What is the Tarot?
Tarot card reading have been around for centuries. Cards used for games and divination originated most likely from Egypt, and then moved into Europe through Italy. The cards had 4 suites, Batons or Polo sticks, now known as Wands or Clubs; Coins, also known as Discs, Pentacles, or Diamonds; Swords, also known as Spades; and Cups, also known as Hearts. These suits were very similar to modern tarot divination decks and are still used in traditional Italian, Spanish and Portuguese playing card decks.
The oldest known decks were made in Italy in the 15th century and were hand painted for the upper class. A surviving example is the Visconti-Sforza deck, which has been reproduced. After the invention of the printing press, decks could be mass produced. The most popular pattern from this era is the French Tarot de Marseille. The cards were mostly used to play games of Tarock, or tarocchi, and are still played in some countries today. In the 18th century Tarock was the most popular card game in Europe.
Divination using playing cards is recorded as early as 1540, though the cards are used only to select a random oracle and have no meaning in themselves. A manuscript from 1750 (Pratesi Cartomancer) documents rudimentary divinatory meanings for the cards of the tarot. In 1765, Giacomo Casanova wrote in his diary that his Russian mistress frequently used a deck of cards for divination.
The Tarot is a way of understanding, processing, and interacting with energy that surrounds a person or situation. It is done with a deck of cards that represent pieces of energy. The standard deck used today is 78 cards, 22 cards of the Major arcana, cards that depict larger energy movements, 40 cards of the Minor arcana, which depict smaller energies, and 16 court cards. The minor arcana and the court cards are divided into four suites the correspond to four energetic areas. They are:
Cups: the aspect of water, reflecting emotional energy
Wands: the aspect of fire, reflecting inspirational and creative energy
Discs or Pentacles: the aspect of earth, reflecting material needs such as money or time
Swords: the aspect of air, reflecting thought and intellectual energy.
Each card of the tarot represents an archetypical person, situation, or energy present in life. The Major arcana are larger energies, and the Minor arcane are smaller more specific everyday situations. The court cards typically represent people, however they can represent situations or an aspect of the self. For example, the King of discs, a card of mature masculine prosperity, wisdom, and structure, may represent the masculine power that a woman accesses to create stability and order, or he may represent an actual person in her life or a situation that brings out that aspect, such as a new job that requires her to manage others and oversee budgets.
While the Major and Minor arcana are now fairly standardized, the interpretations of the cards can vary widely. Different decks may have different names for some of the cards or suits, which can make it confusing. The court cards are the most widely variable.
Who can learn to read Tarot?
Anyone can learn and become proficient at reading tarot cards. All the learning the Tarot requires is practice and willingness. Prior experience with cards, energy work, or psychics is not necessary. You just have to want to, and devote time to learning the cards. Deeper insight is gained with practice not only into each card’s meaning, but also how they interact with each other in different readings. Sex, age, or occupation does not matter. It is not unusual to discover new talents in the process of learning the tarot. The Tarot allows opens people to new energetic possibilities.
Different ways of interpreting the cards
An important thing to remember is that there are innumerable ways to interpret card meaning and interactions. One person may be more adept at seeing how people interact in the energy, while another may see mostly events, such as changes in location, destination, or situations. Still others will see what that person is dealing with emotionally or be most in tune with what is being processed.
For example, if the is likely to be a problem with your car, a literal reader might see it as you will have people who help you through a situation that is abrupt and transient (tow truck operator and mechanic) while the event reader will see a problem with your car or transportation. The emotional reader will see strife and upset feelings, along with anxiety and pressure related to getting through the day, while the transformative reader will see a situation that calls you to remain calm in the face of abrupt and unexpected change in something you depend on.
This is a wonderful thing about the Tarot journey. Each talent and scope is unique. No two people will read the same spread, or even the same card, the same for that person. Realize that your talent may be in a more unlikely interpretation. Card interpretation may be quite different after a year of practice.
Other religions and Tarot
The Tarot is simply a way of reading what energy is present in your life. Faith in Christ, Allah, Buddha, or ancestors does not interfere with surrounding energy. If anything, it will add to deeper spiritual understanding to the readings.
However, some religions do not ascribe to this definition of the tarot. There is wide variation is the points of view about what the tarot is and is not. If you are concerned about a negative interaction in your life with tarot and your faith, you may choose to consult someone you respect as to if and how tarot is applicable for you.. Others may simply trust their intuition and find their own path. There is no right or wrong, and do not let anyone tell you differently. Your spiritual life one of your most important aspects and you should be completely comfortable learning and using tarot if you are to move forward. Hesitating or lack of clarity will result in conflicted energy and tempered and confusing readings.
Type of decks
There are thousands of different decks. Artwork, color, card stiffness and size vary widely. Some decks are oversized, others are small. Some cards are thick cardstock and laminated, others are just simply stiff paper without coating. The most important thing about a deck is the desire to work with it, an being able to manipulate the cards. Used or new, it does not matter. Some of the best decks out there are old and wise. Be respectful of them and their history, and ask to be their new guide. It is best to handle at least the sample cards so that you are able to get an idea of the decks weight and feel. A metaphysical bookstore will have the widest range of decks, however web reviews may also be helpful to see examples of rarer decks. Decks can be orderd off of websites, bookstores, and auction sites such as Ebay. Many of the rarer art decks are short runs that are out of print, and must be bought second hand.
Shuffles and spread
There is no right or wrong way to shuffle. It does not matter how many times, with what hand, how often you cut the deck, or what hand you pick the pile with. It is your energy, and what ever feels best for you is going to give you the best reading. Some prefer having the cards upright, others want mixed, so as to take advantage of reversed meanings. The only thing that matters is that you are clear about what you are doing and asking.
Some examples of ritual shuffling:
Shuffle with cutting and cross cutting. Cut into three piles. Pick a pile with your dominant hand.
Shuffle by cutting only. Cut into 2 piles. Pick a pile with your non dominant hand.
Shuffle by cross cutting three times, followed by three cuts. Do not cut.
You can make up any combination you choose of cutting, crosscutting, piles, or hands. Maybe you even let something else choose: Head or tails of a coin. You may choose to deal off the bottom of the deck instead of the top. Whatever you want: Just have clarity of your process.
It is the same with spreads. There are a myriad of interpretations of what each station of a spread may mean. Play around with what feels best, then choose. You can also make up your own. The key is: You MUST be clear about what each station means to you as you shuffle and lay. Clarity of intention is what is important.
The learning process
When choosing your first deck, it might be easiest to have the name on the card. It is very useful to have the number and trump or suite on the card, such as “Lovers, VI” “The Tower, XVI” or “6 of Wands” or “Ace of Cups”.
Learning through seeing what speaks to you through the card is a great way to start. Just pick out what jumps out to you, and reflect that back to yourself. Where does that energy feel familiar in your life? What lesson is the card trying to tell you?
Learning the deeper meanings of 78 cards is not going to happen quickly. There are those who say not to read your own cards, but honestly, then how do you practice? An inaccurate reading or interpretation won’t serve another, and may actually be counterproductive or detrimental. Practicing on yourself gives you opportunity to see how the cards meanings are reflected in everyday life, especially if you are able to remember what cards were laid as you review the next day. From this you can start to see what type of talent you have, and the inclination of your interpretations. If you do read for others, be upfront with them about your learning process and where you are at. Give due diligence about your skill level while monitoring your ability. They may take the reading as seriously as they wish if you choose to read for them.
Whatever book you pick, little tabs may help you quickly access your pages, or homemade flashcards. Keeping a journal of each days reading and then reviewing the next day will help you start to assimilate the cards to actual life events. Try the same spread for at least a week or two every day or so, so that you start to get the feel for how that spread changes with the cards. Tarot is full of subtleties, both in the cards and in the spreads, and this takes time and patience to learn. This is one of the most exciting things though, as your personal touch starts to emerge, you can see more of who you are and what you read.
Reading for others
Most people find Tarot exotic and exciting. They usually have heard of it, and probably have an opinion about what it is and is not. It is likely this opinion is different than yours. Many are scared of it, and the reading may reflect the chaos of someone who believes but pretends they don’t, or the opposite. They may not realize the tarot does not require them to believe in it to work, and may be shocked to have a very accurate reading of what they considered very personal information.
A sure mind of the reader will help, as well as a deck that is easy to work with and unintimidating to the other person. It is probably best to avoid decks that have interpretations at the bottom of the card, as the person will try and read the cards themselves, inappropriately. For example, Trump XIII, Death, is a card of transformation that indicates the end of a cycle and the birth of something new and beneficial, usually not a person. The lay person, however, will see it as a portent of end of life. Only in extremely rare occasions would this be true. There are other cards that indicate actual dying much more accurately.
It is probably best when first starting out to underplay your ability, as again, inaccurate readings can be taken seriously and may be harmful. Be honest with yourself and aware of your responsibility to others. If you feel the reading is off, redo it. IF you feel that you are not serving the other person, swallow your ego and say that you can’t read for them at this time. It is better to simply disappoint than misguide someone.
Read the cards, not the person. Even if you are reading for a friend and you see a card you are unaware of through the friendship, read it accurately. It will almost always be something that person has not told you.
Be aware that charging money means responsibility. While you can start charging or reading for others whenever you wish, think about how you would feel being on the other end knowing what you know. Try and keep your reading free of your need to be seen. Egoic energy does nothing but block you.
When reading for others there is no right or wrong way to gain access to their energy. You may shuffle for them, or allow them to handle the cards. They, however, will want direction as to “what to do”. You can tell them your ritual if you have one, or leave it up to them. Usually the clarity of their question is the most important, as well as you being clear about what spread about to be laid. Make sure your energy is subservient to theirs. Do whatever you think the other person is most comfortable with. Some people actually have a fear of the cards themselves-asking up front if there is anything they want or would rather not have will help.
Compassion is important when reading for others, as is accuracy. Most people are slightly anxious during a reading, and are probably already aware of the problems you talk about. Make sure the communication of what you are trying to convey is complete and satisfactory to you both. Approach their problems from an adult perspective of learning and transformation instead of the child views that wallows and play victim. Compassion for what they are going through will go a long way to facilitating the reading, just as judgment and contempt from you will block it. You are a servant to them and their energy; put away the need to be right. As a reader, you hold the energetic space for them to show up. Respect their trust in you. Be aware that if they have been lying to themselves, they may be resistant to an accurate reading. Just because they react in a way that communicates the reading is inaccurate does not mean it is. Also, be aware that you may access a problem that they have not spoken about to anyone, and may be an emotional time for them to have a witness to it.
One final point: never read for anyone who doesn’t want to be read for, or is being coerced into a reading by a friend. It is the fastest way to put someone off of Tarot. Make sure they want it, truly.
Anyone can learn to read Tarot.
Tarot cards read energies that surrounds you.
The standard deck consists of 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana, 56 Minor Arcana.
Clarity of intention, what, how, and who, is the single most important thing.
There are widely divergent view points about what Tarot is, the meaning of the cards, and personal viewpoints on how to shuffle, spread, and read.
There is no right or wrong way of doing things. You are unique, and your style of reading is yours to develop. Never let anyone tell you differently. Do what feels right and natural for you, and leave others their path.
Pick decks you love to work with in every way. Be aware they will have their differences.
If you are doing a specific spread, be clear about what each station of the spread means while you shuffle.
Your understanding of Tarot will change as you learn. Have patience with yourself and with the process. Learning intricate subtleties of 78 cards and several spreads is a process. Allow yourself to change as you grow.
Reading for yourself is a great way to see how your interpretations play out in real life, with real emotions and situations.
Reading for others involves honesty with yourself about your abilities. Be aware that a poor reading may actually result in harm to another.
Read the cards, not the person.
Kindness and compassion are important when reading for others. People are usually already aware of problems in their lives: Tarot is there to help them move through life, not beat them up.
You are acting as a witness to someone else’s life: respect your position and them. Others may be unaware or unwilling to admit to something, and the blunt revelation of it may be difficult for them to hear.