How to Learn Tarot

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

How a Newbie Can Learn Tarot

Are you a newbie to tarot? You want to do readings, so you check out online articles, videos, podcasts, you even head out to some meetups. But everybody tells you to look at the cards and use your intuition, right? Ugh. How do you even know you’re doing it right? And the book is so close… oh, come on, just read what the author said. They know the right way to do it. Right? But of course what they wrote has nothing to do with what you asked. What’s a beginning tarot reader to do? Here’s how to learn tarot, even if you’re a brand-new beginner.

Tell Stories

Margaret W. Tarrant, "Gates of Fairyland," 1922

Guess what. Yes, you can read tarot cards and get your answers from day one by looking everything up. But honestly, it is not the best way to truly learn the cards. Why? Because after you’ve consulted a few books, a few blogs, or a few videos you realize they all say something different.

So here is my super-secret, never-before-revealed (ok, maybe once) trick to learning to actually read the cards without consulting the book. Ready? Don’t do readings. Instead, use the cards to tell stories.

About Your Life

Although it’s definitely a good exercise and fun to make up fictional tales with your cards, what I mean is something a little different. Tell stories about your life. Don’t ask the cards what today holds. Instead, use the cards to lay out a story of what happened yesterday. Pick a significant happening (as significant as you can get for an ordinary day) and relate those events using the cards. Maybe your cat got out. Perhaps you had a piano lesson but hadn’t practiced. Possibly you cooked dinner from scratch, or bumped into an old friend (or enemy), or found a great deal. Something distinguished yesterday from the day before. Use your cards to describe what happened. Keep it simple — I’ll bet you can express the main ideas using three to five cards.

To Get to Know the Cards

This technique is perfect for the brand-new beginner for several important reasons. First, right off the bat you start looking through your deck at the cards rather than shuffling them face down. This helps you familiarize yourself with the card images.

Your Way

Second, you’re in charge of the process and that makes you confident. There’s no way to be wrong. You get to tell your story your way. Don’t defer to outside authorities. This is your bailiwick.

Look at the Card Image

Most importantly, you assign the meaning to the cards. Does this look like the first time you tried to knit a sock? (Or a tarot bag?)

Five of Wands from Robin Wood Tarot by Robin Wood, published by Llewellyn, 1991.

Maybe now all those stitches line up nice and straight and even.

Eight of Wands from Robin Wood Tarot by Robin Wood, published by Llewellyn, 1991.

But what do those cards mean? Who cares! You can tell that knitting a sock was fumbly at first and then smoothed out.

And see What It Has to Say

When you tell stories with the cards instead of trying to do readings, the cards become a natural communication tool. You taught them to speak. So now when you pull cards for a reading, you understand what they’re saying. Is there more to learn about tarot? Yep. And there’s plenty of time to learn it. You don’t need to know everything to start. Just get chatting.

You might also like my YouTube tutorial, “How to Develop Tarot Keywords Specific to Your Deck.”

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Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit
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