I get a lot of questions about tarot from the basics of what it is to deeper questions about mysticism. Questions arise about practical ways to use tarot and what we can achieve with tarot. Some questions simply refer to ‘the correct way’ to hold the cards’, of which there is none.
You can click on any of the questions below to be taken straight to their answers. If you have any questions you feel would benefit other readers, please contact me directly and I’ll look into.
General Tarot Questions
- What is tarot?
- How does tarot help?
- Does tarot give you a clear answer?
- Can the tarot actually predict the future?
- Why do some tarot readers say the future is not set in stone but still seem to give a predictive tarot reading?
- Does someone have to gift you your first tarot deck?
- Is the tarot evil?
- Is it true that you should still pay someone for a tarot reading, even a friend?
About Cards & Readings
- What types of tarot decks are there?
- Why does the Tarot de Marseille seem to have different tarot card meanings to the Rider and the Thoth?
- What’s the difference between esoteric tarot and fortune telling?
- Why do some tarot cards seem to have similar meanings to other cards?
- Why do some people have different meanings for the cards?
- Can you create your own tarot card meanings?
- Why do you prefer keywords to full descriptions of the cards?
- I bought a tarot reading and didn’t agree with the tarot reader’s interpretations of the cards. Was my reading wrong?
- Are tarot apps accurate?
Practical Tarot Questions
- How many different ways can you use the tarot?
- What is a tarot spread?
- How do you shuffle the cards?
- How do you lay the cards out?
- Can you really read tarot for yourself?
- What’s the difference between a psychic reading and a tarot reading?
- Do you have to be psychic to read tarot?
- What is intuitive tarot reading?
Questions About Learning Tarot
- What’s the best way to start learning tarot?
- What is the best tarot deck to learn with?
- Do you have to learn astrology, numerology and qabalah et al to read tarot effectively?
- Can you really learn tarot in two days as some Amazon ebooks say?
- I took a course with another tarot teacher but I don’t agree with everything they taught. Am I right to reject aspects of their teaching/course?
- Why is symbolism so important to learning and reading the tarot?
- Why do some people and groups look down on other people and groups for looking at and reading tarot differently?
- If tarot is so subjective, why do some people seem dogmatic about what the cards mean and how you should learn tarot?
33 Frequently Asked Questions About Tarot
1. What is Tarot?
Tarot is a system of divination called cartomancy. The tarot can be used for many purposes but historically it fell into two distinct groups: esoteric and exoteric. Esoteric tarot contains within it deeper spiritual truths and was developed mostly within secret societies. Exoteric tarot, though you won’t hear it called that, developed in the wider public domain and has been used to tell fortunes and predict future events in people’s lives.
A tarot deck consists of 78 cards divided into two main groups: the twenty-two Major Arcana cards, or trumps, and the fifty-six Minor Arcana, or pip cards. A further division is then made with the pip cards as they are divided into four suits: Wands/Staves/Rods – Cups/Chalices – Swords -Pentacles/Disks/Coins. Within each suit a further structure can be found beginning with an ace, then cards numbered 2-10, followed by four court cards that display a hierarchy in the following order: Page/Knave – Knight – Queen – King.
Tarot Deck Structure:
- Major Arcana
- Minor Arcana
- Cards numbered 2 – 10
2. How does tarot help?
Tarot provides help by providing clarity to the elements of your situation that you cannot see. If the picture is incomplete, you cannot possibly begin to form an accurate assessment of what is happening in your life, and more importantly, you cannot make an informed decision about how to take things forward.
Clarity comes through being shown the motives of others (and yourself), their intentions (and yours). Tarot pulls back the veil and reveals what is affecting your life. The beauty of tarot is not just how it can show the who, what, where and when, but also the why. A misconception can exist that a tarot reading is either predictive or psychological, but the reality is can do both, and when it does, a fuller picture can seen in the cards before you.Back to top of page
3. Does tarot give you a clear answer?
It doesn’t always seem to! But, over time, and especially if you keep a tarot journal, you will be able to see how the cards have been directing you and talking to you over a particular issue. One of the benefits of keeping a tarot journal is that you can go back over a tarot reading and glean something new or different from it.
Sometimes we are too emotional, too invested or too close to a problem or issue to see clearly what the tarot is trying to show us. We can also, if we aren’t being fully honest with ourselves, mis-interpret the cards and find when we look back over time, that the tarot was right and we were deluding ourselves..
At other times the answers provided in a tarot reading can feel like a slap across the face because of its brutal honesty. I personally find this with the Thoth Tarot and when I’m ready to see the truth of a situation, it is my deck of choice.Back to top of page
4. Can the tarot actually predict the future?
In a word, yes. Sometimes so stunningly so that it takes your breath away. At other times a reading can appear nuanced, or more general but as time progresses, details of the reading can be seen to be played out in your own or the querent’s life.
Some say that the future is not set in stone, and I buy into that also. However, with every choice we make in life, every decision we take, narrows our path toward a destination and so can be predicted by the tarot, or any other divination system.
In the Celtic Cross Spread you find a position called the Immediate Future. This position signals that destination or early points on the way towards it.Back to top of page
5. Why do some tarot readers say the future is not set in stone but still seem to give a predictive tarot reading?
It is difficult not to, essentially. Tarot has a predictive element to it – we could say prediction is in the tarot’s DNA.
Ultimately, we must make a distinction between divination and fortune telling. Divination is communication with a supernatural power, be that gods, goddesses, spirit guides, spirit animals, angels et al. That communication may or may not provide a direct and disctinct outcome to an issue. It is most likely to contain information relating to your situation, highlighting what you cannot see or refuse to accept.
Some people prefer to use the word divination because it carries within it the connotation of a higher power, a good power. The distinctly religious in society use any form of divination as a means to call foul on its users and so to them, fortune telling falls into the devilish, demonic and distinctly dark arts, within their religious framework. The bible singles out fortune telling as being evil and so divination can be seen to be above this and is therefore the preferred way to describe their work. Within that work, it is very difficult to not make a call about a future, particularly if there is an Outcome position in the tarot spread being used. In the Celtic Cross Spread, there are two.Back to top of page
6. Does someone have to gift you your first tarot deck?
This most definitely is not true. The old traditions of fortune telling carried with it many superstitions and rituals that were largely baseless but continue to somehow linger on.
You can, and ought to buy your own tarot decks. If someone is going to buy you a tarot deck as a present, you should at least choose the deck you want. This is simply to make sure the tarot deck you work with (for yourself or others) should speak to you. You should enjoy its look and feel and want to pick it up and play with it
Back to top of page
7. Is the tarot evil?
To my mind, no, not at all. It’s divine in that it is supernatural and your interpretation of what is good or bad, spiritually speaking, will be derived from your religious experience or influences. Or lack therof.
Some say the Thoth Tarot is evil because Crowley was, or that he consorted with devils and demons. He was a lot of things, and probably a true libertarian in that he wouldn’t stop you doing something utterly despicable, if it was your will.
Crowley’s contemporary and rival, Arthur Waite, was a Christian. He was also the creater of the Rider Tarot and this tarot is littered with Christian symbols and emblems so if you are more comfortable with your tarot having a dash of Christianity in it, this is the deck for you and you need not worry about inadvertently consorting with devils and demons – only angels and the light.Back to top of page
8. Is it true that you should still pay someone for a tarot reading, even a friend?
It is an old practice of crossing a gypsy’s palm with silver after they have performed a service for you. It basically describes a transaction, and it would be fair to consider every reading a transaction as it does provide you with value and information you didn’t have before.
A transaction is payment for services or goods and I believe that even friends should contribute towards the exchange. That doesn’t have to be money though, it can be a cup cake and a coffee, for instance. I once exchanged a tarot reading for a facial with a beauty therapist.
Paying for a reading validates the service you are receiving. Asking a friend for a free reading is expecting to take something from them (their time and knowledge, which took a lot of time to acquire) and giving nothing back. Close friends take turns in hosting dinner parties and coffee mornings and so a tarot reading from a friend should still see something done in return.
Some people take issue at paying for a ‘spiritual service’ or what others may call a god-given gift that should be shared freely. I disagree. If it is a god-given gift, then it was to make your working life easier while you help people. Everyone else earns a living and so giving something for a reading should be expected and normal practice.Back to top of page
9. What types of tarot decks are there?
There are three main types of tarot deck commonly available today and they are:
- the Rider, also called the Rider Waite-Smith Tarot
- the Thoth, also known as the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot
- and the Tarot de Marseille Tarot
The Rider and the Thoth both came out of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a 19th century secret magical society. There was a standard tarot deck used among the initiates and this can be found published today called simply the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot.
The Rider was developed and created by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith. It is perhaps the most well known tarot deck in the world and many copies of it exist as clones, that is, redrawings of the original, or the themes contained within it replacated but held to that standard. In the modern age, it was the first tarot deck to present the small cards, the Minor Arcana, or pips, with full scene pictures that enabled its readers to provide a more intuitive type of reading.
The Thoth was the brainchild of the infamous magician, Aleister Crowley, and was painted by Lady Frieda Harris. It draws on many systems to present Crowley’s ideas and is considered by many to be a more difficult deck to learn than the Rider. This is not completely wrong as it is deep, but it is also exceptionally beautiful and well worth the effort of getting to know it more intimately.
While the Rider and Thoth tarot decks were borne out of Great Britain and the magical and esoteric Golden Dawn, the Tarot de Marseille is French and maintains many if not all of its original continental characteristics. It is not the only continental tarot deck, but it is the most famous and widely used. This is the tarot deck that some consider to be the true tarot. The meanings differ somewhat, particularly in the pip cards, and even those well versed in the Rider and Thoth will have to learn new meanings for old favourites if they are to add this tarot deck to their reading library.Back to top of page
10. Why does the Tarot de Marseille seem to have different tarot card meanings to the Rider and the Thoth?
The long tradition of the Tarot de Marseille has not changed much over its lifetime. It was the deck that early magicians and spiritual seekers applied other systems onto, namely: the Hebrew letters being linked to the trumps, with astrology being applied and linked to every card, as well as numerology and colour symbolism.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, once formed, further applied the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to the whole of the tarot, including the pip cards. We can see from here how the trumps became known as the Major Arcana and the pip cards became known as the Minor Arcana. Arcana meaning secrets or mysteries.
So, with the application of the holy and divine Hebrew Letters applied to the Major Arcana, coupled with their trionfi or triumph from the early Italian decks, the Major Arcana came to exist as the main body of the tarot. If we keep the hierarchal nature of tarot in place, it comes before the Minor Arcana as esoterically speaking, it contains spiritual truths, whereas the Minor Arcana reflects life in a more mundane way. Though it can be said that each and every tarot card carries with it a spiritual truth and lesson that contributes towards personal and spiritual growth.Back to top of page
11. What’s the difference between esoteric tarot and fortune telling?
Esoteric tarot conveys within it the thoughts, ideas, systems and beliefs that fall under:
- and hermetic teachings.
This group of subjects falls loosely under the term, Western Mystery Tradition, which is a term added much later to the systems it came to represent.
You could say that esoteric tarot sits firmly outside of fortune telling, in its early form. If you are seeking deeper truths, or want to experience something that appears outside of yourself, you are seeking the other. This really is an inner process but because we aren’t familiar with this it seems exterior. The truth is that it is within, we are just learning the explanations, they are what are outside.Back to top of page
12. Why do some tarot cards seem to have similar meanings to other cards?
I think this occured over time when esoteric meanings were developed and a more definite way to derive a meaning came into being. I am, by all accounts, describing a formula, and you can see this with numerology, the elements, astrology and the Tree of Life including the sephiroth and paths.
For example, the 2 of Swords to some means balance, being quiet so as to make a decision, a fork in the road (some also see this with the 2 of Wands). Others see the 2 of Swords as a peaceful situation. Peace (Thoth Tarot) is a shortened way to describe Peace Restored (Golden Dawn). It comes from the numerological (including qabalistic numerology) and astrological associations.
The 9 of Wands is seen as strength by many and yet in the Major Arcana we have a card named Strength. Do they mean the same thing? Why should there be two cards so closely related? Shouldn’t the tarot depict all different life situations and characteristics?
The strength described in the 9 of Wands is of a more militarised version – being ready to strike but not making the first move, defence and formation (see Crowley’s version of this in the Thoth Tarot). This is a little different from the personal strength required to overcome our animalistic nature, which may be seen as overcoming the Devil and its addictions and temptations also…
What does this tell us? That life is not black and white and all is nuance. And so is the tarot – imperfect and constantly evolving.Back to top of page
13. Why do some people have different meanings for the cards?
It depends on how, where and who they learnt from. Also, they may be using a different deck to you, a Tarot de Marseille, for example (see above). They may be a very traditional reader where the court cards all had physical descriptions and definitive characteristics.
I once had a psychic reading from a phone line and she described a guy I had a brief thing with. She actually described him perfectly and when I asked her what card she saw him as in the reading, she said the 8 of Cups! It made no sense to me as I don’t see that as people card but as an action. But to her, it made perfect sense.
This happens when you allow the cards and/or your spirit guides to show you a way to read the cards. As no-one can yet accurately descibe how this works on an etheric level, it is entirely possible that her guides see the card that way and guided her so. Her guide could have been a centuries old reader using a system we have long forgotten or never knew.Back to top of page
14. Can you create your own tarot card meanings?
Oh yes! And doesn’t this relate to the question above? When you see a card come up a few times that you’re sure means something other than the accepted meaning of the card, go with it and try it next time you see that card. It could well be an example like the one above. It is also one way to really personalise the experience of reading cards and develop yourself psychically. By learning to trust what the cards are telling you (and/or your guides) you are allowing the gates of intuition to open and flow freely.
I would definitely recommend keeping a tarot journal for the times when you see a different meaning for a card and most certainly build your own tarot card meanings book by printing/writing out pages by your favourite authors, or anything else that inspires you. You can build a very personal system this way and I would highly recommend it with one very important caveat: make sure it is for your own private use and not for publication in a book or website/blog.
I think all authors are really happy to have inspired someone and touched them with their work and ideas but it becomes a very different ball game when their work and ideas are taken and repackaged as somone else’s. So by all means, as a student, learn from your favourite authors but remember the exercise here is to create your own personalised card meanings, not just copy and paste someone else’s. Copyright is king. So is respect.Back to top of page
15. Why do you prefer keywords to full descriptions of the cards?
I have many tarot books and I’ve read most of them, in part or in full and sometimes multiple times. What I am reading (hopefully) is a particular author’s idea or adaptation of meanings. It can be difficult to embed all that material and in all honesty, I read them mostly for ideas to develop my own meanings.
So when it comes to what I write about tarot, I try to give the core meanings and where they may have adapted. Tarot card meanings are fluid and I don’t believe they are fixed. By providing keywords, I believe, I am showing you the baseline and then hoping you will allow your intuition/guides/experience to broaden your own definitions.Back to top of page
16. I bought a tarot reading and didn’t agree with the tarot reader’s interpretations of the cards. Was my reading wrong?
This can happen in face to face and email readings where you get to see the cards and if you have any tarot knowledge, you may not always agree with the reader’s interpretation. This does not negate their reading in anyway.
You have to look at it this way: you chose them to do a tarot reading for you either out of recommendation or your gut instinct (intuition). You weren’t wrong about the feeling you had about them so let them do their job and accept their interpretation of the cards.
If you were doing the reading, to arrive at their conclusion, you would be dealt a completely different set of cards purely because you both have a different take on some or all of the cards. To enrich the reading, don’t say they were wrong, simply add some of what you felt strongly about to their reading so you’re not changing it or taking anything away from it, but adding to it.
Please also see Question 13 for an addendum.Back to top of page
17. Are tarot apps accurate?
Yes, I believe they are, certainly the one’s I’ve tried. My favourites are by the Fool’s Dog Inc and Galaxy Tone. The Fool’s Dog are available on Android and IOS but at this time Galaxy Tone is only available on Android.
An additional question to the accuracy of a tarot app, is how do tarot apps give accurate tarot readings? I believe the answer to this question lay with your intention to obtain a great tarot reading but also your connection to your guides and what I will loosely say is the Universal Source. Replace that with whatever higher power your prefer to describe.
On a cold logical level, a tarot app is no more than code, images and text. And for it to come together, I believe what makes a great tarot app is the same ingredient that makes a great tarot deck – the heart and soul of the creator going into their deck or app. I’ve cast aside many tarot decks because they felt empty to me but equally held onto others that spoke to me as if another person was sat there telling me my life story. You may have a different take on how it works, and that is fine.
Consider that when a tarot lover, writer, reader, student creates a tarot deck, book or app, they are doing it with love, enthusiasm and every piece of tarot knowledge they hold. That makes for a product that is infused with all those ingredients, and under those conditions, it’s going to work, and work well.Back to top of page
18. How many different ways can you use the tarot?
I’m not sure that can be answered fully! But, there are many ways to use the tarot:
- fortune telling
- personal growth
- life coaching
- spiritual development
- magic and ritual
- learning other systems (qabalah, astrology, numerology etc.)
- creating a vision board and setting intentions
- other creative areas like character and plot development in novels.
It may be safe to say the uses for tarot are only limited by our own imaginations.Back to top of page
19. What is a tarot spread?
A tarot spread is a specific layout of the cards that enables clearer sight into our own or our querent’s situation. They can range from the single, Card-A-Day, to the epic Opening of the Key.
When learning to read the tarot, we usually begin with a small number of cards and the easy Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread is often a favourite because it helps dive into the reading with ease. We are already familiar with the past events of our situation and most likely the present. These two cards allow us to make connctions, intuitively, and help to develop our understanding of the cards meanings in situ – which is often the most difficult part about learning to read the tarot – applying the cards to real life situations. Once we have the past and present understood, the future card can be seen as a signal or development and not always as a final and distinct outcome.
Tarot spreads can deal with general situations. The Celtic Cross Spread is good for this, as is the Horseshoe Tarot Spread. While they can be used to answer a question about a particular issue, tarot spreads can be created to only answer questions on a particular subject: money, work, love and so on.
They can contain any number of cards, but a typical tarot spread like the Celtic Cross contains 10-11 cards. The more the merrier doens’t really apply to tarot. You can use as many cards as you like, but a well designed tarot spread can give you the answers you need and certainly going above fifteen would be unnecessary, in my opinion*.
*Exception to this would be a general fortune telling spread like the Romany or Gypsy Spread that may cover seven topics of life whilst also looking the past, present and future of those topics. This can also be true of year and months ahead readings as they should be dealing with specifics like the Romany.Back to top of page
20. How do you shuffle tarot cards?
I have answered this question in a separate post called How to Shuffle Tarot Cards. Everything you need to know about the different shuffling methods are contained within that post. With that said, we can say here that shuffling helps to mix up the cards and allows for a more personal reading when focusing on our question whilst doing so.Back to top of page
21. How do you lay the cards out?
After you have shuffled your tarot deck, you will need to lay out the cards. This is where your tarot spread comes in and if you have selected a particular one, like the Soul Journey Tarot Spread, you place one card in each position. You can do this face down if you like.
The question always arises: how do you turn the cards over? This question arises because depending on how you do it, you can maintain the orientation of the card when it was dealt, or you can inadvertantly ‘turn it the other way round’.
I always turn the cards over horizontally, that is from side to side, as it does maintain the orientation of the cards as they land in their position.
If you flip the cards over vertically, that is from top to bottom or bottom to top, you will be changing the orientation of the card as it landed in its spread position. This may be how you learnt to do it and if it is, that works for you so no need to change how you do things. If, however, you are learning to do this, have a play with the different ways you can turn a card over and you will see the way you do it will affect the reading, if you do read reversed tarot cards, or are learning to do so.
Dealing the cards out into a spread all face down can add to the drama of turning one over at a time, if you’re into adding to the atmosphere. You can otherwise just turn them over as you are dealing them out. If you do it this way, also pay attention as to how you turn them over. If you keep your deck upright like I do, you will need to turn your cards over from side to side each and every time. By flipping the cards, you are changing their orientation from upright to reversed and vice versa.
Whatever way you decide to turn the cards over, commit to that way to maintain consistency in your readings.Back to top of page
22. What’s the difference between a psychic/mediumship reading and a tarot reading?
A psychic reading is usually done without props, ie, the tarot, though it can be enhanced with cards, tarot or oracle or personal items from the seeker. A psychic reader will tap into your psychic energy to read you, your life and those around you who are influencing your life.
A medium will have contact with spirits close to you to convey messages of support and warnings.
A tarot reading, as stated in question 1 is a complete system of divination that can provide readings based on the cards drawn and their divinatory meanings and interactions within the tarot spread.
Psychic and mediumship readings can include tarot and a blending of both, strong intuitive imprints, messages from loved ones can be confirmed in the cards. For some psychic readers, the cards are merely a prompt to start a reading which they then continue unaided.Back to top of page
23. Do you have to be psychic to read tarot?
Not at all. However, if you wouldn’t normally describe yourself as psychic, as I don’t, a development in that area will come naturally from using the tarot regularly.
Tarot is a complete system of divination and you can easily read the cards through their divinatory meanings, symbolism and pictures on the cards without having to describe yourself as psychic or experience any psychic phenomena – the answer is always in the cards before you.
If developing your psychic ability interests you, then learning the tarot can help with that and there are many good books and courses designed to help you.
I wrote about a particular experience I had with reading for my psychic friend, Jules in Psychic Reading for the Terrified. I still don’t consider myself pyshic, but as this post shows, you can definitely have psychic experiences if you are open to it.Back to top of page
24. Can you really read tarot for yourself?
Yes! And you really should try it. All you need is a tarot deck, a tarot spread, a journal, a big dose of honesty and a question to explore. Begin focusing on a specific but not too deep question – one that you have a great deal of awareness of, and one where you are not seeking an outcome. Looking to explore a situation is the best place to start because you will already be familiar with it.
Once you feel more comfortable with reading, you can add more cards and change up your questions to reflect things you don’t know, like past historic events or questions about your ancestors, as I did with my great, great, great, great grandfather, a double agent to the British and Americans in the War of Independence.
*Retrospective Tarot Reading could also fall into .Back to top of page
25. What is intuitive tarot reading?
Some tarot teachers tell you to throw away the little white book that comes with your new tarot deck and let the pictures talk to you. A sort of ‘say what you see’ kind of thing. Being intuitive embraces your other senses and by not trying ‘get it right’ by remembering tarot card meanings, you allow a narrative to flow from within you.
While this is not an academic approach, like rote learning all the meanings of the cards, it does allow you to make a connection the cards and if you’re reading for another, them too. This method has merit in that it helps to develop your psychic self.
If all is energy, as the scientists are now discovering, intuitive tarot reading is your energy connecting or merging with that of another and letting them reveal their story to you.
The best way to do this is to simply practice. Just throw some cards out and say what you see. Have no preconceived ideas about what you should be saying, don’t seek to be right about meanings, just go with the flow.Back to top of page
26. What’s the best way to start learning tarot?
There is some debate in education and neuroscience as to whether a learning style is a real thing. You’ve no doubt heard the terms, visual learner, audio learner, kinesthetic learner. Popularised by the NLP community, its roots are, I believe, in linguistics.
I think maybe what helps best is a solid memory, or ability to form new memories easily. I don’t so I have to embed what I’m learning through all styles. I read, I write, I listen, I do. It’s how it works for me.
Rote learning works in terms of getting the information in. You could say this is taking the academic approach because you are learning the information. Rote learning doesn’t help with understanding though and that comes through pattern recognition, marrying the description of a card or situation with your own, old or new, so that you can relate to what the card is teaching.
Often people use flash cards to learn and remember new information and when you think of that method, the tarot is already a deck of flash cards. The problem is there are seventy-eight of them!
To help you discern one card from another, learn to spot the differences between the arcanas. Tarot deck creators often depict the majors with a different card layout or colours. They depict the minors with colours that match the elemental association to the suit. Each suit will also carry its emblem on each card. The Suit of Pentacles will have at least one pentacle on each card; and so it is with the other suits.
As their are four aces, each with its emblem on it, easy! And onto the court cards then the numbered cards.
There are many ways to mentally break up the deck so as to make easier distinctions rather than saying there are seventy-eight tarot cards, how will I remember them all?! You will, with practice and patience.Back to top of page
27. What is the best tarot deck to learn with?
I asked a simiar question on the blog a few years ago: Should You Learn Tarot With the Rider Only? I came from the point of view that the Rider is ubiquitous and a large number of learning materials are based on the Rider.
It seemed simple enough to me, only people’s actual experience was very different. Lots of people learnt tarot with decks other than the Rider. Some admittedly were Rider clones (decks based on the Rider but with visual adjustments), but the percentage I was expecting didn’t materialise.
Now I admit this post was not a piece of research so could be dismissed out of hand, but I would still lay money on most people learning to read tarot based on the Rider because it’s the easiest to access and learn about in books and online.
With that said, I would suggest you think about what you want to achieve with tarot. If you want to do predictive tarot and/or fortune telling, consider the Rider because it is easy to ‘say what you see’. There are a lot of visual cues in the deck and it did stray from the Golden Dawn’s remit of what a tarot deck should be, so much so that it is not unrealistic to suggest it’s not a Golden Dawn deck at all.
If you are looking for a deeper spiritual experience, or certainly a highly psychological deck, consider the Thoth. Yes, I know I’m upsetting the Thoth purists with using the word psychology and Thoth tarot in the same sentence, but in truth, Aleister Crowley was a master at human psychology and if we can say the whole of his mystical and magical mind went into creating that deck, his psychological insight went into it also.Back to top of page
28. Do you have to learn astrology, numerology and qabalah et al to read tarot effectively?
You abolutely don’t because you can pick up a tarot deck and learn the stock meanings for the cards and be awesome at it. But, you can also add to your repetoir of divination systems and wow your clients with your super knowledge.
In reality, it depends how far you want to take things, and how deeply. A basic understanding of each system listed above will be more than enough to add some spice to your readings, and even understanding where some of the meanings came from or how they developed.Back to top of page
29. Can you really learn tarot in two days as some Amazon ebooks, and some tarot courses say?
Perhaps, if you have a photographic memory.. Otherwise, don’t believe the hype!
Consider the structure of the tarot, as we explored in question 1: there are seventy-eight cards, divided into two main suits, the arcanas. The Major Arcana has twenty-two cards and the Minor Arcana has fifty-six which is further divided into four suits of fourteen cards each – Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. The suits each follow the same structure: an ace, ten numbered cards – two through to ten, followed by four court cards: page, knight, queen and king. Each suit has a general theme or meaning which is then broken down further into its constituent parts.
Seventy-eight cards – related but different, the meanings of which all need memorising and more importantly, understanding. No small feat – in two days. How competent do you think you would be after two days?
What you can get is a foundation on which to build but be under no illusion, if you really want to learn to read the tarot it will take a while, and in all honesty, it’s best not rushed so you can absorb what you are learning because at somepoint early on in your new tarot journey, you have to be able to apply those crazy card meanings to real life situations and that, as most people find, is the hardest part of all.
You can learn to read the tarot in two days, but that is based on you having a good understanding of the cards to begin with.
You may also be wondering about intuitive tarot reading at this point and how it may or may not fit neatly into this question. While you can say what you see and score hits with your seeker, you will have to do what we all do in tarot and that is practice, practice, practice. You have to gain enough experience to see patterns and understand nuances to be consistently good. That would also take more than two days.
So in reality, there’s no getting around it. If you want to truly learn the tarot, it will take more than two days. But hopefully you’ll love it that much that it is a joy to learn rather than a hindrance because if it feels like that, I would seriously ask you to reconsider your reasons for learning the tarot in the first place.Back to top of page
30. I took a course with another tarot teacher but I don’t agree with everything they taught. Am I right to reject aspects of their teaching/course?
We need to make sure here that we’re not just disagreeing with their interpretation, which is subjective.
If they are presenting information that believe you’ve seen elsewhere that states something else, like an established technique, then you need to make a decision about whether a) you’re going to accept the information or swap it out for what is said in another book or course (providing you are certain they are wrong), and b) are you going to say anything to your teacher?
I can’t help you decide whether to say anything to them but I would suggest you find out for sure who’s information is correct and adjust your materials according. Then seriously reconsider them as your teacher.Back to top of page
31. Why is symbolism so important to learning and reading the tarot?
In tarot, symbols represent specific things; they are a pictoral version of that thing created to tap into your stored memory of meanings. In a sense they are like shorthand or morse code. They assist you in a reading by acting as gateways to those stored memories. In a way they are like a memory palace.
Some symbols seem to be universally accepted and in this way Carl Jung developed his thoughts on a collective consciousness by seeing repeating themes across cultures and time. Of course he wasn’t the first to do this but he has been embraced by many in the tarot community for describing and developing his system of archetypes – an original or general description of a thing seen everywhere, for example the father archetype as he saw in the Emperor.
When we can tap into a universal theme, it makes a system like tarot accessible to all. It is necessary to point out though that differences in beliefs can alter things. In Japan, the colour red does not signify danger, but prosperity and success.
There are repeated symbols used across tarot, and some are from other systems like astrological glyphs. Symbology in tarot covers such topics as colours, animals, clouds, clothes and people, to name but a few. By learning the different symbols in tarot you can use them as prompts to remember what you have learnt about the cards and associated mythologies. Greek and Roman myths follow us to this day.Back to top of page
32. If tarot is so subjective, why do some people seem dogmatic about what the cards mean and how you should learn tarot?
I’m afraid I see this as nothing more than ego. The tarot community is not immune from unpleasant people, as I have discovered to my own detriment. Just because they follow a system seen as spiritual doesn’t make them like the Dalai Lama, unfortunately. It does make them human and we are all found wanting in one way or another.
However, tarot is subjective and unless you are seeking to perform magical rituals by the light of the moon, employ angels and demons associated with particular days and nights, I doubt you need worry about the tarot bullies.
Dogma controls religion but it has no business dancing with tarot and anyone who comes over that way to you, give them a wide berth and be on your way.Back to top of page
33. Why do some people and groups look down on others for doing tarot differently to them?
This question relates to no 27 in that the ego is at play here and some groups unfortunately look down on others as fake, weak or not understanding or applying the correct or true tarot. You will hear this group often called the tarot purists, though that doesn’t accurately describe them, because what is the true tarot? Is it not what is true to you?
If you have developed a connection with the divine: consider angels and other beings, spirit guides, even yourself, then you have found within you your own truth. So don’t listen to those that would seek to demean your experience by calling it inferior. Mostly, I think they miss the point, and that is their loss.Back to top of page
Not found your tarot question answered? Drop me a line and let’s see about getting your question listed in the Tarot FAQ.