Learning how to read tarot cards can be overwhelming. There are so many layers and systems: all those spreads, suits, symbols, numbers, archetypes and elements. And what are those Court Cards about, really? If you’ve recently purchased a deck of tarot cards and a book, and tried to memorize the meanings, you’re already frazzled and ready to give up. Yet, there is another way: learn to read tarot intuitively.
You have probably seen movies where a bejewelled tarot card reader places many cards in a complicated layout – well forget all that. To learn to read tarot intuitively all you need to begin is one card. Shortly, you will be able to move on to two and three card ‘spreads’.
Intuitive Tarot Card Reading: Exercise One
To learn how to read tarot intuitively you have to trust your gut feelings. It’s not difficult. Try this:
Take out a card at random from the pack. Look at it. Is there a human figure on it? What are they doing? Does it suggest an emotion to you? How does it make you feel? Peaceful? Creeped out? Fearful? Optimistic? Explore the emotion. You can write about how it makes you feel if you want to. This is a great basis for tarot journalling.
Connecting With Your Subconscious: Exercise Two
Connecting with your own thoughts and memories is all important when reading tarot intuitively. Your subconscious is able to use your past experiences to tell you what the card means. You can forget what the ‘proper’ meanings are; intuitive readers don’t worry about any of that. Try this:
Look at the card again for a few minutes. Close your eyes. Do you experience any random thoughts or memories? Anything from your childhood right up till this morning. Don’t force it or search through your memory bank. Simply allow the thoughts to rise up – doesn’t matter how random they seem. Make notes, if you can.
Pick Out Details: Exercise Three
Sometimes, the tiniest detail can spark a ‘a-ha’ moment. Try this:
Take another card out of the deck without looking at it – best to have it face-down. Breathe deeply three times. Turn the card and notice what attracts your attention first. Was it a brightly colored dress or a carving, or a weapon or tool. What caught your eye? What does that item mean to you? For example a red cloak or dress might remind you of courage or perhaps passion? Crossed swords could look defensive, or preparation for an attack? Maybe a cat or a bird grabbed your attention first? Again describe what it was and why you think it’s important.
Ask a Question: Exercise Four
Now it’s time to do your first intuitive tarot reading. No books allowed. Try this:
Spend a little time formulating a question you’d like an answer to. Think about it carefully; you don’t want to ask a closed yes/no question because you want to suck as much information out of one card as you can. A good one to begin with might be “What energies are surrounding me right now?”
Keeping your question in mind, breathe deeply three times. Shuffle your cards, cut them with your left hand into two piles, put the bottom pile on the top, then turn over the first card. Don’t pay attention to whether it is upside down; we’re not ready for reversals yet. Place the card right-way up in front of you.
1. What is your initial response? Make a quick note of your feelings upon seeing the image.
2. What random memories or thoughts arise? Write them down – just one or two words will do.
3. What details in the image seem to be important? Make a note.
4. Using that intuitive information can you form an answer to the question?
Perhaps an example might help?
How to Read Tarot Intuitively: Example Reading
I’ll use the Rider-Waite deck as you’ll probably be using it, or one very similar, and I’ll ask the question in the exercise above, “What energies surround me today?”
The Four of Wands
My initial feeling is odd – one of relief. It’s been a tense few days and I was expecting a more ‘difficult’ card, so upon seeing the bright yellow sky and cheerful image, my immediate reaction was ‘Whew!”
When seeing this card, I’m always reminded of my first wedding day. It was a gorgeous sunshiny day and we’d had a bit of agonizing over colors – my dress was cream and I wanted a cream colored cake and cream and deep orange roses. Well something went horribly wrong in the days prior and the cream roses were yellow ones and the lady decorating the cake phoned up in horror – the icing was much more yellow than cream. To me, the idea of yellow and deep orange was revolting. It turned out to be one of the prettiest weddings I’ve ever been to, and many guests said the same. Yellow wasn’t a color theme often chosen for weddings back then. So this card always brings back a reminder of a joy-filled day.
The detail that stands out for me is the castle wall in the background. It reminds me of firm foundations, a solid base, yet there’s an open archway built into the wall which allows free passage. So in no way do the walls make me feel restricted or hemmed in. Inside those walls I would feel safe, yet free.
Putting those emotions, memories and details together, this card tells me that the energies around me are supportive, reassuring, calm, yet encouraging. I can relax into the energy of well-being. It’s a good answer and it makes me happy.
Now you try one.
Read Tarot Intuitively: Going Forward
You can repeat these exercises until you find that deciphering a card becomes second nature to you. You never have to memorize the meanings or engage in detailed study. Your card/s will mean different things on different days, in response to different questions.
When you are ready, you can progress to two or more cards, taking note of any interactions, similarities, or contrasting details. Then apply the same procedure as before: Feelings/emotions; thoughts/memories; meaningful details.
Later, and only if you want to, you could research the four tarot elements, learn a little about the Major Arcana and the Fool’s Journey. Any knowledge that you assimilate will add further depth and nuance to your personal intuitive tarot reading method.