Before you can understand our Tarot cards for beginners guide, it’s important to understand what Tarot cards are and the role they play in human society. Today, reading Tarot is a popular practice but it has a long, interesting history.
Reading Tarot cards is a form of cartomancy, or telling the future through playing cards. Their origins can be traced back to wealthy French and Italian families in the late 1300s to early 1400s when playing cards were first created. These cards, much like our playing cards of today, included four different suits that are still used in Tarot: staves or wands, pentacles or coins, cups, and swords.
As these games caught on, wealthy families began to commission artists to create new “triumph” cards, or face cards as we might call them today. This led to an explosion of beautiful new illustrations that could be melded into the deck. However, since this luxury was only available to the rich, it wasn’t widely accepted until later.
The original purpose of these Tarot cards was not used to tell the future but just as a game like our modern playing cards are used today. But in the 16th and 17th centuries, people began using divination practices in connection with Tarot cards. By the early 18th century, many different meanings had been assigned to the cards, and systems for interpretation were developed.
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What Are Tarot Cards?
When working with Tarot cards for the first time, it’s best to keep explanations simple. Tarot cards are a form of divination, or fortune telling, through a specific set of cards.
Traditional Tarot card decks include 78 different cards. The deck is broken down into two types of cards: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana. These are similar to face cards in a standard playing deck (King, Queen, Jack). The Minor Arcana is made up of 56 cards. These are similar to suite cards in a playing deck (hearts, spades, clubs, diamonds).
The Major Arcana cards represent big, life-altering events. This could refer to an important relationship (familial, romantic, or platonic) or other major life events such as a career change, giving birth to a child, or making a long-distance move somewhere.
Minor Arcana cards, on the other hand, represent more everyday aspects of life. Together, these cards depict an interpretation of events and situations that have shaped your life in the past or could impact your future.
Understanding the symbolism and meaning behind every card is essential to mastering the art of Tarot card reading.
The suits in the Minor Arcana differ slightly from our modern playing cards:
- Swords: Represent the mental realm and communication (can be through words, actions, or even thoughts)
- Wands: Represent motivation, invention, movement
- Pentacles: Represent finances, work, commitment
- Cups: Represent emotions, intimate relationships, intuition
What Are Tarot Cards Used for?
In this guide to Tarot cards for beginners, we want to emphasize that while Tarot cards are used as a divination tool, many practitioners use Tarot for more than just learning what the future might hold. Reading Tarot for yourself or others can give you fresh insight into situations in your life or the world that perhaps you didn’t notice before. It can help you assess the current path that you are on and make decisions based on that information.
Tarot card readers will tell you that what the cards see is never set in stone. The cards merely show the path that one is currently on. Free will exists and thus can change the future. Reading your Tarot cards can help you think about situations in a new way and take steps to change the outcomes of situations if you so desire.
Different Tarot Card Decks
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different Tarot card decks are on the market these days. Some traditional decks are perfect for beginners, but as you hone your craft, you can start to explore the plethora of decks that exist. Artists from all over the world have tried their hand at creating their interpretations of the deck, leading to beautiful, unique illustrations in every deck of cards.
If you’re just learning Tarot, we recommend using the Rider Waite deck. This is a classic beginner’s Tarot deck because it’s affordable and easy to interpret. The iconic symbolism that defines this deck makes it a popular one for Tarot card beginners. Many other decks are based on its illustrations.
How to Select the Right Tarot Card Deck
Though starting with the Rider Waite deck is common advice, you should also find a deck you’re comfortable with. Don’t force it. If the Rider Waite deck isn’t working for you, peruse other decks and find what speaks to you. Using a lesser-known deck as a beginner might make learning the symbolism more challenging, but it is always recommended that you use the deck that finds its way to you…or that you choose following your intuition. As you get more advanced with reading the cards, you can invest in more unique decks and notice the difference in the images.
How to Use Your Tarot Cards for the First Time
Whether you’re planning to do your first Tarot card reading on yourself or a friend, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. First, ensure you’re in a comfortable, quiet environment. Intentionally setting the stage for what you’re about to do will help open your intuition and focus your mind. Light some incense and perhaps some Tarot card candles to set the mood.
Once you feel centered, take your Tarot deck and begin shuffling the cards as you focus on a question or topic you’d like to learn more about during the reading. (Note: If you are reading for someone else, having them do the shuffling is an option. Instruct them to think about something they would like to know more about.)
When you feel you’ve shuffled enough, cut the deck into three sections however you’d like. Stack the piles back together.
For a basic Tarot card spread, place the top three cards in the deck face up on the table. These cards represent the past, present, and future.
Now, it’s time to interpret your cards! Most decks come with an interpretation book that the creator wrote to help explain their unique translation of each card. If yours does not, you can find Tarot card interpretations online or in a book. It’s also helpful to use your intuition when interpreting the cards. Guidebooks and Google are great, but nothing can replace your own knowledge about what the cards (coupled with their images) are conveying to you.
Tarot Card Spread Variations
The three-card past, present, and future Tarot card spread is a classic and simple way to try your hand at reading Tarot. This is also a great spread to help you understand how Tarot cards can provide deeper insight into your life rather than simply telling you what will happen in the future. The cards will often center around a similar topic or event (likely related to your question) and can provide a path to understanding that thing.
You can do countless spreads with Tarot cards, but you want to master your understanding of the cards’ symbolism first.
Once you feel comfortable with the three-card spread, you can expand to the five-card spread, which delves deeper into a particular topic. The Celtic Cross spread is for more moderate practitioners and the horseshoe spread or the astrological spread is designed for advanced readers. However, the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel experimenting with other spreads.
Setting the Mood for a Tarot Card Reading
When tapping into your intuition during a Tarot card reading, adding certain elements can help open your mind to the mystic. Candles, in particular, are known to amplify energy, so it’s a great idea to invest in a candle bundle so you have plenty of light when you’re ready to practice your reading. Adding other elements like incense, crystals, and herbs like sage can also help you tap into your inner power.Build Your Candle Bundle Here
Tips for Reading Tarot
Beginner Tarot card readers often panic or feel anxious when drawing certain cards, like the “Death” card or the “Tower” card. But, it’s important to remain calm when you’re still learning how to interpret the cards (and always!). Tarot cards are rarely literal and are nothing to be afraid of- as they are, at the most basic level, pictures on paper. . If you draw something that makes you nervous, remember that the future is not static. Everything has the potential to change (you have free will) and every card has a deeper meaning. Keep practicing your interpretations of the symbolism and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert Tarot reader.
Get Familiar with Your Deck
As previously mentioned, every Tarot deck is different. Some carry a lot of similarities, while others may seem like an entirely different deck. When you’re first learning, it’s important to familiarize yourself with one deck. You should feel connected with your deck and want to study the images and spend time with them daily, if possible. If you’re not feeling that connection, it might be time to look for a deck that calls to you.
With more than 70 cards to learn, learning to read Tarot takes time. Be patient with yourself and the practice. Study the cards, take notes, and pull small spreads for yourself regularly. For some people, writing reminder words directly on their Tarot cards is helpful as they learn the meanings.
Mastering Tarot Cards for Beginners
Now that you have a basic understanding of what Tarot cards are and how they can be used to get insight into different aspects of your life, it’s time to try your hand at reading! Find yourself the perfect beginner deck that speaks to you, order some Tarot card candles and incense, and maybe find a friend who is willing to practice with you. You can also work with The Birthdate Book to unlock the map of the planets at the exact moment you were born. With over 70 pages of detailed horoscope analysis, you’ll uncover secrets and insights about your life and personality, which is a great compliment to Tarot card reading. Above all, remember that it is a learning process, so be patient and practice, practice, practice.