Maybe you’ve had a few tarot card readings before and you’re interested in understanding the tarot better, or maybe you’ve just bought a deck of tarot cards and you’re not sure where to begin. Every tarot reader started out with no knowledge of what they were doing or how it all worked. It can seem pretty daunting to learn the meanings of 78 cards, which is why I decided to write down some tips to help others get to grips with the tarot.
You may think that trying to memorise the meaning of 78 cards is the first thing you should master, but there are different opinions and interpretations for each card. There are also so many different decks of tarot cards with different imagery, and it all depends on what cards you have. For example if you have a deck of Rider Waite cards and you look at the Two of Swords you’ll see a woman who is blindfolded and holding two swords. In the Deviant Moon deck, the Two of Swords shows a two headed man holding a sword in each hand, with a stance that looks like he’s about to have a sword fight with himself. If you were to guess the meaning of the Rider Waite 2 of Swords and then guess the meaning of the Deviant Moon 2 of Swords, you’d probably come up with two very different meanings. The point I’m making is that, there actually is no exact way to read the cards, it’s up to you. Take a card from your tarot deck and look at the picture on it, how does it make you feel? what does the picture depict? is it a happy card or a sad card? is it negative or positive? Once you have established what the card means to you and decide what it’s trying to depict, you can move onto another card and do the same. It is much easier to learn the meaning of each card, if it means something to you. At first it is best to focus on the Minor Arcana cards as they can be very visual and easy to read.
4. Different Interpretations
Once you’ve decided what the cards mean for you, you can then begin reading other people’s interpretations of the cards. It’s good to read books about the tarot deck that you own or look it up online. You can also join a tarot forum and discuss the meanings of the cards with other tarot readers. The point of this is not to change your opinion on what each card means, but to learn how other people interpret the cards so that you might incorporate what they think into your interpretations. You can never read too much about the tarot, every bit of information you can get will be helpful, even if it is just other people’s opinions.
3. Major Arcana
There are 22 cards in the major arcana. When I started learning the meanings of each card, the major arcana was difficult for me because a lot of them don’t have obvious visual clues as to what they mean. For example ‘The Tower’ is quite visual and it is pretty obvious what it’s about, even with a quick glance you can see it’s a very unhappy card, but the magician is less obvious. How can the imagery of ‘The Magician’ be transposed into a real life situation? it just looks like some guy stood in front of a table with one arm up in the air holding what looks like a wand. The Magician is usually perceived as representing talents and is about tapping into your full potential, it’s not obvious to get that interpretation just by looking at it. The major arcana is in an order and each card is numbered. The best way to think of it is by thinking of it as a journey. The first card of the major arcana is ‘The Fool’ and it is actually numbered as 0. The fool is about to go on a journey, and each card represents a major event or change in his life. He is supposed to learn from each event until he reaches the end of his journey which comes in the form of ‘The World’ card. If you try to remember the meaning of each major arcana card as something happening to the fool or something the fool is experiencing, it can make it easier to remember.
2. Court Cards
Learning the meaning of the Major Arcana cards is a walk in the park compared with memorising the meanings of the court cards. For every suit (Cups, Wands, Swords, Pentacles) there are court cards. You can think of them like the face cards in a pack of playing cards (Jack, Queen, King) in the tarot though, it’s Page, Knight, Queen and King. They’re difficult to remember because they don’t have a lot going on with them visually. It’s always just a woman or a man sitting or standing there, and they all look pretty similar. The easiest way to begin understanding them is to think of the elements associated with the suit. For example if I draw the Queen of Cups, I know that Cups are represented by water and therefore the Queen of Cups is associated with love empathy and care giving in the same way that water star signs are associated with emotions and empathy. The element for Swords is air, for Wands it’s fire and for Pentacles it’s earth.. so if I draw the Page of Wands I think of it as representing enthusiasm, determination and motivation, these are things we associate with fire. this system makes it easier for you to get a rough idea of what the court cards are all about.
Another great way to look at the cards, is by dividing the cards into numbers, this only works with the Minor Arcana cards, excluding the court cards. Firstly you find all of the aces (ace of cups, ace of swords, ace of pentacles and ace of wands) and you put them in a row and look for a common theme. They all depict a hand holding out the item of the suit, they all look quite positive. Each one seems to show a helping hand and they look fresh, like they’re the beginning of something. You can do the same thing with all the other numbers, and look for a common theme. It makes it easier when you pick out a five for example and you’ve memorised the common theme for all of the five cards.
No matter how you choose to learn the meanings of the cards, the truth is, it can take a while to get to grips with. Once you think you know them all, it is still wise to pick out a card every day and analyse it, you might learn something new. It’s great to do practice readings every day and pretend you’re doing a reading for someone, speaking out loud as you interpret the cards can be helpful too. Some people like to make notes about each card and others like to record themselves doing practice readings. The best advice I can give anyone is that there is no wrong way to do it, getting confident with reading the cards takes time, but the way you interpret them is down to you. You don’t have to follow a guide book and memorise absolutely everything about every card, intuition is a big part of it too. It becomes a lot easier when you know that you don’t have to learn the tarot in the way you’d learn mathematics. The answers and the meanings are inside you!