Tarot Tips for Beginners: Part 1

The first session of my public tarot course went ahead last night in a lovely new-age shop in a village in Kent. Dressed in white and selling all kinds of crystals, books, decks, meditation CDs, jewellery and spiritual accessories, the shop [called Talking Spirit] was the perfect place for it to be held. Set within an old Tudor building, it has a calming and welcoming energy.

I couldn’t have asked for better students, since all were bright and eager to get stuck into learning the cards. As I talked my way through my own experiences with the tarot, I began to remember how it was to be in their shoes, since they asked many of the questions I had once asked myself.

Course 1st Lesson 2

Practicing readings at last night’s Beginners Class

When you begin to learn tarot, there is often more questions than answers. If learning from a teacher, people cannot always envisage them self sitting on the other side of the table one day. I know this because I felt the same once too. With this in mind, I thought I’d throw out a few helpful tips for anyone who is beginning their own journey into the tarot, based on my own experiences.

You’re not going to master tarot in a week

Any professional tarotist will rightly tell you that the learning of the tarot is a lifetime’s study. The course you take or book you read is just the beginning. From there on, it takes time, effort and practice. Once people realise this, they usually enjoy their tarot experience more. The cards will continue to open up and reveal new insights with every use.

In actuality, tarot is a language like any other. It is a language of symbols. Do you think that you could take a three-hour course in French and then pop over to France and speak fluently, understanding all of the dialects and colloquialisms? Of course not. It is no different with the learning of tarot. These things take time, so my first tarot-tip would be –

1. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it straight away!

 

Stick with the old clunky deck to begin with

In my introduction to tarot, I speak about a selection of around twelve different tarot packs. I do this to introduce students to the three main traditions, but also because not everyone knows that the packs available to buy vary so dramatically. One of the things which can confuse a beginner is trying to get their head around too many different systems. There are also packs on the market which advertise them self as tarot but are far from it.

I use the Rider Waite Smith model for my own teachings because I personally like the deck and there is a wealth of information about it already written. I understand that many find the artwork clunky and don’t resonate with it. I personally find it to be very beautiful.

I am all for using a deck which calls to you or which you feel aesthetically connected, but while you are learning, stick with a traditionally-based set. Once you understand the basics of the system, you can find a pack in a style which honours the same tradition but which is more appealing to your tastes. Even though comparing sets can be enlightening and fun further along the line, the chopping and changing of tarot packs can hinder learning greatly in the beginning. My second tarot tip would be –

2. Find a simple deck to learn with and stick with it until after you know the basics!

 

Take tarot personally!

One of the best ways for us to understand the tarot cards is to make the images within them personal. For some students, it is hard to relate to a guy on horseback or someone crafting a pentacle in their workshop. How can we relate to images like this in our modern world? The 8 of Pentacles (which shows the man crafting his pentacles) is often labeled as the card of the apprentice and will come up when someone has the opportunity to learn new skills.

My course separates the deck into sections, which build up throughout the weeks. I do this so that attendees are not overwhelmed by the 78 cards in one hit. This gives them the opportunity to work with the tarot in manageable chunks and absorb each card. I advise them to take a card and consider their own experiences in relation to it. As an example, I went back to university in my late twenties to study fashion design. I had no previous experience of design or sewing, so the 8 of Pentacles reminds me of the new skills I learned on my degree course. We are constantly learning new skills within life, so the card will reflect many different experiences for each individual.

If we allow our self to open up to the cards, we will find many of our own experiences within them. When we actually feel the energy of a card, we are in a better position to interpret how it might make sense for someone else in a reading. My third tip would therefore be –

3. Layer up the tarot cards with your own experiences and make the deck personal for you!

Course 1st Session

Find your own experiences within the images of the cards!

 

Spend a little time with the tarot every day!

Okay, I can understand how this might sound like a tall order. ‘Every day?!!!’, you ask.

Learning tarot is a bit like taking exercise. You buy yourself the new exercise-outfit, tell everyone you’re going to get fit, and for that first week, you visit the gym every day. You might even pop in every night after work for a fortnight, but after that, something inevitably comes up which means you have to miss a session. Then you miss another. Then you stop going. I know this because I have done it.

People have busy lives – fact! What with going to work, looking after the kids, doing the shopping, walking the dog, cooking their dinner, cleaning the bathroom and meeting up with your friends and family, where could we possibly fit the tarot into our routine?

I draw a card every day. It doesn’t really matter what time you do this. You could do it in the morning before you start your day. Doing so will often provide a little focus and food for thought. Some people enjoy to pull a card in the evening. This will give you an opportunity to reflect. How did the meaning of this card play out in your own daily life? Have you learned anything from its lessons? Meditating with tarot can be relaxing experience if you let it.

The more you do this, the easier it will get to make time for tarot regularly. I’m not suggesting you set aside an hour. Just five minutes. If you can, jot a few words or sentences down about the card in a journal or on your calendar, reminding you of which card you have received each day. You might write something like – ‘2 of Cups – union, relationships, partnerships; made a new friend at work today’.

Sometimes, we will not be able to pull a card. Life gets in the way; I appreciate that. But we will notice things within our day which reminds us of the cards we are learning about – a bonus at work might remind us of the Ace of Pentacles or the offer of a few too many glasses of wine on the weekend may bring to mind the lessons of Temperance. When you have moments of quiet during your day, reflect on how tarot mirrors your own life.

Therefore, my final tip for today would be –

4. Work with the cards as regularly as possible!

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© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014

Photos from my Beginner’s Tarot Course

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14 thoughts on “Tarot Tips for Beginners: Part 1

  1. I would have loved, early in my tarot studies, for someone to have told me to layer the framework of meanings with my own experiences! That is such a key part of being able to use the tarot in practical ways. I remember doing “backwards readings” when I started because I didn’t have time to do them in the morning. It was helpful to reflect on what the card picked up on that day. 🙂
    Lucky ladies to have such a kind and knowledgeable teacher!

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    • Yes, I find it extremely helpful. I think I remember reading about doing pretty much the same thing in Terry Donalson’s book ‘Step by Step Tarot’.

      I don’t remember every instance I have layered onto the card, but from having doing so, they have strengthened the ‘feeling’ connected with the card. Therefore, I don’t always ‘think’ about the meanings connected with the ‘5 of Cups’ – I feel them.

      Thanks for your kind words! 🙂

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  2. I am glad the women are enjoying it, I found tarot opened up all kinds of personal parts of my life that I’d left behind: sewing, embroidery, art history, poetry, creative writing, and art techniques. So many things tie into specific decks and it’s this “jumping-off” that made me persevere.

    It was Sharyn from Quirkeries who encouraged me and many others to blog with their cards and a card of the day became a necessary start or end to my day. I started reading for the next day at the end of the current day, but changed to early morning draws due to my insomnia. I explore tarot, oracles, playing cards, and postcards on my blog–all spin-offs from tarot itself and my deck collection. I feel richer for it. Very, very rich in fact as it brought me back to things that really mattered to me.

    These women might find themselves similarly inspired by the art, language or archetype of tarot into different avenues of their own creativity.

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    • As you are aware, your blog has been an important part of my own self-discovery and has inspired me in many ways. It is a great example of originality when using the tarot, using imagery of all kinds as springboards for your own external and internal discovery. Your explorations have become springboards for a lot of my own adventures too.

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  3. Yes, letting people know there is more than one kind of deck is so important to avoid confusion 🙂 Then, they can choose which tradition they like, and whether they feel happy with more freeform decks…

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    • It seems that a lot of people do not know about traditions, that card-decks are not all the same, that there is a difference between tarot and oracle etc. I like to show the differences and pointers to begin with. I find that many buy a deck they find attractive and then lose interest when it doesn’t relate to traditional writings or is difficult to understand.

      Once you’ve experienced one, you can better get a grip on other systems. I tend to avoid anything too diverse these days but I am never closed to different card decks either. Part of my reviewing here is another way of opening peoples eyes to how a deck actually is. I have learned the hard way with decks which change about elements, courts or add in (or take away) cards from the traditional 78.

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      • Yes, getting confused by a non-typical deck is no way to start your tarot journey. Still, these days I do sometimes like a “deviant” deck. However, there is also the question that these take a bit more time – not plug ‘n’ play, as I like to term it 🙂

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        • Yup, I remember studying decks like the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot. It has a lot to it and despite RWS meanings in the book, the cards are anything but. Even with experience, I was scratching my head, since the system was more than complicated. If a beginner had felt drawn to that set, they would have had an extremely hard time. Even worse is The Enochian. There are many decks in between those and the RWS which play their own set of rules.

          I also like something different from time to time. I ordered the Nicoletta Ceccoli. I haven’t seen too much of it. I love the artwork I have seen, but I am now hoping it is not just a ‘shove existing art into a tarot frame, whether it fits or not’ job. I shall have to wait and see, I guess.

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