My Experience of Learning Tarot

It’s funny how different people come to tarot. For some people it’s been something their family has always done, others are simply drawn to it, but for people like me who grew up in very ‘no nonsense’ households where anything esoteric was poo-pooed, it is something odd and mysterious that requires a ‘happening’ to be brought into your life.

Tarot was something I was aware of but never paid much attention to. After all, it was just a load of nonsense and woo wasn’t it? Just a bunch of generalisations that could be applied to any situation, a bit like cold reading. Until I learned that my good friend, Steve, reads the cards.

Being a statistician and psychologist, and knowing that at his very core, Steve is also a techy, nerdy scientist, I decided that if he could see value in it then there must be more to this than meets the eye. My inner logic problem solver kept picking at this thought like a scab and obviously wasn’t going to settle until I’d tried to figure out how it is done. In trepidation about spending money on this and a healthy dose of skepticism, I bought my first deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck and a book (78 Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack) recommended by Steve in order to learn how to interpret the cards. I honestly thought that I was wasting my money, that I would use them once or twice, find out it’s a load of nonsense, get bored and move on to something else within a fortnight. In reality, I was happy to be proven utterly wrong and within a day or two I was hooked.

I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t explain how cards with very specific meanings kept coming up and were spot on accurate every time. I even had a ‘stalker’ card, the two of swords, that would pop up nearly every time I asked about a certain subject. At this point my logical brain was screaming “it’s all in your subconscious! You think it’s random but it’s not, your brain is selecting the cards you think fit the situation” but yet how could it be? I’d never looked at a deck of tarot cards in my life. I had absolutely no idea what any of the cards meant, they were shuffled face down so that I couldn’t see the pictures, it was a brand-new deck so none of the cards looked worn or marked in any way and the deck was cut at a mid-point before dealing.

It was witchcraft, voodoo, I was completely freaked out and I couldn’t decide whether it was the best thing ever or whether I should I lock them in a metal box and bury them near running water on a crossroads.

Soon I was head over heels in love with my new hobby and I carried on reading for myself for a few weeks but I quickly ran out of questions to ask about my own life and got bored of asking the same questions only to get the same reply (after a while the wonder of “How is this possible?” became “Oh, you again. Tell me something I don’t know”). By this point, I was starting to feel I knew the meanings of the cards and I decided to start reading for others. As I’m still learning, I decided to do this for fellow tarot lovers in the first instance so that they could help me out if I got it wrong.

The first person I read for, was an American man that I’d never met in person or spoken to online before. I just saw his request for someone to swap readings with in a tarot forum and I thought, why not? It sounds like fun and as long as I’m honest about still having my L plates on, where’s the harm? Once again, I was stunned. We both managed to return an accurate reading for each other without ever having met eat other. Once again, my logical brain was flashing up warnings about cold reading and it all being a scam and, yet I still couldn’t explain how it worked.

Buoyed up by this experience, I decided to ask friends and family if they would like me to read for them on the understanding that they gave me feedback on how accurate it was. These readings were given over Messenger in the first instance, partly for convenience but also so that I could take my time, study the cards and make sure I could read the whole story that was being told in the cards without feeling under pressure to perform quickly. This was a good idea. The first time I read for someone face to face, I felt like a total noob, got flustered and had to refer to the book. Luckily it was a friend, so she was kind about it and she seemed to accept what I said but her prediction is yet to happen, so we’ll see if that comes true! Safe to say I have a way to go yet before I can read for strangers face to face.

So in this post, I really wanted to talk about some of the things I’ve learnt since picking up my first deck of tarot cards.

1) Beware! This can turn into a costly obsession. I have been at this a whole 2 months now and I already have three decks (RWS, Joie de Vivre and The Norse Tarot), there are another 7 decks and goodness knows how many books on my wish list and I’ve had to stop adding them now because it’s getting ridiculous. I’m having to choose what I buy with my head, rather than with my rather Magpie like heart. It’s seriously addictive and there’s a lot of pretty, sparkly, shiny things that you can spend your hard-earned cash on to feed your habit.

2) Learn the numerical associations of the minor arcana cards 1-10 and the elements for each suit. This is really a piece of Steve’s advice so I won’t go into detail at this point as he’s already covered it much better than I can in the easy way to learn tarot, the elemental associations  and a guide to the numerology associations.  However, it is so useful that I didn’t feel I could not mention it at all in this post. I learnt most of what I know from Steve, so he is really the master here.

3) Social media groups are a goldmine of new information, new perspectives, new spreads, and ways of interpreting the cards, but they should also be taken with a pinch of caution. There are a lot of people who will insist that their way is the only way and that if you don’t do it their way you are doomed to failure. This is simply not true. There are many ways of shuffling, slicing, dealing, caring for and reading your cards and you should find the way that feels right for you.

4) As I said earlier, I learnt most of what I know from Steve and the 78 Degrees of Wisdom (Rachel Pollack) book he recommended. Therefore, Steve and I both try to read our cards to the traditional Waite interpretations of the cards. This is a really good basis to start from as it will help you to understand the pictures on the cards and go into more depth about why certain images are present or seem to be contrary to the rest of the picture. There are some people who prefer to use a more ‘Say what you see’ approach towards reading the cards but in my mind, that is too simplistic and often misses the finer nuances of the cards intended meanings that add context and depth to the reading. That being said, even Steve and I don’t do things in exactly the same way. For example, I read reversals whereas he, like many people, doesn’t see the need. I’m sure if we looked at the same spread of cards, we would both interpret them in a different way.

5) One thing Steve and I do agree on though is that your cards are a psychological tool. They are pieces of paper that allow you to look at your life in a different way and consider the possibilities beyond your immediate understanding of the situation. Many people will ascribe personalities to their cards or believe that the cards themselves have power. If that sits right with you, then by all means carry on but for us, the energy and the power is with the reader, not the cards. We see no reason to ‘charge’ them up in any way and unless you spill your soup on them, there is no need to cleanse them.

6) Question everything. Regardless of whether the cards spell success or disaster, question the validity of this. Is it reasonable in the context of your original question? Refer again to the notion that your cards are a tool. If you believe everything they say implicitly, does that put the power over your life in the hands of the cards or into your own hands? The future is never fixed as it hasn’t happened yet, and you have a much better chance of avoiding or improving a situation if you take heed of the message and look for ways of changing the outcome. If you can’t change it, is there a way that you could coming to terms with it IF it becomes reality rather than accepting it as fate? This also goes for information you get from any source. Ask yourself, does this ring true to me? Not everything you read or hear (this blog post included) will match your view of the world. If the information given challenges your world view, I hope that you will stop, consider, research the subject and make an informed decision about whether or not to believe what you are told.

7) Finally, if you’re reading for someone else and the reading doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry, it’s not supposed to because it’s not your reading. As long as it makes sense for your client, you’re probably on the right track.

I found tarot a bit overwhelming at first a there was so much conflicting information and different approaches. It took me a while to feel where I felt the best path for me lay. The above post is just a few of my reflections on my own experiences and I hope this is useful to anyone who is new to reading and who is feeling a bit unsure.

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