Tarot: A Guide For Those Just Starting
I take for granted most days how familiar tarot as a tool has become. Like a riding a bike, or driving a car or using any of my limbs…it’s just something I do and hardly give thought to. I realize this takes time and effort to arrive at such a state and so today, I’m going to try my best to peel back my knowing and step into the landscape of a novice. What do you need to know to get started? Where would one begin? How can someone possibly memorize 78 cards, never mind reversals and then reading more than one at a time - in tandem no less?
It’s no small feat. And if you’ve been able to achieve even some of that, you’re doing very well. Tarot is a dedicated study. It is a life long process of unraveling and revealing and adapting and reconsidering. There is always more to know when it comes to this craft and so yeah, I get how starting out can be extremely overwhelming. But it’s not impossible and also, it’s a lot of fun.
So here we are. Below is a list of carefully curated resources and posts that I’ve developed through the years that I would recommend to anyone just starting out. I’ve placed them in order intentionally, so it is probably best to start at the beginning and work your way through.
At the very end, I’ll list a few additional tips as well as other websites that I think are very helpful in honing this craft. I hope you’ll enjoy it and walk away from this post a little less intimated by the process as well as excited to begin.
As you forge your own journey with the cards, sometimes it helps to understand how other people came into it. In this post, I talk about my long complicated relationship with tarot and how I got to where I am today.
Now that you’ve read a bit my experiences learning tarot, let me point you in the direction of my Top 7 Tips for Tarot Beginners as well as my post about Rules & Misconceptions. In both of these posts I touch on tips that I think will expedite the learning process while shutting down so-called rules and myths that others sometimes perpetuate. I think most of all, these articles kind of give you permission to do things your own way - which is key.
But even with that, I too like to share my opinions on how I think things function best. If you care to, you can read about my Best Personal Practices. But again, take what resonates with you and discard what does not. Even if I say something should be this that and the other, it’s only because this works best for me. But you’re not me and that’s cool too.
Flexing With Tarot: An Exercise in Adaptation: Okay, this isn’t exactly a beginners game, BUT I am linking this resource (which is a PDF btw) because it includes keywords for each card. If nothing else, this will give you a nice overview of what the cards mean on a very basic level. If you feel like challenging yourself further, go ahead and add your own interpretations for the topics listed. You’ll see what I mean when you download the file.
Getting To Know The Court Characters: Now that you have a handle on those keywords, here is an exercise to expand your understanding of the court characters. These are often some of the most misunderstood aspect of the tarot deck and this PDF will get you creating personal references to each character so that you, personally, can understand them.
Spreads Through The Major Arcana: Let’s circle back and readdress those Major Arcana cards, the first 22 cards of your tarot deck. Not only will this PDF add an extra layer of understanding to these powerful archetypes, you’ll also receive a spread in their essence to put your learning to practice.
Now that you have a good grasp on the cards on an individual basis, let’s practice reading in tandem. I call this “reading in the flow” and while I’ve delivered this in a workshop in multiple formats, it’s no longer available at the moment. With that being said, I still have this old post that helps you put those principles to practice. It’s a good start!
I hope some of those resources give you some good food for thought and end up being trusted tools on this journey. No need to rush the process - enjoy it and what you’re bound to uncover both about the cards and yourself. These posts and downloads really only begin to scratch the surface. If you want more from me, you can join me on Patreon. In that space, I release one bite-sized study a month around a different topic related to tarot. The great thing is that patrons vote on the topic so you often get the thing you need and not just what I feel like writing.
There are also a load of resources online that I’d like to draw your attention to before we close out. Biddy Tarot has a straightforward post detailing super simple tarot spreads to get you started. There’s a lot that can be gained with just 3 cards! If you’re looking for more comprehensive card meanings, I encourage you to check out Tarot Elements. I love this database and the way the cards are each laid out easily, with extra thoughts for your consideration. And in terms of just a really good foundational study of the tarot that will be your next bible and go-to reference, I recommend Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen. Don’t let its size scare you (it’s a big book) - it’s an invaluable resource!
And finally, if you take nothing else from this post, at least regard a few top tips for the brand new student - even though I say ignore the rules, I still firmly stand behind these principles.
learn the cards first. Once you learn the cards you can change whatever you don’t like about their traditional meaning, but start with a base.
Find a deck that has strong story board visuals. I know it’s not everyone’s cuppa tea, but I always recommend a Rider Waite Smith to those starting out.
Regard reversals when you’re ready. It took me 20 years - there’s no rush.
Believe in your natural ability to intuit and understand you do not need to be “psychic” to read the cards.
Read everyday. You don’t have to read for someone else. The reading can just be one card. You don’t have to write it down in a fancy grimoir. Just draw something and try to understand it. This is one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get. There is no other way to become proficient.
And that is IT. Well no, I’m sure that’s not it - there’s loads more you could absorb, but I’m sure you’re exhausted if you’ve even touched on a quarter of these links. But in that exhaustion, isn’t there also excitement? That’s the thing with tarot, it’s a study like anything else, but it’s also so fucking full of magick that the study bit is more than bearable. I am wishing you luck and fun and adventure on the journey ahead. And if you ever need a hand, want to pick my brain or just have some general questions - don’t hesitate to get in touch!
P.S.: If you've found this article (or others) helpful, or have enjoyed the resources that I create, please consider joining me on Patreon. Even at $1 a month you are helping me sustain my work here while also unlocking access to content and rewards to uplift and inspire!