How to Read Tarot Cards: The Ultimate Guide

Are you curious about the ancient art of tarot card reading? The tarot is a powerful tool for self-discovery and reflection, and learning how to read and interpret the cards can provide valuable insights into your life and help you navigate the challenges and opportunities that come your way.

In this article, we will delve into the world of tarot, learning the meanings of the cards and how to read them in a spread. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced reader, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and skills to read the tarot with confidence and accuracy. So sit back, relax, and get ready to unlock the secrets of the tarot.

Table of Contents

A Brief History of Tarot

The history of tarot is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but it is believed that the earliest tarot decks originated in Italy in the 15th century. These early decks were used for playing card games and were similar to modern playing cards.

Over time, the tarot began to be used for divination and spiritual purposes. Mystical and occult teachings were added to the decks, and the images on the cards became more symbolic and allegorical.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the tarot was popularized by occultists and mystics, and it began to be used as a tool for divination and self-discovery. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the tarot became popular among the Theosophists and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

In the 20th century, the tarot experienced a resurgence in popularity, especially in the New Age and metaphysical communities. There are many different tarot decks available today, and the tarot is used for a wide range of purposes, including self-discovery, spiritual growth, and divination.

Today tarot is considered a tool of divination and self-improvement, with many people seeking answers and guidance by using tarot cards. With the different types of tarot decks, spreads and interpretations; Tarot is becoming more and more popular among the public.

What’s in a Tarot Deck?

A standard tarot deck typically contains 78 cards, divided into two main categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

major arcana vs minor arcana

Major Arcana Cards

The Major Arcana cards in a tarot deck, 22 in total, represent the major events, experiences, and themes that shape our lives. They are considered the most important cards in a tarot reading, and often indicate significant changes and turning points. The Major Arcana cards generally focus on aspects of the self, such as the search for meaning and purpose, and the development of the soul. They are also thought to reflect universal archetypes, and the general human experience.

Here are the major arcana cards and their general meanings:

The Fool

major arcana the fool

It represents new beginnings, innocence, and a carefree attitude.

The Magician

major arcana the magician

Represents action, resourcefulness, and creativity.

The High Priestess

major arcana the highest priestess

Represents intuition, secrets, and the unconscious mind.

The Empress

major arcana the empress

Represents femininity, fertility, and the nurturing aspect of the mother.

The Emperor

major arcana the emperor

Represents masculinity, authority, and the rational mind.

The Hierophant

major arcana the heirophant

Represents tradition, spirituality, and guidance.

The Lovers

major arcana the lovers

Represents love, harmony, and choice.

The Chariot

major arcana the chariot

Represents action, willpower, and determination.


major arcana strength

Represents courage, determination, and inner strength.

The Hermit

major arcana the hermit

Represents introspection, solitude, and wisdom.

The Wheel of Fortune

major arcana wheel of fortune

Represents change, destiny, and the cycles of life.


major arcana justice

Represents balance, fairness, and truth.

The Hanged Man

major arcana the hanged man

Represents sacrifice, contemplation, and a different perspective.


major arcana death

Represents transformation, letting go, and the end of a cycle.


major arcana temperance

Represents balance, moderation, and patience.

The Devil

major arcana the devil

Represents materialism, temptation, and addiction.

The Tower

major arcana the tower

Represents sudden change, upheaval, and the breaking down of old structures.

The Star

major arcana the star

Represents hope, inspiration, and guidance.

The Moon

major arcana the moon

Represents emotions, intuition, and the subconscious.

The Sun

major arcana the sun

Represents vitality, positivity, and success.


major arcana judgement

Represents judgment, rebirth, and the consequences of actions.

The World

major arcana the world

Represents completion, wholeness, and integration.

Minor Arcana Cards

The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards that represent the more specific, everyday aspects of human experience. These cards are similar to the suits in a traditional playing card deck (such as Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles), but they often contain more symbolic imagery and have different meanings associated with them. Each of these suits contains 14 numbered cards, starting with Ace and ending in 10, and also includes 4 court cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King.

The minor arcana cards represent the more everyday aspects of life and the everyday issues that one may have. They focus on the details of the self, such as the physical and emotional aspects of the self, and reflect the daily ups and downs of life.

Here are a few examples of what the minor arcana cards can represent:


minor arcana cups suit

Represent emotions, feelings, and relationships. They often indicate the emotional state of the person receiving the reading.


minor arcana wands suit

Represent passion, inspiration, and drive. They often indicate the person’s level of motivation and inspiration.


minor arcana swords suit

Represent the mind, thoughts, and decision making. They often indicate the person’s mental state and their ability to make decisions.


minor arcana pentacles suit

Represent material matters, finances, and the physical realm. They often indicate the person’s financial situation and their physical health.

Each card in the minor arcana has its own symbolism and meaning, but they also have a suit-specific meaning depending on the context of the reading and the question being asked.

Choosing a Tarot Deck

There are many different types of tarot decks available, and each one has its own unique style, symbolism, and artwork. Here are a few of the most popular types of tarot decks:

Rider-Waite Smith

This is one of the most popular and widely-used tarot decks. The artwork is simple, but evocative and the cards are easy to interpret.

Crowley-Harris Thoth

The Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, was developed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. The deck is known for its unique and complex symbols, and it’s considered a tool for spiritual development.

Golden Dawn Tarot

This deck was created by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it is based on the teachings of the group. The artwork is elegant and the cards are rich in symbolism.

The Wild Unknown

This is a modern tarot deck with a unique and abstract artwork, it’s known for its strong and minimalist aesthetic, that makes it easy for people to connect with the imagery.

The Shadowscapes

The Shadowscapes deck is an elegant and detailed tarot deck with a fantasy and nature theme in its artwork, it’s known for its vibrant colors and imaginative scenes, making it quite popular with young adults.

Gendron Tarot

A modern deck that brings together an art deco style with photographic imagery, and it’s known for its richly symbolic scenes.

Black and White Tarot

This deck is simple and stark, it’s designed to be easy to read and understand, and it’s mostly used by people who are new to tarot.

Tarot of Dreams

This deck features a watercolor art style, and the card imagery is inspired by the subconscious mind, it’s widely used by people who are into dream interpretation and the use of the tarot for personal development.

These are just a few examples of the different types of tarot decks available, there are many more, and new ones are constantly being developed. Each tarot deck has its unique charm and personal touch, so it’s best to explore and find the one that speaks to you.

Types of Tarot Readings

These readings are designed to provide a broad overview of your life and can be helpful for gaining a sense of perspective and understanding.

These readings are designed to provide specific answers to a specific question or issue. You can ask the tarot about anything from career decisions to relationships to personal growth.

These readings are designed to explore a specific theme or aspect of your life in depth. For example, you might do a theme reading on career, relationships, or personal growth.

These readings are designed to explore the past, present, and future aspects of a specific question or issue.

These readings are designed to provide a simple yes or no answer to a specific question.

These readings involve drawing a single card and interpreting its message as it relates to your question or intention.

Reading Tarot: Step-by-Step Guide

7 steps to reading tarot

1. Choose a deck of tarot cards that speaks to you

There are many different tarot decks to choose from, each with its own unique artwork and symbolism.

2. Familiarize yourself with the meanings of the tarot cards

You can do this by reading the guidebook that comes with your deck or by looking up the meanings online.

3. Set your intention for the reading

What do you hope to gain from it? Do you have a specific question in mind or are you looking for guidance on a certain issue?

4. Shuffle the cards and focus on your question or intention as you do so

You can ask the tarot for insight or guidance on a specific issue, or you can simply ask for a general reading.

5. Lay out the cards in a spread

There are many different spreads to choose from (more on this below), each with its own unique layout and interpretation. Some common spreads include the three-card spread, the Celtic cross spread, and the five-card spread.

6. Interpret the cards in the spread

Consider the meaning of each card, as well as its position in the spread. Pay attention to any patterns or symbols that stand out to you.

7. Reflect on the reading

Take some time to think about what the cards are trying to tell you. How do they relate to your question or intention? What insights or guidance do they offer?

How to Choose a Tarot Spread

Choosing a tarot spread can depend on the specific question or situation you are seeking guidance for. Here are a few tips to help you choose a tarot spread:

Consider the purpose of the reading

Each spread has a specific purpose and structure. For example, a spread that focuses on the past, present, and future would be more appropriate for a general reading, while a spread that focuses on specific aspects of a situation would be more appropriate for a specific question.

Think about the number of cards you want to use

Some spreads use only a few cards, while others use many. The number of cards can affect the level of detail provided in the reading.

Take your experience level into account

Some spreads are more complex and therefore may be more suitable for experienced readers, while others are simple and easy to use, making them more suitable for beginners.

Trust your intuition

Sometimes a spread may call to you or feel more fitting for the current moment or situation, listen to your intuition and go with it.

Here are a few popular spreads, each with a different purpose:

Three-Card Spread: This spread is great for simple, quick readings and it’s easy to understand and use. It can give a general overview of the past, present, and future of a situation.

The Celtic Cross: This spread is very popular, it’s a bit more complex and can give a detailed look at different aspects of a situation. It can provide insight into the past, present, and future and it can give an in-depth look at the surrounding influences and outcome.

The Horseshoe: This spread is great for a quick and general reading, similar to the three-card spread. It can help you gain insight into the past, present, and future and it’s very simple to use.

The Pentagram: This spread is great for gaining insight into the future and it helps you to identify the steps that need to be taken to achieve your goals.

The Decision Spread: This spread helps you to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, and helps you to see the potential outcome of different choices.

Prepping Before a Tarot Reading

Set Your Intention

Setting an intention is an important step in doing a tarot reading, as it helps to focus your mind and energy on the specific question or issue that you want to explore. Here are some tips on how to set an intention for a tarot reading:

Be Specific

When setting your intention, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Instead of asking a general question like “What will happen in my future?”, try to focus on a specific area of your life, such as “What can I expect in my career in the next 6 months?”

Be Open

Be open to receive the guidance that the cards have to offer, even if it’s not the answer you were hoping for. Sometimes the answers that we don’t want to hear are the ones we need the most.

Be Positive

Try to frame your intention in a positive light. Instead of asking “What’s going wrong in my relationship?”, try asking “How can I improve my relationship?”

Take Some Time to Reflect Beforehand

Before you start your reading, take some time to sit quietly and reflect on your question or intention. This will help you to clear your mind and be more receptive to the guidance that the cards have to offer.

Write It Down

Sometimes it can be helpful to write down your intention, it will help you to focus and clarify your thoughts.

Trust the Process

Remember that tarot readings are a tool for self-reflection and personal growth, and that the cards can offer guidance and insight that you may not have been able to see on your own. Trust the process, trust the cards and trust yourself.

By setting an intention for a tarot reading, you will be able to receive the guidance that you need, and to make the most of the reading, so that you can take action on the insights you gain.

Cleanse Your Deck

Cleansing a tarot deck before a reading is a way to remove any negative energy that may have accumulated on the cards and to prepare them for use. There are a number of ways to cleanse a tarot deck, and the method you choose may depend on your personal preferences. Here are a few common methods:

how to cleanse your tarot deckSmudging

This involves using the smoke from burning sage or other herbs to cleanse the deck. Hold the deck in your hand, and pass it through the smoke several times, while holding the intention that you are clearing away any negative energy.


You can also use sound to cleanse the deck. You can ring a bell, play singing bowls, or even clap your hands, while holding the intention to clear the energy on the deck.


Placing the deck on a clear quartz crystal, selenite or amethyst while they are exposed to sunlight or moonlight can be a way of charging and cleansing the deck.


You can also use visualization to cleanse the deck. Hold the deck in your hand, and imagine a bright white light pouring into the deck, and flowing through every card, cleaning and purifying the energy.


You can also bury the deck in the earth, place it on a tree or in a body of water, as nature is a powerful purifying force.


Sit quietly and hold the deck in your hands, take a deep breath and exhale over the deck, repeating this process several times, while focusing on the intention of cleaning the energy.

No matter which method you choose, the most important thing is to hold the intention that you are clearing away any negative energy and preparing the deck for use.

It’s important to note that, no matter how well you cleanse your deck, it will inevitably pick up energy again, so it’s a good practice to repeat the cleansing process regularly, especially after each reading or when you feel the need for it.

Cleansing a Brand New Deck

Cleansing a brand new tarot deck before using it for the first time is a good practice. Although it is a brand new deck, it may have accumulated negative energy during its production, transport, and handling before it got to you. Additionally, some people like to infuse their energy into the deck before they start using it, which is a personal choice.

You should also keep your deck in a safe place, away from negative energy and keep it covered when not in use to keep it safe from dust and debris.

In summary, cleansing a brand new tarot deck before using it for the first time is a good practice and can help to ensure that the deck is free of negative energy and is personalized to you, but it’s not a requirement for the deck to work.

Transfer Your Energy to the Deck

Transferring your energy to a tarot deck is a way to personalize the deck and make it more attuned to you, which can enhance the accuracy of your readings. Here are a few methods you can use to transfer your energy to a tarot deck:

tips to transfer your energy to a tarot deck

Handling the Cards

One way to transfer your energy to the deck is simply by handling the cards. Hold the deck in your hands and shuffle them, touch each card, and focus on infusing your energy into the deck.

Meditate with the Deck

Another way to transfer your energy to the deck is by meditating with it. Hold the deck in your hand, and focus your mind on the deck, while breathing deeply. Imagine your energy flowing into the deck, and visualize it being infused into each card.

Sleep with the Deck Under Your Pillow

You can also transfer your energy to the deck by sleeping with it under your pillow. As you sleep, your energy will be transferred to the cards through the night.

Carry the Deck with You

You can also transfer your energy to the deck by carrying it with you wherever you go. Keep it close to your body, in a pocket or purse, and let your energy infuse the cards.

Personalize the Deck

You can add your own touch to the deck by writing your name on the cards or decorating them. It’s a way to claim ownership of the deck, making it more personalized and therefore more attuned to you.

By transferring your energy to the deck, you are making it more personal and more in tune with your energy, which can enhance the accuracy of your readings. Remember to cleanse the deck before you start transferring energy and it’s important to keep in mind that your personal energy is one among the many factors that influence the outcome of a reading. It’s also important to note that not all Tarot decks require a personal energy transfer for it to work.

How to Shuffle, Cut and Pull Tarot Cards

Shuffling, cutting, and pulling cards from a tarot deck are all important steps in a tarot reading. Here’s a general method you can use:How to shuffle, cut and pull tarot cards

Shuffle the Cards

Before pulling cards, it’s important to shuffle them well. You can use any method you feel comfortable with, such as the overhand shuffle, riffle shuffle, Hindu shuffle, or table shuffle. Mix the cards until you feel that they are well shuffled and your energy is infused in them.

Cut the Deck

Once you have shuffled the cards, hold the deck in your non-dominant hand and use your other hand to cut the deck into three piles. The piles should be roughly equal in size, and you can either keep the top card of each pile facing up or down.

Pull the Cards

You can use any spread or layout that you feel drawn to, or you can make up your own. When pulling your cards, pay attention to your intuition, and choose the cards that catch your eye or feel right.

Doing a Reading for Yourself

There are many ways to do a tarot reading for yourself, but here is a general method you can use:

Set the Scene

Create a comfortable and quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. You can light a candle, incense or play soothing music if you like.

Choose Your Deck

Select a tarot deck that resonates with you and make sure that the cards are well shuffled.

State Your Question or Intention

It is important to have a clear question or intention in mind for the reading. The question should be specific and focused.

Draw Your Cards

Cut the deck three times to the left, then choose your cards. For a three-card spread, the first card represents the past, the second card represents the present, and the third card represents the future. For a one card draw, just draw a card.

Interpret Your Cards

Look at the symbolism and imagery on the cards and interpret them in relation to your question or intention. Don’t be afraid to use a guidebook to help you with the interpretation of the cards, but also trust your own intuition.


Take some time to reflect on the cards and their meaning. Think about how the cards relate to your question or intention and what advice or guidance they may be offering.

Close the Reading

Thank the cards for the guidance and return them to their deck. Take a moment to ground yourself and come back to the present moment.

Keep in mind that tarot readings are a personal experience and that you may develop your own unique way of doing them. The most important thing is to be open and receptive to the messages that the cards have to offer.

Doing a Reading for Someone Else

Reading tarot cards for someone else is a powerful way to offer guidance and insight into their lives. Here are a few tips to help you conduct a successful reading:

reading tarot for someone else

Establish Boundaries

Before the reading begins, make sure to establish clear boundaries with your client, such as how long the reading will last and what type of information is appropriate to discuss.

Create a Comfortable Space

Ensure that the environment is comfortable and quiet, with no distractions. You can create a cozy atmosphere, light a candle, and play soft music.

Prepare the Client

Explain the process of the reading and ask them if they have any specific questions or concerns they would like to address.

Listen Actively

Listen attentively to your client during the reading. Take note of their words, body language, and overall energy to gain insight into what they may not be able to express verbally.

Be Sensitive

Be aware of the client’s emotions and respect their boundaries. If a card or message is difficult for them to hear, provide additional context and reassurance to help them understand the message.

Be Honest

Be honest about what the cards are showing, but always with kindness and sensitivity. Remember that tarot cards are a tool for guidance and self-reflection, not a way to predict the future or tell people what to do.

Follow Up

After the reading, check in with the client to see how they’re feeling and if they have any questions or concerns. This allows you to provide additional support and clarification if needed.

Remember that reading tarot cards for someone else is a responsibility and it should be taken seriously. It’s not just about interpreting the cards but also about providing guidance and insight, so always approach it with care and empathy. Also, remember that the tarot is not a substitute for professional advice, if your client has serious concerns, it’s always best to refer them to a professional in the field.

How to Interpret Tarot Cards

Interpreting tarot cards is an art that requires both knowledge of the meanings of the cards as well as the ability to understand the context of the reading. Here are some tips to help you interpret tarot cards:

how to interpret tarot cards

Learn the Meanings of the Cards

Each tarot card has a specific meaning and symbolism associated with it. It’s important to learn the traditional meanings of each card, as well as any personal interpretations you may have.

Look at the Card Imagery

The imagery on the tarot cards can provide clues to the card’s meaning and can help you understand the context of the reading.

Consider the Card’s Position in the Spread

The position of the card in the spread can give additional information about the card’s meaning. For example, a card in the past position may indicate something that has already happened, while a card in the future position may indicate something that will happen.

Take into Account the Surrounding Cards:

The cards that surround a card in a spread can also provide additional information. For example, a card surrounded by negative cards may indicate a difficult situation, while a card surrounded by positive cards may indicate a positive outcome.

Trust your Intuition

The tarot is a tool for self-discovery, so it’s important to trust your intuition when interpreting the cards. The cards can bring up emotions, memories or feelings that may be relevant for the reading, and should be taken into account.


The more you practice interpreting tarot cards, the more confident you will become in your abilities. Reading for yourself, your friends or even in a study group, can help you gain more experience and understanding of the cards.

It’s also important to keep in mind that, although the meanings of the cards are traditional and established, some cards might have a different meaning depending on the context or the question being asked.

Tarot Books to Expand Your Skills

Here are a few tarot books that we recommend for people interested in learning more about the tarot:


  • The Ultimate Guide to the Rider Waite Tarot by Johannes Fiebig is a comprehensive guidebook that provides an in-depth exploration of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. The book offers a detailed analysis of each card in the deck, including their symbolism and meanings, as well as their reversed meanings.
  • The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals by Mary K. Greer: This book is a comprehensive guide to understanding and interpreting reversed tarot cards. It covers various methods of interpreting reversals and provides in-depth analysis of each card.
  • Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack: This book is considered a classic in the world of tarot. It provides a detailed and in-depth exploration of the tarot and covers both the major and minor arcana.
  • The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols by Angeles Arrien: This book is a comprehensive guide to the tarot, and it provides both beginner and advanced students with a deeper understanding of the tarot’s meaning and symbolism.
  • Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer: This book is designed for self-study, it’s an easy-to-use guide for learning the tarot and is based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
  • The Tarot Bible: The Definitive Guide to the Cards by Sarah Bartlett: This book covers the history and symbolism of the tarot, as well as providing guidance on how to conduct readings. It includes information on different spreads, and it’s an all-around great guide for beginner readers.
  • The tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert Place: This is a comprehensive and scholarly guide to the tarot and its history, symbolism and usage.
  • The Secret Language of Tarot by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone: This book provides an in-depth look at the history and symbolism of the tarot, and it’s a great resource for understanding the deeper meanings of the cards.
  • Beginner’s Guide to Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke is a comprehensive guidebook that provides an introduction to tarot for those who are new to the practice. The book is designed to help readers understand the symbolism and meanings of the cards and to use them for personal insight and growth.
  • Tarot for Dummies by Amber Jayanti: As the title suggests, this book is a comprehensive guide for people new to tarot, it provides step-by-step instructions and explanations, as well as tips and strategies for interpreting the cards.

Additional Tips

Avoid Drinking or Drugs Before a Reading

It’s generally not recommended to drink or do drugs before a tarot reading because they can impair your judgment and cloud your ability to interpret the cards accurately. When you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your mind is less clear and focused, which can make it more difficult to understand the symbolism and meanings of the cards.

Trust Your Intuition

The tarot is a tool for gaining insight and guidance, but ultimately, the interpretation of the cards is up to you. Trust your intuition and allow yourself to be guided by the symbolism and imagery of the cards.

Use Multiple Spreads

There are many different spreads (layouts) that can be used for tarot readings, using different spreads can offer different perspectives and insights on a question or situation. Experiment with different spreads to find the ones that work best for you.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a record of your readings can help you to better understand the cards and your own interpretations of them. It’s also a great way to track your progress and keep track of any patterns that may emerge over time.

Practice Regularly

Like any skill, tarot reading takes practice to improve. Make time to practice reading the cards regularly, it will help you to become more familiar with the deck and the meanings of the cards.

Be Open Minded

The tarot can offer guidance and insight, but it’s not always going to be what you expect or want to hear. Be open-minded and willing to consider different perspectives, even if they’re uncomfortable or difficult to hear.

Make It Personal

Make your readings personal to you, add your own touches like writing your name on the cards or decorating them. It can help you to feel a deeper connection to the cards and the readings.

Keep It Respectful

Remember that the tarot is a powerful tool and should be treated with respect. Take time to clear and cleanse your deck regularly, and never use the tarot to predict someone else’s future without their express permission.

Learn the Card’s Meanings in Different Contexts

The tarot card meanings can vary depending on the context of the reading and the question being asked. It’s important to understand the different ways a card can be interpreted and how it can change depending on the situation.

Learn from Others

Even for seasoned tarot readers, there’s always room for expansion, especially when it comes to enhancing skills like providing the best psychic readings. Participate in workshops, join online tarot communities, and seek a mentor or teacher who can guide you to refine your approach to tarot and psychic readings.

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