Ever had a question about Tarot which you just felt was too silly to bring up? Don’t worry, the definitive Tarot FAQ is finally here! I’ve attempted to answer questions I would expect anybody new to Tarot to have.
These come from questions I have had myself, friends and strangers have posed to me, as well as common-sense questions that everybody should know concerning Tarot. I thought it’d be best to arrange them all into one easy to find post!
A lot of the headline titles for each question are links; so if the question hasn’t satiated your appetite, simply click the title!
This post will be regularly updated when new questions are sent in, so be sure to check back! For now, I hope you find what you need. If you have a question you’d like to see answered, or maybe you have a different opinion on the answer, then by all means let us know!
What is Tarot?
Tarot is a complex form of divination; using a 78-card deck, which is divided into five suits. A tarot reader will deal tarot cards in a prescribed pattern, and then using the inherent meanings of the cards, as well as their own intuition, they will decode the message that the cards are portraying.
Tarot is used in a number of beliefs and in multiple ways. Tarot is a very complex, but eclectic form of divination; one reader may use a Tarot deck in a completely different way to another.
Is Tarot dangerous at all?
The honest answer here is potentially. Tarot is potentially dangerous. As it is a tool, it all depends on how it is used, and how you interpret ‘danger’.
The cards themselves are not dangerous, but the person who uses them may have an ulterior motive. If you receive a reading; carefully examine the result. Was the reader genuine and honest with you at all times?
If you decide to perform a reading for yourself or others, then you should always look at the message given as a suggestions, advice or counsel, rather than an instruction or order. The tarot gives you a message, but nobody is forcing you to act on it.
Where did Tarot come from?
As with many mystic practices, the origins are not entirely clear. It is generally understood that Tarot cards evolved from playing cards in and around the 15th century.
As a form of divination, Tarot comes about thanks to a french pastor; Antoine Court de Gébelin. He proposed that Tarot cards held mystic knowledge, from the Egyptian mystery tradition, and worked to unlock it’s secrets.’Le Monde primitif’ is a book by de Gébelin, which features a chapter on Tarot.
Gébelin wrote that the Egyptian god Thoth invented the cards and that they held within them the secrets of the Egyptians. He proposed that the Tarot deck was a visual representation of the Book of Thoth. News of this spread, and soon Tarot readers sprung up, interpreting the cards as having meanings and giving out messages.
How does Tarot work?
Tarot works usually through dealing a defined ‘spread’. Cards are placed in certain patterns, each pattern resembling an aspect of the answer to the question the spread was placed for.
A reader will shuffle the deck, place cards, and then define a message from the placement of the cards; the meaning of the cards, and their intuition on the cards.
A Tarot reading can be an intimate and personal affair, and the conversation the querent and reader have can help the reading grow and unlock.
How can I learn to read Tarot?
The best advice anybody can give you (and this isn’t just for Tarot!) is this; Just start. You learn Tarot by doing. You’ll be terrible at first but once you start to learn what cards mean and grow your own thoughts and feelings for them, you’ll become a more confident reader. Do readings for yourself, for friends and family.
For starters, you need to buy a deck. Then you’ll need to learn the meanings of the cards. You can do this while learning spreads. Tarot isn’t a science. Buy a journal and keep it; record your readings and your thoughts about the cards. This could be a whole post (and it likely will soon!)
We also have a free Tarot guide available on Tarot Nova. The guide takes you from a complete novice to a confident reader. Be sure to check it out below! The guide is completely free, and updated frequently, so be sure to check back often!
Do you need to be special to read Tarot cards?
No not at all. It is my belief that anybody can learn tarot. It is a skill you need to practice. There is a lot of differing beliefs in Tarot, and the occult world as a whole. Some people believe in psychic gifts, others do not.
Personally, I do not believe myself to have any innate psychic ability, and I can read tarot cards as well as other readers. Others have told me my readers were right on the money. All you need to do is have the right mentality, and practice.
What is a ‘Querent’ and why do I keep seeing this word!?
Quite a strange word, isn’t it? Quite simply a Querent is somebody receiving a reading. The Wikipedia entry for Querent is quite interesting, but it can be summarised as simply somebody receiving an answer from an oracle (somebody who performs divination).
Simply put, if somebody is performing a tarot reading for you, then you are the querent, even if you’re reading a spread for yourself!
Can Tarot cards predict the future?
It’s a slight misconception that Tarot tells the future. The Tarot can give you a possible future, but not a definite one. A great way to think about the Tarot is as a separate entity, giving advice. You certainly don’t have to take advice you are given!
Tarot Nova card meanings do have future sections, and many spreads deal with the future. These are in place to help the querent keep these things in mind, and to keep an open mind to potential possibilities. Why might this be happening? What could cause that to happen? How can I stop it? How can I make sure that happens?
Tarot is best used in situations where you need help. A tarot reading will help you see a particular scenario from another perspective. It can ease tensions when you see an argument from the other side, and having a bigger picture almost always helps you make an informed decision if a choice is concerned.
What is a Tarot ‘Spread’?
A Tarot spread is the way that Tarot cards are laid out and interpreted. A famous spread is the ‘Celtic cross’, but spreads can have as few as one or two cards. A simple spread is ‘Past, Present and Future’. You deal three cards, each one pertaining to each period of time.
Card meanings on Tarot Nova are divided into category sections to help with reading spreads. The process is quite simple; shuffle the deck, place the cards, read the meanings if you need to and then use your intuition to come up with a message or answer.
It can be a lot of fun to create your own Tarot spreads, but if you are just starting out, then it is best to follow traditional ones to learn from.
What is the ‘Major Arcana’?
The Major Arcana are the 22 face cards in the Tarot deck. Whereas a regular playing card deck has four suits, the Tarot deck has five; four regular numbered suits (Cups, Pentacles, Wands, Swords) and one ‘Trump’ deck, the Major Arcana.
The Major Arcana follow the ‘Journey of the Fool’. Most of the well known Tarot cards; The Fool, The Hermit, The Lovers, Death, belong to the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana each depict a unique scene, usually containing a person, and they each tie into a specific aspect of life and learning.
The Journey of the Fool depicts our journey through life. We start ignorant, grow and learn to completion, and then the cycle returns to the start. Each card in the Major Arcana represents a moment on this journey. Major Arcana cards are more direct and definite compared to the Minor Arcana.
So what is the Minor Arcana?
Each other suit in the Tarot deck is divided into 4 suits; Cups, Wands, Pentacles and Swords. There are 14 cards in each, and they slightly resemble contemporary playing cards. There are numbered cards, and Court cards (Like the King, Queen and Jack in normal playing cards).
The Minor Arcana represent different aspects of a persons life, and each suit represents a different aspect of life; Cups represent emotions. Wands represent will. Pentacles represent possession. Swords represent beliefs.
Are there different types of Tarot card reader?
Definitely! Some Tarot card readers will use Tarot as a therapeutic tool, others will use it as a means to contact spirits or the dead. Tarot is simply a tool, used by many people from different walks of life. Some readers will live the mystic life outwardly, others would have a surprising, regular appearance.
Once you start having readings from multiple Tarot readers, you will be able to tell the different types of readers apart. Experience plays a big part, but also the techniques they use. You could have a completely non-mystical, informal tarot card reading in a pub, given to you by a friend, and it would be just as meaningful as having to enter a Gypsy style wagon and talk to an old woman in a shawl.
Break the rules; if you’re learning to read Tarot then you’ll soon adopt your own style.
My personal style is very informal, but direct. I do not claim to be a psychic when I perform a reading, I just know the meanings of the cards and have my own inbuilt, personal thoughts and feelings concerning them and how they relate.
I will tell people the meaning of the spread, but I will not claim that any authority or otherworldly force has given me this message.
How accurate is a Tarot card reading?
As you may be learning, Tarot is an intuitive art, and not an exact science. Tarot card readings can be accurate and precise, or less on the mark and a bit more vague. Really it can all depend on how you use Tarot and which questions you ask.
Asking a vague question may result in a vague answer. Tarot requires a certain level of belief and connecting the dots. If you use it as a tool, you won’t worry about accuracy. You’ll simply see the message given and choose whether or not you want to follow it.
How much does intuition count in Tarot?
Intuition counts a lot in Tarot! At first I thought Tarot was an exact science, but after you jump the first hurdle it is a very personal journey. You can tell which reader is using their intuition and wisdom in a reader, and which readers are simply repeating meanings they have read in the little white leaflet.
At the start, you should have the mentality of just going with the flow. Read the leaflet that comes with the cards, check card meanings online. Eventually you’ll learn the meanings of the cards and then you’l start to grow your own meanings from these seeds. You’ll effectively grow your intuition the more you practise tarot. Tarot is an art, not a science!
Are Tarot cards religious?
Not especially! Tarot cards are coated with religious symbology; you’ll see the Pentacle for instance, and certain illustrations in the Rider-Waite deck are linked to Abrahamic religions.
Egyptian symbology is also prevalent, and you can see elements of Kabbalah also. Tarot cards take all these influences symbolically to present unique illustrations which makes interpretation easier.
The cards themselves are not religious, and the practice of Tarot reading can be used by people from any religion if they wish. Some may use Tarot cards to talk to spirits or the dead, others will not. It all echoes the eclectic nature of Tarot; it can be whatever you want it to be!
Is Tarot evil?
No, not at all. If it were, then I wouldn’t have made this site. Tarot is a tool. And while it can be used for evil, or negative rituals if the practitioner so wishes, it is about as evil as a spoon, a hammer, or glue.
Nowadays, Tarot is seen as relatively harmless, but this wasn’t always the case. The ‘satanic panic’ trend of the mid 80’s classified many occult practices as ‘evil’, and some are only just starting to recover now.
If you tell somebody you are interested in Tarot nowadays, you may at worst get a strange look. Tarot is becoming so common and well known that you can now even buy decks in regular bookstores.
In any case, don’t let somebody else’s opinion about something affect yours. If you want to give tarot a try, by all means do so!
Do Tarot cards use energy?
You might already be able to predict the answer to this one, but; possibly. Some believe tarot cards and decks contain a certain type of energy. Others do not.
Personally, I don’t. There can be something said of energy as a whole, but I would never go so far as to never let somebody else handle a deck I own.
If you believe in energy, and energy work, then it is likely that a tarot deck you own would maintain it’s own energy, or feel. Many people believe this and use it in their practice, so much so that they need to ‘cleanse’ their decks after use.
This being said, a cleansing ritual can still be something that is worth performing, if just to set the stage and get you in the right mindset.
What does it mean when I keep seeing the same card?
Generally, if you keep seeing the same sign, then you should investigate it. Don’t ignore repetition. If you see a card multiple times, then be sure you are clear with it’s meaning, and then try to work out how it is playing into your life. Repetition may be seen as the universe making sure you are aware of the message it is trying to send.
Once early in my tarot ‘career’ I performed a reading for myself, around my general future. I made a note of the cards drawn. A few weeks later I performed another reading, and it turned up the exact same cards. I won’t go into the spread itself, but the chances of that happening are astronomical. I don’t need to tell you that I paid attention.
What is Tarot suited for?
It is my belief that Tarot is best suited when you are at a crossroads, with choices you are unsure about, or an uncertain future. Using a Tarot spread, you can build up a persona which will offer you advice. Tarot can allow you to step outside of yourself and gain advice which you would have otherwise discounted.
Tarot is not suited for rash, spontaneous hard hitting decisions. I would never use it to decide which house to buy, for example, or use a Tarot reading as a definite answer on how to deal with a partner if there was an argument or similar. Sure, I would draw a spread for both of these scenarios, but I would not follow them blindly.
There are certain aspects of life which some do not read for. A code of ethics is something you should think about when you start reading Tarot cards for others.
Does it matter which tarot deck you have?
Not at all. All Tarot decks follow the same guideline; all will have the same number of cards. Some prefer illustrations which are prettier, others more simplistic.
There is no ‘starter Tarot deck’ when it comes to reading, and no ‘difficulty level’. Some may find it best to start with a well known deck; for example the Rider-Waite deck contains illustrations which support the card meanings.
The Rider-Waite deck is a very common first deck, and the illustrations have had a lot of influence over Tarot today (Thanks Pamela!). If you are choosing a deck, just choose a deck which feels right for you.
Personally, I (currently) only have one deck, the Rider-Waite, and I will use it until it is bare and worn. Others like to collect many decks. Both approaches are fine.
Where can I get a Tarot deck from?
Nowadays, you can buy a tarot card from high street bookstores, or even chain supermarkets. I bought my first deck from Amazon. There used to be an old superstition where you should only ever be gifted (or steal) a tarot deck. Nowadays, this just isn’t the case. It is fine to buy them!
How many Tarot decks are there?
So many. There are new decks created every day. This isn’t something you should worry about unless you aim to collect them all. No one tarot deck is ‘better’ than another.
Some Tarot decks will be a little more obvious with their meanings, some will be more stylised. You should go with your intuition when buying a deck. Buy one which feels right for you.
Are Tarot decks really that different?
Not particularly, when boiled down. There will always be Minor and Major Arcana, but the numbers of cards can change sometimes, as well as the positioning. Strength and Justice are cards which are both commonly swapped, for example.
The real difference is the illustration which comes with the deck. Some tarot decks feel ‘premium’, and have beautiful stylised art, but this is just a question of function and form. All tarot cards function the same, even one you create yourself, with pen and paper.
How do I choose the right deck for me?
Buying your first Tarot deck can be a daunting task, but it shouldn’t be. Tarot decks are quite inexpensive. I did a lot of thinking before buying my first deck, but i shouldn’t have. It just postponed my learning beforehand.
While somewhere like Amazon can be fine (and brilliant, just look at the choice they have!), nothing can compare to going into a shop and buying one. You can see the size and illustrations beforehand in person. Shop around and you’ll find you are spoiled for choice.
Handle a deck if you can, and check out the illustrations. Do you like them? How well sized are the cards? Are they coated or made with a premium card? You don’t want a deck which will damage easily. There are so many decks around that you’ll likely find a deck which feels right for you.
What does the Death Tarot card really mean?
Death is the 13th card of the Major Arcana. It is a tarot card, but it’s meaning might not be what you expect. Rather than referring to the end of life, the Death tarot card indicates change and transformation. While this can include actual Death, it isn’t always the case.
Are there any bad Tarot cards?
Well, yes and no. Some cards are just so negative you’ll never really want to see them except in very specific cases. The Ten of Swords is widely seen as a very negative card, along with The Tower. This isn’t to say that they are all bad, it all depends on the question you are posing.
Is a ‘Tarot Birth Card’ really a thing?
This has been popularised recently, a ‘Tarot Birthday’ or ‘Tarot Birth card’ is a card from the Major Arcana which represents that persons life as a whole. The Birth card is essence forms the ‘theme’ of that persons life.
There are a umber of ways to calculate your Tarot Birth card. You could simply write your birthday out in for following format: (DD MM YYYY), and then add every single digit together.
If the number is greater than 21, then add the numbers together until you get a number less than 21. Look this card up and voila; that is your birth card.
Birth cards can just be another tool in your Tarot knowledge arsenal, but like reversals it is up to you to if you want to use these. Remember that Tarot is eclectic, you can pick and choose how you want to read cards.
What is Cartomancy?
Divination using cards is called Cartomancy. Tarot exists within this, but also other methods, such as Lenormand and Oracle. You can even perform divination with regular playing cards. Other methods of cartomancy can be interesting to read about if you are familiar with Tarot.
Can I trust an online Tarot reading, or a phone reading, or should I get a face to face one?
An online Tarot reading is completely different to a face to face reading or a phone reading. They are all just different experiences.
A face to face reading is usually a personal affair, and you’ll get results instantly. An online reading may take a few days. A phone reading can be seen as a middle ground; still personal but still detached. When it comes to trust and technique however, all methods are as viable as each other.
A face to face meeting should really be seen as the standard, but this isn’t said to discredit online readings, I used to offer online readings myself, and they were a lot of fun and very insightful!
Do witches use Tarot cards?
We aren’t going to affirm the consequent here at all; not all Witches use Tarot, and not all Tarot users are Witches! Many people from all walks of life use Tarot cards on a daily bases, and they wouldn’t want to be called Witches. However, there certainly are some Witches who use Tarot cards.
Is Tarot a scam?
The best answer here is that it can be. Tarot definitely can be a scam. It all depends on who is performing the reading. There are scammers in any field, and there definitely are tarot readers who will perform a session with the intent to sell solutions, or they will only tell you good things so you keep returning to them. Some readers may even ask for personal information, which you should not give away freely.
If you are considering going for a reading, then do your best to minimise the risk of being scammed. Go to a recommended reader. Look up pricing to see if you are paying a reasonable rate.
If there are extras fees involved, then they should always be optional. Agree on a price before the reading takes place. If a reader asks for more money, then you should walk away immediately.
If you are a querent in a reading and a ‘curse’ is mentioned, then you are likely sitting face to face with a scam artist. They will probably ask for more money, which you should absolutely not hand over. Just use common sense, Tarot readings have an air of mysticism about them, but don’t be lured in. You can’t pay away your problems.
How do you pronounce ‘Tarot’?
However you want, really! Most people will pronouce it ‘Tarrow’, rhyming with ‘Harrow’, ‘Hallo’, ‘Marshmallow’. When I started, I wasn’t at all familiar with Tarot, so I even pronounced it Taro[T], with a hard T at the end. As the word is french in origin, it is expected that the last ‘T’ be dropped.
What is the ‘Little white book’?
It’s a common phrase in Tarot; the ‘little white leaflet’, or ‘little white book’, referring to the little book of card meanings that come with some, but not all, tarot decks. These books are usually both quite short and very vague, but they seem to be the starting point for everybody starting out in Tarot, and this isn’t especially a bad thing, as everyone needs to start somewhere.
The white book is intended to give you a head start and easy point of reference before you jump in and start creating your own notes or tarot diary. As we have seen, Tarot is a very subjective practice, and it can help to look at as many sources as possible.
The card meanings on Tarot Nova are a result of this; I spent a lot of time gathering information from many sources, collating it, and adding my own thoughts. Tarot Nova is essentially a digital copy of my notes about Tarot, written in a nice way for others to read!
Should I read Tarot reversals?
You can if you like. Tarot reversals aren’t exactly a contentious issue, but you will find some who do read reversals, and some who never read reversals. Reading reversals is a (relatively) modern technique within Tarot. Personally, I don’t read reversals, but I don’t think they have any less credibility from a standard reading.
A tarot reversal will usually go one of two ways. Firstly, a reversal can mean the complete opposite of the upright meaning, positive turns negative, black turns white, good becomes bad, death into life. The Fool becomes about endings, The Magician about internal solitude, The Eight of Pentacles about being lazy and unmotivated.
The other main way of reading a tarot reversal is to swap their bearing; an internal card becomes external. Cards that represent helping others will mean helping yourself, cards about being alone ask you to help those out of solitude.
Consider reading reversals if you are experienced in the upright meanings of Tarot cards, but remember, you don’t have to read reversals if you don’t want to!
Do I need to take a Tarot course, or gain a Tarot certification?
Nope. What if I told you that everything you could learn from any course is present in books, on YouTube, or for free, on sites such as this. Personally, I have never taken a Tarot course, but gained my experience through performing readings for others.
I would honestly suggest that you do the same. The only thing you need to own is a Tarot deck; no course, certification or other bit of paper.
No Tarot certification is universal, it is just a course somebody has designed. There are certain Tarot Groups however (such as the Tarot Association of the British Isles ) which offer guidance and support in learning Tarot. Groups such as these aren’t to be discredited!
4 thoughts on “Every question you ever wanted to ask about Tarot!”
Just wanted to say thank you.
Thanks for sharing all this information in a very understandable way.
I recently became interested in tarot and sometimes it’s not easy to find a way to start off.
Keep up the good work!
Greetings from Spain.
Thanks for the feedback Juan, it’s much appreciated! I hope you stick around to see Tarot Nova grow!
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