Learning Tarot can be a long and involved process. Starting with a good beginner deck can help, of course, but once we get the deck what do we do with it?
Study and practice, of course!
These are the exercises that I personally credit with my understanding of Tarot. Give them a whirl and see what they can do for you!
Whether you’re new to Tarot or simply have a new deck, this is a really useful way to start connecting with your cards. All you need is a card and a way of taking notes.
For this technique, I like to start with the Fool and work my way through the deck card by card. You can pull cards randomly too, though. Just stay consistent with whatever method you choose.
Feel free to light some candles and incense if that helps you focus, then pick a card.
Study the art. What do you get from it? Look at the label of the card – the Fool or the Hermit, for example. What does that word/concept call to mind? Pull out a Tarot book or two (the one that came with the deck is fine) and check that write-up. Does it enhance the meaning any for you? Do any words or phrases jump out at you? Think about the number the card is associated with – does that have an application for you? (If you’re new to numerology check out this convenient link.) Think about real-life situations that bring this card to mind and how the card reflects that. Write down any associations you come up with.
My process is a bit old school because I like to have the physical card when I do this. It’s not strictly necessary, though. Pretty much any card from any deck (especially the Majors) is available online, and there’s a lot you can learn by simply looking at the images on your computer. You could also type your notes out, although again I’m personally pretty old school with this part and prefer writing by hand.
My suggestion? Get a three-ring notebook and some tabs for each deck you plan to study (table of contents tabs are the best!). Make dividers for the Majors and each Suit. Write everything down on loose-leaf paper, and before you begin on the next card file the finished one in the appropriate section. By the time you’re done you’ll have a handy personal Tarot guidebook!
Here’s a fun one with the Majors and the Court cards!
Pull two Major Arcana cards or Court cards from the same deck and put them together. Then imagine the figures having a conversation. What would the Empress say to the Emperor, or the Hierophant, or the Star? What would the World have to say to the Fool? How do the Queen of Swords and the Page of Pentacles get along? Are any of them natural allies or complete opposites? Write down any conversational snippets that come to mind, and especially focus on how the personality of each card comes through their conversations.
File in your Journal, with the Majors in the back of the Major Arcana section and the Court cards in the back of the Minor Arcana section.
If one card can tell you a lot, what could you learn by comparing several? Lots!
There are a couple of ways to approach this.
From the Same Deck: This is handy for mastering the Minor Arcana. Pull out all of the Aces and compare them. How are they the same? How are they different? How does each Suit manifest in its respective card? Write down your comparisons. Then move on to all the Twos and do the same thing. Then the Threes. Then the Fours. Progress all the way through the Minors, comparing numbers/ranks together across Suits, and see what you get! File these in the back of your deck-specific Journal.
Across Decks: This technique is wonderful for learning a new deck! Grab two or three different decks (or a deck you’re comfy with and the new deck) and pull the same card out of each. (Again, I’d recommend starting with the Fool and then working your way through.) Compare them. First, what springs out to you about each card separately? What do you notice when you examine them together? What’s the same? What’s different? Does studying one card enhance your understanding of the other? Pull out the books that go with each deck and compare what they have to say. Does that add to your knowledge?
This is especially useful when comparing cards between different style families.
Divide a binder out just like you did for the Journaling exercise, except this one will be for each card independent of a deck. (I call it the “Tarot-General” binder.) Each time you do a comparison, file it with the other ones you’ve done on that card. Make sure to note which decks you used for the comparison and if possible print out a picture of each card and attach it to your notes. This is less about connecting you to an individual card and more about connecting you to the concepts behind the card.
Color Your Cards
Cards are full of symbolism, and we may not recognize that symbolism until we really dive into the card. One of the most fun ways to do that is to color them!
This is dead easy with the Rider-Waite deck (pick up a coloring book like this one and/or this one, or just print them out), but decent photo manipulation software allows you to do it with any deck you like. Some Tarot workbooks (like this one for the Mythic Tarot) come with coloring panels too, and there are even a few Tarot decks on the market (like this one and this one) designed to let you color the cards themselves.
Whichever way you choose, get what you’re coloring and what you’re coloring with together. Sit down and really look at the image, and then figure out how you’d like to color it. Don’t feel like you have to match the colors other people have used, either. Go with your gut on this. This is a wonderful way to explore the cards in a deeper, more intense way than you might have before.
For instance, look closely at the 7ofW above. Did you notice that the guy in the card is wearing two different shoes? If you didn’t before you certainly would when you colored it! As you color the card, think about that. Why don’t his shoes match? What might that symbolize about him, about his situation, about the card? After you finish coloring, jot down any thoughts you had about the art and file.
Opening the Tarot Door Meditation
Daily meditation is a wonderful practice. Adding Tarot to it, either daily or weekly, can lift meditation up even higher. This takes journaling o the next level, and I highly encourage you to try it.
First prep your space. Dim the lights (or light some candles), burn some incense, play nicely meditative music, and prop up your card.
Then study the card. I mean really study it. Learn it until you can recall every detail with your eyes closed. (Having trouble? Color it! It’s easier to retain details after you’ve colored it.)
When you can easily recall every detail with your eyes closed, visualize the card in front of you growing larger and larger. Keep expanding it until it’s big enough to step into, until the card’s borders are like a doorway.
Visualize yourself stepping through.
What’s it like in the card? Is it hot? Cold? Windy? Still? What is the figure in the card doing? If you speak to them, what do they say, and how does that relate to the card’s meaning? What elements in the frame can you interact with? What does that feel like?
When you’re through exploring the card and interacting with the figure, step out of the card and visualize it shrinking back to card size. Open your eyes.
Now write everything down and file it with your Journaling notes.
One a Day Pulls
Add a bit of divination to your Tarot study!
Every morning think about your day, and with your cards in your hands ask what card will either best inform your day or guide you through it. Then shuffle and look at the card that comes up.
Write down a few notes about it. What comes immediately to mind? Then either carefully pack the card in your bag so it doesn’t get destroyed (in a book, maybe) or snap a pic with your phone (my preference).
Think about the card throughout the day. How does it relate to what’s happening? Does keeping it in mind help you manage your day? Do you see anything that brings the card to mind? What situations does it relate to? Add these notes to the ones you made earlier before you go to bed.
File them in a binder specifically for One a Day pulls when you’re done.
For a fun twist, those of us with multiple decks can also go with whatever deck “calls” to us before starting this exercise. I do this with the daily pulls I post. One day it’ll be one deck, and the next could be a different one. See how switching daily between decks changes your experiences!
I do this every week.
Think about your upcoming week, and with your cards in your hands ask for information or guidance that will help you manage it. Then shuffle and lay out the cards in a simple Three Card Spread.
What does the spread say to you? How do you interpret it?
Write it all down.
At the end of the week, before you do the next spread, go over your notes from the previous week. What happened? How did this reading relate to your experiences? Was there anything that could have been interpreted differently to better fit your circumstances? Make notes at the bottom of that record, then file it and do the next one.
File with your One a Day Pulls.
These exercises are in no way exclusive to Tarot. They can easily be adapted for any card-based divination system, and with a little creativity can be adapted for a wide variety of other divination tools too. Runes spring immediately to mind, as does lithomancy