailure to delegate, releasing burden
PagePage of WandsEnthusiasm, exploration, discoveryLack of direction, procrastination, immaturity
KnightKnight of WandsEnergy, passion, impulsivenessAnger, recklessness, haste
QueenQueen of WandsConfidence, independence, determinationJealousy, insecurity, overbearing
KingKing of WandsLeadership, vision, entrepreneurial spiritImpulsiveness, overbearing, unrealistic expectations

Suit Of Cups

Suit Of Cups

The Suit of Cups is the next part of the Minor Arcana. It’s predominantly associated with the element of water. This suit delves into things like emotions, relationships, and the deeper aspects of the human psyche. It represents our feelings, our connections with others, and our innermost desires and fears.

When compared to the active and outward-focused energy of the Wands, the Cups focus inward, exploring the landscape of the heart and soul. The Cups journey begins with the Ace of Cups, symbolizing the genesis of new emotions or relationships, and flows through a spectrum of emotional experiences and states. The numbered cards explore various emotional experiences, from the joy and celebration of the Three of Cups to the sorrow and regret in the Five of Cups.

The Court Cards – Page, Knight, Queen, and King – within this suit represent different aspects of emotional maturity and expression. For instance, the Knight of Cups often embodies the romantic, idealistic aspect of love, while the Queen of Cups may represent a nurturing, compassionate figure.

Cups cards are most likely going to signify matters of the heart, emotional situations, or relationships. They guide us towards remembering the need for emotional introspection, the importance of nurturing our relationships, or the challenges and rewards of expressing our feelings. The Suit of Cups reminds us of the importance of our emotional well-being and the value of our relationships with others. It emphasizes the need for empathy, understanding, and emotional connection in our lives.

NumberNameUpright SymbolismReversed Symbolism
AceAce of CupsNew feelings, spirituality, intuitionBlocked or repressed emotions, emptiness
2Two of CupsUnity, partnership, mutual attractionDisunity, imbalance in relationships, breakups
3Three of CupsCelebration, friendship, creativityOverindulgence, gossip, isolation
4Four of CupsApathy, contemplation, disconnectednessNew relationships, new goals, reevaluation
5Five of CupsLoss, grief, regretAcceptance, moving on, finding peace
6Six of CupsNostalgia, happy memories, old friendsStuck in the past, naivety, unrealistic
7Seven of CupsChoices, illusions, imaginationLack of purpose, diversion, scattered efforts
8Eight of CupsAbandonment, withdrawal, seeking deeper meaningFear of moving on, stagnation, hopelessness
9Nine of CupsSatisfaction, emotional fulfillment, wishes coming trueDissatisfaction, materialism, bloated expectations
10Ten of CupsEmotional stability, happy family, harmonyBroken family, disharmony, unhappiness
PagePage of CupsCreativity, receiving a message, sensitivityMoodiness, disappointment in love, bad news
KnightKnight of CupsRomance, charm, ‘Knight in shining armor’Jealousy, moodiness, disappointment
QueenQueen of CupsEmotional security, calm, intuitiveDependency, insecurity, manipulative
KingKing of CupsEmotional balance, compassion, diplomacyColdness, moodiness, emotional manipulation

Suit Of Swords 

Suit Of Swords

Next we have the Suit of Swords, which is is the element of air in the tarot deck. This suit is a symbol of intellect, communication, and mental activity. It often represents challenges, conflicts, and the power of the mind over matters. Swords are all about action, change, force, power, oppression, ambition, courage, and conflict. And as always, the tarot reminds us that, everything has a good and bad repercussion. Remember, Action can be both constructive and destructive.

However, it’s not just entirely about action, it also addresses the struggles we face in our minds, including decisions, ethical dilemmas, and the pursuit of knowledge. For example the Ace of Swords represents a breakthrough in understanding, signaling the beginning of this journey. As the cards progress, they then explore the complexities of the mind and the various challenges we face in our thought processes and communication with others.

For instance, the Two of Swords can indicate a stalemate or difficult decision, while the Nine of Swords often represents anxiety or worry, with one of my least favorite cards, the ten of swords representing an ultimate betrayal.

The Court Cards of the Suit of Swords – the Page, Knight, Queen, and King – embody communication styles, and types of intelligence. The Knight of Swords, for example, can signify an individual who is quick-thinking and loves intellectual debates, while the Queen of Swords might represent clear-minded, perceptive insight.

If you notice the appearance of Swords, I generally see it as a reminder that situations you’re in require clarity of thought and sharpness of intellect. These cards remind us of the power of our minds to overcome obstacles and to navigate the complexities of life. They encourage us to cut through illusions to see the truth of a situation and to communicate effectively. However, they also warn us of the potential for overthinking, conflict, and the need to make difficult decisions. The Suit of Swords challenges us to use our intellect and communication skills wisely and ethically.

NumberNameUpright SymbolismReversed Symbolism
AceAce of SwordsMental clarity, breakthrough, truthConfusion, brutality, misuse of power
2Two of SwordsDifficult choices, indecision, stalemateLesser of two evils, no right choice, confusion
3Three of SwordsHeartbreak, emotional pain, sorrowRecovery, forgiveness, moving on
4Four of SwordsRest, recovery, contemplationRestlessness, burnout, stagnation
5Five of SwordsConflict, tension, loss, betrayalReconciliation, making amends, past resentments
6Six of SwordsTransition, change, moving onStagnation, unwillingness to move on
7Seven of SwordsDeception, strategy, sneakinessComing clean, rethinking approach, unnecessary deceit
8Eight of SwordsRestriction, self-imposed limitation, isolationSelf-liberation, new perspective, freedom
9Nine of SwordsAnxiety, worry, fearHope, reaching out, overcoming fear
10Ten of SwordsBetrayal, backstabbing, catastrophic endRecovery, regeneration, resisting an inevitable end
PagePage of SwordsCuriosity, restlessness, mental energyDeception, manipulation, all talk no action
KnightKnight of SwordsAmbitious, action-oriented, drivenImpulsiveness, disregard for consequences, conflict
QueenQueen of SwordsIndependent, unbiased judgement, clear boundariesColdness, cruelty, bitterness, isolation
KingKing of SwordsIntellectual power, authority, truthManipulative, tyrannical, abusive

Suit Of Pentacles

Suit of pentacles

The final suit in the Minor Arcana is the Suit of Pentacles, and it’s deeply connected with the element of earth. As you can guess from the imagery, this suit symbolizes the material aspects of life, such as wealth, work, health, and practical endeavors.

The Pentacles journey is one completely rooted in the physical and material world, dealing with issues of stability, security, and the practicalities of daily life. The Ace of Pentacles marks the beginning of a journey, symbolizing potential in all areas of your life. When this suit progresses, it explores various aspects of each theme mentioned. For instance, the Four of Pentacles deals with issues of control and stability in finances, while the Six of Pentacles explores themes of generosity and sharing of resources.

The Court Cards of the Pentacles – the Page, Knight, Queen, and King – represent different facets of our relationship with the material world. The Knight of Pentacles, for example, is about diligence and reliability in financial matters, while the Queen of Pentacles can signify nurturance, practicality, and a connection to nature.

So when you’re doing readings, the presence of Pentacles often points to matters related to financial and material circumstances, as well as physical health. These cards can offer insight into how we build and maintain our physical world, including our relationships with money, our career paths, and our environment. They remind us of the importance of practical planning and resource management but also caution against materialism or neglecting the non-material joys of life.

NumberNameUpright SymbolismReversed Symbolism
AceAce of PentaclesNew financial opportunity, prosperityMissed opportunity, lack of planning
2Two of PentaclesBalance, adaptability, time managementImbalance, disorganization, overwhelmed
3Three of PentaclesCollaboration, learning, implementationLack of teamwork, disregard for skills
4Four of PentaclesSecurity, saving, conservatismGreed, materialism, self-protection
5Five of PentaclesFinancial loss, poverty, insecurityRecovery from financial loss, spiritual poverty
6Six of PentaclesGenerosity, sharing, charitySelfishness, debts, one-sided charity
7Seven of PentaclesPatience, long-term view, sustainable resultsFrustration, lack of reward, impatience
8Eight of PentaclesMastery, skill development, craftsmanshipLack of focus, uninspired, mediocrity
9Nine of PentaclesAbundance, luxury, self-sufficiencyFinancial dependency, superficiality, loneliness
10Ten of PentaclesWealth, inheritance, family, establishmentLoss of stability, family issues, financial failure
PagePage of PentaclesAmbition, desire to learn, new opportunityProcrastination, lack of progress, wastefulness
KnightKnight of PentaclesEfficiency, routine, conservatismBoredom, stagnation, lack of growth
QueenQueen of PentaclesPracticality, creature comforts, stabilityMaterialism, neglect, lack of care
KingKing of PentaclesAbundance, security, control, powerAuthoritative, domineering, stubbornness

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Reversed Cards In Tarot

As you can see, you can read tarot cards in two different ways, both upright and reversed. This is simply how they get drawn from the deck. While if you’re just starting out, it might be better to only learn upright, reversed cards do offer unique and nuanced interpretations compared to their upright counterparts. Here are some of the ways you may read reversed cards:

  1. Inverted Meanings: A common approach is to see reversed cards as the opposite or a more challenging aspect of their upright meanings. For instance, The Sun card, generally symbolizing joy and success, might suggest temporary setbacks or diminished happiness when reversed.
  2. Internalized Energy: Reversed cards can also indicate that the card’s themes are being experienced internally. For example, a reversed Strength card might suggest inner struggles or personal doubts rather than external challenges.
  3. Blocked or Delayed Energy: Sometimes, a reversal indicates that the energy of the card is present but blocked, suppressed, or not being fully expressed. A reversed Ace of Cups might indicate emotional repression or unexpressed feelings.
  4. Reflection and Reevaluation: They can also suggest a need for introspection or to view a situation from a different perspective. They may highlight areas of our lives that require more attention or a different approach.
  5. Intensity – Diminished or Amplified: Depending on the context, a reversed card might suggest either a weakening of the card’s energy or an intensification. For example, a reversed Tower card could indicate a looming crisis that’s less severe than if the card were upright, or it might mean an internal upheaval.
  6. Past Issues: Sometimes, reversals can point to past issues that are influencing the current situation, especially unresolved matters or lessons that need revisiting.
reversed tarot card

Remember again, a lot of tarot is about intuition, these are just some of the ways you can read the cards when they’re reversed. Some things to remember when reading reversed cards include:

  • Context is Key: The meaning of a reversed card can greatly depend on the question asked, the position in the spread, and the surrounding cards.
  • Trust Your Intuition: Allow your intuition to guide you in interpreting reversals. What feels right in this reading?
  • Consider the Deck’s Themes: Some tarot decks have specific themes or artwork that can influence the interpretation of reversals.
Tips for Beginners
  • Start with Upright Cards: If you’re new to tarot, you might start by reading only upright cards to familiarize yourself with their meanings before introducing reversals.
  • Experiment with Interpretations: As you gain confidence, start incorporating reversals, noting how their meanings differ and what additional insights they bring.

Reversed cards add depth and complexity to tarot readings, allowing for a more nuanced exploration of the cards and the questions at hand. Their interpretations can vary, offering a rich tapestry of insights and perspectives.

A Brief Note On Shadow Cards

While shadow cards aren’t used as often, you may feel that they could resonate in one of your readings, so I’ll briefly explain them as well:

With shadow cards, the card at the bottom of the deck is drawn after shuffling, and before the rest of the deck. It’s not part of the spread you lay out but it does offer its own unique perspective. Such as:

  • Hidden Influences: The shadow card reflects underlying themes or subconscious influences related to the reading. It’s like a hidden undercurrent that subtly impacts the situation or question at hand.
  • Interpreting the Shadow Card: This card should be seen as a complementary element to your main reading. It can either reinforce the overall message of your spread or provide a different angle, deepening your understanding of the situation.
  • Using Shadow Cards: To use a shadow card, simply take note of the bottom card of your deck after shuffling. Consider its meaning as a background or foundational influence for your main tarot spread.

While I wouldn’t recommend shadow cards for beginners, mainly because they complicate the reading, and I think it’s better to focus on the basics. But when you do feel more experienced they’re definitely something to experiment with.

Common Symbolism In Tarot

There is SO much symbolism within the tarot, too much to put into this article, however, here are some of the most common, and some of my favorite symbols and what they mean! However, you should always be looking at the cards, learning the symbolism and adding your own unique symbolisation to them as well!

SunJoy, optimism, the fulfillment of desires
MoonIntuition, hidden knowledge, the subconscious mind
StarsHope, guidance, the light of inspiration
WandsCreativity, energy, passion, and drive
CupsEmotions, relationships, love, and compassion
SwordsIntellect, communication, logic, and challenges
PentaclesMaterial wealth, stability, security, and everyday life
TreeGrowth, strength, connection to the earth
SeaMystery, change, the subconscious mind
MountainsChallenges, obstacles, the pursuit of higher goals
EaglePower, vision, and spiritual enlightenment
LionStrength, courage, and leadership
SerpentWisdom, transformation, and the shedding of old patterns
BullPatience, stability, and material abundance
FishIntuition, spiritual wisdom, and connection to the divine
KeyUnlocking potential, making choices, and personal growth
CrownSuccess, achievement, and reaching the pinnacle of one’s potential
SwordIntellect, communication, logic, and challenges
ChaliceEmotions, relationships, love, and compassion
PentacleMaterial wealth, stability, security, and everyday life

Reading The Deck

Okay now you have an understanding of the deck, it’s time to start reading it! However, before you read the deck it’s recommended to cleanse your deck as well as prepare your mind and environment for the reading. Creating a calm, focused atmosphere is key to connecting with your deck and your intuition. This can be done in several ways, such as finding a quiet space, meditating for a few minutes to clear your mind, or even lighting a candle or incense to set the mood. It’s also important to have a clear intention or question in mind.

This doesn’t mean you need a specific query for every card you pull, but rather a general understanding of what you seek from the reading – be it guidance, clarity, or simply exploring your subconscious thoughts.

How To Prepare/Cleanse A Tarot Deck For Readings

Personally I don’t feel the need to cleanse my tarot decks. I like to look at the art work, get a feel for the symbolism and imagery, and really try to connect with the cards in quiet space. Once I like how they feel and I believe I can read them properly I’ll just begin to shuffle them to get some good energy into them. However, if you wanted to cleanse your deck, here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Setting the Space:
    • Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed.
    • You might want to create a calming atmosphere by dimming the lights, lighting a candle, or burning some incense.
  2. Physical Cleaning:
    • Gently wipe each card with a soft cloth. This is more about physical contact with each card than actual cleaning.
    • As you do this, focus on the task at hand and try to clear your mind of external thoughts.
  3. Energetic Cleansing:
    • There are several methods to energetically cleanse your deck. You can choose one or combine a few:
      • Smudging: Pass each card through the smoke of sage, palo santo, or any other cleansing herb.
      • Crystals: Place a clear quartz or amethyst crystal on the deck for a period of time to absorb and cleanse negative energies.
      • Moonlight: Leave your deck under the moonlight (preferably a full moon) overnight to cleanse and recharge it.
      • Knocking or Tapping: Gently knock or tap on the deck with your fingers or a crystal three times to shake off any stagnant energy.
      • Visualization: Hold the deck in your hands and visualize a light surrounding it, purifying the cards of any lingering energies.
  4. Connecting with the Deck:
    • Shuffle the cards, while focusing on your energy infusing into the deck.
    • As you shuffle, you can also set your intentions for the readings you will do. For example, you might focus on providing accurate and helpful insights.
  5. Blessing the Deck:
    • Offer a small prayer or blessing (if it aligns with your beliefs) to imbue the deck with positive energy.
    • Alternatively, express a statement of intention, such as, “May this deck provide clear and insightful guidance.”
  6. Storage:
    • Store your deck in a safe, clean place. I like to store them in something that is personal to me such as a wooden box. Some people think it maintains it’s energy this way, but I feel like it just helps me stay familiar and comfortable with them.
    • You might also want to keep a crystal with the deck for continuous cleansing and charging.

How To Read Tarot Cards

Next up, lets get down to how to read tarot cards! The process is actually a lot simpler than you may have thought


Preparing is an essential first step. This helps you get in the mood to give yourself and other people a great reading where you’re not bringing your own negative energy.

  • So ,first of all make sure you are in a calm, focused, and open state.
  • Then shuffle the deck, concentrating on your question or the issue you seek guidance on.
  • If you feel the need to cut the deck, and shuffle again. Keep doing this until you feel like you’re ready to proceed, and your mind is in the right place.

Choosing a Spread:

Now you’re going to need to choose a spread, we’ll get onto beginner spreads in just a moment, but for now, here’s what you’ll need to do.

  • Select a tarot spread that suits your question. Common spreads include the three-card spread (past, present, future) or the Celtic Cross, a more detailed spread covering various aspects of a situation.
  • If you’re reading for yourself, pick your own cards, however if you’re reading for someone else, you can ask them to pick their cards, or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, pick them out yourself.
  • Lay out the cards in the chosen pattern.

Interpreting the Cards:

  • Begin by looking at each card, noting your first impressions and feelings.
  • Consider the standard meanings of the cards. For example, we know the Magician signifies, unlimited potential, while the Three of Swords might indicate heartbreak or sorrow.
  • Pay attention to the imagery, symbols, and colors on the cards. How do they speak to you? What do they evoke in your mind?
  • Look at the position of the cards in the spread. For instance, a card in the ‘future’ position gives us an idea about what we might need to think about in the future, whereas a card in the ‘obstacles’ position is going to represent challenges we might face.

Using Intuition:

  • Let your intuition guide you beyond the standard meanings. A card might evoke a particular emotion, memory, or association. Trust these intuitive hits.
  • If reading for someone else, be receptive to their reactions and feelings about the cards.

Considering Relationships Between Cards:

  • Analyze how the cards interact with each other. Are they flowing with each other or conflicting?
  • Look for patterns – are there many cards from the same suit or a prevalence of a particular number?

Drawing Conclusions:

  • Now put together all the individual meanings, your intuitive insights, and the card interactions to form a coherent answer.
  • Be open to different layers of interpretation. Tarot readings often have depth and can provide insights on various levels – emotional, practical, spiritual, etc.
  • Remember, at first you may struggle doing this, but with time, you’ll be able to read the tarot like it’s your native language. However, always keep your mind open to new interpretations.

Reflecting and Recording:

  • After the reading, spend some time reflecting on the insights, and how to move your life forward.
  • It can be helpful to jot down your thoughts and interpretations for future reference.

Additional Tips for Reading Tarot Cards:

  • Practice Regularly: Familiarity with your deck will help your intuition and understanding.
  • Study the Cards: Learn the traditional meanings and symbolism of the cards. Books, online resources, and tarot courses are all great starts.
  • Stay Open-Minded: Tarot readings are not about fixed outcomes but about exploring possibilities and gaining perspective.
  • Be Ethical: Especially when reading for others, approach the session with empathy and respect.

What Are The Different Spreads?

There are 100’s of different tarot spreads, I’d never be able to list them all here. However, here are some beginner friendly spreads, as well as some of the most common spreads, finally followed by spreads used for specific purposes

Beginner-Friendly Spreads

1. The Three-Card Spread

Layout: Draw three cards and place them in a row.

  • Card 1 (Left): Represents the past or the root of the issue.
  • Card 2 (Middle): Represents the present situation.
  • Card 3 (Right): Represents the future or potential resolution.
2. The Daily Card Pull

Layout: Draw a single card.

  • Reflect on the card’s meaning as it pertains to your day. Consider it a guiding or theme card for the day ahead.
3. The Mind, Body, Spirit Spread

Layout: Draw three cards and place them in a row.

  • Card 1 (Left): Represents your mind and mental state.
  • Card 2 (Middle): Represents your physical body and health.
  • Card 3 (Right): Represents your spirit or spiritual matters.
4. The Situation-Action-Outcome Spread

Layout: Draw three cards and place them in a row.

  • Card 1 (Left): Represents the current situation or issue.
  • Card 2 (Middle): Suggests an action to take or attitude to adopt.
  • Card 3 (Right): Indicates a possible outcome or resolution.
5. The Decision-Making Spread

Layout: Draw two cards, side by side, and a third card above them.

  • Card 1 (Left): Represents Option A or one choice.
  • Card 2 (Right): Represents Option B or another choice.
  • Card 3 (Top): Provides insight or advice on making the decision.

Classic Spreads

1. The Celtic Cross Spread

One of the most iconic and detailed tarot spreads, the Celtic Cross offers a comprehensive view of a person’s life or a specific situation.


  • Card 1 (The Present): Placed in the center, represents the current situation.
  • Card 2 (The Challenge): Crosses over Card 1, symbolizing immediate challenges or obstacles.
  • Card 3 (The Past): Placed to the left of Card 1, reflects past influences.
  • Card 4 (The Future): Placed above Card 1, indicates the potential future.
  • Card 5 (Above): Represents potential and what may be achieved.
  • Card 6 (Below): Shows the subconscious influences.
  • Card 7 (Advice): Placed to the right, suggests action to take or approach.
  • Card 8 (External Influences): Reflects the influence of others.
  • Card 9 (Hopes and Fears): Indicates the hopes and fears related to the situation.
  • Card 10 (Outcome): Shows the outcome based on current paths.

2. The Horseshoe Spread

This is another great spread, that’s a little bit simpler but helps give clear answers. It’s particularly good for decision-making or gaining a broad understanding of a complex situation.


  • Card 1 (Past): Represents past events influencing the current situation.
  • Card 2 (Present): Reflects the current state or challenge.
  • Card 3 (Future): Indicates the direction things are heading.
  • Card 4 (Advice): Suggests a course of action or attitude.
  • Card 5 (External Influences): Highlights external factors affecting the situation.
  • Card 6 (Obstacles): Reveals challenges or obstacles in the way.
  • Card 7 (Potential Outcome): Shows a possible future based on current trajectories.

3. The Relationship Spread

This is one of my favorite spreads for personal relationships, it helps us examine the feelings and attitudes both parties may have and the overall nature of the relationship.


  • Card 1 (Your Feelings): Represents your feelings towards the other person or the relationship.
  • Card 2 (Their Feelings): Reflects the other person’s feelings towards you.
  • Card 3 (Your Needs): What you need from the relationship.
  • Card 4 (Their Needs): What the other person needs from the relationship.
  • Card 5 (Current State of Relationship): The present state of the relationship.
  • Card 6 (Path Forward): Suggests the direction the relationship is heading or should take.

Tips For Remembering Cards

I’m going to be honest with you, learning tarot can be quite difficult for some. In fact, sometimes I still struggle to remember what every card means. But like anything if you’re patient with yourself, you enjoy what you’re doing, and you keep working on it, just like learning a new language, you can learn tarot! Here are some helpful ways to make sure you remember the cards!

  • Daily Card Pull: Draw a single card each day, and then reflect on its meaning. I also like to hold it in my heart for the day and remember the potential positive impact. Remember, even the ‘negative’ cards bring a positive.
  • Read Books: Dive into various tarot books to gain different insights. I find it helpful to jot down interesting interpretations and thoughts in my tarot journal. This helps deepen my understanding and connection with the cards.
  • Keep It Fun: It’s always best to keep it as fun as possible. I like to ask my friends for the meanings of tarot cards to see if I can remember.
  • Practice With Friends: Doing readings for friends or discussing interpretations with them is another great way to learn. And your friends can often add a perspective you may not have thought of.
  • Create Your Own Meanings: While learning the traditional meanings, I also explore my personal connection to each card. This personal interpretation makes reading experience more intimate and memorable.
  • Use Visual Aids: Paying attention to the imagery and symbols on each card will really help aid your memory. The artwork often triggers associations that help me recall the card’s meanings more easily.
  • Storytelling: Remember all of tarot tells a story. When you know the story you may find it easier to remember the meaning of each card.
  • Repetition and Review: Just like learning a language, it’s also vital to make sure you’re remembering each card, repeating them and reviewing them regularly.
  • Meditation: Meditating with a specific tarot card can help you deepen your connection and understanding of its symbolism and potential messages.

How To Shuffle Tarot Cards

If you want to learn how to shuffle your tarot cards, I find this video incredibly helpful!

Tarot Birth Cards

Tarot birth cards are a pair of cards from the Major Arcana that are said to represent a person’s characteristics, potential, and life themes. They are determined based on your birth date. For example, my birth cards are Strength and The Star, which are the themes of my life, and show the journey I’m supposed to take.

To find your tarot birth cards, you typically add up the digits of your birth date (day, month, and year) until you get a number that corresponds to a Major Arcana card. The Major Arcana cards are numbered 0 to 21. For example, if your birthday adds up to 22, it would then be reduced further to 2+2, which equals 4. This means your birth card could be the Emperor, which is card number 4 in the Major Arcana.

If you feel like your birth cards resonate with you, then they’re a great way to keep you on the right path in life! And if not, they’re still something to think about and see if you do notice their recurring themes in areas of your life too.

A Brief History Of Tarot

If you’ve got this far, then you’re probably truly interested in Tarot! As some final thoughts here’s a brief history!

The Origins and Evolution of Tarot

Tarot cards first appeared in Europe in the mid-15th century, initially used for playing a group of card games known as tarocchi. These games were quite popular among the upper classes in Italy, France, and Austria. The earliest decks were hand-painted, making them luxury items for the wealthy. It’s interesting to note that these early decks were not intended for divination or mystical purposes.

As tarot’s popularity spread, the cards began to take on a more mystical and esoteric character. This shift largely occurred in the 18th century when tarot was associated with the mystical and magical traditions of the time. People started using the cards for divination, and this is when the interpretations and symbolic meanings we’re familiar with today began to develop.

The Golden Age of Tarot and Its Challenges

The 19th and early 20th centuries can be considered the golden age of tarot. This period saw a surge in interest in the occult and mysticism, with tarot at the forefront. Notable figures like Eliphas Lévi, A.E. Waite, and Aleister Crowley played significant roles in shaping modern tarot practices, contributing to the creation of iconic tarot decks and comprehensive interpretations of the cards.

However, tarot wasn’t without its controversies. Throughout its history, it has faced skepticism and criticism. Some critics viewed tarot as superstitious or pseudoscientific, arguing that it lacks empirical evidence for its efficacy. Others have associated tarot with negative spiritual practices, leading to its condemnation in certain religious circles.

The Modern Perception of Tarot

In contemporary times, tarot has experienced a resurgence in popularity, often seen as a tool for self-reflection, psychological insight, and personal growth. The art and symbolism of the cards are widely appreciated, and many people find value in the introspective journey that tarot readings can provide.

Tarot has also been embraced by various subcultures and communities, leading to a diverse range of tarot decks reflecting different artistic styles, cultures, and philosophies. This inclusivity and diversity have contributed to a more positive view of tarot in mainstream culture.


Here are some frequently asked questions that people often have about tarot cards!

Are Tarot Cards Evil?

Who can say if tarot cards are evil or not. I see them as a tool of introspection. It would all depend on your personal religious beliefs and how you feel about them.

Can Tarot Cards Tell The Future?

While we can’t know for sure if Tarot cards can tell the future or not I see them as offering guidance and perspective which can help you in the future. They allow you to explore possible outcomes and paths based on current circumstances, but they don’t provide definite predictions of future events.

Are Online Tarot Readings Authentic?

Online tarot readings can be authentic, depending on the skill and sincerity of the reader. They offer convenience and accessibility, but it’s important to find a reputable reader who understands the symbolism and meanings of the cards.

Can Anyone Read Tarot?

Yes, anyone can learn to read tarot cards. It requires an understanding of the cards’ meanings, intuition, and practice. However, the depth and accuracy of the readings can improve with experience and study.

How To Pick A Good Reader

To pick a good tarot reader, look for someone with experience, positive reviews, and a style that resonates with you. It’s important to feel comfortable and connected with the reader for a meaningful experience. Recommendations from trusted sources can also be helpful. Think about it this way, if you wouldn’t lend money to them or tell them a secret, they’re probably not the right reader for you.


As you can see tarot doesn’t and shouldn’t be daunting at all. I know how challenging it can be to learn them all. But the first lesson that Tarot will teach you is patience. It’s a lesson I struggled with, but once I found joy in learning the cards it became almost effortless. With that in mind, here’s what to remembe:

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About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio, Owner & Editor of the Fools Journey!

I've been reading Tarot Cards/Getting my tarot read for over 10 years now! For me, what started out as a bit of fun and scepticism, has since grown into such a passion for me.

Tarot Cards are not just a great source of inspiration, but also comfort, and I love using them to help get in touch with the higher powers that are here to guide me through life!

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