This post will provide good, practical methods that you can use to learn the divinatory meanings of all 78 Tarot cards. At this stage of the learning process it’s important that we get things into perspective. It is completely unnecessary, within the context of learning how to read Tarot cards for others, to attempt to understand each card in depth. That means that at this stage, and to be honest, at any stage, the study of Astrology, the Qabbalah, Numerology or Alchemy, is not required to become a great Tarot reader. To illustrate this, let’s take a step back for a moment and look at what a Tarot reading is attempting to do.
The most obvious thing a Tarot reading is trying to do is highlight the influences of the past, understand the circumstances of the present and predict the most likely future. A note of caution when we talk about predicting the future: a Tarot reading will predict future events; however, it provides no fixed outcome to those events. This is a very important point, in that a Tarot reading is a narrative, a story that you tell to the client and is not a definitive outcome; what story ever has a definitive outcome, or more importantly, what can we conclusively state as being an outcome to anything? Certainly, scientists don’t talk in terms of absolutes – that would be unscientific. It’s unscientific because life itself has no conclusive absolutes. Even the most self-evident absolutes, such as death, are not conclusive because we have no idea, in terms of ‘absolutes’ what happens before birth or after death. We’re not at a stage to understand these events so institutions and people, from religions, scientists, mystics and philosophers, tell narratives or stories about these ‘events’, but not one of them (although some may try) can state that their version of the story is complete.
As Tarot readers we find ourselves in a similar situation. We are predicting the future and providing a narrative but caution should be used in ever stating it is absolute.
I would like you to take a moment to reflect on my reasons for stating that we don’t have to get ‘in-depth’ with each individual card in order to provide good Tarot readings.
In fact, a good way to start this reflection would be this: life itself does not require us to have a knowledge of every force of Nature, every event or every possible phenomenon in order to simply enjoy and understand life. Rather, most people have a very vague or general idea about certain phenomena and yet, this vague or simple understanding can actually lead to great overall insight and wisdom (relative to actually trying to gain a knowledge of every possible component).
It is useful to consider the differences between understanding and knowledge. I would like you all to think about these important points as we continue on our journey in learning how to do Tarot readings.
The first thing to do then is memorise the names of all 78 Tarot cards. The best way to begin this process is to take a Tarot card from the deck and look at it. Try and fix its image and name in your mind so that you can comfortably and instantly name all 78 Tarot cards. For example, I’ve just pulled a card from my deck called the Six of Cups. I’m going to try and fix the image and name (the Six of Cups) firmly in my mind so that the next time I see that card I can instantly say that this is the Six of Cups.
Repeat this process for all 78 cards. I want you to get to a stage where you can easily, without any effort whatsoever, identify the names of each Tarot card. Try and build this up slowly so that there is no time delay between seeing the card and shouting out its name. This really simple technique is actually doing something very powerful and very subtle; it is slowly creating a link between you and the Tarot cards. At some point during this process you will most likely experience powerful dreams where you will find yourself engaging with the characters and events pictured within your cards. This is an excellent indicator that you are building up a living relationship with your deck.
The second stage builds gently upon the first. This time, when you pick a card, try and associate that card with no more than two divinatory meanings. It is important that you aim for two and only two. We will get into the reasons for this later on in this Tutorial Series, but for the moment aim to remember only two keywords per card.
For example, I’ve just picked the Five of Cups. The keywords that I use are, ‘feeling like you have been let down by somebody or something’, and ‘a loss’.
Repeat this process for all 78 cards. Again, you will find that this process will build up a living relationship between you and your Tarot deck. Try and get to a stage where there is no time delay between picking the card, naming the card and stating two keywords.
Click here if you would like to see a list of Tarot card keywords and divinatory definitions that I use with the Tarot cards. There is also a brilliant resource on Paul’s Supertarot website that gives Tarot card meanings that you may like to study.
Overall then the process that I would like you to use in learning the meaning of all 78 Tarot cards is:
- Pick a random card and lock the image into your mind and name it
- Build up the speed in which you can state the card name when you see the image
- Attempt to get to the point where there is no delay at all between seeing the Tarot card and being able to name it
- I would also suggest that you record your dreams during this learning process
- Once you are comfortable with the above points try and associate each card with no more than two keywords
- Again, try and get to a stage where there is no time delay between seeing the card, naming the card and stating two key words
To conclude, at this point in your learning it’s important to realise that more keywords or an in-depth knowledge of the Qabbalah, Astrology or Numerology will not make you a better reader. This is one of those cases where less is actually more.
When I was learning the Tarot, I used this article on Tarot Lessons, Elemental Dignities And Card Counting and both my career as a Tarot reader as well as the content of this post have very much been influenced by it.
This post is part of the Beginners Tutorial To Reading Tarot Cards.