Beginner’s Guide To Tarot Card Readings

While the practice itself may seem intimidating and mystical, performing a tarot reading has everything to do with self-intuition and spirituality. Today, tarot cards are the most popular tools used for divination, or way to gain insight into your life.

History of Tarot


The earliest tarot cards were created during the fourteenth century in Europe and used as a playing card game. They created the original four suits: staves/wands, discs/coins, cups, and swords. Later, artists started to paint new cards to add to the decks.

The more decoratively illustrated cards became widely available after the printing press was invented. The cards were not used for divination purposes until the sixteenth century. In these early times the process was much simpler; the individual cards didn’t have their own meanings until the eighteenth century.

Today, there are many specific card meanings and spread options that make the process seem very complex to an outsider. However, it is something that can be studied and learned through practice and concentration.

Tarot Card Meanings

tarot meanings

Knowing the popular meanings behind tarot cards can prove helpful during your readings because the meanings can help provide clarity if you are having trouble interpreting a card. However, knowing every card’s meaning is not necessary as there can be many variations in meaning to each card.

While there is never just one meaning, there are some general guidelines that you can follow when interpreting the meaning of the cards. There are four suits in the Minor Arcana: the Suit of Cups, the Suit of Swords, the Suit of Wands, and the Suit of Coins. There is also the Major Arcana, consisting of universally known archetypes and symbolic figures.

Major Arcana cards and general meanings:

  • The Fool – A very powerful card with a lot of depth you can read into.  Can be the end of something old and the beginning of something new in your life.
  • The Magician – This tends to involve practical aspects of your life and can speak about your determination for success.
  • The High Priestess – An intuition-based card.
  • The Empress – Often connected with fortunate maternal influence and creative energy.
  • The Emperor – Strong paternal influence, and other male-associated aspects in your life.
  • The Hierophant (Pope) – This can be interpreted differently depending on the nature of the reader and the person getting their fortune told.  Associated with beliefs and guidance.
  • The Lovers – This card means there will be a tough or important decision coming up that can lead to two very different outcomes.
  • The Chariot – There will be a long and difficult road ahead, but it will teach you strength and endurance.
  • Strength – This card is good news if you are fighting off a sickness, but this can turn dark if you lose control of your own power.
  • The Hermit – This means you should retreat inside yourself for a moment and examine your decisions to ensure you are on the right path.  Self-reflection is always good to reconnect with you intuition and spirituality.
  • Wheel of Fortune – The cycle of life is out of your control, but new beginnings are always right around the corner.
  • Justice – This can be unfortunate if you have recently abused your power.
  • The Hanged Man – This card can be read to be about change and sacrifice.
  • Death – Permanent change.
  • Temperance – All about finding balance for yourself.
  • The Devil – Be aware of a trap in your near future.
  • The Tower – Abrupt conflict is unavoidable.
  • The Star – A chance to brighten your future.
  • The Moon – There is something you must accept or come to realize.
  • The Sun – Positive development is coming your way.
  • Judgment – This deals with reasoning instead of intuition. Trust your sense of logic.
  • The World – This can mean that you are free of boundaries, physical or emotional.

The four suits of the Minor Arcana each correspond to their own respective categories during a reading, and each suit has 14 cards. The Suit of Cups correlate with emotions and are astrologically associated with water. This suit can mean that you are listening to your heart more than your head.

The Suit of Swords deals more with your intellectual activity and the element of air, while the Suit of Wands corresponds with your career and fire as an element. The final suit, the Suit of Coins (also known as the Suit of Pentacles) is associated with material possessions and the financial side of things. Because of this, it is also connected to the element of earth.

The Most Popular Card Spreads

A tarot card spread is the way a reader lays out the cards for their interpretation of the meanings. The reader will decide what spread to use based on their personal preference and experience as well as what is best for the posed questions. There are many possible card spreads and spread variations, but here are some of the most popular ones:

The Celtic Cross Spread

celtic cross spread

This is a very popular spread (despite appearing complex at first glance) for its ability to investigate many elements of your life.  There are ten cards used in this spread:

  1. The Significator, representing your current situation.
  2. The Crossing card, which shows what is supporting your or what is holding you back.
  3. This lies to the right of #1 and #2 and reveals your subconscious reasoning for your question.
  4. Beneath #1 and #2, this one interprets your past concerns and issues or even inspiration.
  5. Located at the top of the cross is the card that sheds light on your conscious desires and objectives.
  6. To the left is a card that describes your path and how to best direct yourself to get on a better track.
  7. At the bottom right, this card represents your thoughts, ideals, and attitude.
  8. This will reveal what type of energy you receive from those around you, and tells you if your environment is spiritually healthy for you.
  9. A revelation tool, this card tells you what you should currently be aware of.
  10. Finally, this card will reveal your future based on your current spiritual energy surrounding your conscious objectives and the energy in your surrounding environment.

The Three Card Spread

three card spread

This is the simplest spread option due to it only involving three cards.  However, this is one of the quickest ways to find answers to questions plaguing you and is a powerful way to find guidance.  There are different variations to reading each of the three cards:

  • Past, present, and future
  • Strengths, weaknesses, and guidance
  • What you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what you should do
  • There are many more options.

The Success Spread

success spread

This is a great situational option when you are up against a challenge and unsure of how to tackle it.  This will help you reach a better understanding of the obstacle you’re up against and reveal how to overcome it.  The cards used in this spread signify:

  1. Your top struggle.
  2. Current difficulties you are dealing with.
  3. Unknown factors that impact your position.
  4. Aid in the form of people, ideas, or things that will help you.
  5. Guidance on what to do or avoid in order to succeed.

Selecting the Perfect Tarot Deck

tarot deck

There are many types of tarot decks out there, and choosing one for yourself is based on personal preference and intuition. There is no universal deck that will be perfect for everyone, so you should explore your options and find what speaks to you. However, if you are still unsure, here is a list of the most popular decks and a little information about them.

  • The Rider-Waite deck
    • This is one of the most popular decks, and it also goes by other names.
    • This contemporary deck features classic artwork with powerful symbolism.
  • New Mythic deck
    • This is a Greece-themed version, with detailed images and symbols making it perfect for new readers.
  • Legacy of the Divine deck
    • This deck takes inspiration from the Rider-Waite deck in that it is visually captivating and speaks to the reader’s intuitiveness.
  • Shadowscapes deck
    • This deck features intensely atmospheric illustrations that can send your thoughts soaring.
  • Druidcraft deck
    • This particular deck has larger cards, making it ideal for a group reading where others are present.
    • The style of illustrations are visually appealing and are sure to captivate your attention.

All of the options out there may seem overwhelming – there are even baseball themed tarot cards out there. Ultimately, the decision of which deck to get is up to you. You should feel comfortable handling your deck. If a themed deck speaks to you or reminds you of an endearing memory, this could be the deck to get.

How to Read Tarot Cards Yourself

tarot reading

It can be an intimidating skill to learn for a beginner, but you just have to take it step by step.  For starters, you do not have to have all of the cards memorized. A big part of the process is following your spiritual intuition when reading to interpret the cards.

A card reading can be completed in 6 easy steps:

Step 1: Relax.

Make sure you are sitting comfortable with you card deck in front of you. Take deep breaths, allowing your mind to become clear so you can focus on what is at hand. Relaxing helps you to focus on your intuition and let your worries go.

Step 2:  Shuffle your deck.

Shuffling your deck of cards is a way to wash any leftover energy away from your last reading or the last person to have touched the deck. After shuffling, you can further clear it by holding it and visualizing bright light being shed onto the deck and absorbed by it. This will also help your connection to your cards.

Step 3: Pose your question.

You can do this either quietly to yourself or out loud while holding your deck. Concentrate on your question, and visualize the question you asked traveling all the way through your arms and into the cards as they rest in your hands.

Step 4: Cut your deck.

After setting your deck down in front of you, use your left hand to cut your deck in half and setting the top half of the cards on the left. When you have two stacks of cards, pick up the card on top of the pile on the right and flip it over.

Step 5: Interpret the card(s).

When reading a card intuitively, there are several things to take note of:

  • Your first impression upon turning the card over.
    • This includes your body’s intuitive response to seeing it.
    • What did you first feel or think when you saw the card?
  • The colors on the card.
    • Is there an abundance of colors, or only one? Is there a dominant color?
  • The characters on the card.
    • Are the characters humans, or are they animals? Do they carry a message? Visualize conversing with the figures and think of what they would tell you.
  • The symbols on the card.
    • Is there anything standing out to you?
    • Stay mindful and conscious of hidden meanings waiting to be found.

Another option is to keep a nearby resource of card meanings to compare with what you interpreted with your intuition.

Step 6: Ending the reading.

After you finish going through each card in your spread (or simply when you feel that it is time to close the reading), you should gather your cards into one deck. Grasp the deck in your hands and focus on sending grateful thoughts to the deck for the guidance and insight it has given you. Relax for a second, letting the reading settle.

At the end you should shuffle your deck one more time and put your deck back where you keep it.

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