Tarot is one of the fastest growing areas for modern mystics who are seeking greater connection with themselves and the energies around us. When first starting out with tarot it can be exciting, thrilling… and overwhelming. Don’t worry, here we are going to walk through everything you need to know for those new to tarot. Tarot can take you on an incredible journey of self discovery, and we are thrilled to help you along the path. Welcome to the world of tarot for beginners.
How to Read Tarot Cards for Beginners
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It’s finally happened. You’ve scrolled through social media, looked up decks online, found yourself in the metaphysical section of either a website or a bookstore, and here you are. The tarot deck is in your hands, full of potential and magic and wonder.
And not to mention 78 different cards with different meanings, layers of signification, scary keywords, and these things called “spreads” to put them in.
Have no fear, my friends, you’ll be making magic and learning about your wonderful selves with the magic mirror that is tarot in no time.
Here are a few tips about how to do a tarot reading to get you started.
What is a Tarot Spread?
A tarot spread is a formation that you place the cards in so that they answer your question and make sense.
If the tarot cards themselves are the messages, or the words, then the spread is the sentence. If I flung a bunch of words at you in no cohesive order, you would not have any clue what I was trying to say. However, take those words and ideas and put them in a sentence, and we’ve got a conversation. That is how spreads help you read the tarot cards.
These can be simple, such as a one card spread or a three-card spread, or they can be complex and include upwards of 20 cards. For my beginner friends, we are going to start with one to three card spreads.
One Card Tarot Spreads
To do a one card tarot reading, it’s simple. Ask an open-ended question either in your head or out loud while you are shuffling your cards.
Tarot isn’t a magic eight ball that offers short and snappy phrases. It is offering you wisdom and insight. While it would be convenient, there are no solid yes or no cards in the deck. Asking open ended questions will help you make more sense of your answers.
For example, instead of asking, “will I ever find love?” you could ask, “what can I do at this time to find that special someone?”
Having said that, some readers use the right-side-up/reversal method for yes or no questions. Shuffle the deck so that some cards are reversed, ask your question, then pull a card. If it’s upright, then the answer is yes. If it’s reversed, it’s a no. I find that if you’re going to do this, it’s best to keep it simple. Think “should I go to the cabin this weekend?” instead of “will I ever find my purpose?”
Three Card Tarot Spreads
The three card tarot spreads may become your most used ones. These are simple, straightforward, and pack a ton of into and guidance. Plus, they’re versatile.
A few examples of three card tarot readings are:
- situation/suggested action/outcome,
- or anything else you can think of or find with a quick google search.
Generally, the cards are laid down from the left to the right, but this is not a hard and fast rule. You’ll find with tarot that there are many suggestions, but most authors and teachers will always tell you to trust your intuition when doing this. Just know in your mind how you will be laying the cards before you lay them.
While you’re shuffling, think of the question. If you are using past/present/future, think about the question in that context as you prepare to pull the cards. Then you’ll know that the first card that you pull represents the past, second the present, and third the future.
Setting the Mood
Before you pull your one card or three card spreads, it’s a good idea to get into the right head space.
Some people like to cleanse their space with crystals, a bell, a singing bowl, smoke from an herb bundle, incense, or anything else that you like to use to cleanse your space. This will help keep the energy in the room clear so that you’re not influenced by stressful energy or other lower vibes that may make it hard for you to feel intuitive.
You’ll also want to cleanse your own energy using whatever method you prefer. This can be done as part of cleansing your space, or you could do some yoga, meditation, or even journaling. Whatever works for you to clear your own headspace.
It’s never a good idea to read tarot when you’re sick, angry, super anxious, or upset.
Those energies are not conducive to receiving messages from your higher self, which is what you are essentially doing.
Think of it like static on a radio station. When you’re grounded and calm, the frequency is clear, and the messages come through. When you’re panicking, things go haywire and it’s all fuzzy. Which can make you MORE anxious.
Clearing your energies and those in your space will help you make the most of your tarot reading. And if you can’t find your centre? Hold off on the reading until you do.
How to Ask a Question, Shuffle, and Pull the Cards
Once your energy is good to go, it’s time to pull those cards.
Most readers (myself included) will have a special cloth that is just for their tarot cards. The cards are energetic tools, which means they will pick up on the energies around them. You can keep the cards in this cloth, or you can keep them in a box or tarot bag. Just remember to use a cloth or mat that is just for your cards when you lay them down.
Shuffling can be done however you like. I love shuffling cards, so I shuffle them like I would with playing cards. Some readers do the overhand shuffle, others put them on their cloth and mix them around. Do what feels right.
Next, you can cut the deck into three piles and then reassemble them back into one. Remember, you’ve been thinking about your open-ended question while shuffling.
Using your non-dominant hand, pull your card(s) from the top of the deck. Lay them in the form of your tarot spread.
Then you will look up the meanings and interpret the message for yourself.
Another option is to spread the cards out like a fan and then let your non-dominant hand float above the cards. When you feel tingles or like it’s time to stop, that’s how you’ll know which card to choose.
A Word on Reversals
Do not feel pressured to read with reversals when you first start. Reversals are when a tarot card is pulled upside-down. Some readers will interpret these cards differently.
Tarot is learnable but is complex. I usually suggest learning the meaning of the cards upright first before incorporating reversals into the mix.
Because reversals are not straightforward. They can mean that it’s the shadow aspect of the card, or that it’s an energy that is in your subconscious that you’re not aware of, or it can mean that you need to bring these energies into life.
Once you’re more familiar with the cards, you’ll have an easier time interpreting the reversals by leaning into both your tarot knowledge and your intuition.
However, as with all things tarot, do what feels right for you. If you want to start off by incorporating reversals because it feels right for you, then that’s what matters. Some readers never use reversals, others love them, and some even only allow a few cards to be reversed in their deck. Trust what feels right for you.
Walking Through a Tarot Reading
Alright, let’s put this all together!
First, you’re going to make sure you have your cards with you.
You’ll cleanse yourself and your space.
Lay out your tarot cloth and get settled to read your cards. Make sure you have a clear idea of the question you want to ask in your head. Muffled questions equal muffled answers. If you feel like you need guidance but you don’t know what to ask, you can always try a question like, “what does my higher-self want me to know today?” This is open-ended and general without being confused.
I always like to say a little affirmation of love before my readings. Before I ask the question, I will say, “I now align with the unconditional love of the universe, affirming that this reading is in the highest good of all. And so it is.” This is not necessary, but if you like the idea of aligning with this energy first, I suggest trying it out.
Next, clearly think of your question or ask it out loud.
Shuffle the cards. Keep your mind clear or focus gently on your question. If you’re asking about daily advice but you’re thinking about that person you went on a date with, your reading may end up being about that potential relationship.
Clear mind, clear question, clear answers.
Once you feel ready, stop shuffling. Cut the deck into three piles. Put them back together.
Using your non-dominant hand, pull the card(s) for your reading.
Take your time, paying attention to the imagery and what this makes you feel. Tarot is a combination of study and intuition. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll feel, which makes it easier to feel your intuition. However, even in the beginning, trust any intuitive hits that you get when you are reading the cards.
You may want to consider recording your readings in a journal while you’re learning. We always think we will remember those readings, but it’s amazing how much we forget. This can be as simple or as in-depth as you like. Some people like to use point form notes to record the readings, others write pages. You do you.
You can download our free journal pages by joining our mailing list here:
Eventually, you’ll have a journal that is basically like your own book of tarot meanings. You’ll see how different cards played out in different ways. This will attach the meaning of the card to your personal memories, which is true learning as opposed to just memorization.
That’s where the magic happens.
Now Start Reading Tarot!
Have fun and be patient.
Reading the tarot is a gift to yourself that will keep on giving. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t learn tarot overnight. Remember that learning about tarot is a joy and enjoy the process. This will help you release pressure and will make learning much more fun and magical.
And don’t forget, the cards are a tool. That magic is all within you and your connection to your intuition. Learning tarot will help you awaken to your own magic. If that isn’t worth taking your time, I don’t know what is.
Looking for books for your tarot journey? Here are a few we recommend.
More Tarot From Jenny
The Mystic Mermaid
Jenny is a professional tarot card reader and teacher, reiki practitioner, and soul purpose coach. She has studied translation at the University of Alberta, herbalism through Dominion Herbal College, Reiki through Sacred Awakenings, and soul purpose coaching through the Dharma Coaching Institute. Jenny’s current evolution of her purpose is to help people recognize and celebrate their own unique gifts, wisdom, and desires. She does this through one-on-one sessions, coaching, teaching workshops, writing, and sharing information on her online platforms. Her current mission to help people find their way back to themselves and to forge their own authentic paths, full of self-love, fulfilment, and the ability to share this love with others. Besides her business, Jenny loves cuddling her guinea pigs with her husband, knitting, candle-making, reading, and wandering the woods. You can connect with Jenny through her Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MermaidMysticTarot.