Fascinated with Tarot?
When I was fourteen I started reading Tarot cards. It was 2005. Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s sofa, Destiny’s Child broke up (weep) and seriously over tweezed eyebrows were in fashion.
Putting aside those traumas, I was lucky enough to be raised by a mum who encouraged me to discover my own path to happiness. If you’re reading this mum, thank you and I love you. So when I expressed an interest in the occult, (I think my obsessions with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, black eyeliner and Harry Potter were the biggest giveaways) my mum gifted me my first pack of Tarot cards.
As I write this, I’m reading back through my first Book of Shadows. For those of you new to the witchy world, a Book of Shadows is a bit like a diary used to record supernatural experiences, spells, rituals and dreams. My first entry is dated Wednesday 23rd February 2005:
“Helping others through meditation is not wrong. […] I am trying to understand the art of Tarot card reading to broaden my thinking”.
Cringe. I was such an intense teenager set on saving the world. But fifteen years later and the sentiment still stands. I use Tarot as a way to support others and myself in reaching a deeper sense of understanding and healing.
I now read Tarot cards for a living and since lockdown my sole income has come from Tarot. I am a professional Tarot card reader. Wow. Even now it feels strange to say out loud. But kind of sexy too.
Let’s take a moment to do some quick maths. We’re in 2020. I started reading Tarot in 2005. It’s taken me fifteen years to feel comfortable in my power as a Tarot card reader. Disclaimer – I did take a considerable hiatus from Tarot when my focus switched to youth theatre, kissing and Smirnoff Ices. But still, we’re talking about a fair old chunk of time that Tarot has been in my life. And even with this history of Tarot under my belt I still by no means feel like an expert. Every time I read Tarot cards I discover new lessons to be learnt.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is this – mastering Tarot is a journey. So hold on to your seatbelt and prepare for a bumpy ride.
Still want to expand your Tarot practice?
Excellent. I have five top tips that might just make your journey that bit smoother.
1. Stop telling yourself that you’re not psychic
I really need you to take a moment to process this. You do not have to be psychic to read Tarot cards. It bears repeating. You do not have to be psychic to read Tarot cards. As a querent, some of my most insightful readings have come from intuitive readers.
For me, intuitive and psychic abilities exist on the same spectrum. Most people agree that psychic readers see crystal clear visions of the future whereas intuitive readers have the ability to suss out a situation based on instinct. I believe that all humans are capable of experiencing sharp moments of psychic insight. However the problem with relying on psychic abilities when reading Tarot cards is that psychic visions tend to strike – they’re tricky to summon. I believe that everyone has the ability to read Tarot cards intuitively by simply allowing yourself to be still, go inside and access what psychiatrist Carl Jung coined as the collective unconscious. Jung’s theory is that there is a part of every human’s deepest unconscious mind (knowledge, images, memories and impulses that you’re not even aware of) that is genetically inherited and shared by all of humanity. Kind of mind-blowing, right?
So please. Stop apologising for lack of psychic power. No one expects you to pull a Raven-Symoné every time you shuffle the cards. You already have everything you need to be a gifted Tarot reader (I’m assuming you own a deck of Tarot cards?) And that my friend is called innate intuition.
2. Look at the cards
Well… duhhh? Yes, okay, this may seem like an obvious thing to say but you’d be amazed by how many baby witches don’t allow themselves time to really absorb the images. Instead they put their focus on memorising keywords. The keyword method of learning Tarot makes me feel icky. In my experience, your readings will improve dramatically (and also your life, Goddess, this is getting deep…) if you work with what you have in front of you. What question is being asked? What do you see on the cards? Use the images to answer the question.
Take The Lovers. When this card appears some readers might jump to: “you’re going to meet your soulmate.” But what happens if the querent has asked: “what should I cook for my best friend’s birthday dinner?”
For this exercise I’m using the Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot deck. I’m looking at The Lovers card. I’m drawn to the aubergine purple of the Archangel Raphael’s cape. I’m also experiencing energy radiating from the fluffy clouds perched above the brown mountain. So in answer to the question? I would have to say an aubergine based dish followed by a chocolate cake with white frosting. Side note – in this scenario, The Lovers could also be a call to cook the dish that your bestie loves the most. All of the cards have the capacity to deliver a variety of messages. It’s your job to remain open to the images and what they might be trying to communicate in the moment.
3. Geek out
Take the plunge and commit yourself to an immersive Tarot learning experience. Podcasts I’d recommend include Tarot Bytes by Theresa Reed (aka The Tarot Lady) and The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot – EVER!! by Easy Tarot Lessons (shout out to Mandy on the Moon – you make me smile every single episode.) Books I’ve enjoyed include Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack and Wtf is Tarot?:…& How Do I Do It? By Bakara Wintner. I would also recommend joining a Tarot study group. Every week I zoom a few witchy pals to share our Tarot thoughts and experiences. Don’t have a study group? Visit the Coven page on The Brit Witch website and I’ll connect you with some Tarot lovers.
4. Become a storyteller
This is a real game changer. You can practice cohesively connecting cards by asking yourself a question, for example: “Is it worth continuing with a writing project that’s stumping me?” Pull three cards. The card to the left symbolises past influences, the central card symbolises present influences and the card to the right symbolises future influences. Look at the cards. What patterns do you notice? What do the images have in common? Are there repeated suits? Are the people on the cards facing the same direction? What can you read from their body language? Are they all the same gender? Are there repeated colours? Animals? Water? Buildings? How do these patterns make you feel?
Jot down your findings. Consider the question again. Trust that from the patterns the story will emerge.
5. Make it personal
I’m from the school of thought that celebrates individualised practice. Yes, it’s important to do your homework and read up on each card’s traditional associations, however, you will come across countless Tarot experts who will all say slightly different things. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s kind of the point. The most gifted readers develop deeply personal relationships with their cards.
An easy way of getting cosy with your deck is to pull a card a day for guidance. You don’t have to always ask life changing questions. Sometimes it can be as simple as: “What do I need to know to have a positive day?” The more often you connect with your cards the more they’ll start speaking to you.
Some people sleep with their cards under their pillows. I’ve never done this – but hey, if that helps you bond with your cards, then go for it! The aim is to get to a place where you feel confident that you and your cards share a special bond.
I have a unique relationship with many cards. Let’s take the Nine of Cups. Conventionally, the Nine of Cups is associated with contentment, feasting and good times. Sometimes it appears in this classical context for me, but not always. It depends on the question, the other cards in the spread and the particular deck of cards I’m working with, as each deck has its own vibe and varying artwork. More often than not, the Nine of Cups makes an appearance to call me out: “You might present yourself as at ease in a social situation Gem, but deep down you know that you’re guarding yourself and not fully allowing yourself to let go and be open.”
The key is get to know your cards. Let them speak to you. Sometimes I see the Six of Cups and I’m hit with: “Yikes! Here we go again. That high school sweetheart is going to rear his noncommittal head once more…” However for other readers the Six of Cups inspires more traditional associations of warm hearted sentiment and nostalgia.
So, what have I discovered on my Tarot journey so far?
You have to push through initial discomfort. When you first start out your readings will feel clunky. Intuition is a muscle and like all muscles it will only get stronger the more you exercise.
A picture speaks a thousand words. Before jumping to a keyword, allow the image to speak. Once you really start looking at the cards you’ll find that your readings become richer and more specific. I promise.
Knowledge is power. My confidence as a reader has definitely improved the more I learn about the history of Tarot. To master Tarot it takes both book and street smarts.
As someone who trained as a theatre director my expertise is storytelling. My natural tendencies are to connect and empathise. Deepening these qualities, by bringing as much heart and conscious awareness to my day to day life, improves my Tarot work.
And finally, a card will appear for you when you need to hear the message that you associate with the card.
You are the expert on your own pack of Tarot cards.
Never forget that.