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Explore Tarot for Beginners | Tarot Guide

People use tarot for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you want to gain insights into current obstacles or you’re seeking answers on what next steps to take during a major life event. Whether you’re asking about relationships, money, career choices, or simply how your past might impact your future, tarot readings can be powerful tools to reveal possibilities and explore paths available to you. Getting a tarot reading can be a wonderful opportunity to ask questions and receive a fresh perspective, no matter what you would like to know. Our Tarot Guide can help you learn the ways that tarot can bring you insight, clarity, and peace of mind.

What is Tarot?

Tarot uses a distinct set of 78 cards to provide a pictorial guide to your soul's journey on this plane of existence. Each card offers a snapshot of life and its possibilities. Filled with rich symbolism, these cards can help you tap into your subconscious and unlock the deep wisdom contained within.

What is the History of Tarot?

Myth and legend have it that these cards of divination originated thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt from the sacred book of the Egyptian god, Thoth. Thoth, the most powerful of the ancient immortals, was said to be the first fortuneteller. Others believe that Tarot came from China or India and was later introduced to Europe, circa 900AD by the gypsy tribes.

Some believe that gypsies were the first real fortune tellers.  They were mysterious, nomadic, and largely misunderstood. Many gypsies were intuitive and the gift was handed down from generation to generation. They often don’t get credit for their contributions to the metaphysical world, but they were the first to use the crystal ball as a mirror to the future. It’s also been said that they invented the standard deck of 78 cards. Prior to the invention of the printing press, the legend is that the gypsies first used pieces of leather with hand-painted symbols to tell fortunes. In the 1300’s, in Spain, the first cards were called “naibito” which means “to foretell.”

The oldest surviving actual deck that still exists today is from Italy, circa 1400 AD, which was made for an Italian nobleman as a card game called Tarocchi. In the early 1500s, the Italian game of Tarocchi was translated into the French word Tarot.

By the late 1700s, mystics in England and France saw the symbolic pictures of the cards as having more meaning than simple games. The popularity of tarot led to the creation of many new styles of decks, such as the Tarot de Marseilles in the late 1700s, the Vera Sibilla in the 1880's, the most famous Rider-Waite-Smith Deck of the early 1900s, and various oracle card decks of the past 50 years. 

Throughout history, the Tarot's ever-changing design has evidenced influences from cultures and periods encompassing a rich tapestry of global cultures and historical periods.  Symbolic representations include references to astrology, the Kabbalah, Christianity, the Crusades, Buddhism, medieval alchemy, Greek and Hebrew alphabets, and emblems of Egyptian deities.

Any standard 78-card tarot deck shuffled before each reading, offers an unlimited amount of alternative interpretation. Today there are hundreds of published decks with distinctly different artwork. From the ancient gypsies to the "Order of the Golden Dawn," tarot cards have passed through Spain, France, and England in their journey to bring light where there is darkness.

Why Do People Read Tarot?

Whether you’re interested in exploring tarot for beginners or want to learn more about tarot readings before reading with a professional, our Tarot Guide covers all the basics, and then some.

Learning to decipher the messages contained within the tarot takes time and study. Fundamentally, tarot is a practice of insight and introspection. Because the messages are often coded in symbols and imagery, it’s always helpful to validate the information by getting a reading from an experienced tarot reader. This gives you an opportunity to focus on a question or area of your life where your choices seem unclear. Drawing on psychic insight as well as experience understanding how individual tarot cards interact with one another when they appear within a spread, a professional tarot reader can quickly suggest patterns and possibilities for you to consider whether they make sense to you.

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Find deeper insights and gain a deeper perspective about any aspect of your life. A personal tarot reading with one of our skilled professional Tarot readers will help to reveal what’s hidden inside the tarot at this moment for you.

Choosing a highly rated tarot reader that you feel drawn to is the first step. Enjoy the journey that a skilled tarot reading brings.

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How it Works for Me

When I concentrate on a question, as I continue to shuffle the cards, I receive psychic messages about the issue at hand.  Then once the cards are laid out, the messages I’ve received through psychic vision and the messages evidenced in the cards synch up together, resulting in an answer for the seeker.  The cards, for me, amplify and expand on the psychic messages I received while shuffling.” - Psychic Therese

Learning Tarot

It's not uncommon for beginners to feel a little intimidated when they first hold a tarot deck in their hands—78 cards can seem like a lot! But remember, no one is born knowing how to read tarot cards. We are, however, all born with intuition. Your intuition is your strongest ally in choosing a tarot deck and learning tarot. Mindfulness and metaphysical grounding practices like smudging, to clear the energy and put you in the right mindset, and meditation, to quiet the mind, unleash creativity, and listen within, are foundational for mastering tarot.

Deck designers purposefully utilize elements in each card's design to tap into our subconscious. Even if you don't understand all the symbolism, your deeper knowing makes a connection to the aspects of the cards you most need to see. Of course, time and practice will help you further refine your understanding of the cards' meaning so you can get the most out of a tarot reading.

How do You Learn to Read Tarot Cards by Yourself?

A common way to begin learning tarot is to start each day with a daily card reading. While shuffling tarot cards, try to quiet your mind so that you can receive whatever messages your spirit guides want you to know.  Some tarot experts suggest that while holding your deck of cards in your hand, you “knock” on the deck – tapping the deck several times to disperse your energy into the cards before shuffling.

Choose one card and examine the pictures to see if you can interpret any messages or meanings in the images before looking up their meaning. You can increase your understanding of the tarot by pairing this with some journaling. Simply jot down any random impressions or feelings from the card, and only then look up the traditional meaning, making note of anything that jumps out. If the message doesn’t make sense right away, do not choose another card. Instead, pay attention to what comes your way that day.

In the evening, look back at your notes. Somewhere along the line, something may make sense in some way. Over time, you may begin to see patterns, and your intuition will grow stronger, along with your understanding of the cards. Keeping track of the cards will help you see repetitions you might otherwise miss, and point to messages you need to pay attention to. As your familiarity with the cards advances, you may begin to experiment with simple 3 and 5-card spreads.

How Do You Master Tarot?

Once you’ve learned the basics of tarot, you may be excited to develop your expertise as a reader. You may find these suggestions helpful on your journey:

  • Get regular tarot readings from a variety of readers 

  • Watch videos of tarot readings and readers

  • Take online classes

  • Practice, practice, practice – take your deck with you wherever you go

  • Master the meaning of the cards to the point that you no longer need to refer to guidebooks or external sources of information and can rely solely on your intuition

  • Constantly work on your observation, listening, and empathy skills

  • Meditate frequently and work on your own issues and boundaries

  • Be sure to clean your tarot cards frequently, especially after giving readings to others

  • You can find more tips on how to read tarot here.

Is it Bad to Read Your Own Tarot Cards?

While most experts agree that the tarot is a wonderful tool for self-reflection, some professional readers avoid reading for themselves. It really depends on your situation and what you need from your reading. If you need to tap into your inner wisdom or seek information that has been eluding you, learning how to read tarot cards for yourself can be a powerful way to find answers to the questions you’re asking of the cards. On the other hand, if you really need insight into another person or situation, reading your own cards can simply confirm your own biases. In that case, reading your own cards is unlikely to offer new insights.

A Trusted Partnership

When you need an objective or expansive perspective that is not bound by the limitations of your own thinking, turning to a professional tarot reader whom you’ve gotten to know, and trust can be validating and empowering. Psychic Mariam explains, "A professional tarot reader will be able to see beyond the limitations of your perspective. She or he will be able to ground the information in a more objective and accurate context. 

The more complicated your situation, the more fraught with emotion or anxiety, and the higher the stakes, the more it helps to partner with an expert who can hold space for your emotions and simultaneously and gently peel back the layers of meaning contained in the cards.  A professional tarot reading is a conversation, a partnership, between you and the reader, working together to understand the messages of the cards for your highest and best good.

"A professional tarot reader is someone who has spent years reading for others. It takes practice learning to focus on another person's energy and distinguishing your thoughts/feelings/ideas from that other person's," explains Psychic Christy. "A professional tarot Reader is also someone who trusts their intuition. They aren't going to be second-guessing their spreads or telling you they don't know what the cards are saying.” 

How to Get a Personal Tarot Reading

Reading Tarot cards can give you greater insights into almost any particular situation in life. You can receive pointers to get possible answers for any burning questions you might have.

But trusting the interpretation of Tarot cards to novice enthusiasts could mean the difference between you making a clear decision about something and simply leaving it to chance.

Gaining deeper insights and fresh perspectives are just a couple of the benefits of a personal tarot reading with one of our skilled professional Tarot readers.

Reveal what’s hidden inside your tarot cards at this moment for you. Select a highly rated tarot reader that you feel drawn to.

Guiding Us Toward New Futures

“Tarot is infinite in its meanings and images. I use my own psychic vision and help from my spirit guides to show the different influences and concerns in your present life. There is never just one future, but tarot can help us make good decisions and move forward in the best possible way.” — Psychic Zee 

Beginner Tarot Spreads and Meaning

While each of the cards has its own distinct meaning, a lot of the specific shades and nuances of the reading come together when you look at how they fit with other cards in the spread. Tarot spreads help organize the message the cards have for you. The interpretation of a card’s meaning is strongly affected by its position in the chosen spread. At a minimum, you will be juggling these two variables – card meaning, and positional meaning – at all times. Think of the cards in a spread like chapters or characters in a larger story and see how they fit together. 

Beginner tarot spreads follow a simple linear pattern to simplify the variables and build confidence in the interpretation. Three-card linear spreads are adaptable to many situations and can be expanded to 5 cards as you master tarot card meanings and begin to go deeper. After you’ve mastered these beginner spreads, we’ve introduced a modified Celtic Cross pattern to add a little more nuance to your readings.

Three Card Tarot Spread

Simple Three Card Tarot Spread

Three-card spreads are a terrific starting point for beginners to better understand how positions affect meanings, while still being powerful enough for seasoned tarot readers to use regularly. There are a variety of three-card tarot spreads for guidance out there, but let’s start by looking at one of the better-known ones, the past-present-future spread.

The first card represents an event from the past. Its energy directly shapes the energy of the second card, the present. That energy in turn will shape the energy of the future. It is up to you to decide how to work with or shift that energy.

Other linear 3-card spreads also follow this cause-and-effect pattern, tracing the energy through a sequence of events, from left to right. You can pick a three-card spread that relates to your specific question or situation such as:

  • Past, Present, Future

  • The situation, Action, Outcome

  • Where You Are Now, Your Path, Your Potential

  • Current Situation, Obstacle, Advice

Five Card Spread

Once you are comfortable with three card spreads, you can move to larger tarot spreads for guidance. Five-card spreads are an excellent choice for extracting a deeper level of nuance from your reading while keeping things simple. You have more positions to work with and more relationships between the cards you have set out to glean information from.

One simple option for an expanded reading using 5 cards is to lay the cards in a line as with a 3-card reading, but now they represent:

  • Far Past, Past, Present, Future, Far Future

  • You as You Are, Are You on the Correct Path? What is the Main Obstacle? What is Helping me? How Can I Progress?

  • Past, Present, Hidden Influences, Advice, Possible Outcome

A good, all-purpose five-card reading to start off with is an abbreviated form of the classic Celtic Cross. There are a few different ways to read this spread as well.

Simple Five Card Tarot Spread

The first card represents you as you are now. The second card is the past and the third is the future. So far, this is not too different from the past-present-future spread we discussed earlier. The nuances come in with the next cards.

Card 4 represents the reason or influences you might not be aware of that are shaping the situation. It’s common to have this card shed light on things that might be blocking you. It can also help clarify card 2.

Card 5 represents potential ways you can grow from this situation. Compare it with card 3 to get a clearer picture of how to best use the upcoming energy to your benefit.

A second way to read this spread is as follows:

  • Situation, Challenge, Guidance, Focus, Outcome

If you’d like to try your hand at additional tarot spreads, we’ve collected some of our tarot readers’ favorite spreads here, including a variety of love tarot spreads, future love tarot spreads, career tarot spreads, financial tarot spreads, and  more.  

Tarot Cards and Their Meanings

The study of tarot starts with mastering tarot card meanings. Most decks come with booklets that describe the symbolism in each card. This Psychic Source Tarot Guide includes detailed descriptions of every tarot card meaning with pictures. The sections of the Guide describing the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana also contain downloadable pdfs. Supplement your reading with tarot podcasts that use expert-led guided meditations to delve deeper into the personal meaning each tarot card holds for you. Once you feel confident in your interpretation, put away the guidebooks, and let the cards speak to you through your intuition. Remember their meaning is influenced as much by their position in the spread, and proximity to other cards, as well as the energy of the reading as the meaning of the card itself.

How Many Tarot Cards Are in a Deck?

A tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards, of which 22 are part of the Major Arcana, and the remaining 56 are what is known as the Minor Arcana or Court Cards. The Major Arcana symbolizes one's journey with images such as The Sun, The Star, The Moon, and The World. The Major Arcana's messages represent the big issues of life while the Minor Arcana reveal day-to-day situations. The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana are similar to modern playing cards, with four suits and royalty cards. The suits are Pentacles, representing earthly matters, Cups reflect emotions, Swords rest in thoughts and Wands are spiritual messages.

What is the Most Powerful Tarot Card?

Expert opinions vary as to which is the most powerful tarot card. In part, the answer to this question depends on a personal and contextual understanding of power. 

For some readers, the first card, also known as Card 0 or The Fool is the most powerful card because it represents the power of possibility, an infinity of beginnings and endings. For other readers, there is powerful magic in the Magician (Card 1), as their power over themselves and their circumstances give them the power to change not only themselves but also the world. Still, others would point to the spiritual power of the High Priestess – who straddles the world of the living and the spirit, or the mind and the subconscious, or the power of the Hierophant, who represents worldly authority, as being the most powerful of the tarot cards. 

How you personally relate to the idea of power, and how the cards show up in a reading, will be different for every individual. However, bear in mind that tarot cards themselves do not have magical properties or powers. Tarot cards are simply cards. Similar to crystal balls, tea leaves, scrying bowls, or any other object psychics use for divination, they are the vehicle a psychic may use to focus attention and tap into the energy. "Tarot is about advice. Nothing is written in stone regarding our futures," explains Psychic Mae. "Tarot provides a window of greater clarity--a way to understand the overall situation with more understanding. It doesn't tell you the future, but rather offers insight that will help you to write the best possible future for yourself.”  Tarot cards are popular for those just beginning to explore the psychic arts because they provide directional guidance that can help you assess your current circumstances and choose your path forward.

What are the Worst Cards in a Tarot Deck?

There are no bad cards in a tarot deck. The Death card does not mean that you are going to physically die. It could mean a painful transition, a new beginning, or even the birth of a child. Likewise, the Devil card does not always mean the presence of evil. It could mean the end of a relationship, untrustworthy people in your life, or your own ego. The much-feared Tower card is a harbinger of change and challenges you to overcome the fear of change; it could signal the end of a painful relationship or a toxic job, for example, clearing the way for something better.

Tarot Cards, Mysticism, and the Occult

Many people think that tarot cards are associated with the occult because tarot readers are sometimes depicted as mystical figures. The idea that tarot cards are magical was actually fabricated by Jean-Baptiste Alliette in the 1780s. After Alliete, Antoine Court de Gebelin took this idea and ran with it by publishing a book that studied the symbolism of tarot cards and their connection to the occult. In the nineteenth century, the famous occultist known as Eliphas Lévi developed a correlation between the Tarot and the Kabbalah: the Hebrew system of mysticism. This fueled a new belief that the Tarot originated in Israel and contained the wisdom of the Tree of Life. The new theory brought all 78 cards together as keys to the mysteries, but again, there were no concrete facts to support it. Nevertheless, the theory would later serve as proof that the symbolism of the Tarot crossed all boundaries. From this point forward, many magical and esoteric groups recognized the Tarot as a timeless body of knowledge that had significance in every mystical path.

Tarot Card Symbolism

The rich imagery and symbolism depicted on the cards draw on meanings found in astrology, numerology, culture, myths, world religions, and legends. Tarot cards are symbolic. The symbolic reality is a subtle one and the energies involved between the seeker and the reader can affect the cards and the ability of the reader to accurately pick up on the meaning behind the cards. A skilled tarot reader can connect the ancient wisdom encoded in the cards to whatever energy is generated by a situation or question at hand, opening pathways of awareness and insight. 

"Today's tarot card designs reflect specific trends in sexuality, religion, culture, and philosophy," explains Psychic Advisor Zachary. "The diversity of the styles allows tarot readers to choose a deck that suits their personalities, the subject of the reading, the person receiving the reading, or any other variable as they so choose. Certain decks have a serious tone, some have a dream-like quality, and others are full of fun cartoon images. The true beauty lies in the tarot's ability to retain its "soul" through each metamorphosis and incarnation. It is, on many levels, a mirror of those who work with it, and allows them to make each reading a truly personal experience."

And when it comes to the Tarot and Relationships, not all love involves just two people. Psychic Arielle shares a detailed overview of what to expect in a Love Triangle Tarot Reading including basic meanings of certain cards. 

Tarot Cards and Psychology

The Tarot is not just an effective tool for divination; it also enables the seeker (as facilitated by a psychic reader) to access those parts of his or her psyche generally unavailable through the intellectual process. "Through its use," explains Psychic Therese, "a tarot reader can tap into our ancestor's 'cultural/tribal memory' which is thought to be stored and imprinted in our collective unconscious since the origins of mankind."  

To this end, the theories of psychiatrist and metaphysician Carl Jung (1875-1961) have greatly influenced the use and significance of the Tarot as a psychic bridge to the unconscious as well as a catalyst for personal growth.

Jung theorized that our contemporary human minds were developed and influenced by the cumulative experiences of past generations, extending back to the most primitive history of the human race.  He felt that this information, in total, was genetically imprinted on each individual's cell memory going forward to the present day. Through tarot readings, our ancient imprinted memory interfaces with our current real experiences. These components interact to formulate solutions and give clarity that’s not readily available through conventional means.

Tarot and Psychic Meaning

Tarot is an art and reading and interpreting the cards takes years and years of practice. But once you learn how to read the cards you can read for anybody. The best way to start with Tarot and the interpretations (besides reading books) is to consider the pictures and your first instinct with what you see. It's usually the correct interpretation (depending on the question). "With tarot, it is more than just what a card 'means'", explains Psychic Leah. "It is how the energies of the cards work together and with the situation. Also, there is an intuitive element to knowing how to properly interpret the energies."  You won’t memorize Tarot card meanings, but rather, feel into them by paying attention to your instincts and feelings.

For our psychics, tarot is a tool that works hand in hand with their psychic abilities. Psychic Zee puts it this way, "It's true that some people can learn the traditional meanings of Tarot cards and then deal them out and tell you what the cards say. But this is not how a psychic tarot reader uses Tarot.  The Tarot is a tool, and tools are always just a place to start the reading.  It helps establish a connection with you, the seeker. I use my psychic vision, along with help from my spirit guides, to address your questions and show important people, influences, and concerns in your present life. More cards appear that show the most possible future outcomes. The intended result is that this information will help you to make good decisions and move forward in the best possible way.”  

Learning tarot is a journey like the path we are on in life.

How to See New Possibilities

Life can seem puzzling! Tarot can definitely guide you to find answers and help to provide new ways of looking at things. But Tarot can seem confusing at first!

No wonder!

There are 72 tarot cards, and a typical Tarot spread uses 10 cards.

Did you know that there are over 14.5 million combinations of those 10 cards alone?

Knowing how to make sense of what a combination of Tarot cards means in your individual tarot spread and for your particular question is the benefit of consulting with an expert professional tarot reader .

With their guidance you can find deeper insights and gain a deeper perspective about any aspect of your life.

Choose from a highly rated tarot reader that you feel drawn to. Experience the insights that a skilled tarot reading brings.

What to Expect in a Professional Tarot Reading

The old stereotypes of psychics and tarot readers make for good theatrics, but today you can find professional tarot readers among people from all walks of life, with backgrounds ranging from psychology and life coaching to religion and spirituality. Modern readers take pride in delivering a professional service governed by high ethical standards.

Just before your reading begins, your tarot reader may perform a ritual to cleanse the cards and the session of distracting energies. You should do the same; that is, go into the reading with an open mind and a neutral mood.

To start things off, your psychic may ask your name, birthday, and if you have a specific question you'd like to focus on. Here's how Psychic Therese, who has been reading Tarot professionally since the earliest days of Psychic Source, explains why a little bit of information upfront is important. "There is a lot of energy in a first name, so it's helpful if I have the first name of the client and the first names of the other people in question, if possible. It's also important for me to help the caller construct their question so that I can focus on the energy of the caller as well as the other players involved. I want to have to have a perspective, from the client, if they want, for example, a love, work, or money reading. I then stay in the perspective of the question as I am reading the cards."  

During the reading, your psychic will lay out a spread and offer an interpretation of what it could mean for your life. While anyone can learn tarot card meanings and symbolism, an advantage to a professional psychic tarot reading is that the reader can also use information from his or her psychic gifts in the interpretation.

As each card is revealed, you will have an opportunity to discuss your questions with your psychic. You never know what to expect for sure from a tarot reading, but it’s important to go into it with an open mind. The tarot reader needs to get energy from you to give an accurate reading, so relax and go with the flow.  You can even add another layer to a Tarot Reading. Discover what happens when you mix in some Alchemy with traditional tarot card meanings to get insightful tarot combinations. 

The Benefits of Getting a Tarot Reading

Tarot cards are like a foreign language. Working with a skilled tarot reader is like hiring a native guide as you're traveling through a distant land. Not only does the tarot reader speak the native language, but they are familiar with the landscape around you. Alone, you might have a pleasant journey through this land and enjoy some of the sights, but you wouldn't find that hidden grove of treasures that the locals know about. A skilled psychic will take your reading beyond the surface insights that the cards may provide and into deeper, richer territory.

As your tarot reader reveals the cards, they will rely upon their connection with you to interpret them accurately as they relate to your individual situation. Expert tarot readers are psychics in their own right who can gain meaningful insights from the universe, spirit guides, and their own intuition about your cards to help inform your reading. In the hands of a knowledgeable reader, a tarot card spread can form an intricate and detailed map to help you navigate the future. "Professional tarot card readers are not emotionally involved so they tap into the collective energy of the Divine and the tarot cards to give you excellent insight into circumstances you are currently experiencing," explains Psychic Amber. "Getting a tarot reading from a professional tarot reader is like someone becoming a beacon or guiding light to show you the way and the next steps to take to secure the outcome you need, want, or desire.” 

But what happens if you hear unexpected or bad news as a result of a Tarot reading? To cope with a negative tarot reading, it's important to understand that the messages are not set in stone and find ways to shift perspective on negative tarot cards. For these reasons, tarot works best when you can establish a good relationship with the practitioner. Forming a connection with a psychic tarot reader can help them gain deeper and more accurate insights about you. When you get a tarot reading, you're at the center of the story that's laid out across your spread.  

Get Your Own Personal Tarot Reading

  • Find deeper insights about your questions
  • Gain new perspectives about your life
  • Reveal what’s hidden inside your tarot cards
  • Get your own personal tarot reader
  • Enjoy the journey that a skilled tarot reading brings

Need a Second Opinion? Get a Tarot Reading from Psychic Source

Sometimes it can be challenging to read for yourself, especially if it’s about a topic that you have a strong emotional investment in. It can be hard to be objective in those situations. Also, it can be tricky to get the hang of connecting all the cards, especially in larger readings, into one cohesive message.

That’s where a tarot reading can help. We have many advisors who are skilled in the tarot ready to offer an expert second opinion or be your guide as you learn more about the Tarot. They’re available 24-7 to answer any questions you have on how to better use the Tarot to live your best life..