Learning + Interpreting Tarot

Tarot is a fascinating, yet overwhelming, subject. It took a while after purchasing my first deck before I really buckled down to learn tarot in depth. Like many other subjects, tarot is a never ending journey of discovery.

You do not need to be psychic (we are all intuitive) to read the tarot cards. All that is required is a sincere interest, practice and having fun with it.

Tarot is everywhere and with so many people using it, it seems like it should be easy to pick up. Just grab a deck and the little white book and off you go! Not so fast.

Identify the card

First you have to learn to recognize the cards. If you don’t recognize what it is, you can’t read it. This takes some time, sort of like flash cards in school. Pick a card at random and learn to immediately recognize what it is. Depending on how much time and energy you put into this (which isn’t usually much with everything else you may have to do on a daily basis) this exercise alone may take a few weeks to a few months.

Traditional Meaning

You know what the cards are called – the next hurdle is memorizing what they mean. Tarot experts will tell you “don’t go by book meaning but what you see in the card.” This is true and false. In reality, when you are first learning tarot you will probably need to memorize the keywords. After you have a handle on the keywords and become more adept, then you can forget about them. I believe that if you don’t initially memorize traditional tarot card meanings, you’ll feel insecure that you don’t know what you are doing in a reading. So after you learn the ‘traditional meaning’ then you move to the next phase – trusting your intuition.

Your Intuitions – the Real Meaning

Now you are at an advanced level. You recognize all of the cards and know what the book meanings are. You have the cards in front of you in a spread and let’s say you asked a question about a relationship. You want to know where this relationship is headed. You know the traditional meanings of the cards, but they aren’t making any sense in this reading. That’s because to interpret the cards meaningfully, you need to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. What did you think and feel when you flipped the card over?

It also help to notice what stands out to you in the card (this varies from reading to reading) to help answer the question. Finally “going inside” the card or telling it’s story will help you find the answer. Pretend the card is a window into a world that you can walk into it and see/hear/feel what is going on – talk to the protagonist(s). The interpretation you get from these experiences may be very different from the traditional meaning of the card (and often way more accurate.)

Learning Tarot is a Two-Sided Journey

Your ability to read the tarot will be enhanced by absorbing information outwardly and inwardly. Meditating, journaling, taking classes, reading books, watching videos etc. will help you delve deeper into the power of tarot. Learning tarot is a 2-fold process of learning from others about different spreads, decks, history, etc while simultaneously taking a personal journey into what each cards means to you. How you see and experience each card, and how you internalize or translate it will help you improve your readings for yourself and others. Tarot cards are full of archetypal symbols that can be interpreted in general and/or personal ways. Ex. The black cat in the Queen of Wands may stand out to a reader. This may mean ‘bad luck’ to some or a beloved pet to another. What has a black cat meant in your life experience? You might say, “I had a wonderful black cat for years who was my best friend.” While someone else may see this cat and say, “I hate cats.” This will give these two different tarot readers different interpretations in that particular reading, the correct one is the person who drew the card and is giving the reading. This is not to say that the black cat will be important every time this card shows up – not at all. Othertimes it may be something else in the card that stands out to the reader.

This is part of the reason why no one else can read another tarot readers spread. The interpretation is between the you and the divine (or collective unconscious.) Tarot is universal in some ways but extremely personal in others. It builds a stronger relationship between the reader and his/her intuition. Tarot provides insights on a daily basis that will never be found in any books. A tarot reader reads their cards in a way that is unique to them.

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