Shuffle, shuffle, cards picked, and now what? What the heck are you supposed to do to craft an insightful story from the scenes on the cards in front of you? Sure there is the little book which came with the cards. Eventually though most tarot enthusiasts want to move beyond the little book.
So how do you learn to draw amazing insight from the cards all on your own?
I wanted to share with you a practice which evolved for me which might help. Some of my advice or even all of it may well have come from other people. At this point I couldn’t tell you who is the source for any of this advice. Instead I would just thank everyone for their generosity. Bits and pieces of how to do this or that all add up to a useful and very personal system. I hope you some of what I share is helpful.
Let’s get started!
Understanding Tarot Card Images
Reading tarot cards without the booklet from the deck. To start with there are generally accepted definitions of each card. These can be helpful and worth learning. While I might use this information as a starting point the pictures on the cards can also illustrate the generally accepted definition.
What I really want to pass along is how to access those deeper meanings. And as you access those meanings discover your own interpretations bubbling up from your subconscious.
The key to this whole process is in taking a very close look at the cards. Learning to see the smallest of details in the scene as well as the relationships between elements (people, objects, plants, symbols, structures, etc…) of each picture.
Tarot Card Image Elements
Some example aspects of people, animals, plants, or elements in a tarot card image:
- Position on the card.
- How many people or objects?
- Elements with possible energetic or spiritual meaning such as blood, fire, water, the sun, or the moon.
- Apparent age of objects or people.
- Implied motion and direction of movement or travel.
- Emotional feel?
- Weather conditions such as wind, rain, or sun.
- Plants and their health or size.
- Symbols and their meanings.
- Any of the above and how they contrast and compare with each other.
- How dynamic or static the relationships appear to be between one or more of the picture elements.
This list is a start though we could go all night coming up with ideas to add. This is the point really. We can use the pictures on each card to build a story. Not only on each individual card. We can do this with each card we draw for the reading.
Getting to Know Your Deck Deeply
This is why I feel an important exercise for anyone wanting to learn to read tarot cards is to really get to know the scenes depicted on each card in your chosen deck. Each set of tarot cards is illustrated a little or even a lot different from others.
The deck I selected the card at the top of this post from is the Universal Tarot from Lo Scarebeo. The art on the cards is quite different from the Haindl Tarot. Even though many traditional meanings can be applied across most tarot decks the different images may inspire different insights dependent on the deck.
So get to know your deck intimately. You can start by looking closely at what you see. Very closely.
From the card above,
- How many swords?,
- What direction are they pointed?
- What are they doing?
- Who is in the picture?
- What is the person doing?
- What are the swords doing in relationship to the person?
- What type of clothing is the person wearing? What color is the clothing?
- What is the weather doing?
- What objects are in the picture? What are they made of, what color?
- Natural elements? River, ocean, lake, pond, clouds? Stormy weather?
- In what position relative to each other part of the picture is everything?
From the list above we can say there is a man laying on a table, one knee up so maybe not dead, yet. He is being stabbed by 10 swords along the length of his torso. The clouds are black and stormy looking. The man wears a read piece of cloth.
Tapping Your Inner Wisdom
We could add into this any knowledge of numerology we may have such as the meaning of the number 10 as well as the meaning of the color red. If we had other cards in the spread we could then note the relationships between the cards themselves such as which is the first,second, third and what does that mean? What element are in those other cards? How do those elements relate to every other element?
Now for the secret sauce!
Take all of the above and note:
- How do you feel?
- What images pop into your mind’s eye?
- What words come to mind?
- What does your gut feel?
- Are there places in your body where you feel tension build or release?
Finally, knit everything together as an unfolding story offering insight into the question posed.
Tarot card in the above image from Universal Tarot, Lo Scarabeo.