Reading Tarot Cards
This article is intended as a step-by-step tutorial for reading Tarot cards. For background information, such as the origins and history of the Tarot, how the Tarot works, or explanation of the suits with card-by-card meanings, you might want to start with An Introduction to the Tarot or read many of the Psychic and Tarot articles on this site.
Before I begin the tutorial here are some frequently asked questions about the reading of Tarot cards...
Do you have to have highly developed intuitive or psychic abilities to do a Tarot reading?
No, it's not required. However, I think the analogy of singing is very appropriate. Everyone can sing. However, some people, especially if they have spent years training and practicing, can sing a whole lot better. Someone who isn't psychic can still see unmistakable patterns and general meanings in the cards. A trained psychic however, can use a Tarot reading to reveal limiting behaviors or life patterns, put specific people or circumstances into perspective, or even reveal an individual's destiny.
I know someone who reads Tarot cards differently than you. Are they doing it wrong?
There are as many ways of performing a Tarot card reading as there are Tarot card readers. So keep in mind that the method I'm going to describe is simply the one that works best for me. There are a wide variety of spreads (ways to lay out the cards), methods, interpretations and card decks that vary according to the preferences of the reader. The "right" way is simply the one that gives you the best results.
Can I do a reading for myself?
Yes. The person consulting the Tarot reader is often referred to as the Querent. Now it is entirely possible to do a reading for yourself and be your own Querent, but keep in mind that this doesn't always yield the best results. The main reason for this is that it is very difficult to remain objective - you're often simply too close to the subject to see conditions as they really are. Still, if you keep an open mind, there can be much to gain by doing a reading for yourself.
Start by clearing a space where you can lay out the cards so they won't crowd each other, and you and the Querent can both see. It is often a good idea to "clear the deck". This refers to clearing the previous Querent's (even if it is the same person) energy from the cards so as not to affect the current question. This can be done by holding the cards and clearing your mind. It is also customary to rap on the deck three times as a symbol that the Querent now has a "blank slate" on which to ask their question.
You now shuffle the cards and instruct the Querent to ask a question aloud. As you are listening, open yourself to the infinite. As a psychic this is where I begin to connect to Spirit and open myself to that person's energy. There can also be many variations at this step. Some Readers cut the cards 3 times, others let the Querent shuffle or cut the cards. Again, it is a matter of what works best for the Reader.
Once the cards have been shuffled, it is time to lay them out in a spread. There are many different types of spreads, but the one I use the most is the Celtic Cross spread, which I will demonstrate here.
Lay out the cards in the numbered order, following the pattern shown in the illustration to the left.
Celtic Cross Card Positions
1. What the reading is dealing with.
2. (Optional) a second card to show what the reading is dealing with. I prefer this extra card simply because often there are multiple themes that influence one another within a reading.
3. What is crossing the Querent. A circumstance (often hidden or unexpected) that usually works in favor of the Querent.
4. What is beneath. This is the basis for the reading. It is something in the past that is affecting the Querent now, or an event that is a cause of present circumstances.
5. What is behind. Something in the recent past whose influence is still felt, but is now passing away.
6. What is crowning. Something that is soon to happen, or now in the works.
7. What is before the Querent. Something that will happen soon within the theme of the reading.
8. What is being given. This can also indicate a focus of the subconscious mind, but I find it more useful when regarded as what the Source is offering the Querent to help him advance on his own unique path.
9. Others. The Tarot card that appears in this position represents how you see others and/or how others see you.
10. What is on the Querent's conscious mind.
11. The final outcome. The ultimate result of the reading, which is the culmination of the guidance offered to pursue the best course of action.
Believe it or not, there are also variations at this stage. There are many Readers who interpret opposite meanings of cards if they are dealt inverted. You of course may do this if you find it useful. As for myself, I have found this practice to be counter-productive to an effective and accurate reading, and always point the cards right side up.
Once the cards have been dealt, now comes the hard part - interpretation. This is where a Querent can really benefit by having an experienced psychic reading the Tarot cards. But if you are not psychic, don't despair. I have included on this site basic card-by-card descriptions and meanings to get you started on basic interpretation. They are categorized according to Major Arcana, and the Suits of the Minor Arcana: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. You will find that reading tarot cards is like anything else - you get better with experience.