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Basic Tarot for Beginners

If you would like to learn to read tarot cards, but have no idea who to ask to teach you or how to go about it, the following tips should help you get started on your path to telling fortunes just like a pro!

Your first challenge is to choose a deck from the 8,000 or so published brands of fortune telling cards on the market. What works for one person often doesn't for another. Some people are comfortable reading several decks and others only identify psychically from a single brand. Your local bookstore will probably carry several choices of decks and the online store at Llewellyn Publishing also has a selection of introductory Tarot. However, I highly recommend going to a store, picking up a deck and seeing if you like the feel of the cards. The feel, weight or look of the cards often "speaks" to you. If you a feel a connection with the images on the cards or even how they feel in your hands, then that is probably the deck that you will relate to best.

I also recommend a deck that comes with a small book inside the package or box so you will have something to quickly reference if you should get lost in the meaning of the cards. When I first read the Tarot, I typed myself up a one sheet that a resembled a chart on a computer so that all the meanings of each card right side up and upside down were apparent to me at a glance.

Your next step would be to get acquainted with your cards. The best way to learn is to study the image on each card, one at a time, while memorizing it’s meaning. Be patient. There are usually 78 meanings to learn so this is not always a fast process. Some tarot teachers recommend that you put the deck of cards under your pillow at night so you can get better acquainted with them. The idea is that your subconscious will absorb the meaning. You can also meditate or dream upon the individual cards in the same way by placing them under your pillow.

Some people like to charge their cards after they first get them, either by praying or meditating over them, passing them through the smoke of incense or placing them in the light of the full or new moon for a night. Finicky readers believe the power of the cards is enhanced if they are placed inside a special box, pouch or wrapped in a silk pouch. I personally don't think this makes much of a difference but pomp and circumstance is supposed to add to the power of all ritual and magic, so if storing your cards in a special way or in a special place helps you read them better than by all means do so.

Also many readers protect their cards by not letting anyone touch them. There is a belief that others can "infect" the cards with their beliefs, fears or anxieties. The cards do act as a portal through to the other side, so keeping them away from other people may be a good way of preventing people from accidentally "touching" you through the cards and passing along possibly toxic energy.

This however brings up issues when it is time to decide who is actually going to shuffle the cards. Some readers hand the cards over to the questioner and others prefer to always do the shuffling and never let the cards be tainted by another's hands. My personal take on this is that if you don't like the person's energy, shuffle them yourself, or even -- don't do the reading at all!

Most Tarot decks consist of 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana consist of four "suits”, just like a deck of regular playing cards...

The four suits are:

Pentacles (or Disks or Coins), which deal with work/money/success issues.

Wands (or Staffs), which deal with more spiritual issues

Cups, which deal with emotional issues,

Swords, which some see as representing negative experiences and loss.


When starting out, I highly recommend making your life easy, and getting the person to ask you a question out loud. Both parties should focus on the question while you shuffle the cards. As you get more experienced or confident with the cards, you won't care if they ask a question, but repeating the questioner's question out loud yourself does seem to assist the divination process. Shuffle the cards until the person you are reading for feels it is "right" to stop or until you feel it is right to "stop”. After you are done cutting, you need to cut the deck. Most readers divide the deck into three piles. At this point you can either have the person you are reading for pick which pile to pick up as the top of the deck, or you can pick them up in an order that feels right to you. Another option, is to fan the cards out face down, and have the person you are reading for pick out the cards they want you to read

Two Simple Spreads:

The Three-Card Spread:

This spread is good for yes or no questions. After you are done cutting the deck lay the cards out from left to right.

1 represents the past/issues affecting the problem.
2 represents the present/problem.
3 represents the future/outcome.

You may also choose to use the three-card spread as a "Mind, Body, Spirit" spread to get a general reading on how a person is doing in those areas of their life.

The Celtic-Cross Spread

Lay out the cards on the table in the following order:

1 is placed face up it represents the person asking the question and the foundation of the matter.

2 is placed across sideways the first card and represents obstacles or issues dealt with the person in the present.

3 is placed beneath the first two represents what is on the subconscious mind of the questioner and everything he or she has been through with regards to the matter.

4 is placed above of the first two represents the potential and the best that can be accomplished given the choices the questioner has made so far in his life regarding that matter.

5 is placed to the left of the center card represents what has transpired in the past.

6 is placed to the right of the first two, represents what will take place in the immediate future.

7, 8, 9, 10 are laid out from bottom to top to the right of these cards.

7 represents the fears of the person. Generally, this card will show you what is inside of them that is blocking him or her from reaching the desired outcome. It can also represent the atmosphere or influences that strongly affect the questioner.

8 represents how others see the person or the situation.

9 represents the hopes and fears that the questioner might have for the future.

10 represents the predicted outcome of the situation or the actual answer to the question.

Some individuals like to keep pulling an additional six to ten cards after this cross is laid down to determine what will happen in the future.


It is important to remember, that no matter what maps or directions you are given, Tarot reading is an intuitive art and after you do it enough you will begin to develop an intuitive sense of what the cards mean when they are placed in relationship to each other. Happy Reads!

By: Sam Stevens

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