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How do you Read Tarot Cards?

Tarot card reading is a form of divination where the images, symbols and numbers of the cards trigger the consultant’s intuition and help the reader to interpret information they receive through their intuition. The numbers of the Major Arcana and the suits provide additional clues to interpreting the information the reader can receive. Each card has a specific meaning but it is not an exact science. An intuitive or psychic reader will pick up additional information not necessarily contained in the cards. Perhaps an image on the card or some detail will trigger this information. However the more thoroughly you understand the core meanings of the cards the more your subconscious and intuition has to work with.

I will be providing information on each of the Tarot Cards here and in my blog with an emphasis on the numbers assigned to each card as understanding the meaning of these numbers will help you to understand the meaning of the all the cards in the Major Arcana and in each suit in the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana in a spread represent the forces of fate and destiny, outside influences of the universe. In general the Minor Arcana represents the physical everyday world with Wands  representing initiative, action, Pentacles, practicality, money, Cups emotion, relationships and Swords intellect, decisions, adversity. The basic meaning of numbers together with the rich visual symbolism of the cards will allow you to interpret them without memorising huge amounts of information.

There is much responsibility involved with using this tool. The Tarot when used as a counselling tool it helps people to gain insight into the forces that operate in their lives and to reach their full potential and can assist them in making well informed decisions.  Predictions imply that we have no control over our future and can be very damaging on both the conscious and subconscious levels. The most you can responsibly say is the likelihood of a certain outcome based on where the client is at that moment in terms of their situation or circumstances, awareness and personality traits.  Simply having a Tarot reading changes that level of awareness at the time of the reading and therefore can allow the person to reshape their future events. 

The spiritual forces at work are " the path of least resistance" or most likely direction but can be modified by our own will.

Tarot Card Decks

There are  many beautiful Tarot Decks available. Choose one that appeals to you. I have chosen the Rider-Waite deck for this website. It is not the prettiest but it is the richest in symbolism and the most graphic in demonstrating the meaning of each card.

We will then start to look at the simplest spreads, how to answer specific questions, and provide tips on designing your own spreads to answer questions and the best spreads for timing events.

Again you don't have to memorise a whole lot of spreads. When you are reading for yourself or others choose your position meanings as you place the cards down. This is just as valid - just don't forget what you have assigned to what position in a spread.

You also don't need to wrote learn a lot of information. I teach an easy way to learn to read the tarot but the information provided on here is a reference for you to compare your own meanings to and to add to your knowledge.

The method I teach involves 4 simple elements:

The IMAGERY OF THE CARD + POLARITY+ NUMBER VALUE + ELEMENT. This will provide you with the basic meaning of that card.

COURT CARDS represent people, situations or a stage in development of an idea, project or event. 

History of the Tarot

Several theories have been proposed regarding the origin of the Tarot. However it really remains a mystery and is not well documented.


Ancient Egypt is widely believed to be the source of Tarot cards. A clergyman in the middle ages, Court De Gebelin felt that the Tarot arose out of ancient Egypt and that the Major Arcana were from the Book of Thoth. He felt that the Egyptian priests concealed their knowledge and wisdom on the cards to protect them from the unenlightened.  

Gypsies have also been attributed (arising from the Egyptians) to carrying the Tarot cards with them from India.


The suits cards have also been linked with other cultures such as the Indian caste system.  e.g. Cups to priests, Swords to warriors, Coins to merchants etc. The Major Arcana also has links to Buddhism also e.g. the Fool Card.


The earliest cards of which only 17 remain date to 1392. About 30 years into the 1400s an Italian artist called Bonifacio Bembo painted the only full deck which has survived to modern times -the Visconti deck.

Many of the images of the Tarot are obviously medieval in nature e.g. The Pope or Hierophant, The Magician or Juggler, and the Judgement Card and obviously the court cards themselves. The Tarot may have been a safe way for people who disagreed with the religious doctrines of the time to record their philosophies and knowledge, being a picture based memory system.


However some imagines seem out of place and possibly dates to pre-Christian times. e.g. The Moon card, the High Priestess, and the spiritually enlightened Hanged Man. Some seem to be related to medieval times but the power of the church destroyed interest and documentation regarding the Tarot. It was labelled as evil, as it implied that man could become enlightened.  This was of course against the basis of Christianity.


A great occult revival took place in the late 18th and early 19th Century. The Golden Dawn sect had much to do with its revival and Arthur Edward Waite’s book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot was published in 1910 and became the modern deck. Aleister Crowley’s deck also appeared around this time and was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris.


Carl Jung (1875-1961) one of the founders of modern psychiatry believed in the universal connectedness of all people. He believed that the mind had three levels of operation; the conscious, the subconscious and the collective unconscious and that universal figures or archetypes dwell within the personal and collective unconscious. Symbolic meanings in the Tarot include the earth mother- The Empress, the authoritarian father, The Emperor and the wise old man - The Hermit for example.

How does the Tarot Work


No one can really explain how the Tarot works. However Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli had a theory of synchronicity which is basically meaningful co-incidence. They believed that a certain group of co-incidence became more and more unbelievable and unlikely the more often they happened and therefore must be controlled by some mysterious force.  That is there must be a reason or purpose, or guiding force behind it which explains how a group of cards chosen at random can make sense to the reader. The Tarot can be seen as a miniature reflection of the forces at work in the universe that influence people’s lives. You can start by visually taking in the information on the cards, learning the meaning of numbers and some basic spreads and allowing your intuition to do the rest.


At this point I am only presenting the upright position of the cards but it is valid enough to say that the reversed meaning is often just that - the reverse of the upright position but it can also indicate a delay in the action or energy of that card.


See Tarot Card Meanings and Tarot Card Spreads.

Th Fool's Journey - The Fool Card
The Fool's Journey
Astrological Card Spread
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