Reading Tarot cards is a talent that anyone can develop. There are two basic ways to read cards: by the surface meaning of the cards and by the intuitive meaning of the cards. The first method requires only the memorization of the meanings for the cards, which are then recited as the cards are turned up in a spread. While not totally dissatisfying, this technique is very limiting and, if used without any psychic input, may be difficult to interpret coherently since each card has more than one meaning. This method requires the reader to find the common thread among the cards in the spread as relating to the question asked, and if this is not addressed, then there is a possibility that there is a different message being brought forward. The second method, however, utilizes both the general meanings of the cards and the psychic visions that come to the reader while looking at the cards. This provides an in-depth interpretation and, with the psychic intuition engaged, may also run into ancillary matters. You could reshuffle the remaining stack of cards after a layout to set out modifying cards, or follow a train of thought from any one of the cards in the spread in this manner. My own Tree of Life spread, as an example, may use fifteen cards or all the cards of the deck. Using the tarot regularly, even when starting from the recitation method, will actually help you develop your innate psychic abilities so that, with practice, more than the surface becomes apparent to you.
I started deliberately reading cards (as opposed to automatically seeing things in the cards during card games) in my mid-teens, using a regular deck of playing cards and depending almost entirely on my intuitive feelings and visions. In fact, I created my Tree of Life Spread at this time based on the seven-card layout of a standard solitaire game, then moving on from that as the inspiration came to me. The seven cards became the branches of the tree, then there followed a tree trunk of two cards linked to the center card of the branches, a circle of roots of five cards, and within this the heart of the tree with one card. The spread simply came to me, as did the name for the spread, and it has been a highly successful means of reading for me. While you may start working with one or two spreads, do not be surprised if you begin to create your own patterns.
The combination of assigned meanings and psychic perception will be slightly different for each person who reads cards, but he or she will have to learn to be confident and trust their own intuitive powers. I have known readers who began by carefully adhering to the written pamphlet correlations between cards and their import; after a time they found themselves qualifying their readings with their own impressions that began to appear jointly with the cards. This is a case of developing those psychic gifts that reside within each of us. When you start looking at cards and checking your sources for the intent of the card, you may recognize a different meaning in the card than is given in your source, so do not feel your intuition has less value than the written words. As your skill increases, you will see images superimposed over the pictures of the cards, and after awhile you will be able to look at any given court card and see someone relevant to the person for whom you are reading. From there it is a short step to seeing motion in the cards, with events unfolding before your psychic eye as the querant seeks further information on some portion of the reading.
Ground and Center for a Spiritual Reading
When you read the cards, you may do so either without any verbal contributions from the querant or with the person’s active participation as you consult over the relevancy of a card and your impressions of a particular question from the querant. The method is up to the individual. When going into a reading, the important thing is to ground and center, so that you can focus on the reading itself, not on attitudes, making an impression, being self-conscious, or saying the right or wrong thing.
The term “ground and center” is used frequently in Witchcraft in relation to ritual, magic working, and spell casting, but it is also a vital step in tarot reading. What you are doing is focusing your personal energy inward and draining off into the Earth beneath your feet any chaotic or tension-inducing energies so that you are relaxed. Next, you pull up into yourself the powerful energy of the Earth, seeing and feeling this energy blending with your own, perhaps following the cycles of the chakras or, more simply, weaving the energy around your body internally and into your hands while holding the cards. I usually hold the cards to my heart for this, but it is the passage of energy that matters. When the reading is over, touch the ground with the palms of your hands, envisioning the excess energy draining out, leaving you with sufficient personal energy so that you are not left feeling depleted. If you do not ground a second time, the energy builds up internally and will manifest through nervousness, headache, tension, and irritability. I know some readers who will run outside after a reading and hug a tree to release the energy, but I prefer to touch the floor or ground, envisioning the release through the palms into the Earth, where it can be used as needed.
The way I like to do readings is to shuffle the deck of cards, then have the querant make a fist and soundly knock on the top of the deck as it lies face down on the table. I immediately put my hands together side by side, thumbs touching, so the palms are open over the deck and facing the individual, and I state firmly, “This is YOUR deck.” The energy of the knock from the querant is bounced off the palms and into the deck, reinforcing the connection with the querant while also linking to me through the palms for a meaningful reading. After the reading, I shake my hands in the air, releasing any residual influence, and touch the floor.
In a convention or festival situation, in which numerous readings may take place in the space of an hour, I find that I can utilize the energy drawn up from the Earth without grounding again until the end of the session. For these events, wherein there is usually a line of people formed and waiting for readings during a predetermined time slot, I will lightly shake my hands and shuffle or fan the deck of cards to wave through the air quickly between readings, thus releasing the influence of the previous querant prior to having the new person knock on the deck.
I find there are some people who want to discuss a specific issue, and we have a quick consultation that is very focused, with an ongoing conversation relating to the cards. In this type of reading, a person may want to pursue the relevancy of a card, and I find that through discussion, my psychic impression of the card will change to follow the direction of the inquiry. This does not change the reading, but allows a glimpse into peripheral regions relating to the reading. Occasionally someone will sit at the table, knock on the deck, and sit back slouched with folded arms, waiting in silence to see what I have to say. I recently had a man sit for a free reading during such a convention and he had all the body language of self-assured skepticism. Because I ground and center, I am no longer aware of the person’s incredulity, but focused on the cards. In this case, I remember it distinctly because of the man’s reaction. Looking at the cards, I read them, recounting the visions and stating what I saw. As I spoke I became aware that the arms unfolded, the man sat upright, and his mouth fell open. When I finished, he stood up and said shakily, “You have no idea how exact you were.” Well, actually, I did, but I let it go at that. He left the table telling the people in the line, “She’s GOOD!” While it is always gratifying to hear praise, I am also amused. I do not seek to startle anyone with a reading or to impress the querant, but know instead that what I do is through the gift of the Goddess, and so there is no doubt in my mind that I will see what She feels is relevant. It is a matter of trusting the intuitive insight She provides. In this sense, I often feel I am merely the conduit for Her purpose, and that suits me just fine.
To Charge or Not to Charge, That Is the Question
One of the questions about reading cards is whether or not it is morally or legally right to charge a querant money for a reading. This issue is one that you as a reader must decide on your own, but for what it is worth, I shall put in my two cents. I have read for many friends without charge, simply because I enjoyed the cards and the experience, read for people who were total strangers and charged for a spiritual consultation, and read for strangers without charging. My feeling is that when people are charged money for a reading, they tend to assume the role of a customer, and are psychologically more likely to expect to have a lot of time and energy expended on their behalf whether the cards warrant this or not, until the reading runs to their satisfaction. If you are not comfortable with this, but would like some kind of monetary compensation, you might want to simply have a container labeled for donations.
Be aware that there are folks who will want what they consider to be their money’s worth, and there are folks who will feel that they are in the position of consumer with the reader as some kind of retail spiritual clerk. I avoid doing readings for people who address readings as commodities, but that is just my preference. Dealing with the public at large may work for you, or you may find there are people you read for who annoy you, in which case it could be the circumstance rather than the reading or the people. My preference is to read for people who appreciate the reading. Barter is always a fun experience, or trading readings with one another. You have to determine your own preferences, but do not let yourself be bullied by anyone who attempts to press for one practice or another. The idea of never charging is not a practical one. If you want to try and make a living from doing readings, first check on the local and state laws relating to psychic readings. Then make an honest assessment of your abilities. It is best to start off doing free readings among your friends and family when first learning the tarot. Make an effort to know the cards, for people obviously will not want to pay you if you are flipping through a pamphlet to do readings. The amount you charge is up to you, based on your experience, ability, and what the local reader’s market is like. Do not demean yourself by undercharging if you feel your readings are worth a certain amount, but remember that the cost of the reading should not be your focal point, or your mind will be on the payment instead of on the cards.
Decide where you want to read. You could approach a shop that sells Wiccan supplies, for example, perhaps offering to do a few readings for free one day as a means of attracting customers to the store. Or the store may allow you to set up a table in a room and/or by the door. Do not be surprised if the store expects a percentage of your earnings, for they are in business after all. You may want to place an ad in a store or selected newsletters for individual or party readings, and there are many corporations who hire readers for entertainment at conventions or company events. Some people do readings in their homes, and again, you need to be aware of the laws and community regulations regarding having a business in your home. If you do have readings at home, these ought to be by appointment and scheduled with plenty of time between sessions so you do not become fatigued, have people milling about the house unattended, or cars jamming the street and annoying your neighbors. Have a room set aside for readings that is comfortable and not ostentatious. The drama of many lit candles, tons of incense smoke, or scarves draped over the lamps is up to you, but remember that the people for whom you read may have allergies, that candles generate heat, and that a tipped-over candle can cause a devastating fire. While I have heard readers talk about one extreme to the other in decorating taste, I really do not feel that it is anyone’s place to tell you how to design your reading area. Go with what you are comfortable with, what you feel will draw rather than repel people, and what gives you a sense of grounding and connection to the Divine. If things do not work out, you can always change the decor. The key is to be flexible.
Relating to Various Tarot Decks
As I mentioned before, I find that certain decks have a feel to them that makes them more attuned to specific types of readings. I find The Nigel Jackson Tarot Deck (Llewellyn Publications) to be excellent for doing many readings in a row. I call this my TeflonTM deck because the energies of the querants do not stick to it as they do with other cards. This makes the deck especially good for readings at conventions, gatherings, festivals, and anywhere that numerous people are involved because I can move from one person to another without having to expend energy releasing the influences of the previous querant. Some decks are a lot more absorbent and need a good pass through incense smoke to be readied for the next reading, and others are so spongy that I reserve them for specific people I read for frequently or for myself.
Good, all-around versatile decks include The Robin Wood Tarot (Robin Wood and Michael Short; Llewellyn Publications), which utilizes sumptuous colors in traditional visuals, and The Sacred Circle Tarot (by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason; Llewellyn Publications), which follows Celtic and Pagan themes. The Witches Tarot (Ellen Cannon Reed and Martin Cannon; Llewellyn Publications) is a powerful deck with clear-cut Wiccan imagery. Now that Llewellyn Publications is the U.S. and Canada distributor of the European tarot decks of Lo Scarabeo, along with their own beautiful and meaningful tarot decks produced by various writers for the publisher, the world of choice has opened quite a lot since the days when it was impossible to find anything in America besides the bright yellow Rider-Waite deck. These European decks are fascinating, not only because they are noted in Spanish, Italian, French, German, and English, but also because many are facsimiles of historical tarot decks from parts of Italy and France dating from 1450 to 1725, 1760, 1780, 1810, 1835, 1860, and 1880, plus there are a number of excellent theme decks that are beautifully illustrated. The Secrets Deck is romantic and darkly gothic in tone, while the charmingly earthy Fairy Tarot utilizes the German suits of Bells, Acorns, Leaves, and Hearts. The Celtic Tarots (G. Gaudenzi and S. Tenuta, Lo Scarabeo) is a modern rendition that includes motifs arranged by suits for myths; the Tuatha de Danann, who are the Sidhe or Fairy Folk of Ireland; heroes; and history. With so many styles and designs to choose from, you are bound to find a deck that seems to speak to you, that reaches out to you. When you feel this sensation in the presence of a tarot deck, it is likely to make a good choice.
Methods of Reading Tarot Cards
Since the reading of cards is one of individual psychic development, you need to discover through trial and error what method works best for you. I have experimented with different shuffling techniques and layouts, and have found the type that suits me, but these may not be right for you. For myself, I first fan out the cards in a deck and wave the cards through the air or through incense smoke to clear them of residual energies and to awaken them if the cards have sat in a box or bag for a while. The next thing I do is shuffle them a bit to energize them, then set the deck on the table. I ask the querant if there is a particular matter to be addressed, and if so, I ask that the person focus on this, then rap the deck with the knuckles of the fist of the power hand (the one favoredusually the writing hand). I then ground and center, taking the deck and holding it in my hands close to my heart as I feel the energy rising from the Earth through my feet, up my body, down my arms, and out of my hands into the cards, while also feeling the opening of the crown of my head to the bright white light of the Divine. In this way, I become a conduit for the Goddess of the Earth and the Universe, channeling the energy into the cards and opening my psychic vision. This done, I shuffle the cards, focusing on the issue the querant desired information about, or simply on the querant if a general reading is sought.
When the time feels right, usually indicated by repetition in the shuffling pattern, I set down the deck and cut it into three stacks. The bottom of the deck forms the first stack, the middle section of the deck forms the second stack to my left of the first stack, and the top (remaining) section of the deck forms the third stack to my left of the second stack. Now I pick up the second (middle) stack, then place it on top of the first stack (to the right of the middle), and under these combined stacks goes the third stack (to the left of the middle). The cards are ready to be dealt out in any pattern, called a spread, that I feel appropriate, and the reading commences. It reads like a long procedure, but actually it takes only a few moments. When the reading is over, I shake my hands, gather up the cards, shuffle them, fan them out, and pass them through incense smoke or wave briskly in the air, freeing them of any residual energies. If a reading is lengthy and complex, I may feel a need to touch my palms to the ground afterward to release the tensionotherwise, I may do several readings before touching the ground. You will simply have to judge when to do this.
Of course there are other methods of preparing for a reading, and some readers prefer to have the querant handle the cards, shuffle them, or draw the proper number for a spread out from a face-down fanning of the deck on the table. Do what feels right for you. I have had times when I wanted the querant to select cards randomly from the fanned-out deck, and others when I wanted the person to hold the deck and focus on the issue of concern. The difference seems to be in the energy flow of the querant, which is something that I sense and work with.
Authors Details: From the book “Tarot for the Green Witch” by: Ann Moura