Tarot - Lesson Two

Welcome to the Tarot – Week Two

This series of instruction and guidance has kindly been written by RowanBerry in the Whitewiccca forums and is saved here for easy reference.

You will all have seen a Tarot spread at some time – perhaps while receiving a reading or browsing through a book on Tarot. Tarot reading is a highly personalized art and there are as many techniques and interpretations as there are readers. The most important key to Tarot reading is consistency – although this is not to say that a good reader is rigid in their interpretations.

I believe that the best Tarot readers have and acknowledge their own technique of reading, but respect the techniques and interpretations of others. They are also open to adopting new techniques, interpretations, and spreads if they feel right.

Consistency applies to spreads, card handling, and the interpretations. The more consistent you are with a particular interpretation, position meaning, or card handling, the more your subconscious becomes attuned to your style of reading. The more your subconscious is attuned to your own style of reading, the more natural and intuitive your readings will feel.

The use of keywords is a technique which will produce consistency with interpretations. These are simple words or phrases that are linked to a particular card. My keyword for the Death card is “all change” and my keyword for the 10 of swords is “that bad huh?”

It is important to develop your own method of reading whilst taking into consideration what others have attached to a card as a meaning. I recommend that you read through the little book which undoubtedly arrived with your Tarot cards to get the flavor of your deck, then put it away to decide your own meanings.

For your interpretations you may decide to follow an astrological/elemental system in which you decide that Swords represent Air, Pentacles represent Earth, Staves represent Fire, and Cups represent Water, with all of the elemental associations along with it. Some astrologically minded people then associate the numbers of the cards with houses (or, sometimes, zodiac signs) and their associations. In this manner the two of cups would have the same meaning as a water sign in the second house.

Others follow a numerological/esoteric method which is a sort of combination of old, traditional meanings peppered with numerological correspondences and personal interpretations. It is these personal interpretations which seem to be the spark that touches clients the most.

The most successful readers tend to focus on the artwork of the cards themselves. The cards you have chosen drew you for a reason. They have symbols hidden in each card that speak to you on a subconscious level. Interpret these symbols during a reading, and you have a first-rate session in the making.

1) Either find a notebook you want to use to record your keywords and readings or start a looseleaf file (which is my preference). Whichever you choose make sure you have plenty of pages for each card plus some to record your readings. This is going to be very important as you review your progress and establish your own system of reading.

2) Let us know what kind of system appeals to you – Astrological, Numerological, Esoteric, Kabbalistic etc. There are literally hundreds of options!

3) Pick one card at random…any card will do. Focus on this card. Meditate on it. Let the symbols within the card speak to you.
a. What feelings do you get from this card?
b. What meanings could you derive from the feelings?
c. If you were to create a keyword for this card, what would it be?


Spreads are a predetermined pattern in which the reader lays out his or her cards. Each position represents an element of the questioner’s query. Those of you who have owned a deck for a while or have just perused the little book that comes with each deck are probably familiar the most popular spread of all time, often called The Celtic Cross. Many readers adhere to that 10-card spread as if it is the only viable spread in existence, and that all others are cheap imitations. In fact there are a great many marvelous spreads available to the open-minded reader ranging from a simple 1-card cut to a full 78-card layout. In fact, I’ve found the most effective readings to come from the simplest of spreads, which are generally 1- and 3-card arrangements.

One-Card Spreads
Much of the difficulty that inexperienced readers find with a 1-card spread comes from the idea that a single card cannot possibly provide sufficient information. Fortunately, it’s an easy illusion to overcome if the reader opens him or herself to the “spirit” of the meaning of the card as opposed to the literal translation.

A good practice here is to pick a card for yourself every day and meditate on the meaning. You might like to post here what your card for the day has been and what interpretation you gave this. It’s a marvellous way of gaining insight into situations you face. It is also a great way to start collecting your keywords for each card.

Three-Card Spreads
Three card spreads are popular with the beginning reader. The three-card positions can have any meaning you like provided you are personally clear as to the position meanings and are consistent.

Three cards are chosen and laid out in front of the reader. Generally, but not necessarily, the cards are read from left to right. You may have the client cut the deck into three piles while focusing on his or her question and turn them over (or cut the deck yourself); you may simply deal out three cards from the top of the deck, or fan out all of the cards and have the client choose three (or choose them yourself).

It’s important to read the cards in relation to your own physical position. That is, if the card is “reversed” it should be upside-down to you. If you read from left to right, read from your left to your right, even if the client is sitting across from you.

The most popular position meanings are (from left to right):

“past” “present” “future”
“mind” “body” “spirit”

There are others, of course, but these appear to be the top two.

Each card is read in relation to the facet of the problem that is represented in the spread.

So, how about some practice?

James is 34 years old, Irish, but living in London and working as an Estate Agent for a very upmarket company. James tells you that his colleagues often make rude comments regarding his work and as a result his sales are beginning to drop. His question for you is “Why is this happening?”

For the time being I am just going to tell you what your keywords are for your spread:

Past Present Future
Skilled Tradesman Unseen Forces Big Change

1) How would you interpret this spread? What do you tell James, and how do you say it?

2) What if the “past” position was “Betrayal” instead of Skilled Tradesman? How does that change your reading?

3) What if you used the “Mind-Body-Spirit” spread? How does that change your reading?