My tarot journey was born out of curiosity. As a dreamer who struggles to anchor their thoughts down to earth, I felt tarot might act as my grounding weight. For me, tarot is a chance to dive into my own thoughts, prompting fears, expectations, dreams and themes that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. Today, we’ll explore how to get started with tarot.
I began reading tarot because I’d been working on being more in touch with my intuition. Many tarot-users don’t practice tarot for divination, but instead use the cards to prompt their own intuition, giving any hidden or lofty thoughts a chance to come down into the real world. Communicating with myself was something I knew I needed to practice, and my my my – it’s come a long way since I started.
“I’m not an expert in the deck at all. My interest lies somewhere near a sense that words are like tarot cards, and that a poem manipulates unpredictable depths with its words. . . . I like the tarot because it works like poetry and because you don’t really have to ‘believe in’ anything. It’s there to be used. The symbols are remarkably durable and beautiful; they float out to encompass all kinds of meanings” – Alice Notley
The basics of tarot
Where does tarot come from?
Tarot was a mid-15th century European invention, originally used as a parlour game. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that they began being used as for divination.
How many cards are in a tarot deck?
A tarot deck consists of 78 cards, split as 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana..
What is the Major Arcana?
22 of those cards are the Major Arcana, symbolic cards that focus on the material world, life changes and your intuition. These are the tarot cards you’ve probably seen and recognise. They’re portrayed as characters, eg. The High Priestess, The Fool, The World, and don’t tend to differ deck to deck.
What is the Minor Arcana?
The remaining 56 cards are the Minor (or Lesser) Arcana, split into four suits. Each suit has cards numbered two to ten, plus an ace and four court cards, like a usual deck of cards. The royal cards are usually Page, Knight, Queen and King, although some decks rename them (mine are Daughter, Son, Mother, and Father, for example). The four suits are Swords, Pentacles (often renamed Coins), Wands and Cups, and each focus on a particular aspect in life.
What are the themes of each tarot suit?
- Swords focus on action, conflict, change and moral matters.
- Cups speak of matters of emotion and relationships
- Coins focus on material items, things like finances, and home
- Wands represent ambitious ventures, goals, dreams and the beginning of journeys
How to use reverse cards in tarot:
Sometimes cards are drawn upside down – it’s up to you how you interpret these cards. Personally, I like to use reverse cards and I usually interpret them to have the opposite meaning to what the right way up interpretation would be. But ultimately, it’s up to you.
What do I do if a card falls out whilst I’m shuffling in tarot?
Again, this is up to you! I often put these to one side, continue with the spread I’d intended on and then read the extra cards as general, additional messages after.
How to get started with tarot
1. Choose your deck
The first step in how to get started with tarot is to pick out a deck. This is probably the part most people get most stuck with. It seems like such a big choice! The only advice I can give is to go for a deck that speaks to you. There are so many decks out there that there will be a deck for you, but don’t worry if your first isn’t the deck of your dreams. You can always have more than one!
If you’re really stuck, the Rider-Waite deck is one of the most popular tarot decks out there. The imagery is very traditional and it’ll give you the chance to learn the cards in their traditional forms.
I use the Wild Unknown Tarot deck by Kim Krans and I absolutely adore it.
2. Study your deck
When you first get your deck, I suggest laying all the cards out and categorising them – split the Major Arcana from the Minor, lay the Major out in order, and place the Minor in order in their suits.
Take a good look at each card, see if you can piece together a story or meaning from the imagery of the card, and then compare that to the written meaning in your guidebook. Some decks will have connections between the cards reflected in the imagery – every suit’s royals are represented by a different animal in my deck, for example – so look out for that. This will help you learn your deck quickly and can help you attach more meaning to each card.
I still do this on occasion, just to refresh things – especially if I haven’t used my cards in a few days. Just make sure to shuffle them well afterwards!
3. Start pulling a card a day
The quickest way to get good at tarot (that is, become quicker with interpretation and unlocking your intuition) and learn your deck is to practice. I started by pulling a card a day, sometimes with a question in mind, sometimes just to ask for something to keep in mind for the day.
Not only does this give you lots of exposure to your deck, but it also gives you a nice tidbit of information every day. I love this as a morning habit. It gives me an intention to focus on throughout the day and gives me a quiet, mindful habit to begin the day with, connecting to myself.
4. Practice makes perfect
And my last step for how to get started with tarot is as with anything, practice makes perfect. Connecting with your cards and your intuition is something you’ll scrap over time. Eventually, you’ll know the cards without the help of your guidebook, and that’s when you truly start to get a feel for tarot. You’ll be asking yourself more than what your guidebook says. What does the imagery on the card say to you? How did you feel pulling it? What card were you hoping for? These kind of deeper, more intuitive feelings are something you’ll develop.
Doing readings for other people can be really fun and presents different challenges compared to doing it to yourself. So, do readings for anyone that’ll have them. I also find it creates an opportunity for people to open themselves up to talk about themselves, their feelings and where they’re at mentally. Tarot’s a lighthearted way to approach these deeper topics and opens the door to some incredible conversations.
My last piece of advice for how to get started with tarot is to enjoy yourself and listen to your gut (okay, that’s two, but they’re both important!). Tarot’s a very intuitive practise, there aren’t any defined rules or procedures, it’s about doing what feels right and opening yourself up to listen. There are loads of stereotypes and ideas surrounding tarot, but I think it’s whatever you make of it, and that’s what I love most about it. It’s about learning to be more and more authentic, open, and honest with yourself and with the world, and that’s a hell of a skill to learn.
Be you and be true. Love, Ella-Rose xx