Illumination Tarot - Exploring the tarot for insight and enlightenment.

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Learning Tarot: Tips for Beginners

Nothing is written in stone.
I have few rules when reading tarot, but some general guidelines are useful. Here are some basic tips to help when you are just getting started with tarot cards.

My one main rule is: Listen ~ to yourself, your heart, your intuition.

Choosing Your Tarot Deck
There are many, many tarot decks available today. They vary in as many ways as can be imagined, from the traditional tarot, to divination decks based on religious (or spiritual) themes, cultural icons, angels, animals, etc. If you are truly a beginner, and have never read tarot before, I would suggest a fairly traditional deck to start out with. Choose a deck that isn't based on a theme, one that you can study alongside a good book on learning the tarot. If you have had some experience with the tarot, simply choose what you feel drawn to, what causes you to feel somewhat more aware of your own powers of intuition.

I believe we each respond in an individual way to different tarot decks, just as we might to music or art. One deck may simply move you more than others. One may seem to speak to you on a spiritual level. Or, you may merely wish to read with a deck that uses symbols from a religious path. Whatever it is, allow yourself the freedom to choose based on something internal. Your deck(s) will have more meaning.

Shuffling, Cutting, Handling
Many beginners have questions about how to handle their tarot decks. They are concerned about doing it "wrong," and negatively affecting the accuracy of the readings. My advice is to do what feels right. Generally, I shuffle the cards five or seven times, cut three times, and proceed. But, everyone has their preferred method, none of them being more "right" than the others. Don't focus on the shuffling, or the turning, simply focus on the issue and relax. You are more likely to be unsure about a reading if you are overly concerned with the mechanics. Have trust, and relax.

Storing Your Cards
Many sources implore you to wrap your deck in fine silk and store in a wooden box. This is great, but I have found it to be quite unnecessary. As a matter of fact, I have never done this. Even when I was a teenager just starting out with the tarot, I didn't seek out a mystical box or mysterious bit of fabric. I simply took good care of them. If you use your cards often enough and don't mishandle them (leaving them lying around, etc.) then they will pick up your "vibe." They will work well for you, becoming a uniquely personalized tool. If the idea of wrapping them in fine cloth and storing them in a carved wooden box appeals to you, then by all means do it. It may increase your acceptance of them, and may help you open up to your intuition. But, don't feel you have to do this.

Upright or Reversed
I use reversed cards with most decks, and in most readings. However, there are some decks I feel quite comfortable not using reversed cards with. It is up to you...
I generally think it is a good idea to take into account both the positive and negative attributes of a card. With practice you will learn to follow your intuition on determining the precise interpretation of the symbols.

Combining Multiple Spreads
It is often very helpful to combine several spreads to find answers or insight. For example, I might begin with a simple three card reading, move onto a Celtic Cross for a more comprehensive picture, and then possibly do another full spread for even more clarity. Using several spreads together gives you the opportunity for more depth, and more specific answers. It is not necessary though, and I would certainly suggest not overdoing it either.

A Few Words of Advice
Have trust! If I had to have a rule, this would be it. Trust that the tarot can offer you insight, understanding, and an idea of the future... Trust that whatever your method of reading, the tarot will provide you with answers... and trust your own intuition to show you the truth within.

Don't overdo it!
Very important... the tarot is wonderful, but avoid relying upon it. It is easy to get carried away, especially when you start to realize just how accurate it can be, but it is important you do not substitute the tarot (an external means) for your own intuitive abilities.

And remember, nothing is written in stone!

by Nellie Levine

You might be interested in the Tarot Glossary.

the above photo was taken during a visit to Northshire Books, a fantastic independent bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

Publishing tarot deck reviews, original tarot spreads, articles, and personal reflections for tarot enthusiasts, practitioners of the intuitive arts, and followers of alternative spirituality since 1999. Woman owned.
All writing, reviews, and photography © Nellie Levine, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2022