Tarot Card Articles

Tarot Questions & Answers – Learning to Read Tarot Cards

By Brett Almond

Tarot cards - An Introduction

What follows is a series of questions and answers relating to the Tarot cards. The answers are one point of view and others may answer some questions differently. The answers are solidly based on experience.

These are all questions I have been asked at one point or another. The questions are in no particular order so can be read on an individual basis.

Is it important to shuffle my Tarot cards in a certain way?

When working with spiritual and subtle energies I feel having a structure or framework is important. Structure helps give a platform to the work you will do with the cards. Doing things the same way each time acts like a cue to our subconscious. Find a way that feels comfortable to you.

I always shuffle the Tarot cards and then place my right hand over the cards while saying a prayer that I receive what I need and that only good will come from the reading. Then I split the cards with my right hand into three piles and put them back together in any order with the same hand.

If I teach however I usually tell someone to split them with their right hand and put back together with left. Often then they are so busy working out which hand is which they forget to worry about whether they are putting their cards back in the "right" order!

Once you have found a way then stick to it rigidly. That will become your way. You may read this way in a book or see someone do it a way you want to copy. Later, when you have more experience, you may find another way that suits you better. But the secret of Tarot reading isn’t in the ritual behind it, it is more in what you feel when you see the cards.

Do I need a Tarot cloth or Tarot bag or both to put my cards on?

I would say it is important to have a cloth to read on and to wrap your cards in. It is important to care for your Tarot cards. The cards do not "know" you are caring for them in some magical way but you need to care for them in accordance with how much you value what the Tarot can bring you. If you care for your cards you are again building up a structure that will support you as you continue to learn. Placing your cards onto a cloth when reading gives your spread a boundary.

Pick a cloth that you will value. It is quite acceptable to make your Tarot cloth yourself from a material that you are especially drawn to.

Tarot Bags are not essential, and seem to appeal to some and not to others. They are however very practical for carrying your cards and protecting them. A symbol on the bag may also further enrich your idea of how you wish to work with the cards.

What makes a good Tarot deck and how should I choose one?

Hanson Roberts Tarot Card - TemperanceTarot decks are made up from 78 Tarot cards. Each of those cards represents a different kind of energy. So what we want from a Tarot deck is a deck that represents this energy well in pictorial form.

The core meanings and energy of any particular Tarot card is constant. It is the interpretation of the artist that paints the cards that changes. If an artist has managed to paint pictures that sum up the energy well then that is probably a good deck.

There are many hundreds of Tarot cards on the market. The main thing you should look for is a solid clear interpretation of the energy of a card. The Rider Waite deck was one of the first commercially produced Tarot decks in 1910, and today it is still the best selling Tarot deck on the market. This is because the interpretation is sound. It is not particularly modern in appearance though.

It is now possible to buy Tarot decks that have affinities with many subjects such as Celtic tradition, witchcraft, medieval, crystals, angels, faeries etc. So it is easy to get confused. In my view a good beginners deck is one that is easy to relate to. It should have pictures that very much bring to mind the energy of that particular card. If the three of wands is just three sticks in a row it probably won’t bring to mind optimism and longing. But if the picture shows a person standing on the edge, looking forward to the horizon, you may clue you in a lot more easily.

At this point it is worth mentioning that some people use normal playing cards for reading. So pictures aren’t everything! Regardless of the advice on which decks we recommend it should be remembered that there is a part of you that knows best what you need. So if you have a strong feeling to buy a particular deck then go with what you feel. A Tarot deck is a tool. The power to interpret them and feel what each means is within you!

Tarot cards don’t fly round the room, they don’t speak, and they aren’t magically invested with special powers at the factory. You bring them to life. Here are some of the Tarot cards that we sell.

Is it okay to use more than one deck?

From my personal experience I would say find a deck that appeals to you and work with that for a while. Later on you may find another deck that will add to your knowledge rather than give too much mental stimulus. If you have a strong feeling to use more than one pack of Tarot cards, then do it, because it will have something for you.

But if in your heart you know you are meant really to concentrate on one deck, then stick with one for now. As ever, with spiritual growth, there is no right and wrong way, although many would like you to believe there is!

The case for getting more than one tarot deck: Each Tarot deck carries different imagery and will therefore trigger off different ideas in your head. So in using more than one tarot deck you will be given more imagery to work with.

The case against getting more than one tarot deck: Tarot reading is a feeling art, and if you find yourself feeling undecided about which deck to use, or what a certain symbol in a certain deck means then it may be best to take one deck and stick with that because you may find yourself caught up in your head, which is not where you want to be when Tarot reading.

Can you learn to read Tarot cards just from a book?

Golden Rider Tarot Cards - TemperanceIf pushed I would have to answer, "No", although that is only half the answer.

To use a book you use your mental skills. The difficulty comes when trying to translate that mental thought into a feeling. As you become a better Tarot reader you become more able to "feel" a card as opposed to "know what it means". Books can help a beginner to introduce them into the basics of a card. Don’t try to memorise the meanings in a book though as this will only bring you Tarot readings on a second hand basis.

I don’t think I have ever read a Tarot book from cover to cover. Most of my learning has come from reading for people, and more importantly from life. If I see someone in my life who is always on the go, flitting from one thing to another, and never settling I think, "That is just like the Knight of Wands". Then the next day I may see someone who has just had the courage to break free of a job that has tied them down for many years. That is also the energy of the Knight of Wands used in a positive way. These meanings enrich our knowledge of the cards. This is why learning the Tarot takes years, because the meanings and realisations come bit by bit.

There are so many Tarot card spreads in books. Which one do I choose?

To start with pick a spread that appeals to you, possibly one of the more common ones you find in a book. Remember the power is in you not in some fancy spread. Work with that spread for a few weeks and see how you like it. Then move onto another one. Most readers have just a few spreads they use so don’t worry too much about "such and such" a spread being the only spread to use. Often I just follow my intuition while the person I am reading for is talking about what they would like the reading to be about. I’ll just think that the "such and such" spread would be the one.

Can you do a Tarot card reading about anything?

Yes you can. You could do a spread on the meaning of life. But if you do, don’t approach it in a flippant manner. A spread on a subject of this importance is worthy of only being done a limited amount of times in a lifetime. So make sure when/if you do it you are paying attention. And remember you will get an answer that is appropriate for your understanding.

If when you ask important questions you pay attention and give it the proper focus then the answers you receive will be deep ones. If you are forever asking important questions while having a cup of coffee over the breakfast table before you rush to work then you will probably never be satisfied with the answers you get. You can ask questions about relationships, work, life, personal development, decision making, life pathways, for advice from above, understanding the past, understanding an event, understanding why something happened a certain way, why you are shy, why you are bold, why you can’t talk to your Dad, why you can’t say I love you to your Mum, for interpretation of dreams, the list goes on and on...

Is it bad to let other people handle my Tarot cards?

Who you let handle your cards is up to you. No particular way is right or wrong. But it is important to make a decision as this strengthens your focus.

I do let people I am reading for shuffle my cards. Also over the years many others have touched them. When someone touches your cards the power does not somehow drain out of them as the power for reading is in you, not in the cards themselves. The Tarot cards are a tool. So in my view the reason you don’t let people touch your cards is that you are caring for them as a tool. If you disrespect your cards and leave them on the sideboard unwrapped where anyone can pick them up then that is probably more a reflection of your attitude to the cards so in a way your relationship with the Tarot is weakened more by your attitude than by some physical aspect.

So make your own rules. You could say:

1. No one except me touches the cards.
2. I will let those I am reading for touch the cards.
3. I will let those I read for and those I trust touch the cards.
4. I will let anyone touch my cards.

Personally I would recommend either 2 or 3. And once you have made your decision stick with it until such as time as you have good reason to change.

How do I best learn the Tarot? How do I improve my reading skills?

My best advice here would be to find a Tarot development group to work with. If there isn’t one near you form a group of friends (or just two of you) and share your experiences and exchange readings. Create a time each week, fortnight or month when you will meet for a set time period – this will increase your focus. When you read for others after every reading you should reflect on what you have said and remember to write down what you learnt about a certain card and note down the key piece of advice you were giving them because that piece of advice will also be for you! The writing down of information is not necessarily for reference, it is more for grounding what you have learnt. I have found from experience that if you perform the physical act of writing information down then it helps that information become a part of you rather than floating off into space.

Picking a card for a certain day or week can help bring valuable insights about the card and your life. Or pick just one card for a certain situation. Then afterwards relate the situation back to the card. The Tarot is a skill that grows as you grow. If you have a problem with a certain card in that you just cannot understand it or you just hate it then remember that is a reflection of you. Your understanding of that card will increase as you grow. And then one day you will probably love that card! Really!

How do I pick a Tarot reader?

If you are going to pay someone to read the Tarot for you then you should choose the person with care. Ideally a recommendation is good, but if you don't know anyone and are finding someone yourself, it is a good idea to meet the reader first before committing to a Tarot reading. Ask yourself if you think this is a trustworthy person. What are your feelings? Is your overall feeling a "yes" or a "no"?

You may want to ask the person whether their reading are more focussed on the now or the future. If they mainly deal with predictions could you cope with a prediction that is not a positive one? Why do you want to know your future anyway? Are you looking for proof of something greater? If their prediction comes true will you believe any more or will you simply say, "Isn’t that amazing that he/she got it right!" To my mind the Tarot is at its most useful as an information giver. Tarot should empower us in giving us more information on which to base our decisions rather than taking the decision making away from us. In the same way a Tarot reader should empower us rather than tell us what to do. If you go to a reading wanting to be told what to do it leaves you open to being abused.

Why is it always so difficult to read for yourself?

It is difficult to read for ourselves because we have such an investment in the outcome. However much we try to be objective it is very tempting to just want to see the best. You look towards the future and see the Sun card and you just think, "Ah, everything is going to be great!" But in reality there is probably a lot more going on within that card. It is also difficult because we are in a sense an exact match for the spread (as a spread is simply a mirror for ourselves) so some things can be hard to notice.

If we read for someone else we are much more able to be objective and see differences. I have tried various methods of reading for myself and below I have written the way that works best for me. I look at my spread and work through the cards writing down bullet points of the feelings and impressions that come to me when I see each card. For example I put: King of pentacles – looks weighed down, richness, lots of potential, having trouble standing up, a bit overweight, brown, ripe, ready for the picking, needs cheering up, needs company, very regal, ruler, powerful man. Then if I have nine cards in the spread I will then have nine cards with descriptions written down for each. It is only afterwards that I think how these descriptions relate to me or take into account how they relate to each card position. This way enables me to remain objective for as long as possible. And once I am relating it to myself the evidence is already in place and there is no arguing!

Should I use the reverse meanings of the cards?

Some books and readers do readings in a way where the cards can either be placed upright or upside down. They then take the upright card to be the positive meaning for the card and for the upside down card to be the negative meaning. My point of view about this is that this way of reading can sometimes take you away from the feelings of the cards. If you see an upside down card you will immediately be in a "box" of thinking that it is simply a negative card. But it may be more complex than that. Personally I turn all cards upright in a spread regardless of which way they are draw. This way I am drawn straight into what a card feels like instead of thinking about its orientation.

If I draw the Death card does there mean there is going to be a death?

If the death card appears it does relate to a death, but not in the sense that someone is going to "drop dead". Death is a process of decay. It is a point of destruction where things that are outdated and hold someone back are banished forever. And as the dust clears this leaves space for something wondrous and new. But you need to let the old thing die to bring in the new thing. So when the death card comes up don’t worry. Just think that there is the opportunity for something new. No cards are just bad or good. All cards are balanced. The death card does get a bad press! In the Connolly deck she calls it "Transformation" which is a less imposing way of looking at it.

When reading for other people I sometimes get stuck and feel awkward. How do I overcome that?

Here is some advice for if you get stuck:

• Regain your confidence by going back to the basic meanings of the cards as you might come across in a Tarot book. The person you are reading for probably doesn’t know the "classic" meanings so by doing this you are still giving them something worthwhile while waiting for the next feeling you get.
• Don’t be frightened to say, "I feel a bit stuck here". Or, "I’m having trouble feeling what this card is about". By voicing it you are removing the block.
• Remember if you feel stuck sometimes it may just be the nature of the spread. Sometimes if people are stuck the spread can feel stuck. You need to work a bit harder to get the cogs turning again.
• And then remember what does it matter? If you are learning just tell them you are learning. They will understand.

I was told something horrible by a Tarot reader and now I am really worried. Will it come true?

Haindl Tarot Card - TemperanceI’m afraid this is a not uncommon experience with Tarot reading and many forms of divination such as palm reading or clairvoyance. What you have been told almost certainly relates to your future because if it was in your past or present you already know about it!

The thing to bear in mind is that you were meant to see that reader. Your higher self won’t have let you down. On some level that reader is telling you something, even though the delivery method was unpleasant. You need to draw off the positives.

The first thing to remember is that you control your life. The future is not set. If a Tarot reader tells you that you are going to get run over by a bus in two days time then if you stay at home for three days then it is not going to happen is it?

Sometimes predictions are like warnings. They are like saying, "If you continue as you are then this will happen". If a reader tells you that you are destined for divorce, then maybe you need to wake up to your partner. Maybe you are ignoring them, or won’t commit fully, or have a fear of marriage. So the reader is correct really. If you carry on like this you are destined for divorce. But if you deal with your fears and make a decision to work with your partner  then you can essentially change your future.

The problem with predictions of this nature is normally in how they are delivered. No reader can say with absolute certainty that something is going to happen. A responsible reader would have said for the above situation, "You need to give more time to your current relationship otherwise it may not have a future." The Tarot reader used their skill to interpret all was not well with your current relationship.

The part where damage could be caused is in the delivery. Tarot doesn’t deal in absolutes, it deals with feelings, and "whispers on the wind". If someone tells you something you don’t like then you need to get it out of your head. So:

• Remember your life is in your hands.
• The future is by no means set.
• What you have been told will happen is within your power to change it. If you feel it is valid, heed the warning and make changes that will change the prediction.
• Find a way to turn it to your positive advantage as what you have been told will be able to help you in some way, you just need to find the way.

I’ve come to the conclusion I cannot read Tarot because I am not sensitive enough. I am right to give it up?

Do you feel emotion? Do you cry? Do you have compassion? These are the qualities that you need to read Tarot. You need to be sensitive to pick up on the energy of the cards. You wouldn’t expect to be able to paint wondrous watercolour paintings without some years of practice. When you are reading the tarot, you are essentially interpreting energy. The spread in front of you carries a certain energy, and the task of a tarot reader, I believe, is to interpret this energy - like a translator.

A good tarot reader will be able to translate this energetic picture into words, stories, images that someone you are reading for can understand. This skill, as with any skill, takes time. It is quite difficult to read for yourself sometimes, because we can sometimes only see what we want to see. So try reading for other people more. People you know and trust and who will appreciate you are learning. And remember (in my opinion), when you are reading for others, you are also reading for yourself too.

There will be some core bit of advice in that spread that you need to take notice of. Just learn a little about a card each day and be happy you are making progress. Why not try a different approach? Try picking a card in the morning to reflect your day. Then at the end of the day try spotting what that card meant. In this way you are building up your reference material you draw on when you read as well as giving yourself valuable insights into your life.

Is it unlucky to buy your own tarot cards?

This is something that people love to say - that it is unlucky to buy your own tarot cards. But can the person who told you it was unlucky tell you why it is unlucky I wonder?

In my opinion the answer is no, it is not unlucky. If you think it might be nice to receive them as a gift then that is another matter. You need to use your own judgement here. When I first got my tarot cards, my wife bought them for me, because it is said that tarot cards need to be a gift. I was with her in the shop and picked them out. For me, I had to wait until Christmas morning to open them, so the wait did kind of increased the importance of the event, which may have been good. If I wanted another deck now I would just buy it without hesitation.

Reading the tarot cards is about you, not the cards themselves. Once you start reading your relationship with the cards will grow. I think the gift thing might be to do with history, when a pack of cards might have been given by a master to an apprentice when they were ready. At that time there were no modern printing methods. So a pack of cards would not have been something you bought from the corner shop! This sort of activity was very hidden.

As ever, with spiritual development, you cannot do any wrong, no matter what people tell you. It is a matter of your choice. What do you feel would be best for you? Bad luck does not enter into it.

By Brett Almond Director and Founder of Holisticshop.co.uk © Holisticshop.co.uk. All rights reserved

About the author / more information

Brett Almond is the founder and director of Holisticshop.co.uk. His main personal spiritual pursuits of choice are Tarot, community through how we treat each other and ceremony using fasting, dance and sound. He also runs a regular sweat lodge in Norfolk. He has a natural intrigue for personal development and all things spiritual.


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