A Total Beginner’s Guide to Reading Tarot Cards

Divination doesn't have to be hard

A Total Beginner's Guide to Reading Tarot Cards

Allison Filice

From The Lord of the Rings to Lisa Frank, tarot decks have gotten the pop culture treatment in recent years. But the origin of tarot dates all the way back to the 15th century, when the cards were first used to play games but soon became a tool for seeing into the future.

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Originally, the deck contained only the Major Arcana, 22 cards representing major events and life stages. Images from this group might be familiar: The Hanged Man, Death, The Lovers, and The Fool, to name a few. Modern decks contain an additional 56 cards (the Minor Arcana), which signify different aspects of day-to-day life.

If you need help finding your path in life, you may be wondering if the tarot can guide you, just as people have for centuries. But where to start?

First, choose a deck. You could get the classic Rider-Waite deck or opt for a newly themed one, like this feminist tarot deck.

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Second, do some reading. A great book for beginners is Tarot for Yourself by Mary Greer, according to Amanda Yates Garcia, a witch and healer known as “the Oracle of Los Angeles.” Coming from a magical family, Garcia learned how to read tarot from her mother when she was just 12 years old and has been practicing ever since, even doing it professionally.

If you’re new to tarot, Garcia advises you to start by drawing a card each day, writing down what you see and what you imagine the card is about, and then recording the events of your day that correspond to what you found in the card.

You can also cross-reference your findings with the guide that typically comes with a new tarot deck. Just keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, there is no single correct meaning for any of the tarot cards, says Garcia.

“Getting the most from working with the tarot requires that you develop your powers of intuition, and that starts through developing a relationship with the cards themselves. All successful relationships are personal. Get intimate with your cards, and they will reward you with answers,” says Garcia.

As for the value and purpose of the tradition, Garcia says: “Tarot offers a fresh perspective on your life, shining a lantern on your desires, struggles, goals, and relationships, illuminating overlooked pathways for success. Archetypes and symbols drawing from thousands of years of mystical scholarship help to connect your own efforts and passions to the larger story of the unfolding universal consciousness.”

Still a bit skeptical? That’s totally fine, according to Garcia. Going to a skilled tarot card reader — instead of just trying to DIY it — still might be beneficial for you.

“Even if you believe the tarot is simply a random assortment of images, a good reader would still be able to offer you insight into your life and situation,” says Garcia. “The story you tell about your life determines your perspective and behavior. If you change the story, you get a different outcome.”

Tricia Tongco
Tricia Tongco

Tricia is a writer and senior editor at AwesomenessTV. She loves living in Los Angeles but misses the ample parking of Orange County. She has covered arts, culture, and politics for HuffPost and ATTN.