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( Version 1.0 : This post was last updated: 28th September, 2019 )
So you’ve been interested in Tarot for a while, but you aren’t sure how to take the next step? Maybe you’ve already done a few readings, or maybe you don’t even own a Tarot deck yet!
This guide aims to take a complete beginner through the initial stages of learning Tarot. By reading this guide, you’ll gain the skills needed to confidently perform a Tarot reading for yourself and others. This guide will take you through your first steps, and finish up with tips on performing readings online, before looking to the future.
This is the sort of guide to Tarot I wished I had when I was starting out, so I’m very pleased to be able to write it for others. The guide is completely free, as all knowledge should be. It’s also very long, you aren’t expected to read the entire guide in a day! Feel free to bookmark it and come back as many times as you like.
To start with, you don’t actually need a Tarot deck (although you will need one soon enough), so feel free to read ahead if you’ve just stumbled on this page in some sort of late night internet binge.
If you’re not sure why you’re here, or what on earth you’re reading, then take a look at the Tarot FAQ. It’s packed with (probably) every question you could think of relating to Tarot.
Just a note; some links here will be for Amazon or other services, for which this site receives a small commission when a purchase is made. You may not be able to view these links or images with an ad blocker.
Why become a Tarot reader?
For some this isn’t even a question. It just feels natural. Some are drawn to Tarot. Personally, I have always been interested in the occult. Tarot is an extension of that; I loved the imagery of the Rider-Waite deck, so I decided to buy one. I did not think it would lead to this!
That was 2013, so here we are. I loved the illustrations, I looked into the card meanings, I started a website (Tarot-Explained) and it all grew from there!
Your journey may be much different to mine. Tarot is so prevalent in contemporary society that it isn’t really that weird anymore. You can find Tarot in all walks of life, and the way it came into your life is probably unique!
If you feel like you want to grow your interest in Tarot, as well as find out much more about it, then this guide is for you.
Don’t you have to be a psychic to read Tarot cards?
Psychic is probably the one of the most subjective words thrown around to describe somebody. You don’t have to be a psychic to read Tarot cards.
It is my belief that there is no spiritual gift required; simply intuition and practice, just like any other skill. Tarot was created by man, and can be used by anybody.
Gatekeeping is so prevalent in spirituality that it’s become normal. Don’t let this stop you from exploring Tarot. There are no skills or gifts required beforehand. Everybody can read Tarot!
Tarot certainly draws on many cultures and beliefs, and can be used by anybody, of any race or religion. Don’t be put off if somebody says you can’t read Tarot, because you can. You have the ability to read Tarot cards as well as any other ‘expert’ reader. All it takes is time and practice.
How do I choose a Tarot deck?
To become a Tarot reader, you will need a Tarot deck. This is a required purchase. Just as an archer would need a bow, or a carpenter his tools you will need a Tarot deck. Tarot is your set of tools, or your bow and quiver of arrows in this regard.
For starters: any Tarot deck is as good as any other deck. There is no ‘starter’ deck or ‘expert’ deck; all Tarot cards carry the same meanings and while their designs change a lot, beneath the surface they all carry the same message.
Choosing a deck is not a straightforward affair. It used to be that you were gifted a deck, or attained it through other ways. Nowadays, your choice is to either inherit a deck, or to buy a deck. Tarot decks can be bought from many sources; book stores, occult shops, even the internet!
Amazon is a great source for Tarot decks, if just to see how many are available. I bought my first deck from Amazon; the Rider-Waite deck. Take a look around at the choice before you make a decision.
There are a number of things you should look for when choosing a deck. It may be better to start with a deck which has more obvious symbology present.
The Rider-Waite deck is truly archetypal; many Tarot decks are based off the imagery in this deck. I found it a great deck to start with, and it is the deck I use the most now. The designs of the Rider-Waite deck help with interpreting the meaning of the card, which is great when you are a beginner.
What is most important though is how you feel about the deck. Your first Tarot deck is going to be a special one. You will remember it!
I chose the Rider-Waite because I loved the illustrations, and it felt like it was an almost historical and symbolic thing to own. The designs have not changed for the last 100 years. In short, I thought it was cool!
Some well known decks are the Rider-Waite, Hermetic Tarot, Wild-wood, and Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. Each have their different styles and audiences. It’s important not to rush into buying your first deck; take your time and shop around.
Keeping a Tarot Diary
Brilliant! You’ve ordered a deck (or maybe you’re still actually deciding and have read ahead!) and you’re waiting for it to get delivered. Something you can do in the meantime is get yourself a diary! It can be any type of diary really, it’s up to you.
A Tarot diary is a very easy and powerful way to keep track of your progress in learning Tarot. A Tarot diary is not required, but strongly suggested. Imagine studying for an exam without taking notes!
If you choose to have a Tarot diary, you will be using it for everything Tarot related. It becomes a gigantic personal resource of the cards. I used one. Then I refined my notes and turned it into Tarot Nova!
For now I use a standard black, blank notebook. I find blank pages better because I like to draw too, and having lines or a calendar can mess this up. It’s better to not choose an actual dated diary, just keep track of the dates yourself.
Purchase a diary (and maybe a special Tarot-diary only pen) before you start to learn the Tarot. You’ll soon see the benefits.
First steps with a Tarot deck
Congratulations! You’ve just received your first Tarot deck and now you’re looking through the pictures and packaging. Maybe there is a little white book, maybe not.
In any case, congratulations on taking the first step into the world of Tarot. If you are using a diary, have some first impressions. Write down how you feel about the deck and get familiar with it. Some things you may choose to write down based on your first impressions:
- Favourite card
- Favourite suit
- Any other cards you feel particularly drawn to
- Any cards you feel especially repulsed by
- How the deck generally makes you feel
- Any other thoughts you have concerning the deck
When you’re done writing your first impressions, set your diary aside and shuffle your deck. We’re going to perform our first Tarot reading right now, on our first day. It’s going to be a reading about us, and our present position in life.
Your first Tarot reading
So you’ve shuffled your deck and it’s placed in front of you. “What next? How do I actually read Tarot?”, I hear you lament. It’s all rather easy. We’re going to perform a Three card Spread. (Click the image for more details if needed, it’ll open in a new tab.)
A Three Card Spread is a very common spread, and a perfect spread to start with. Take a moment to just think about your life for a few minutes. We are going to perform a Tarot spread which will show cards which represent your past, present and future.
Pick up your deck and follow the instructions. Read these first, and then perform it.
- Shuffle the deck (If you haven’t already)
- When you feel ready, deal three cards face down
- Put the deck aside
- Turn over the cards in turn
Congratulations. You just dealt a Tarot spread. Now comes the tricky part; interpreting the cards. There is a lot more to Tarot than reciting card meanings. While card meanings are very important, intuition plays a huge part too. Look at your spread. Consider the following:
- What are your initial reactions to each card?
- Did any of the cards you wrote about in your first impression show up?
- Are there any cards in the same suit?
- Are there any cards that show up in sequence (A 4, 5 then a 6 for example)
Once you’ve observed the deck, it’s time to look up the card meanings. With your cards still in position, head over to the card meaning page for the cards you have drawn. Importantly, do not replace any cards. There is no such thing as a ‘practice’ card when you draw.
Take it one card at a time. How is the past card relevant to your past? Is the present relevant to you now? How does the future card represent your hopes, dreams and goals? Take note of these in your Tarot diary.
Your first spread is all you should do on your first day in a serious sense. Think about the cards you have drawn for your first spread, but by all means get familiar with your deck. Look through it, look up card meanings for any cards you wish.
You should really feel like you have achieved something, you’ve come this far so soon; you’ve decided on a deck, bought it, and performed your own spread. You know how to draw a three card spread already and you did a reading for yourself. What’s to stop you doing the same reading for someone else?
Your first week with Tarot
This article isn’t a time based ‘course’. There are no time limits in Tarot; you can go at your own pace. However, your first week can be a formative time. If you truly want to make Tarot a part of your life, you’ll have to make it into a habit.
This doesn’t mean, at all, having to learn by rote the card meanings. Card meanings will come naturally with time and practice. 78 cards is a lot, but you become familiar with these cards sooner than you might think!
You’re going to learn some new skills which will help you and Tarot become more acquainted, and greatly grow your confidence in using your Tarot cards. In your first week, (or first month if you are particularly strapped for time!), you should be able to achieve and perform the following:
- Card of the Day draws
- Keep using that Diary!
- Perform your first reading for somebody else!
- Planning for the future
Card of the day
Drawing a single card every day is a powerful way to incorporate Tarot into your life. Not only will you almost passively learn the cards, you’ll learn to understand how they play out in life.
Drawing a card of the day is simple; you just shuffle your deck and draw a card soon after you wake up. Look up the meaning, and then live out your day as usual; being mindful of the message that the card carries.
Perform a card of the day every day for a week. A card of the Day is essentially a single card spread which represents your entire upcoming day. Note how the day related to the card every day in your Tarot diary.
Using that Tarot Diary
The diary is an important tool when you first start out in your Tarot adventure. You can use it for so much more than recording your readings.
In your first week, record your card of the day. Note the meanings down. You might want to create your own organised ‘card meanings’ glossary.
The Tarot diary grows with you. Set a page aside for each card. Write down the established meanings, but leave space for your own thoughts and intuition.
Draw, write, whichever you prefer. Your Tarot diary will be much different to somebody else’s!
Performing your first Tarot spread for somebody else
Performing your first Tarot spread for somebody else may be a scary thought. My first spread for somebody else was performed over Skype for a friend. They were understanding that I was taking my time.
Distance won’t matter, and performing a Tarot reading over the phone or via internet messaging may give you some space to focus, rather than worry about how you are coming off.
Who would you like to perform a spread for? Will a Tarot spread help them out? What kind of spread would you like to perform? As it’s your first time, there’s no need to over complicate things. A Three card spread should be fine for your first reading. You can also perform one card draws for questions somebody asks.
Try to get a friend, somebody understanding and patient. At least perform for somebody you know, not a stranger. Once you have your querent (that is what you call somebody who asks a Tarot reader to perform a reading for them), then try to have some time alone with them.
If you’re in person, then make sure there are no other distractions. As usual, shuffle your deck and deal the cards in the spread you’ve chosen, either the three card spread, or another you’ve learned. (If you’ve learned more spreads in your first week, then go you, that’s great!)
Once the cards are dealt, don’t feel pressured to have an answer straight away. Refer to your notes, look at our card meanings if you wish. Once you have a general idea, try to form a bigger picture.
What do these cards mean, combined? How does this play out in my querent’s life? What advice can I give them from this reading?
Your first reading doesn’t have to be brilliant, you shouldn’t expect it to be. Ask the querent what they think, ask for general feedback about your performance.
Remember to record anything from your first reading in your Tarot diary; things you liked and disliked; things you could improve on, as well as what you did well.
Looking past your first Tarot reading
You’ve just taken your first steps into the mysterious and wonderful world of Tarot card reading. Where you go here is largely up to you! This is honestly a very momentous achievement. You should see your first reading for somebody else as you having graduated from Tarot school. You’re now a Tarot reader. It’s time to look to the future!
Arranging a schedule of some sort helps structure your learning. If you can, perform a card of the day every day, and note this down. This way, you’ll at least become familiar with the general concepts of one card per day.
Performing a card of the day and the occasional spread for yourself should be good enough in the first few weeks and months learning Tarot.
I must stress that there is no time limit when it comes to learning Tarot. There is no rush to the end. Find people receptive to your new skill. If they ask for a reading, perform one for them if you have the time.
This stage of learning is very fluid. You need to passively absorb the meanings and take readings as they come. Set some long term goals, ones personal to you. Examples could be:
- I want to learn all the Tarot card meanings!
- I want to read for 10 people by this date!
- I want to create my own spreads!
Using Tarot Nova
Tarot Nova is here to act as a central resource for Tarot. You are free and welcome to check card meanings, spreads, and helpful articles which should get your more acquainted with Tarot. The aim of this site is to provide the novice Tarot reader with all the information they need to become a proficient, confident reader.
There is a little bit of a misconception that it’s a ‘noobie’ thing to look up card meanings. This isn’t true at all; 78 cards is a lot to remember even for an experienced reader.
Tarot Nova is here for you to grow upon. The card meanings are my card meanings, from my notes. You can use them, and add your own thoughts. The spreads are standard spreads, as well as some I have created. Feel free to create your own spreads.
Learning and using Tarot spreads
Spreads vary in complexity. As you start off, you should stick to simpler spreads; one to three cards. Spreads may look complicated initially, but they are very easy to learn. By this point you should already know a few, maybe you’ve even created your own.
When I first started out, Tarot spreads seemed like a very intimidating concept. I stuck to using simple spreads at the start. Truth be told, I mainly use three cards nowadays, but a more complex spread can provide insight that a simpler spread just cannot.
There are a few things to know about Tarot spreads. Tarot spreads are situational. You use them for a reason. If you wanted a quick answer, you may just use one card. If you want deeper insights, then you’ll require a more intricate one. Part of the skill of a Tarot reader is knowing which spread to use.
Some Tarot readers don’t even use spreads. You can just use a series of questions and answer them with one card. Afterwards, you might see a pattern in the cards drawn. It is a good idea to learn some spreads, even if you aren’t going to use them very much.
You’ll build your own style soon enough, but it’s good to see what else is possible, as well as having a foundation to grow from.
Reading Tarot online for others
Reading Tarot online is something I used to do, and it helped my practice a lot! I would strongly suggest reading Tarot online for other people! It’s very easy to get in to, and as it isn’t face to face, there is no pressure on you to rush. You’ll have a few days to perform and write up the reading.
Reading online can take many forms, but it usually results in a written reading, via email. You can also choose video if you have a good camera and are confident enough.
Reading for strangers is fun; you’ll get a lot of questions you never expected, and it’ll allow you to develop your style even more. You can offer your services online through many platforms; Etsy, Fiverr (This is what I did!), or even your own site.
As you are starting out, I would suggest Fiverr. It’s low cost for the client, which means you won’t get paid as much. On the upside, you’ll gain experience reading Tarot for real people, which is the most important thing.
The following few paragraphs will deal with creating and selling on Fiverr, but you can use these tips elsewhere too.
There are a few things to consider; what are you called, what are you offering, what won’t you read for? You will need to develop a code of ethics.
A code of ethics and liability
A code of ethics is a guideline shown to the querent. You may not want to read for such life aspects as health, romance, money, etc. Be sure you make these known.
You can reject any reading request if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I regularly declined health based questions, as well as readings that were aimed at somebody other than the querent; (“What is he thinking?”-type questions).
Liability is also important. You are only giving advice. If somebody follows you advice, the responsibility is on them. I have had serious questions posed to me before ( “Which job should I go for?” “Should I move house or country?” ). I will read for these, but I am sure to let the querent know that this is not the be all or end all!
Branding and perception
You’ll need a suitable name for yourself, as well as a logo or photo. This may seem like a small consideration, but who would you trust? A professionally made logo and complete biography, or a half complete description and an empty avatar?
You will have to put some thought into a Logo or image. This is the 21st century after all! Craft your online presence into something you’d want to buy from. You are offering a service after all, you need to be as appealing as possible.
What do you offer?
Before you make your store, you’ll need to think about what you are offering. Fiverr allows you to sell at a few ‘tiers’. Consider what you would think a basic, regular or premium sale is. Let’s look at what I did as an example.
A basic card reading
One Question, with one card response. Customers could purchase extras in the forms of answers for extra questions. Sometimes, as a treat I’d give them an extra card at no extra charge, or use two cards for a question. It’s only a little effort on your part, and it results in a good review.
A ‘Regular’ reading
A regular Tarot reading for me was a five card spread. I’d draw one (or more) cards for each aspect of their life; Health, Wealth, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Career.
A ‘Premium’ reading
I offered a 12 card spread as a premium reading; one card for each month of the next year. In the advanced tier I also offered custom readings. if a querent came to me with a specific spread, I’d be more than happy to perform it.
How do you present your reading?
This is a tough one, and where most of the work comes in. You want to present your reading in a nice format. My readings were all text based. I created a nice template in Photoshop and wrote the reading on that. You may opt to do similar. I also attached photographs of the spread.
Video readings are increasingly popular, and it feels more authentic to actually see the cards being shuffled and dealt.
The choice is up to you, but for starters, I would offer a text reading. Your goal right now is to get some customers. You can (and will) improve your service as time goes on.
Congratulations! At this stage, you are likely more experienced than most. You’ve started reading Tarot cards for yourself and others. Hopefully you’ve gotten some traction online.
Tarot will evolve with you, so long as you keep up your practice. I hope this guide has been helpful to you. Here are some things to consider in future:
- Reading in person at Festivals and Fetes
- Starting your own Tarot Website (Get in Contact with me if you’d like help!)
- Creating a YouTube Channel
- Dabbling in other methods of Divination
- Turning your Tarot notes into a book, or eBook!
- Joining or starting a Tarot community
Thank you for reading the guide. This is going to be updated frequently, so I hope you check back if you feel the need to. If you have any questions or thoughts, or maybe you’d like to add something to the guide, then by all means please leave a comment below.