Learning the tarot is not an easy process; depending, of course, on how you intend to go about doing so.
If you wish to honour tradition by learning its historical meanings, dipping your toe into its symbolism along the way, then familiarising your self with the Major and Minor Arcanas is no mean feat.
Not everybody wishes to know the ins and outs of every card. And this is fine. People use tarot for a multitude of different reasons and not every reader needs to reach so deeply into its detailed symbolism. Even though I touch on its symbols in my own teaching, I believe that a basic understanding of each card and their relation to one another is the best foundation for a journey into the tarot deck.
In my last article for beginners, I outlined four things which I believe can help those taking their first steps onto this path. Here are three more.
Don’t complicate things!
When many people begin to learn the tarot, they try out the big spreads found in the pamphlet which accompanies their tarot deck. Most often, they have a stab at the Celtic Cross.
The Celtic Cross uses ten cards and is the spread I use for my professional readings. It is not an easy spread for a seasoned reader to interpret, let alone a beginner. Time and again, I remind people of how much information can be gleaned from just one card. When we pull out too many, we become overwhelmed. When we become overwhelmed, we lose interest. Many tarot students pass up the tarot for something else at that point, thinking it too complicated.
In my course, we use just three-card spreads throughout. I would rather my students remain engaged and are eventually able to read well with three cards, rather than badly with ten. There is so much information and clarity within just a trio, so my fifth tip would be –
5. Keep things simple!
Use positions to begin with!
A lot of readers do not use positions in their card readings. A position in a reading provides a framework for the card which falls within it. An example of a position might be ‘the past’.
Sometimes, it can be nice to read the cards in a free style without boundaries but when you’re beginning, it can add to the confusion.
Imagine that a card such as the Queen of Cups has turned up – depicting a kind-hearted, spiritual friend. Who is this woman? You might struggle to work out if she is someone you know now, who you previous knew, or are yet to meet. Wouldn’t a position [such as ‘the past’] help you to determine who she is and how she may be able to help you?
Some readers will feel limited by positions (and spreads as well) but I believe that they provide an intention and framework for a reading. Therefore, both myself and my client are aware [from the outset] what the messages in the cards are referring to. You needn’t do this with your daily draws (since the ‘day’ itself is your point of reference). In time you can adapt your reading style to suit yourself. However, to begin with, I think a position gives context to the tarot cards you draw. So my sixth tip would be –
6. Using positions helps a beginner find context in the meanings of the cards.
Pluck up the courage to read for others!
Ok, yes, I know; reading for others is scary.
Reading for others is a hurdle which many students of the tarot put off for years. Many know that it will help their practice greatly but they just don’t have the confidence.
Did I go through this? You bet!
Confidence is one of the main reasons why many tarot enthusiasts never read for anyone other than them self. Unfortunately, the best way of defeating this fear is to actually confront that which frightens you and give reading for others a go.
Of course, not everyone who learns the tarot will wish to read professionally or for other people. This is up to the individual, since we are all different. However, reading only about our own life can sometimes be difficult, due to our own bias. It can also become boring.
I have known many readers over the years who read over and over about their own circumstances, asking the same questions again and again, hoping to receive some kind of confirmation that they are on the right track. Reading about the same scenarios or reading spreads for our self too often will only confuse. A reading needs a little time to breathe and be absorbed. Where as it is helpful to draw a card for reflection daily, reading larger spreads about our own problems ceases to become helpful if we do it too often. It results in information-overload.
Now I am not suggesting that you pitch up in a shopping centre with a sign for free tarot reading after a couple of months of learning. That would be irresponsible and a disservice to those you read for. However, seek out people who are willing to be guinea pigs. Ask those friends who are not so sensitive that they will take your first wobbly readings to heart and make sure they know you are learning at this stage. Believe me, many friends will be more than happy to get a free reading in this way and assist you with your practice.
Tarot is an art. Learning what the 78 tarot cards mean is only part of learning to read. We need to learn how to communicate the messages we receive in a way which can be understood and will help empower the person being read for. You will undoubtably make mistakes to begin with and that is fine because this is how we learn and progress. However, practice is one of the best ways to find your feet when learning the cards. My last tip for today is –
7. Practice your reading skills on those you can trust and who will give you honest feedback!
Becoming a good reader takes time. Lots of it! But don’t let that put you off. Take things slowly and don’t rush to begin with. When we put too much pressure on our self, learning becomes a chore and we set ourselves up for a fail. Tarot has become one of my biggest loves. Enjoy the process!
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Photos from my Beginner’s Tarot Course