Tarot is at least a few hundred years old and though there is some historical information regarding how it looked through the years and how certain games where played with the cards, regarding the spiritual and mystical value there is extremely little historical reference and everything people claim to know is little more than fabrication, superstition and for lack of a better word theatre. Now having said that… and considering the fact that what feels good, is good… some amount of ritual may add to the mystical atmosphere and greatly improve your intuitive reading. Meditation, cleansing or cleaning yourself, lighting candles or incense it all has at least ads to the feeling of mysticism.
I am not going al skeptical on you and say it has no spiritual value and if it works for you, go for it. I am just saying it is in no way obligatory and as a professional reader who’s been at it for quite some time I can say I never had any problems with my readings and all I do is take a wee and wash my hands before a reading. So no sleeping on your cards, dealing only with left, keeping them in the window during full moon or only reading without wearing underwear for me.
Now to reading…
First and foremost, get a deck. Yes that is important, it’s also important you pick up a deck that works for you. To start out using a well known deck is easier simply because there must be a reason it is well known and there is lots of reference material out there. Also it is a lot easier to learn the cards when you use illustrated pips. My advise, when starting out go with either the Rider Waite or the Crowley Toth. The rider works best for traditionalists, younger readers or people who like to dive into the symbolism. The Toth has a sort of new-agey feel to it and is somewhat more confrontational, for some considering Crowley’s personal history may have some weight in deciding for or against this deck.
Now get familiar with the cards
The fast way is simply to study the cards, lay ‘em on the table and keep the book next to it. To get a deeper and more intuitive understanding I do advice the longer term strategy. First sort out the cards an put the minors aside (the book you may should have purchased will explain what minor and major arcane are), make a pile of the major arcane, whether you leave them in the standard order or randomize them is a matter of personal preference. Each day pick one card and examine it, read up on the meaning of the card, use different information sources if possible and put the card on the bottom of the stack. Now focus on the literal and figurative meaning of the card, pull it into the abstract and recognize it’s patterns. Simply put, look around you all day and see how you can fit the card into your daily life.
I can feel you’re confused, I’ll illustrate with an example. Let’s pick 13, Death for this one, it’s one of the best known cards from popular media and also one of the most straightforward. It means: the end, over, schluβ and because of that, it also means a new start. A deeper meaning lies in Death being the great equalizer, to death it makes no difference whether you’re beggar or prince. So death… now you may see a run over animal in the street and think, look, it’s death. Also getting out of your car is death, it; s the end of a trip and the beginning of a new phase of that day, maybe this also ends the relaxed and self controlled part of the day as your workday may begin, this is a shift in perception and behavior you may go through. A co worker may get fired, or even quit himself, he is no longer a co worker, for him a new challenge begins, when it’s your boss that gets fired you see the equalizing effect of death, it can happen to everybody.
Get it? Now do this every day with a new card until you’ve had every card twice. After that do the same with the minor arcana. Now you have a basic knowledge of every card. After this it’s basically a matter of practicing, lots. Do readings for yourself and others, keep the book close for looking up cards as long as you feel you need to and even every once in a while after that. Try going to public places to do free readings, if that’s allowed, reading in public or for others is not legal everywhere make sure you know what you can and cannot do.
At this point you really don’t need my advice anymore, but I will leave you with a few tips I came up with through the years.
- - Get a reading yourself every once in a while to keep your mind open to the perception of your “clients”.
- - Keep reading up on cards, when you haven’t for a while you may start to get a one sided or limited view on the meaning of some cards.
- - Not all explanations of a card are in the books and some symbolism isn’t written down, try looking at the meaning of water and where it comes up in the Rider Waite for instance, this expands greatly on the meanings of the cards.
- - Don’t try to alter the believes of the ones you’re reading for. Don’t be overly skeptic with die hard “believers” and don’t try to convert the skeptics either.
- - Never claim to predict the future, though “strange things” may come up, you cannot claim to predict. Advise on future possibilities, open someone’s mind to possibilities and challenges they may encounter.
- - Put yourself in the place of the one you’re reading for, would you feel comfortable?
- - Avoid distraction, too warm a place, too cold, too much noise try to minimize distractions as much as possible.
- - Keep glasses of water and a box of tissues ready.
- - When you’re done, say so and stop talking (about the cards).