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.
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!
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!
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Photos from my Beginner’s Tarot Course