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Learning to Read Tarot Cards: 31 Questions and Answers for Beginners

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I'm a professional tarot reader with 20 years of experience. For me, tarot is a fascinating system that reflects all human life.

A list of frequently asked questions about learning to read the tarot. If your question isn’t answered here, please ask in the section at the end and I’ll do my best to get back to you.

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Can Anyone Learn to Read Tarot Cards?

Yes—anyone who has the willingness to learn and to open their mind to the wisdom of the tarot. It also helps if you are able to recognize patterns and form a narrative from random images.

Do I Have to Study Tarot to Learn How to Read the Cards?

Not necessarily. Some people have an uncanny ability to be able to read and interpret tarot cards without any prior knowledge. They may not come up with the same interpretations as more conventional reading styles, but that doesn’t mean their readings aren’t accurate.

Do I Have to Be Psychic to Do Tarot Readings?

No, you don’t have to be psychic. However, being tuned in and willing to listen to your intuition is helpful. Otherwise your readings will be a little bit stiff and unimaginative.

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is best for beginners.

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is best for beginners.

How Do I Buy Tarot Cards?

You can buy a deck of tarot cards right off Amazon. I’d always recommend that beginners start with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck or a clone. That’s the one you’ll recognize and it’s also the most common deck that authors refer to. Any tarot deck that veers from the Rider-Waite will have its own system, symbols and interpretations. That’s not a problem, but can make it harder to learn.

Should I Buy a Deck With Keywords?

Many beginners find it helpful to buy a deck with the most common meaning printed on it as a keyword. Personally I don’t like it because it restricts the reader’s intuition and many cause confusion when reading for other people. Some readers have been known to trim the borders of their cards, removing the irritating keywords in the process.

One notable deck that, for me, is spoiled by the use of keywords is the otherwise stunningly beautiful Osho Zen Tarot. I am seriously considering giving it a trim.

I Don’t Have a Tarot Deck. Can I Use Playing Cards?

Yes, you can. It’s a simple matter to apply the principles of the tarot to regular playing cards. Of course you lose the Major Arcana and one rank of Court cards, but it can be done. I have an article called, “How to Read Tarot With Playing Cards.”

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How Often Should I Read for Myself?

This is a good question. Personally I rarely read for myself because I haven’t got the patience to sit and do a full interpretation as I would for someone else. However, I’d suggest only reading for the same question about once a month. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask other questions. A good thing to do is to carry a deck with you so that you can refer to it whenever you need to. Drawing one card is an excellent way to get your question answered and learn tarot at the same time.

Is Tarot Evil?

Tarot readers get asked this all the time. Tarot is not evil. Many cards are based on religious and spiritual values. You won’t let evil spirits in by shuffling your cards. Remember, they are just pictures glued to cardboard. It’s how you use them which determines whether readings are for good or for evil.

Tarot reading is not connected to satanism, sin, bad luck. Tarot is not like the Ouija board. Tarot is a system, a structure that helps to explain life.

Surely Pentacles Are Connected to Devil Worship?

It’s true that an upside-down five-pointed star was adopted by satanists to represent the face of the devil. Originally in traditional, and many contemporary decks, the symbol was always ‘coins’. Waite probably felt that coins restricted the scope of the suit, so used the pentacle to represent the element/suit of earth. The five pointed star within a circle, is always shown with two points down except on the Devil card. Each point represents one of the four elements (fire, water, air and earth) with the fifth above representing spirit.

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Why Are There So Many Different Decks?

There are a huge number of decks available, both in and out of print. Tarot is one of those systems that is open to interpretation in many different ways—one of the reasons it’s so fascinating. There are decks created by writers, artists, occultists and people who design a deck because it’s something they want to do. Of course, like anything, there are good ones and downright awful ones. I, like almost every other tarot reader on the planet, am always looking for The One. I’m close, but haven’t found it yet. Maybe I should design my own?

What Is a Spread?

A spread is simply a layout or pattern. Each position in the pattern is designated its own meaning. For instance a simple spread for three cards might be past, present and future.

There are more complex spreads, such as the ever-popular 10-card Celtic Cross. There are even some that use the whole 78 card deck.

One of my favorites is the single card. Using the amazing one card tarot spread means you can simply designate it as the answer to the question.

What Are Reversals?

Reversals are cards that appear upside down to the reader when s/he lays them down. Most readers will turn part of the deck when they shuffle, which means that approximately half will come out reversed. For myself, I prefer to read with upright cards but if one does come out reversed, then it is significant.

A reversed card means that the energy is weakened, distorted or sometimes can indicate the opposite of the upright. It all depends on context.

What Are Tarot Card Combinations?

Card combinations should be part of every reader’s arsenal. It’s the ability to read two or more cards together. So, for example, the Six of Swords next to the Ace of Wands could mean that the explosive energy of the Ace is tempered by the quiet recovery mode of the Six of Swords. There’s a feeling of caution, restriction and attached conditions.

Each card should be considered in relation to its neighbors. That’s one way that a reading is lifted from dull and routine to one with nuance and depth.

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What Do the Symbols on the Cards Mean?

That’s a huge question. Each card in the tarot carries certain symbols. From numbers to colors to astrological correspondences. They are, of course, included by the deck creator. The reader can make use of them or not. It would be impossible for me give a definitive list of tarot symbols here but I encourage you to research and investigate them if you are serious about learning the system.

How Many Cards Should I Turn?

That really depends on the question and the spread you have chosen. For instance, if the question demands a yes/no answer, then all you need is a single card. If, however, you are looking for deeper meanings, reasons, projections, advice, possible outcomes, then more cards will be necessary, The Celtic Cross spread uses 10 cards.

Are the Cards Ever Wrong?

Tarot is never wrong, but the interpretation sometimes is. Readers do their best to connect the card in a meaningful way to the querent (questioner), but we do occasionally get it wrong. For non-psychic readers it helps if the reading is interactive so that the querent is offering feedback as we go. Readings are far more helpful and insightful when done this way.

Most of my readings are done via email so it’s like shooting blind. You never know which way it’s going to go. I rely always on my intuition. It’s sometimes so strong that even when a client tells me I’m mistaken, I know it to be true. For example, one young lady told me it wasn’t possible that her ex had ended their relationship because he was seeing someone else, but it was right there in the cards. I know they weren’t wrong.

Do Tarot Cards Hold Energy?

Not any more than any piece of card holds energy. But, and this is a huge ‘but’, the reaction they engender in the viewer is energetic. The emotion they provoke and invoke is the real energy. How does the card make you feel? That’s where the energy lies.

Are Tarot Readings Fake?

No. Though some readers probably are. And, of course, all those automated readings are semi-fake, for sure. The reason I don’t label all of them as completely fake is that there may be some element of chance involved that could be a real response to the question and the emotions of the seeker.

Can Tarot Really Tell My Fortune?

Yes. However, knowing what’s up ahead is not always as useful as you might think. Plus there is the amorphous quality of ‘free will’. The real value of a tarot reading lies in its ability to make you think. To open up new possibilities. To offer guidance for living in the present moment.

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Can I Make Money Reading Tarot?

Possibly. Someone who throws themselves into it heart and soul could make a lot of money reading the cards. Yet reading tarot day in and day out will take its toll. There is a lot of exchange of energy going on and reading the cards can be utterly exhausting. That’s one reason why I prefer to write about it and simply continue to do a few email readings. In the past I have left some venues feeling so drained it was difficult to drive home.

Which Cards Mean Pregnancy?

The Empress, Queen of Pentacles, Eight of Wands, Ace of Cups, Ace of Wands, Page of Cups are just a few. Not on their own though, apart from the Empress. If she showed up in a one-card reading in answer to the question, “Will I soon become pregnant?”, then the seeker will get pregnant or become a parent in some way or another.

I have a true story. I used to do readings for a young lady who was, let’s say, very sociable. She was trying to decide which of two men to be her boyfriend. Her cards were Ace of Cups, Page of Cups and the Empress. I warned her to be careful because her cards were yelling, ‘Pregnant!’. A few days later I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. Those cards have a sense of humor too.

What Tarot Cards Predict Death?

Many tarot readers are scared to predict death but, of course, it’s a part of life and inevitable. The Death card combined with the 10 of Swords is often a reliable indicator.

I did a reading for a friend once and the cards were awful: Death, the Tower, 10 of Swords, 10 of Wands, and the Fool were in there. It was a truly awful bunch of cards. Within one week her elderly father passed away, her old dog gave up the ghost, and her boyfriend left her.

Which Cards Show Cheating?

I would look out for reversed cards. Cheating is such a cowardly, slimy, underhand thing to do to someone. So… Three, Five and Seven of Swords, upright or reversed. Reversed Court cards combined with any of the foregoing. Reversed Two or Ten of Cups, again in combination with any of the others mentioned. I have written a whole article together with layout suggestions for readings: Is He Cheating Tarot Spread. Of course, it could just as likely apply to a woman too.

Which Tarot Cards Show Love and Romance?

Upright Ace, Two, and Knight of Cups indicate a strong, new attraction. Six of Cups may show that you have a lot in common (soulmates, twin flames). Ten of Cups for a committed relationship leading to marriage. Ace, Knight or Queen of Wands for a passionate, short-lived affair. Four of Wands for a marriage celebration. Majors: Empress for passion, Hierophant for marriage. And, of course, there are various combinations with other likely cards as well.

What About the Devil?

The Devil is a really good card for showing how we get wrapped up in unhealthy habits, patterns of thought and behavior. It tells us that there’s something we need to break away from. Could be over-eating, alcohol, drugs or even a person. There’s nothing to be afraid of when you see this card because it tells you you have everything to live for if you are prepared to make the necessary changes.

What Can You Do With Tarot Cards?

You don’t have to use tarot cards for readings. Use them as journaling prompts, to break through writer’s block, or inspiration for art. Originally, the tarot was invented as a game of cards—triumphs—in Italy, so you could always learn how to play games with them. One thing I did a while back was to photocopy the Major Arcana of a very beautiful deck and decoupaged them to a circular dining table.

Why Can’t Tarot Cards Predict the Lottery?

Who can say they can’t? I’ve never tried, although I did attempt to divine the name of the winner of a prestigious horse race. No luck though.

What’s the Difference Between a Tarot Deck and an Oracle Deck?

A tarot deck is usually based on the traditional structure of 78 cards, split into 22 Majors and 56 Minor Arcana. Oracle decks can be of any number of cards, using any system as devised by the creator. Famous oracle decks include the Angel Oracle by Doreen Virtue (way too commercial for my taste). Then there are the ‘gypsy’ type decks, such as Lenormand, and counseling decks such as the fabulous OH cards.

Oracle deck - not my thing.

Oracle deck - not my thing.

What Is Your Favorite Tarot Deck?

Um… my best deck for readings is the Robin Wood Tarot, however it’s not my favorite as far as the artwork goes. I love quirky decks such as Deviant Moon, the Rohrig, and the cute little Everyday Witch Tarot.

Why Do You Tell People to Keep a Tarot Journal?

Keeping a journal of your tarot-related thoughts, insights, readings, card of the day, etcetera is such a helpful thing to help you learn and understand the cards. With diligence, it will become your own personal tarot bible.

Will You Give Me a Free Tarot Reading?

No. I don't have the time to respond to all the requests on every single tarot article I write.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: I just purchased my first deck of tarot cards and I'm wondering why none of my cards have the reverse side on them. How would I know when doing a reading if one is reversed if they're all upright?

Answer: Firstly, as you are a beginner, don't worry about reversals at all. It's hard enough learning the tarot without adding an extra layer of complexity too soon.

To recognize a reversed card is easy. When you place the card down it is either facing you in the upright normal position, as if you were looking at a book illustration. However, if you picked the book up the wrong way, the illustration would be upside down, yes?

So for instance, any words on your card will appear to you upside down and any figures will be standing on their heads.

Tarot readers will often deliberately turn part of the deck when shuffling, to make sure some of the cards are reversed, i.e. come out upside down. Personally, I rarely use reversals because I believe that the whole meaning of the card, from negative to positive can be inferred, depending on the situation, the question and the other cards around it.

© 2018 Bev G

Didn't Find Your Answer? Ask Here...

AkaJustVih on December 15, 2019:

I've always been interested in reading Tarot Cards and I think I will actually start doing it, not for money but for fun I guess. I want to be able to predict my friend's future a bit, would leave them shocked for sure :) Thanks for writing this, it really helped out :)

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on June 30, 2019:

Go to it, Maurice. Remember that tarot is a system and once you have nailed the structure, you will find your knowledge grows really fast.

Maurice Glaude from Mobile, AL on June 29, 2019:

I believe I'm ready to venture from my oracle cards and crystal deck and begin learning Tarot.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 26, 2018:

Thanks, Karen. Keeping a tarot journal is a great idea for any reader.

Karen A Szklany from New England on March 25, 2018:

Enjoyed reading this. I have the "Tarot of a Moon Garden" deck and a book to help guide my work as a reader: "Understanding the Tarot: A Personal Teaching Guide," by Juliet Sharman-Burke. I have written out the results of some of my spreads and review their contents when I'm stuck.

I like your idea for a tarot journal, and using the cards as writing prompts, and will probably try it.