Five do’s and don’ts for tarot beginners

New to tarot?

Here are five do’s and dont’s for beginners

Let’s be real: There is a big learning curve to tarot. It can be so exciting to crack open your first deck, shuffle the cards, and lay them out.

But then what? For me, I remember feeling so overwhelmed and discouraged when I was starting out with tarot. I wanted to be able to connect with the cards instantly. When it didn’t happen, I put a ton of pressure on myself to memorize as much as I could about every card. This approach sucked up a lot of my enthusiasm.

It also went against what tarot is all about. The more I worked with the cards, the more I realized that tarot is meant to be slow. It’s meant to reveal itself piece by piece.

Our lives don’t happen in a linear fashion. Our narratives unfold in ebbs and flows. Tarot helps us see what we need to pay attention to in between it all. It can affirm what we know, and uncover what we don’t.

And those things take time to understand. Learning tarot requires patience and persistence, not because of the number of cards there are to learn, but because of the depth of their lessons.

When you start to put unnecessary pressure on yourself to master all 78 tarot cards right away, it can become a major block in what’s meant to be an organic, personal unfolding.

And not only is there the matter of learning all of those cards, but what about memorizing tarot spreads, reading inversions, and exploring other tarot techniques?

There can be so many questions about where, and how, to begin feeling comfortable and confident in learning tarot.

Having been through the confusion myself once upon a time, I’d like to offer a few tips to help you avoid tarot overwhelm:

1. DO… learn the order of the major arcana.

While I don’t suggest turning your whole tarot deck into a memorization game, it can be helpful to get familiar with the order of the 22 major arcana cards.

Lay them all out in a row and look at the scenes that are unfolding in each one. Start to get familiar with where each card falls. If a major appears in a reading, and you’re drawing a blank on what it means, you can start to think about which two cards it sits between.

For example: Temperance sits between Death and the Devil. Here, we have this soft, harmonizing energy between two intense cards. Temperance is sandwiched between the underworld, but there it is, working hard to rise above.

Learning the order that the majors run in can help to prompt you in your own readings by asking, “What had to come before this card, and what does it lead to after?”

2. DON’T…worry about inversions or reversals (at least for now.)

Some tarot readers swear by inverted cards and it’s a major part of their reading style. But style is the key word here: Using inversions is just one of many tarot reading techniques. As you move deeper into your work with tarot, you will have many opportunities to learn and experiment with reading techniques.

But when you’re starting out, keep it simple. Learn the cards. Get comfortable with forming interpretations. Develop a relationship with tarot and let it show you what it can do.

There is no hard and fast rule that says you must use inversions at all. Personally, I use them quite sparingly. With a clear question or intention for a reading, and with the right spread, upright cards can give you everything you need to know already.

When you’re still learning tarot, it’s enough to just to get familiar with each card. Don’t feel the need to add a whole other layer of meanings to tarot. When you reach a point where you’re well-versed with your deck, then you might want to try out some new reading styles to see what fits.

3. DO… question superstitions and tarot myths.

Tarot has been built up to hold so much mystery and mystique, and it’s hard to shake some of the superstitions it’s collected over the years.

When I teach tarot workshops, there is always at least one student who brings a borrowed deck to class. Why? Because they’ve heard that you’re not supposed to buy your own tarot deck.

The power of tarot has nothing to do with the process of acquiring a deck. Tarot is about empowerment, not about waiting for things to magically appear in your life. If you want to learn tarot, go out and find a deck that speaks to you and call it your own.

Superstitions can actually become a major block when you’re new to tarot, because they can plant seeds of doubt that you are starting off on a wrong note. You might wonder if the energy is off, or if you’ve jinxed yourself somehow.

Can other people touch your deck? It’s up to you. I do let people touch my cards. I don’t think someone else’s hands on my deck will affect my ability to interpret a reading – our power remains within, no matter what.

Do you need to wrap your deck in silk, or leave it in a special place so that it doesn’t attract ‘low’ or negative energy? I don’t find that this is the case. Keep your cards in whatever you like, wherever you like.

Will it be harder to learn tarot if no one in your family did any intuitive work? Is intuition something that has to be handed down from one generation to the next? Absolutely not. Intuition is like a muscle. The more you work with it, the stronger it gets. Tarot can be one of many tools that will help strengthen it.

4. DON’T… get discouraged if reading tarot doesn’t feel like a psychic experience.

My heart drops a little bit every time I hear someone say, “I’ve been trying to read tarot, but I don’t think I have any intuition.”

Learning tarot will change you. Trust me on that. But remember what I was saying at the beginning of this article, about how our lives unfold in ebbs and flows? Well, just like anything else, it’s not always going to be fireworks.

Tarot is a challenging thing to learn. It will be discouraging, and it will be confusing. But without knowing it, the cards will also be cracking you open, waking you up in ways that you never expected. Except that when you’re in the moment, the process might not always seem so obvious.

I have heard of some tarot readers who have psychic experiences when reading the cards, and I’ve had a few myself over the years. But for the most part, card reading is just that – reading.

Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself to see the past, present, and future when you flip the cards. Just look at what you’re seeing:

What colours, images, and actions are popping out at you? What kind of information are the cards giving you?

Your goal is to read the cards, to know them, to interpret them. Focus on what they’re showing you.

5. DO… set intentions for your tarot journey along the way.

Like any long-term commitment or goal, it can be helpful to set smaller, short-term objectives for yourself along the way in order to get to where you’re going.

What might your intentions with tarot look like for the first six months? Perhaps you’ll want to feel confident with just one or two suits in the minor arcana.

Within a year, maybe you’ll want to have the major arcana mastered, or perhaps you’ll want to have done a certain number of practice readings on friends.

At 18 months, maybe you’ll want to start your own tarot blog to keep you engaged and inspired.

These are just suggestions, of course, and will vary depending on your own goals with tarot, and your learning style. Whatever your intentions, setting short-term milestones can help you track your progress and keep you grounded and focused along the way.

All pictures in this post show the Morgan-Greet Tarot.

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  1. Masha says:

    Great advise Liz and while I intuitively knew most of this, I haven’t been practicing it. It’s like I want to know Tarot immediately, now, and that of course will not happen. The other thing is that I get the feeling of overwhelm because there is so much in a card, the colors, the number, the position of the characters, or the constellations, everything has meaning, and I get this feeling that I will not ever get to know all. thank you for inspiring me to just get started.

  2. Love this! It’s always illuminating to hear about how other people approach tarot.

    When I started out, I was actually really fired up about memorizing 78 meanings, and that’s what propelled me forward. The deeper connection through intuition came later for me. You’re totally right, though, that approach can be a real barrier for some folks. (I make a rough distinction between a “geek” approach or a “mystic” approach; it’s a bit of a false dichotomy because most people use a combination of the two, but I still found it a useful framework:

    Thanks for these great pointers for people who are just coming to tarot. The entire premise of my (public) tarot practice is accessibility and empowerment, so I will definitely be referring to this blogpost when working with beginners!

  3. there are NO rules to using the Tarot. If any person tell you what to do and what not to do, they are attempting to control people and their energies. Do NOT allow this to happen. the Tarot is a wonderful spiritual tool that works FREELY with your energies and reveals all you need to know. You do NOT need any intermediary imposing THEIR fears and experiences onto the cards. The cards have NO prejudices or conditioning. they are simply there for you to learn of your Self and your own path. There is NO human being on earth that knows anything about the Tarot when it applies to each individual. Each person has their OWN journey with the Tarot and it has NOTHING to do with anyone else. Human beings are famous for PROJECTING their own fears and insecurities onto the cards, which is quite irrelevant. Simply TRUST yourself and your OWN path and do NOT listen to ANY human being. They know NOTHING about the Tarot as it applies to each individual.

  4. Endo Alien says:

    Really useful piece for a novice like myself and to boot some of those superstitions were nothing me, people saying I shouldn’t let others handle my cards.
    Its nice to hear another insight into the organic flow of learning tarot and building your own home with this process.

    Enjoyable read.

  5. Isabel*bel says:

    Hello Beth! Blessed be! Thank you for writing such a beautiful article. I am new to Tarot and I am so overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to learn in order to read the Tarot. I started to learn it in February 2017. I thought I could see meaning in the cards when I first started to “read” the spreads I came up with (LOL). Then it all changed when I realized that the Tarot is so complex. I stoped doing spreads thinking that I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s the thing I stopped having fun with it. Reading your article Five do’s and don’ts for tarot beginners made me realized that I must enjoy the learning process instead of putting so much pressure on myself. I will study the Arcana , which by the way, seems easier than learning the suits, but I at all times I will have fun with it!

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