Over 60 experienced tarot readers offer their best advice for what every Newbie Tarot Reader should know. Not everyone will agree with everything. Add ideas you think belong, in the Comments. Feel free to post this anywhere, so long as you include the source and contributors (listed at the end).
• There are no rules. All rules are made to be broken.
• You may hear and read a LOT about tarot, much of it contradictory. Listen, read, discuss, try, and decide for yourself. No one knows how you will read or work with the cards except you.
• The more you know, the more options you have.
• Read books, Lots of books.
• PUT THE BOOKS DOWN!
• There is nothing wrong with books. Knowledge gained from them gives you a fantastic starting point and framework and can lead to more assured reading.
• Try to read a card first, before you look it up. You will be surprised by how much of the gist of it you get.
• Get to know your deck – pull a card a day and/or go through your deck and take notes on each card. Write your thoughts and feelings about each card in a journal.
• Learn the basics of tarot history and symbolism.
• Learn the astrological and elemental correspondences. They condition the mind to think associatively and make extraordinary connections.
• Choose a system and stick with it long enough to get understanding and then branch out. You’ll only confuse yourself if you try to take in all the different ideas being thrown around.
• The cards are made up of micro-symbols within a macro-symbol. Each of the card’s symbols can open up detailed, pertinent and powerful information.
• Get to know what the colors, numbers, symbols say to YOU.
• Draw a daily card from your deck and let it speak to you. Ask yourself great questions.
• Do everything out loud, even if you are just reading for yourself. Tarot originally was an oral, story-telling type skill and speaking aloud follows its own pathways.
• Associate one to three keywords with each card.
• Read the cards visually; you are the book.
• Befriend your deck; it consists of 78 personalities that you need to get to know well.
• Become friends with your cards! Sleep with them, play with them, journal with them.
• People have many layers and so do the cards.
• It helps to relate the cards to people and events you know and have experienced.
• Give extra attention to those cards which don’t seem friendly.
• Read your cards daily for someone: for yourself and others. Keep a journal of your tarot work, including daily readings.
• You cannot learn without actually practicing reading. . . . practice, practice, practice. Read for friends, strangers at the mall, in a bar (great ice breaker).
• As you go about your life, keep the cards in your head. See if different experiences remind you of different cards.
• Learn all the time from other people, too! There are tons of books, classes, online events, conferences and meetups that can enrich your perspective.
• CONSTANTLY update and upgrade your own spiritual focus.Work on yourself all the time. Keep growing and never think you know it all!
Tarot is . . . A Reading Is . . .
• A reading is a slice of life’s journey. It’s a story.
• Tarot is an intuitive compass, so forget the whole idea of “reading the future.”
• Tarot is a mirror.
• Tarot is like art: there is the interpretation done by art critics that gives the reasoning behind a masterpiece vs. how it makes you personally feel. It is important to see both sides.
• Interpretation is Knowledge + Intuition.
• Always remember the tarot and other card oracles are pieces of cardboard with pictures on them. The magick, wisdom, information is in you, not in the cards.
• It’s a piece of paper with a picture on it. It only has as much power as you (or the querent) give it.
• You are the tarot! The cards are nothing without you. They are windows into your inner knowing that is already all there.
• Pick a deck you are attracted to.
• Choose a deck that feels right for you. One you are comfortable with. Make sure it resonates with you as regards artwork and mythos (world-view).
• Start with one deck that resonates with you and live with it a good year (at least) before moving on to other decks.
• Learn all the time: even if you have a favorite deck, check out other decks and interpretations and compare them.
• If you are interested in tarot symbolism and traditions, get at least one “traditional” deck and learn where its symbols come from.
• Start with small spreads.
• Start with a simple one or 3-card spread. The Celtic Cross is usually overkill.
• You can create your own spread as well as using traditional ones.
Preparation for a Reading
• Wash your hands before touching the cards.
• Center and ground yourself before a reading.
• Ground yourself first to get into the moment, light a candle, and then ask for protection and guidance on the reading by inviting your guides to help bring clarity to the reading and to keep any lower entities away.
• Keep tissues handy.
• Let the client choose from among several decks, whichever one speaks to her(him).
• Use a deck you “connect” with. It should “speak” to YOU.
• People trust you with their secrets. Keep them and be worthy of that trust.
• Read the person you are with. Don’t be tempted to read that person’s husband/sister-in-law/boyfriend/boss/whatever, unless that person is also sitting in front of you. Be ethical.
Consulting the Tarot
• Find the right question—for the reading and for each card in a position. A reading is more about questioning than it is about forming ideas.
• Don’t ask the same question over and over again. If you find out you’ve become so addicted to tarot you can’t do anything without first consulting the cards, take a break.
• Use the cards to help you understand more about yourself. They reveal what you already know but for some reason aren’t looking at.
• Don’t try to predict or fortune-tell (you can do that later if you wish).
• Use the cards for everything…past lives, channeling and so on.
• Don’t be afraid to combine modalities: astrology, aura reading, etc.
• Keep your focus on the cards; don’t add anything else until you’ve gotten everything you can from the spread in front of you.
Reading the Cards
• The main thing is… just START, and if you make mistakes, learn from them!
• Make the intention that you will only read the cards upright until you’ve learned the 78 card meanings. Reversals will come easier once you know the upright meanings.
• It’s easier if you use reversals right from the start.
• Keep a “cheat sheet,” in case you become stuck on a meaning of a card. Or, don’t be afraid to look up a meaning in a book. Just one word or phrase may be enough to spur you onto the rest of the story.
• Preconceived, fixed ideas about what each card means can block your ability to tap into the now.
• Relax, breath, look at the card, close your eyes and feel how the card affects you. Look at what suit it is and what element it represents, look at the number, look at the colors and then start the reading by using your intuition.
• First thought, best thought; keep the reading simple; make it into a story.
• Use all your senses…pictures, words, songs, feelings. Then tell a story using these.
• Try not to see any card as just good or bad, but containing a range.
• Always have the intention to heal/help; it mitigates mistakes if your heart’s in the right place.
• Don’t insist you’re right or apologize for being wrong.
• Don’t edit yourself. What first comes to your mind is probably right.
• Don’t say whatever comes to your mind, as this could seriously damage your sitter. Filter everything through love (a “love-filter”), and if you *have* to say it, say it in a way that is constructive. First, do no harm. Before speaking, consider the motto, “Love is always the appropriate reaction.”
• Don’t be afraid to be “wrong.” Sometimes if you are “wrong”, stay with it, dig deeper, be patient. People will say “no, nothing is going on,” but sometimes the flood gates will suddenly open and a real healing will take place.
• Sometimes if you are “wrong,” agree with the querent and let it go. If it is important it will come up again in some other way. Don’t force a person where they don’t want to go.
• Cards that tend to have negative connotations are not always so, ie. Death and the Tower. They do not mean what they show in a physical sense.
• It’s possible to inhabit a card and speak from that place.
• In difficult situations, look for the life lessons and discuss those. Give guidance so the person can be AWARE of what they are dealing with and GET THROUGH it.
• Predictions, if made at all, must be done very carefully. They may come true because people put belief and emotion energy into the prediction.
• NEVER predict death, disease, disaster and divorce…the 4-D’s!
Faith & Trust
• Always trust your intuition.
• Occasionally,something will come to you during a reading that has nothing to do with what you know. Trust it. Say what you see, even if it makes no sense to you.
• If you see something, say it. It may be the exact answer versus the ” book” answer.
• The Sight is a gift; use it with trust and faith and integrity.
• Trust your first thought – don’t second guess yourself. You can look up the meaning according to tradition later, if you want.
• Trust that what you’re saying, whether the querent thinks it’s “right” or “wrong”, is what the querent needs to hear.
• Have faith in the cards. Just because you may not understand what you’re being shown, there is a reason. Relax, take a breath & it will come to you.
• It’s okay to be wrong.
Doubt . . .
• Don’t panic. Just go with the flow…
• Panic is normal. When you draw a blank, simply describe the card.
• Whenever you feel stuck, go literal not metaphorical. Say what you see on the cards.
• Pick up the cards and rearrange them.
• Don’t cave into your fear of not seeing something….if you have eyesight, you can see.
• Root out any, “Am I doing this right” self-questioning while you’re doing the reading—it will block your connection with the cards. You can self-question after the reading in order to improve.
• If something is not working switch to something else. Numbers, palms, astrological charts; then, come back to the cards.
• Don’t worry if you make mistakes in readings. Like life, it is a long journey to acquire skill and wisdom. Until then: read, read, read again, pray, work and you will find.
• Don’t take yourself too seriously.
• If your advice is worth taking, it’s worth being paid for.
• Value yourself and your reading, but don’t overprice it.
• Charge money, because if you don’t, you will end up having to do something else to make money, and then you could end up betraying your gift by having no time for it!
• People love to hear about themselves. They crave attention. This should give you confidence.
• Determine where a person is coming from and how best to communicate with them by checking their astrology, numerology or birth cards, or by drawing a card before the reading.
• Don’t take people’s aggression personally. It’s usually just fear. Have them look at a card and ask how it makes them feel.
• Think about what the other person needs and not about how you are doing.
• Don’t try to make things up and tell people what you think they want to hear.
• Don’t let other people “control” your readings. Trust yourself and remember you have nothing to prove.
• The querent knows him or herself better than you do. But you know the cards better than he/she does.
• You are there to help the client find their own truth through a relationship among you, the client and the cards. Life is relationship!
• If the client is quiet it doesn’t mean that you are wrong; there are lots of other reasons. Just enjoying the silence helps with your concentration!
• Don’t read for the same person, for the same issue, more than once in a lunation [a month—or even longer!]. Things take time to develop.
• Know Thyself.
• Every card reader is unique and brings their own gifts to the mix. Be yourself.
• The tarot communicates in different ways to different people. Pay attention to the specific ways the tarot communicates ideas to you. Your uniqueness counts, and that awareness will build a deep relationship to the cards and the reading process.
CONTRIBUTORS: Louise Underhill, Judika Illes, Ruth Vazquez, Urban Crone, Stacy Scher LaRosa, Carla Tate, Serena Belvedere Iannicelli, J.r. Rivera Jr., Laurent Langlais, CJ Walton, Eartha Stone, Ann Westland, Debby Coulter, Marcus Katz, Mary Scully, SallyRose Rivers Robinson, Tero Hynynen, Dona Riley, Katrina Wynne , Laura Brown, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, Elaine Benwell, Christiana Crane Gaudet, Kristine Gorman, Denise Wilson, Madeline Hill Kasian, Alexsander Lepletier, Polly MacDavid, Charlotte Porter, Theresa Reed, Amy Fisher, Nancy Antenucci, Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman, Debra LoGuercio DeAngelo, Hildur Halldora Karlsdóttir, Diane Brandt Wilkes, Kellie Johnson, Paula Nerenberg Meier, Katherine Weber-Turcotte, Jagadeesh Dev, Andrew Kyle McGregor, Susan Curewitz Arthen, Sue Wilhite, Larry Manning, Loretta Vigil, Karen Krebser, Monika Sanders, Doreen Vitkuske Blumberg, Mary Mueller, Tierney Sadler, J Jordan Hoggard, Bonnie Cehovet, Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Carol Herzer, Sowilo Dawn, Nei Naiff, Erin Sights, Dale T Howard, Jeanne Fiorini, Shari Lynn Smith, Mary K. Greer.
Other helpful posts for beginning and intermediate Tarot readers:
A Truly Notable Tarot Reading (more advanced post on recording and sending readings via iPad, iPhone and other options)