Monday, 14 December 2015

Tarot 101 - how to start reading?

How to get going and start interpreting cards? Here's what worked for me and why I think it worked. There are plenty of tutorials and methods around, both online and in books, and different systems work for different people. But this one proved to be the most useful and accurate for me. It takes time, but then again, tarot is a "language" and learning a new language will never happen overnight. So unfortunately this is not a "get rich quick" scheme, it's old fashioned slow effort! :)

Daily draws

I noticed through practice that daily draws are a useful method to get acquainted with the deck. For this to work, it's essential to keep journal or log about the cards you got, what you think they mean and what they turned out to mean at the end of the day. I believe that one card for a day is enough, because more cards can create confusion. Meaningful questions for the cards can be for example: what's my day like, what's the main theme/energy of my day, or what's the main lesson of this day.

Keep a journal

After drawing a card, write it down: I had an excel workbook for this purpose! I started daily draws as a "scientific" experiment, wanting to see how well the cards actually correspond with what will happen. At night (or the next morning at latest), write down what really happened - did the card's message match or not. For me, daily draws seem to deliver the strongest or the most lingering emotions of that day, so you will notice whether the card's message "materialised".

Study the imagery

Starting tarot journey by focusing on each card's picture or meditating on it is a good way to learn, but for me, weaving together the card, the day, the real events, actions and feelings; and the imagery worked the best. Say, I got the 5 Wands which usually means conflict, frustration, irritations and competition, and usually shows wands clashing, not managing to align. And what do you know: on a 5 Wands day, there are small obstacles on they way at every turn, little annoyances building up, maybe colleagues or friends causing frustrations with lack of cooperation. By living these emotions and thoughts through, going back to the card's image at the end of the day really makes it pop out and become clear: yes, now I know how this particular card feels!

Don't get discouraged

Daily draws come with a problem challenge that they might predict a very crappy day. Nobody wants to see the said 5 Wands, 3 Swords (heartache), 5 Cups (disappointment) or 8 Cups (abandoning something, fed up) first thing in the morning. Speaking from experience, it's easy to get discouraged and negative about the day ahead. But, this pessimistic attitude is bound to deliver a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The beauty of tarot is the chance to focus more on your inner life, target unhelpful thoughts, weed out negativity: and prepare for challenges, but aim for balance and positivity. I've managed to avoid quite a few emotional lows by being prepared for a potentially disappointing news or a period of time. Just stay zen and trust it will pass. It always will! The next day might deliver happiness and joy of 10 Cups, 2 or 3 Cups, 4 Wands and so on.

Learn card keywords

Cards can be read either intuitively without any background knowledge at all, or in a constructed manner based on the traditional meanings of each card, originally set by the creator of the deck. Or as a mix. I'd say all readers use both aspects and the style differs in how far to each side one ventures.

Keywords help with getting the base line meanings out of the cards. There are plenty of good tutorials online, easily found by Google. As a more or less strict thumb rule, I used to check meanings from at least five different sources for each card and build my own mental database by combining the fixed meanings and my own experiences with each daily card to have enough width and depth in my interpretations.

My favourite sources for keywords are American Tarot Association (because I like lengthy and well argued explanations...), Learn Tarot (because of the handy and accurate keywords list), Aeclectic tarot forum (both the meanings list and the discussion forum, where you can ask others to help), Keen and Biddy Tarot (for their user-friendly style).

I have also used Psychic Revelation and Tarot Teachings but for my liking these lack depth and breadth. Just a matter of taste, I guess!

Use your intuition

This is, simultaneously, very easy and easier said than done. How to teach an improved or enhanced use of intuition? There are no rules that work the same for everyone. But card images are there for a purpose: to give cues and clues about what it could mean. Study each card carefully to see what's happening in it. Who's in the picture? What role they have? What are they doing? What's happening in the background? Are there other people involved and if yes, are they supportive or menacing? How could the main character feel in this situation? Is the card full or emptier, organised or cluttered, busy or calm? What colours are used and how do they make you feel? How about all the pictures and symbols on the card? What comes to mind? What is the overall "vibe", the feeling this card evokes?

Know what time period to focus

Daily draws are a good way to learn because one day is a set timeframe that makes it easy for the reader to identify whether or not the card "took place". But feel free to expand to weekly, monthly, quarterly and even annual readings to gain more practice!

I often see people struggling with interpreting daily draws because the card was too strong, too dramatic for the day. Does it really count as a Tower - sudden shock or crumbling of beliefs and assumptions - that the copy machine jammed and the bus home was late? Tarot contains many symbols for serious, life changing and even shocking events (e.g. Tower, Death, 10 Swords), but in my experience in a daily reading setting they hardly ever mean the "strongest" version of themselves. It seems to me that the shorter the time period in focus, the more diluted the messages are.

Think tarot and your life as a book. A yearly reading would capture the main themes of the whole book (titled the Year of Your Life), a monthly reading would explain one chapter, a weekly reading will highlight a few paragraphs and a daily reading gives a sentence or two. Of course, one sentence in a book can make the world's difference and change the course of the plot. But it's more likely than not that it will just carry the overall story forward: in the framework of one day, that one card was the "peak" moment or the strongest element, compared to the rest that happened that same day.

I hope this helps with getting started or honing your style!
Navigating the uncharted waters of intuition is easy and difficult simultaneously. Photo by Noah Rosenfield, creative commons licence. 
Reach new beautiful heights with improved skills. Photo by Jenny Marvin, creative commons licence.

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