So you want to learn how to read tarot? You’ve got a tarot deck and a good book and worked your way through it. You can already remember most of the card meanings. You can already imagine yourself dispensing wisdom and helping people through their problems. Wait though, your friend told you that she had heard somewhere that only psychics can read tarot. Then you read somewhere on the web that you have to have years and years and years of experience before you can call yourself a ‘tarot reader’. Worst of all, sometimes you still have to refer to your book when a card looks at you blankly. How do you become a good tarot reader?
There is a lot of nonsense said and written about tarot reading. So much so, that aspiring readers are often daunted by the sheer amount of ‘rules’. A good tarot reader shuns these directives as s/he learns that following their own path is the way to go.
Let’s get rid of some of these myths and replace them with some sensible advice.
Do You Have To Be Psychic To Read Tarot?
No. Definitely not. Most psychics who read tarot are using the cards to kick-start their unique gift. They could give you a reading based on the freckles on your nose if they wanted to. The cards merely give them focus.
The rest of us rely on a combination of intuition, knowledge of the cards, life experience and feedback from the person we’re reading for – the seeker, for want of a better term. More on this later in the article.
Do You have To Study Tarot for Years?
Nooo… and yes, to this one. Some people take to tarot like ducks to water and read completely intuitively. To these, I would say ignore most of what I’ve written here, do it your own way; your readings will be brilliant.
Learning from one source, such as a book, will not make you a good reader. Reading only for yourself will not make you a good reader. It does take time and lots of practice. It depends how much of both you are willing to undertake. If you are serious about tarot, and if tarot has got hold of you, hook, line and sinker, then you will happily study tarot for years and years. A good reader keeps an open mind and is always open to a new insight for a card.
Spend time writing down your readings. Draw a card a day. Read for friends. Keep a tarot journal. If you get good feedback and generally feel you are doing well, then there is nothing preventing you branching out and advertising your services a little further afield. You know when the time is right. You also know if you aren’t quite ready.
Sometimes the Meaning Eludes Me and I Need to Refer To a Book – Is This Acceptable?
I had a reading done for me once… the guy offered to send me one, so I asked my question and got back a long ‘reading’, copy-typed straight out of one of my favourite books. Not good and he’ll never become a good reader using such obvious and silly tactics.
But guess what? I have to look at a book too, now and then… and I have been reading since 2000. Of course, it’s not good to do this in front of a client, unless they know you are learning. If they are paying for a reading, then No Books Allowed. However, if you are doing a written reading, say by email, then you have all the time in the world to check your references. Often when I am doing a long written reading, I will remember that Mary Greer wrote something pertinent about a particular card and I will go look it up. That’s fine, and as long as you don’t go plagiarising long swathes of text direct from the book like my friend above, you’ll be fine. It’s a way of learning-on-the-job.
So What Do I Need To Become a Good Tarot Reader?
Here’s a brief list of attributes and skills you need to focus on to become a really good reader. These are guidelines, rather than rules. Develop and hone your readings with these suggestions in mind.
- Be a good listener. You are not there to demonstrate your awesome skill, you are there to give your client some much-needed support. Hear what they are saying, repeat it back to them in your own words, if necessary. Really try to understand their point-of-view. Just as importantly, you must also be able to be objective and see the situation neutrally.
- Know your cards as well as you possibly can. Improve your knowledge on a daily basis by drawing a card a day, keeping a tarot journal, reading many books and talking to other tarot readers. Practice, practice, practice. These things are not chores, they are part of the delicious process of learning the tarot.
- You need some measure of counselling skills. You might be instinctively good at dealing with people, especially if you have a lot of life experience. You should know if you can be direct with a client, or whether you need to be more circumspect. Some people like their readings ‘straight’, some are terrified of hearing bad news. Senses are heightened during a reading; that person is completely focused on your words so remember that something you say might fix itself in the seeker’s mind for the rest of their life. I like to say that a reader must feel their way through a reading. Look into acquiring a basic counselling qualification.
- Be a good communicator. You must enjoy interacting with people, and you must be able to get your message across in such a manner that you are not misunderstood. Don’t overpower the seeker with tarot jargon. They don’t care much about the tarot itself, they are only interested in the situation that they are consulting you about. If you can get them to really look at the card and express how it makes them feel, then you are doing really well.
- Work on developing your intuition. This will come the more you practice. Try doing tarot readings for unfolding news stories. See how the cards reflect real life situations. Play tarot games. There are many books, websites and courses available that provide exercises for the budding reader. Learning to trust your intuition is not just good for readings; it is also really useful for every aspect of your life.
- Combine your intuition with your own life experience. I have found time and time again, that if a group of cards, coupled with the seeker’s question reminds me of a situation that I have experienced in my life, then there is good reason for it. I don’t tell the client that I went through what they are going through and offer advice based thereon. Instead I allow this almost subconscious information to percolate through my reading. Difficult to explain, but when it happens, you will recognize it.
This is how readings become ‘accurate’. For example, the recollection of an experience I had when pregnant with my first child, combined with the appearance of the Five of Cups, enabled me to gently tell someone that her current pregnancy wasn’t viable. It wasn’t completely out of the blue to her – don’t worry, I wouldn’t ever say anything like that if the client was happily enceinte, and neither should you! With the remaining cards being positive (the Empress was in there somewhere) I was able to tell her that her child was waiting for the right opportunity. She miscarried a few days later, but gave birth to a healthy little girl within the year. When I saw her she told me my words had made her miscarriage bearable, and now it barely registers as a negative experience because she knows it was simply her daughter delaying her appearance.
I hope some of this advice has been helpful. Good luck on your tarot journey. Please feel free to ask any questions. I’d love to hear of your experiences and what works for you.
Images from the Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti