How Do I Read Tarot Cards?

Updated on June 29, 2020
Susan May Gudge profile image

Susan May Gudge has been studying and practicing the craft for over fifty years. The craft, Wicca, is not a religion—it is a lifestyle.

Reading the Cards

Every card in a tarot deck has a meaning. Some people use a regular deck of playing cards, but using a proper tarot deck is much better. When I do a reading for someone, the pictures on the tarot cards give me a subconscious impression and help in the interpretation. Once I see the pictures and their relation to each other, a thought or idea may pop into my mind. If this happens when you're doing a reading, do not be afraid to throw your interpretations out there—it may have a significant meaning to the person having their cards read.

Tarot reading is not just by the book or a science, it also depends on the human mind and its ability to see and feel emotions caused by the cards themselves. Developing that sixth sense—instinct—is as important as learning the exact meaning of each card. Relax, open your mind, and let the ideas form.

Tarot Cards
Tarot Cards

Which Deck of Cards to Use for Tarot

Many people use a regular deck of cards for tarot readings but there are drawbacks to such a method. A real tarot deck has twenty-two extra cards called the Major Arcana (the fifty-six regular cards are called the Minor Arcana) that are necessary in a pure reading. Without these twenty-two cards, a reading misses a lot of the important aspects of life.

If you are serious about reading fortunes—past, present, and future—it would be a good idea to invest a bit of money on a real tarot deck. One of the best decks is the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot. Their pictures are artistic and colourful. They may be difficult to find and somewhat expensive, but they are well worth the effort if you plan on using them as a tool for concise readings. The human brain reacts to bright colours and images, therefore causing us to 'think' with our subconscious mind when faced with detailed images and brilliant colours.

Supposedly, if your tarot deck is given to you by another witch, it has more power. I received my Moroccan deck from a fellow witch and some of the readings I have done have been eerily correct. One man claimed I had been spying on him and that is why I knew things I should not have known. He was suspicious and angry and stomped off in a huff. Things like that can happen. Not everyone will be pleased with the reading you give them but it is very wrong to abuse the power and just tell them what they want to know. Be honest and be true to yourself and the person being read.

Major Arcana
Major Arcana

The Major Arcana

These special cards depict many aspects of life. Over and above the regular playing card deck of fifty-two cards, they number twenty-two. There are twenty-one numbered cards as well as the fool, who bears the number zero. Also, unlike the fifty-two regular cards, they are the only cards with a double meaning. When they show up in a reading upside down, their meaning is reversed.

Learning each one's meaning and their reverse meanings takes a little time and effort but after awhile their images are easily remembered for the good and the bad in their meaning. They are extremely important for a pure reading. A good idea is to buy a book on tarot that explains each card. Use that book until you are familiar with the qualities of each of the Major Arcana.

Major Arcana List

0 - The Fool
1- The Magician
8 - Strength
15 - The Devil
2 - The High Priestess
9 - The Hermit
16 - The Tower
3 - The Empress
10 - The Wheel of Fortune
17 - The Star
4 - The Emperor
11 - Justice
18 - The Moon
5 - The Hierophant
12 - The Hanged Man
19 - The Sun
6 - The Lovers
13 - Death
20 - Judgement
7 - The Chariot
14 - Temperance
21 - The World
Minor Arcana
Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana

These cards have fifty-six in number. They are somewhat like a regular playing card deck although each 'suit' has an extra card. Each suit contains numbers one through ten, as well as a Page, Knight, Queen and King. The numbers one to ten are action cards and the other four represent people. Again, a book explaining each card is helpful until you are able to distinguish each card by the image it gives to your subconscious. A well made, artistic deck helps our brain in decisions as to the worth of each card and its action on our lives.

Minor Arcana List

Playing Cards
1. Cups
2. Wands
3. Pentacles
4. Swords

Basic Minor Arcana Meanings

Letter or Document
Home and Love
Delay or Worry
Harmonious Change
Peace Restored
Established Strength
Material Works
Perfected Work
Earthly Power
Blended Pleasure
Rest from Strife
Material Trouble
Loss of Pleasure
Material Success
Earned Success
Success Unfulfilled
Illusionary Success
Unstable Effort
Abandoned Success
Shortened Force
Great Strength
Material Gain
Material Happiness
Despair and Cruelty
Perfected Success
Minor Arcana cards representing the person being read.
Minor Arcana cards representing the person being read.

Minor Arcana Representing People

You may have heard the expression that you are going to meet a dark haired man, etc. It is by using the Page, Knight, Queen and King that gives the reader the clues. Each card of those sets represents a person's age, colouring and force. Knowing each card when they show up helps the reader to specify what is going to happen to a certain person, depending on the cards directly surrounding it. When reading cards, it is always important to see the cards that are in the immediate vicinity as they will determine what action will happen to that person.

Minor Arcana Physical Descriptions

King, Queen, Knight, Page of Wands
Brown eyes and Hair
King, Queen, Knight, Page of Cups
Light to medium brown hair with blue, gray or green eyes
King, Queen, Knight, Page of Swords
Dark Complexion, dark brown or black hair, dark eyes
King, Queen, Knight, Page of Pentacles
Blonde, red or white hair with blue, gray or green eyes

Minor Arcana Representing Age

40.s and up
A woman or girl (One never asks a woman's Age)
Male 20's to 40's
A young boy up to the age of 20

Reading the Cards

In order for the cards to take on the 'personality' of the person being read, it is recommended that you have the client shuffle the deck. Once it is shuffled to their satisfaction, have the client pass the cards to you and the reading can then begin. Don't ever rush them in the shuffling. The cards will tell them when it is time. They will shuffle willingly and then a questioning look will come to their faces as if to ask, is that enough? That is the cards telling the client and you that it is time.

There are various methods of reading the cards. The best idea is to find which one suits your style and ability.

You can use a simple three card reading, having the client shuffle and then cut the deck into three separate piles. Then you turn over the top three cards. Turn them over by the sides and not top to bottom so as not to disturb the viewing of the cards that should be upside down or right side up in the reading. The three card draw method is a good way to read a simple yes or no question.

I prefer the Ancient Celtic Method. I remove the card depicting the client based on the Minor Arcana People as explained above and place that card in the centre. Then I begin the laying of the cards on top of it. It is a complex method and takes a lot of time to read the actual fortune but it gives a clear and concise picture of the client's past, present and future life.

Celtic Cross

The ancient Celtic method is one of my personal favourites for a precise and detailed reading.
The ancient Celtic method is one of my personal favourites for a precise and detailed reading.

Quality Tarot Cards

The Rider Tarot Deck
The Rider Tarot Deck
Although I prefer the Royal Fez Tarot, they are very expensive at approximately 300$ a pack and quite hard to find. This deck is very close to the Royal Fez deck that I own in, both in looks and colours. At an extremely reasonable price of approximately 17$, it is one of the best deals for a good quality that I have seen, a well designed deck of Tarot cards.
The Ultimate Guide to the Rider Waite Tarot
The Ultimate Guide to the Rider Waite Tarot
It is always good to have the book explaining the cards. This book goes with the Rider Waite cards and is a great guide to the descriptions and meanings of each card in the Tarot deck. I have a book to match my cards that when I started readings I often had to check that book. Over time, the meanings of each card stayed in my mind and l no longer need the book.

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.

© 2017 Susan May Gudge


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    • profile image


      8 months ago

      About to teach daughter Tarot -- have been at it 30+ years. Would like to find book from that time frame.


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