Learning To Read Tarot Cards

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I have always been fascinated with Tarot cards, but it wasn’t until last year around the holidays that I finally got my hands on the beautiful deck we were selling by The Wild Unknown. Ever since, I have been trying to practice and learn the basics of Tarot readings.  It can seem overwhelming at first — there are so many different cards and meanings, and a variety of ways to read them.  Today I wanted to share some of the beginner’s tips that I have found most useful, and three common spreads to practice with.

If you have any tips or advice for learning how to read Tarot cards, please share in the comments!

reading tarot cards

Choose a deck that speaks to you.  There are a number of different Tarot card decks.  You will naturally be drawn to one, whether it is because of the imagery or some subconscious pull.  I was immediately drawn to the Wild Unknown deck and its gorgeous illustrations by artist Kim Krans.

reading tarot cards

Spend time with your deck. Get to know the cards, spend time studying them and getting to know their individual meanings.  Learn about the different suits, which vary depending on the deck.  My deck has Pentacles, Wands, Swords, and Cups.

reading tarot cards

Major vs. Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana speaks to the deeper and more spiritual aspects of life situations and the Minor Arcana speaks to smaller, day to day matters.  The Major Arcana includes the “trump cards” of the deck — the ones we are more familiar with hearing about like The Sun, The Moon, The Lovers, and The Fool.

reading tarot cards

Practice. Practice by starting your day with a daily reading.  Draw one card from the deck — choose the one you are drawn to.  Study the card, think about its meaning, and ask yourself questions about how it applies to you and your current situation.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the cards and their meanings, start experimenting with different spreads.  Here are three common spreads you can try!

reading tarot cards

The 3 card spread is a great starting point.  Ask yourself a question, and spend some time sitting with the deck, transferring your energy to the cards.  When you draw the cards, select the ones you are subconsciously drawn to.  If you draw a card upside down, keep it that way — this is referred to as a “reverse” card, and affects the reading.  The first card symbolizes the past, the center card the present, and the third card the future.  Look for a story or pattern in the cards you draw, and think about how they relate to each other –  trust your intuition.  This spread is great for daily readings, and a good way to get some quick insight into a certain situation.

reading tarot cards

The 7 card spread is similar to the 3 card spread but a bit more complex, with two cards in the past and future, and three in the present.  Once you have become more familiar with your cards and how to read them, this spread can help offer further insight into a situation, beyond what the 3 card spread offers.  The cards in the past speak to past past issues, the three in the center speak to present situations, and the two on the right speak to the future outcome.

reading tarot cards

The Celtic Cross Spread is an even more complex and in-depth reading.  This spread definitely takes practice and I am not there yet, but this diagram demonstrates the spread and each card’s meaning.  Here is a rundown of what each card means:

Self: This is you at your core, your being.

Opposing Forces: This represents something that is working against your true self, and challenging your being.

Background/Foundation: This card speaks to the origin of your question and why you asked it, which could relate to your background, your childhood, or an event that has shaped who you are.

Recent Past: This card represents recent events leading up to your current situation.

Near Future: This card represents events that are currently forming and about to occur.

Higher Power: This card can represent a person of extreme importance in your life, or an overseeing power of some sort — it can even represent you at your highest power.

Issues/Fears: This card symbolizes your fears or hesitancy about upcoming events, or the situation you are inquiring about.

Allies and Supporters: This speaks to your family, friends, and close acquaintances.  The card demonstrates how your current situation affects those around you, or how they affect your current situation.

Advice: This card offers you insight into how to act next, and how to proceed with your situation.

Outcome: The end result of your query, this card speaks to the long-term outcome.  You can affect this outcome by heeding the advice in the prior card, or taking a different approach to your issues or fears with the situation.

tarot cards

Have you ever read Tarot cards? Please share any advice or recommendations on good books or websites to learn more!

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gül -October 18, 2013, 9:43AM

If I read cards for somebody else, I always ask that if he/she wants me to read the outcome card. I think human beliefs are strong and people might create their future just because they believed it. I mean if there’s something bad in their outcome card, it may occur just because they really believed it. It’s same for coffee reading too. Human mind is the most powerful thing.

Sage -October 18, 2013, 11:22AM

The diagram shown for the Celtic Cross spread is off; not only is it unclear as to how to lay the cards out from the deck, the descriptions of the meanings are inaccurate. While this is an ancient spread and one of the most commonly used, the descriptions of it sometimes vary (though I’ve never seen one that looks like this). I recommend that anyone desiring to learn to read the Celtic Cross spread follow the directions that accompany their deck, since that will give you the most guidance on the matter.

Lucille -October 18, 2013, 1:23PM

I do have a little tip. If you are a person who can remember your dreams, try sleeping with a single card under your pillow and make a note of what your subconscious tells you during the night. Although there are generally agreed upon meanings for the cards, such as you read in instruction books, part of learning to really read them is trusting yourself and your instincts and understanding what the symbols communicate to you personally. The bond you develope with the symbols is important- a sword does not mean the same thing to everyone, so for each tarot reader that sword will read differently. When you look at a card, what about the image stands out? Does something in the picture appear larger or more vivid to you? What in the image is calling to you, asking for your attention- this is where you should draw the meaning from. Each time you read that card, what stands out may be different, showing you what to emphasize. Trust your gut, the cards are only a tool to teach you to listen.

Lucille -October 18, 2013, 1:30PM

Also, The Online Encyclopedia of Tarot :


jennifer ryan -October 18, 2013, 1:40PM

Love tarot cards. I bought my first deck a few months ago, it was Brian Froud’s Heart of Faerie oracle. I have seen the Wild Unknown deck, also a few months ago. I think I’ll buy this deck next, looks really pretty, and I love the black and white theme. I’m naturally drawn to black and white; almost everything in my room is black and white.

Sally -October 18, 2013, 4:23PM

When I first was learning tarot I put post-it notes with some of the cards meanings on the back of each card. The process brought me closer to my deck & meant that I didn’t have to rush to a book or the internet when I felt like I didn’t know enough x

Joanne -October 18, 2013, 5:09PM

I have never had a tarot card reading but this looks really cool. I may have to give it a shot!

Shelley -October 18, 2013, 9:22PM

The whole Tarot card thing makes me feel a little uneasy and honestly, gives me the heebie jeebies, but those cards are gorgeous!

Katrina -October 18, 2013, 9:50PM

I agree with Sage, your diagram is completely off for the celtic cross, but I kinda do the cross slightly different from everyone because my mother was the one who taught me. So, the follow is how I went about it.

I place “The Self” as the current circumstances. What crosses that would be the influence that could oppose it or help it. I would have “The Higher power” & “the future” switch places. I like seeing the past to the left and the future to the right. For some reason, it gives a sense of linear progression. “The higher power” should be the questioner’s goal/objective (sometimes it can match the question). The foundation will show why they ask the question or why they’re pursuing this objective. It could be the far or recent past/future, but it should always be relevant to the current situation. On the side I put, from bottom to the top, the Questioner’s attitude of the situation, the environmental situation, their fears/hope, and the outcome. The outcome is the answer to the question, the rest of the cards is to help you understand the circumstances surrounding the issue and why its advising you to take on a certain course of action.

I use the sacred rose deck and that is the only deck I had ever used in my whole life. It was a gift to me from my mother and this was the first spread I learned. I normally shuffle the deck until I felt a “stop” and then I cut the card into piles (how many in each pile or how many piles caries in each situation). I then I put my hand over each pile and get a sense which one is the most accurate one. Then I arrange them and start the spread. Everyone has their own way of shuffling the deck so long you are accurate. I will warn you, the cards can be blunt because it the goal is to be lucid & true.

Anonymous -October 19, 2013, 12:26AM

Witchcraft. Yuck.

Francesca -October 19, 2013, 4:24PM

I have Celtic tarot by Laura Tuan. If you love Celtic mythology are perfect,are colorful and with nice faeries, plants and animals. Minor arcana ina my deck are divided by the four season!! And the major ones are not the same as regular arcana meanings.

I know that if you are learning how to use them you should everyday pick a card and write in a journal what the card make you feel, and describe it, just to be more confident with them. The Celtic cross in my book is a little bit different but i think because there are different views of doing it.

Bonnie -October 20, 2013, 8:18PM

A Wiccan friend of mine told me to “make” the cards “yours”. Sleep with the deck under your pillow on a full moon. It will take out any bad energy.

Bonnie -October 20, 2013, 8:20PM

PS: I own a Crowley deck, just because he commissioned a “woman” to design them!

Savanna -October 20, 2013, 9:55PM

This has always been a goal of mine to learn! Loved that this was posted! I find inspiration on this blog every day

Anonymous -October 26, 2013, 5:10PM

I believe it’s better not knowing anything about your future because I heard that when knowing it changes your path. As well in my perspective I think God would not like us to know your outcomes of life with some “CARDS = Witchcraft= Satan’s Help”.

shira -October 30, 2013, 1:29AM

This is a response to “Anonymous” ..Tarot is not only used by witches. Anybody can use tarot cards. Also witchcraft or Wicca is in no way related to Satan. In fact you will find more corrupt people in your local church than you will in a thousand witches. Tarot cards don’t have to be used to predict the future, they can be used to guide you on your current path. People were using pagan ways 15,000 years before your god. So maybe you should educate yourself before jumping to conclusions you probably saw in a movie.

January -November 24, 2013, 12:36PM

A great book for learning how to read tarot cards is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Tarot” It takes the ancient meanings and modernizes them. The modern meanings are still true to the orginal meanings.

soulsea -January 24, 2014, 2:00AM

Hi, fp Julia

Your Blog truly really helpful for me because I am new in tarot card reading and I have nothing knowledge about Tarot Card Reading. I want to learn the new thing in Tarot card reading. So, can you give me some extra information about Tarot card reading? So, I can learn more thing in this. Your Blog is very informative and very useful for users.

Robert Deveau -February 5, 2014, 11:18AM

This site offers interactive practice in the form of a tarot reading game. Check it out at

Brenda Roberts-Cline -May 20, 2014, 9:40AM

Can u add me to your blog/newsletter etc???
I sooo luv this!!

Kelly -July 16, 2014, 10:21AM

The celtic cross looks pretty similar to the diagram I have in a Tarot book–not sure why everyone is saying it’s off. Plus, people often make up whatever spread they want so it really doesn’t matter. It’s about the energy put into the cards and the interpretation. I think the info provided is actually really great for someone new to Tarot cards. I haven’t heard of the 7 card spread, I’m going to try that one.

elle north -August 5, 2014, 7:33AM

I offer an 8-week Tarot journey that guides students to connect not only to their Tarot deck, but also to their intuition. You can sign up at any time…if you’re intereted check it out:: http://www.drawingwithin.com/thetarotwithin xo

best psychics -August 28, 2014, 6:07AM

Some of the best psychics working today started off with Tarot cards. It’s an incredible tool and not only guides through symbolism but opens up the psychic senses as well if used consistently over time. Really enjoyed reading your post.

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