The Teller of Tarot

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

This is excerpted from my in-progress book, Journey Through Tarot. The first time I taught my tarot class in the early 90s I called it Exploring the Tarot. My marketing materials at the time said you would “become the teller of the spoken image.” Shortly thereafter I named it Journey Through Tarot, and my flyers invited you to “learn the metaphorical language of the tarot.” Last year I began calling it The Magician’s Tools and started using the phrase, “read the cards with your unique, authentic tarot voice.” I’ve continually expanded the class over the years, but the exercises have stood the test of time, and are as popular, effective–and telling– now as they were then.

A friend of mine often tells me about her aunt, who “told the cards.”

A professional reader I know says he doesn’t know much about tarot, but he’s happy to tell you a story about the pictures on the cards.

Journey Through Tarot is about learning to find your unique voice as a teller of tarot.

Many tarot instructors teach tarot in the same way that Classics professors teach Latin. First, you are given a list of vocabulary to memorize. Then you are given a passage from an ancient text to translate. This method of learning foreign languages is efficient and time-honored. But it’s not the only way to learn an unknown language. Another highly effective way is called cultural immersion. In cultural immersion, you learn the language through everyday conversations and interactions with others who use it and with those who are also just learning it. Your grammar may not be as precise as a student who spends most of the lesson conjugating verbs, but the personal reward of being able to communicate with another person in a new way is immense.

In Journey through Tarot, you learn the metaphorical language of tarot through cultural immersion. You won’t start by memorizing the meanings of cards, but rather you will use the images on the cards to determine what they mean to you. Nor will you begin by laying out spreads and translating them like a classic text, but rather you will intentionally choose cards that have something to say to you—and use these tarot images to express your thoughts and ideas. In this course, you will learn tarot backwards. You will learn to speak with the cards first. And then when you begin to listen to them, you will see that they have so much more to say than the stuttering of memorized phrases.

There are a number of different ways to read a card. In Journey Through Tarot, these different methods are called guideposts. This book presents seven guideposts that point the way toward understanding the cards. Exercises and examples help you to learn and apply each guidepost.

From the beginning you will be using cards in groups, not singly. The interaction of the cards is at the very foundation of learning to read tarot. It’s the difference between the word “cat” and the phrase “a black cat.” “Cat” as part of the phrase “a black cat” cannot refer to a tabby cat or a calico cat or a Siamese cat, and likewise, by laying down two cards, they must necessarily form a meaning that is different from that of either one alone. But if this method sounds complicated, the beauty is that it’s not. Because the guideposts teach you to use the cards to speak, all you have to do is tell stories with the cards. The stories you tell—the work you do with the cards—is what teaches you tarot. You learn by applying your own experiences, knowledge and understanding to the cards.

So, if this method doesn’t rely on the academic memorization of card keywords, does that mean it’s intuitive?

Many of the students of Journey Through Tarot have found that they feel their intuition is strengthened through these exercises. But reading tarot intuitively is not the goal of this course. These techniques teach you to interpret the symbolism of the card, just as an art history student learns to interpret art or an English major learns to interpret a poem. You may start with an intuitive response to the illustration on the card, but this technique teaches you to be aware of where within yourself those intuitions arise from and how you can test and verify them with knowledge you already have. Furthermore, the lessons in this book will introduce a variety of symbol systems, called systems of correspondence, so that your readings can be fine-tuned with new vocabulary from these various dialects.

The method offered in this book is not about memorizing meanings, nor is it solely about learning to trust your instinct as to what a card means, but rather it empowers you to confidently tell the stories in the cards by providing simple, easy to follow guideposts that help you analyze the symbols in any card to find that card’s unique meaning.

Ready for more? Check out my post Develop Tarot Keywords Specific To Your Deck or How to Learn Tarot.

Joy Vernon is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and Reiki Teacher in Denver, Colorado. Her specialty is the Empyrean Key Transformational Guidance, which combines energetic and esoteric modalities to help her clients break through blocks and align themselves with their higher purpose. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit

© 2012 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
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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