What is tarot reading?
The tarot is not the sleazy fortune-telling parlor trick you might think it is. It’s actually a powerful divination tool used to tell stories through images about what’s likely to happen if we continue down the path we’re currently on. Tarot card reading can provide guidance and clarity to questions and situations if the reader trusts their own intuitive connection.
In order to use tarot cards effectively, you must first believe in your own ability to receive guidance from them. You must be willing to look at the symbolism, interpret the artwork, and ponder the deeper meaning of the cards you pull. Otherwise, you’re probably going to feel confused and let down.
Because tarot card reading relies heavily on your intuition, there really is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. There are some universal best practices that most people resonate with, so we’ll go over those in more detail in this post.
Tarot Deck Featured – Tarot of Dreams
How to Use Tarot Cards
First, always make sure you’re in a decent head-space before sitting down to pull cards. You never want to pull cards out of anger, grief, anxiety, or extreme depression. Even if you’re going through those emotions, give yourself at least ten minutes to relax and quiet your inner voice.
That voice could potentially impact your reading if it has too much control, and you want your guidance to come straight from your Higher Self (not the ego).
Second, make sure your tarot cards are well cleansed energetically. As with any magical tool, always make sure its energy is as “clean” as it can be before interacting with it. We can do this with any of the techniques mentioned in this blog post here (minus the water).
How to Shuffle Tarot Cards
Before you begin shuffling, decide on what kind of card spread, if any, you want to do. If you’re following a certain spread style, make sure you understand the formation you’re making and which cards are connected to which question/answer.
Third, shuffle the cards well, but know when it’s time to stop and pull some out. You may shuffle the deck in any way you choose. However you choose to shuffle will contribute to your unique reading because you’re infusing your own personal brand of magic into the deck.
Fourth, it’s time to draw the cards for this reading (drum roll please!). You can either fan out the entire deck in one long line, and pick cards that call out to you. Or you can stack the deck in a pile, cut it a few times and select your cards that way.
If any cards literally jumped out of the deck while you were shuffling, include them in your reading. That card wanted to catch your attention!
Always flip your cards over from left to right, rather than up to down. Some cards will show up as “reversed” in your reading and you don’t want to mess with the message by flipping them around inadvertently.
How to Interpret Tarot Cards
Okay! So you’ve cleansed, shuffled, pulled, and revealed all your cards for your reading. Now what?
Remember that the tarot is a means of telling stories. No matter how many cards you pulled for your reading, they’re meant to be strung together, rather than interpreted individually. Here are a few elements to look at when reviewing your tarot spread:
- How many court cards are there?
- How many minor arcana cards are there?
- How many major arcana/trump cards are there?
- How many reversed cards are there?
- Does one particular suit dominate the spread?
- Does the spread consist of mostly minor or major cards?
- Does any card stand out?
- Do any pairs of cards stand out?
When you’re just beginning to read tarot, you’ll probably want to reach for your deck’s guidebook as soon as you pull a card so you can read all about its meaning. But, try not to give into that temptation just yet.
First, look at your spread (or singular card if you only pulled one) and explore the symbolic imagery on your own. What is your immediate first impression? Is there a certain element of the card that draws your eye? How do you feel when you see the artwork?
Only open your guidebook or other tarot card meaning resources after you give your own intuition a chance to interpret the card on its own. Over time, you won’t need to open a guidebook at all. You’ll just immediately know what message is being sent via the cards.
But until then, allow yourself the artistic freedom to come up with your own interpretation. Something in the card might seem significant to you but not even be mentioned in the guidebook. It’s your tarot reading, so read the cards for yourself!
While each and every tarot card has its own special meaning, the entire meaning of the reading in the context of the questions asked is what’s most important in your interpretation. Consider the following steps as a guide for interpreting your reading as a whole:
- What is the situation or question I need guidance on?
- What does this card typically represent?
- How does the placement in the spread affect the meaning of this card?
- Repeat steps 2-3 for each card in the spread.
- How do all the cards in this spread relate to each other? (see above bulleted list for considerations)
- How do all these cards connect to the situation or question I asked about?
What is a Reversed Tarot Card?
Like all things, tarot cards carry both yin and yang energy. There is nothing inherently “good” or “negative” when it comes to energy, it is only how we perceive it.
A reversed tarot card is nothing more than another symbolic element within the story of the reading. It’s just another way the cards can be viewed, literally.
Yes, some types of energy may not be as desirable as others (sadness versus joy for example). But the energy is there for a reason and is equally as valuable as any other form of energy.
When a tarot card shows up as reversed, or upside down, in your reading, it could mean a few different things depending on the card and context.
Typically, the “negative” cards (think the suit of swords) show up reversed when there’s some seriously heavy energy being dealt with. Unpleasant energy and emotions are likely to show up in reversed cards.
Another meaning could be the exact opposite meaning of the upright card. This is especially true with the major arcana cards. For example, The Empress represents creativity, while reversed it could mean a lack of creativity.
Not every tarot reader chooses to read reversed cards. Especially beginners. So if it doesn’t feel right to you to read reversals, then you’re not obligated. But be honest with yourself–are you avoiding the reversals because you don’t like their message? If so, it’s best to not ignore reversals.
When I first started reading tarot, I was overwhelmed with the amount of symbolism and meaning behind each card. And to think that each card had double meaning (upright and reversed), was just too much. So I didn’t read the reversals. For approximately one month.
I quickly realized that I was missing out on half of the meaningful tarot messages, even if it was a bit overwhelming at first. I felt as though I couldn’t ignore the important reversals when they appeared, so I slowly incorporated them into my practice.
Reading Tarot Cards
Tarot card reading is a special skill that anyone can perfect. All it takes is a bit of patience, practice, and a beautiful deck that calls to you.
If you’re wanting to learn more about the individual card meanings of the traditional tarot deck, be sure to follow along our Total Tarot series! New videos are released weekly on YouTube, along with new blog posts and podcast episodes. Bookmark this page here to be sure you never miss a single one!