Study, Intuition and Me

I begin my first beginners course this week.

cardsThis Summer, I crammed a handful of friends into my home and tried out my five-week-course on them. I conducted some of the workshops outside in the garden and when it got a little chilly, the girls would practice reading in pairs inside. As well as enjoying it, they all developed an understanding of the tarot deck and it’s construction. By week-five, they were able to read three-card spreads without assistance. I was over-the-moon with their progress, as were they.

I would have benefited greatly from a course when I began to learn the tarot in 1998. I began with a Thoth-style deck and a Rider-Waitestyle book. I didn’t know the difference between the traditions and those early days were difficult. I am surprised that I never gave up, as so many do. For the first couple of years, I didn’t have the internet. I scraped what I could together from the conflicting manual and the pamphlet which came with the pack. It wasn’t easy, but the magic within Carl W. Rohrig’s paintings and my desire to know more pulled me through. When I eventually found out what the Rider Waite was, I bought it.

I have spoken with many people about tarot over the years, on and offline. Only recently, when talking about my forthcoming course, a co-worker exclaimed ‘I didn’t know that there were actual meanings associated with each card!’. She is not alone in her understanding. Many believe that the rules of card reading lay at the heart and discretion of the reader. A tarot teacher, who I met some months ago, has one golden rule – that you never learn the meanings of the cards. For her, card-reading is a 100% intuitive practice and having never picked up a book about the subject, she reads for paying-clients often.

People often ask whether it is best to study the tarot or rely on our intuition. It’s a heavily-argued question in the tarot community. I believe each to their own. But I also strongly believe that a good reader does both.

I watched a television interview with a popular actor a couple of days ago. After appearing in a number of television shows, he is now taking acting lessons. When questioned about this, he told the interviewer that he’d only broken into acting because a friend had asked him to be in one of his movies. Due to the film’s success, he moved into television. With each new project, he realised that although he was doing well, something set him apart from the other actors. He didn’t have the same foundation within acting as those who had studied their trade.

2 jumpI believe that intuition is extremely important within tarot reading. As is personal style. However, before any of that is allowed to roam, I think that a foundation in tarot history and tradition is important. It provides stronger wings for flight. I always thought that Pablo Picasso was a better impressionist for learning the mechanics of drawing and painting in the first place. It must have taken a lot of time, effort and practice, but it made all of the difference in the long run.

Now, don’t think [for one second] that I am telling you that there is ‘just one’ way to read the tarot, because I am not. However, part of my work as a teacher is about helping tarot students learn from a tried and tested path. Studying the tarot basics allows us to ground what we receive intuitively and make sense of the messages. When you know what each card represents, you are more able to notice the patterns which show up in a spread. It’s a lot like learning the alphabet, where we put each letter together to make words. In time, words make sentences. Therefore, learning what a card is intended to mean is not restrictive (as some might argue), but actually expansive.

My course is separated into five weekly workshops. For the first part of each, I will discuss specific cards, their symbolism and examples of how they can be read in readings – pretty much like I do here on this blog. After discussion, students get into pairs and practice. They look at the small trios of cards and consider how the traditional meanings can meld with the intuitive feelings they are receiving as they turn each over, linking them together.

In my personal opinion, the best readers I have had contact with are those who know how to wield both their learned knowledge and intuitive abilities at the same time. Because I teach traditional meanings, some may think I dismiss the psychic or intuitive realms of reading. I do not. For me, you might liken my reading style to filling your car up with fuel. Think of the fuel as intuition and gut reactions. Think of the car as traditional interpretation, which we need to keep clean, serviced and road-worthy. Without the fuel, the car is little use and is going nowhere. Without the car, the fuel has nothing to drive. Therefore, to get moving and work in harmony, they need each other. This is how I feel about learned meanings and intuition in tarot reading.


© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014

All illustrations by Steven Bright


10 thoughts on “Study, Intuition and Me

  1. As you know we are totally on the same page on this. If I hadn’t have my traditional foundation, I would drown when trying to do a reading. I wish you lots of fun and success next week.
    By the way I see you have got yourself the Crystal Visions Tarot. Do you like it so far?


    • A lot of readers have this same viewpoint. Card-meanings are like a ball of wool. We pick at them and open them up. We start with one thing (the core meaning) and pick at it and see what we get.

      Yes, I was in York for a week and found it. I had already tried to buy it in London, dithered a bit, and when I got back to the shop it had gone. It really is a beautiful deck. I think it is the moody and enlightening colours which really pull me in. I like how the suits are independent of each other in palette. I really never thought it would be one for me but I have used it every day since I bought it. It has a symbolism I understand but I think it will take a bit of time to really feel at-one with it. It has one of my most favourite Page of Cups in it. That really is a beautiful card.


      • The color palettes were my mean reason for buying this deck too. They are so beautiful! I especially love the colors of the the suit of pentacles though I agree with you on the page of cups


        • There are too many nice cards to mention them all. I love the Emperor, 8 of Wands, Hanged Man, 6 of Wands. I find the figures a little ‘flat’ in some places (if that makes sense) but it doesn’t detract from it’s over-all beauty. It’s a real jewel. There are not many decks which I get that ‘pull’ from in this way. It just feels ‘right’.

          I haven’t used the Unknown card though. I just stand it up on my tarot table.


  2. First, best of luck with your “official” class coming up – your students will be very lucky to have you as their teacher. I completely agree with the need for a framework with tarot – otherwise you would be just reading with an oracle! I read visually and with intuition, but I corral that with the basics. You might be interested in a blog post Ginny Hunt wrote on the subject:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much. Of course, I am a little nervous. But I am looking forward to it. It will be a small and intimate class in a tudor spiritual shop in a small village.

      I’d not seen that article by Ginny. It is brilliant though. She sees it as I do. I like the bones and flesh comparison. I also thought the same as she, when she says ‘if a singular tarot card can mean anything to anyone then there is no way you can teach what you know about tarot’.

      Thanks for sharing that with me. It really is good to read that people like Ginny (and Theresa Reed, Christiana Gaudet and Brigit Esselmont), who I greatly respect, have the same ideas and ethics around reading and teaching as I do


  3. I would very much like to know if the person who has the golden rule of never learning the card meanings is actually a good reader? One never knows==and maybe if she did learn the meanings, it would slow her down? Food for thought…
    I just had the oddest experience regarding intuition=I decided to treat myself to a reading=I got a very well reknowned tarot reader who also relies on her intuition alot more than the actual meanings, to see what the future might hold between a certain man and myself. She saw lots of love and caring on his part, a wonderful affair! Then I found out he had done 10 years in a State prison for sexually abusing a 9 year old girl and then that at his job he is a real predator , being very promiscuous, and has to drink before each encounter!!!!! You can imagine that I want nothing but space between he and myself and felt sick to my stomach.
    And you know, I did feel funny about him, but had only my gut feeling to rely upon since he seemed so perfect…
    When I did readings regarding him I used both=the card meanings and my intution and kept coming up with the 7 of Swords and the Devil–as well as some beautiful cards like the World and the 3 of Wands over and over. Now I think it meant he was presenting a beautiful successfull front but that deep down there is something terribly wrong–thus the 7 of Swords showing falsehood and deceit.
    The 7 of Swords in the Maat tarot is brilliant-it shows a man with a mask taking off another mask, there are about 2 faces underneith the real one and there is alot of movement; you can almost see him in the process of unveiling the truth…if I hadn’t known the actual meanings of these cards tho, I wonder if I would have really been able to decipher the intense message I was getting…
    It’s all so complicated at times! The reader only picked up on his exterior=she actually described him to a T-but didn’t pick up at all on what lay underneith….
    And to think as a general rule performing a reading for one self is the hardest!
    This is such an interesting topic-I’m glad you brought it up.
    I don’t think it would be possible to simply rely on intuition when handling tarot cards, since each deck has it’s own set of images, and you would have so many different querants as well.

    About that Rohrig, I am so tempted to get a set-there are some popping up on Ebay from time to time not too expensive. I think I could even live with that crazy Chariot LOL.

    The crystal tarot is indeed a special deck, and it’s true: some pics are a bit flat, I know exactly what you mean, but the overall atmosphere and look of the deck to lend themselves to lovely readings.

    And last, YES any student who gets you as their professor is a lucky one 🙂
    This latest entry was such a joy to read, it’s like a fire side chat and is so intersting. That last metaphore about the car and it’s fuel is oh so true.

    I just got the tarot of Delphi which uses the Toth system and for the life of me I can’t get used to the Queen being top dog with the Prince below her.


    • Firstly, thanks Nathalie. It really is a joy to know that what I write here (and on previous blogs) is well received by people. I love to write, so it is a bonus when people say they enjoy to read what I put out on my blogs. This newer blog is finding it’s feet, I feel.

      I am sorry to hear about the situation with the man. This is a good example of learned meanings and intuition wrapped up as one. You knew something was not right and the traditional meanings confirmed that. They anchored your feelings and gave them a hook in the reading. On a deeper level, the 7 of Swords could look at how we take what we need in life and leave the rest. In many relationships, people ‘feel’ that something is not right but through fear of being on their own or not wanting to rock the boat, might choose to hang in there and kid them self that everything is okay. The Devil (when with the 7 of Swords) is a master-manipulator (a black magician). In this guy’s case, the two cards concern pulling the wool over people’s eyes – even the tarot reader.

      I don’t have personal experience of the tarot teacher’s readings, so I don’t know what her sessions are like. From our conversations, I’d say that they are anchored within mediumship, as appose to traditional tarot. She is a nice lady and has a strong character. We simply do things differently when it comes to tarot.

      The Rohrig will always have a special place in my heart. As does some of the pinnacle-decks in my experience. I think that the Maat looks very nice, but these days, I try my best to stick to the same kind of system and not move my Queens and Knights about too much when I choose decks.


  4. Yes, it’s amazing how this person managed to pull the wool over even a tarot reader’s eyes–and without even knowing it!!! What’s also amazing is that this person kept begging me for a reading. I wonder what would have happened if I had-and I would have seen through the wool too, since I’d already been doing so. But again, much knowledge of card meanings would have been necessary to really see accurately. Fascinating.
    And you are so right about not following one’s gut feelings about people for all the wrong reasons. I admit that even I was tempted to do so before I found out all that I did.
    This brings us back to a topic we’ve had before, where we talked about not being afraid or unsure to speak out during a reading and call a spade a spade.
    This story is so important I believe for all of us who use our intuition and try to combine it with knowledge-I’d call it WISDOM.


    • Yes, this is a good example. We can’t always put a finger on why we feel the way we do. In readings, having cards there can confirm those intuitive reactions in a sitting. The cards also allow us to use them as prompt and explain the feelings we’re experiencing to the sitter. You might say ‘I have a feeling that all is not all well in a relationship between you and a woman .. this card, the 7 of Swords, hints at indiscretion or a holding back of the whole truth .. does this mean anything to you at this stage or have you had similar concerns which you have not voiced yet, even to yourself?’. Of course, this is an extreme and I would be very sensitive and tactful with information like this in a real reading. However, it illustrates how using that card (maybe in conjunction with court cards) can bring the reading and messages from within you into the room and onto the table.

      I have read some great posts recently which move in a similar direction to this discussion. Ginny Hunt has spoken about the importance of traditional meanings in tarot and that even though these interpretations may not sit with an individual straight away in a reading, they are the bones beneath a situation which will become uncovered eventually. Similarly, Theresa Reed spoke yesterday in her blog about some readings needing to be absorbed and considered over time and Christiana Gaudet consistently speaks about the blend of study and intuition. I am very pleased to add my own agreement in the subject to this list of authors/readers who I respect in this field. As we build up our tarot-vocablary and experience, I think that your choice of the word ‘wisdom’ fits well.


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