How to Read Tarot Cards



New Blog: (first posted 12/8/09)


Nefer Khepri


I.  Origins of the Tarot.

No one is really sure just how ancient the Tarot is or where it really comes from.  All that is known for sure is that a deck showed up in Italy in the 14th century as a hand-painted deck.   By this time the tarot already consisted of a deck of 78 cards.  It was used in a game played by nobles called Tarocchi.  Since the complete deck was already in existence at this time, it has been hypothesized that the tarot is much older than this 14th century deck.  But, just how old is anybody's guess.  A system of divination that is as intricate as the tarot takes a great many years to develop.  Just how old the tarot is or where it comes from is still a matter of discussion and debate.

Many people have speculated about the origins of the tarot.  Some suggest it came from the lost continent of Atlantis.  However, if one were to argue for an Atlantean origin of the tarot, they would first have to prove that Atlantis really existed.  Another possible origin for the tarot is ancient Egypt.  Some scholars suggest that the 22 Major Arcana cards, that depict the soul's spiritual evolution, are modeled after initiation chambers in ancient Egyptian temples.  Others claim that the gypsies spread the use of tarot throughout Europe.

In my opinion, the origin of the tarot is not an issue.  The important thing to remember is that this is a very ancient system of divination that is still relevant today for today's people and today's problems.


II.  The Tarot Deck.

The typical tarot deck consists of a total of 78 cards.  The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, numbered 0 - 22 with such names as "The High Priestess," "The Hermit," "The Wheel of Fortune," and "The World."  The Major Arcana serves as a road map that details the evolution of the soul from its conception ("The Fool") to its completion ("The World").  The cards of the Major Arcana are symbolic of the spiritual forces that are at work in an individual's life at the time of the reading.  The other 56 cards of the tarot deck are known as the Minor Arcana.  The Minor Arcana is arranged in four suits, usually Wands, Cups, Swords, & Pentacles.  Each suit is numbered from Ace through King.  These suits represent major areas of life and the cards within these suits symbolize the activities and experiences of mundane, everyday life.  The modern playing deck of 56 cards is based upon the Minor Arcana of the tarot with the Fool being the only card to survive from the Major Arcana, known as the Joker in modern playing decks.

III.  How the Tarot Works.

Tarot cards contain symbols on them that represent archetypes.  An archetypical symbol is one that is so embedded within the subconscious of humankind, that all  people are aware of its meaning at the subconscious level, regardless of their cultural or religious background.  When a client shuffles the cards; or, as in the case of my web page where I shuffle on my client's behalf, the client's subconscious, spirit guides, and angels, cause the cards to be shuffled in a certain order. Then, when the cards are laid out on the table for the reading, they are in an order that has been pre-ordained by the client's higher guidance.  In this way, all readings are unique to the individual receiving the reading.  No two readings are alike and each reading comes from a spiritual source.

IV.  Foretelling the Future.  

Most people who come to me for a reading are interested in discovering what the future holds for them.  The tarot is used for divination, but it serves a much higher purpose when used properly and with the correct intent.  What many people fail to understand is that the Tarot deals with probabilities.  In other words, regarding whatever issue you may be asking about, the Tarot will give you the most likely outcome based upon your current behavior and the current behavior of everyone else involved with the issue under question.  Therefore, if you choose to change your behavior, the outcome may also change.  

In this way, we know for a fact that the future is not engraved in stone.  Everyone has free will, which gives the individual the power to change and to shape their own future into what they desire.  

When used with this in mind, the Tarot can then map out strategies for you to use in order to achieve your highest goals.  For example, instead of asking if a certain person is in love with you, you may instead ask, "is this person for my highest good; and, if so, how can I make this relationship work?"  Such is the power of the Tarot.  As a divinatory tool it can help you to map out your destiny, but as an oracle it can help you to decide which plan of action is the best in order for you to manifest the reality you desire for your life.

V.  How I Read the Cards.

I work with a number of spirit guides who assist me in my readings, magical, artistic, & healing work.  As preparation for a reading I connect first with my guides.  I provide my guides with my client's name, date of birth, & current address.  I do this as a safe guard against any possible confusion if two people happen to have the same name and the same birthday (this does happen!).  Next, I ask my guides to communicate with my client's guides.  This communication is vital for the creation of a good rapport between myself and my client - whether they are face to face or thousands of miles away from me.  For my Internet clients, once the connection is established, I shuffle the cards in their name while concentrating on their question.  The psychic connection between my guides and yours assures that this reading really is meant only for you.

With the help of my guides and the symbols on the tarot cards, I can answer any type of question you wish.  Many of my clients come to me with questions about relationships, finances, their family, jobs, their own spirituality, and other issues. On occasion I have even been called upon to do readings about past life issues affecting my client's present life circumstances.  Nothing is outside the realm of the tarot.  The only thing the tarot cannot deal with properly is questions about Time, as in, "how long will it take before I find a job?"  Instead, if you wish to ask a question that has a time frame, ask in this manner:  "will I find a job within the next 3 months (2 weeks, whatever)."  In this way, you will get a much more accurate response.

    Depending on the type of question you ask, I shall use certain card lay outs or spreads.  A lay out or spread is the term used to describe the formation in which the cards are laid out on the table for a reading.  I prefer the term "spread."  Why?  I have no idea :)  I use a variety of spreads, the two most popular being the Celtic Cross and the Yes/No Gossipy Spreads. 

    The Celtic Cross is a very ancient spread that is believed to have originated in either England or Ireland, hence it has been named for that culture.  It consists of 10 cards, the 6 central cards being arranged in a cross formation, the last 4 cards arranged as a staff, in a straight line to the right of the cross.  This is a good spread to use when you want to know a variety of things about a single issue, take your job or career, for example.  This spread will reveal the recent past, your hopes and fears regarding the issue, any obstacles you face and how to overcome them, the near future, your strengths and weaknesses concerning your question, where you are now in relation to what you're asking about, and the final outcome.  The Celtic Cross helps to provide clients with a very thorough reading.  And if any cards are unclear I always draw 3 additional cards for clarification and their interpretation is also included in your reading.

    Another popular spread I use is what I called the "Yes/No Gossipy Spread."  Here are instructions so you can try it on your own, if you like. 


How to Read Tarot Cards for Yourself or Others: The Yes/No Gossipy Spread.


First of all, be sure you won't be disturbed.  Find a quiet, comfortable place. I enjoy reading for myself on my bed.  In this way I'm comfy and I'm not limited by the size of a table should the spread get really large.

Second, clear your mind.  You do this simply be breathing deeply in and out 10 times.  Do not focus on anything, not even your reason for consulting the tarot.  Take your time and feel the stress of the day leaving as it oozes out from your pores and melts away.  This is also a good exercise to do before going to sleep at night, especially if you have trouble falling asleep.  

Third, ask for protection.  You do this by praying to whatever Higher Power you believe in, whichever one you feel the most comfortable with.  This can be God, Jesus, Mary, the Goddess, Isis, Brigit, Whomever.  Just be sure to call on them to surround you with the protective White Light of the Universe and it will be done.  In this way, for your reading you are ensuring yourself and anyone for whom you may be reading that you'll be surrounded by positive, protective energies.  

Fourth, connect with your Higher Guidance (Spirit Guides & Angels).   Now, you do NOT need to know who your spirit guides and/or angels are.  You do not need to be able to communicate with them at all for this to work.  All you need is purity of intention.  By that, I mean that you must not want to connect to them for personal gain (for example, "give me the winning lotto numbers."  Take it from me, this NEVER works!).  You are wishing to connect to them simply so they can open a clearer channel for you to be better able to interpret your reading.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Make this intention known to them in whatever form of prayer you wish to use.

Fifth, prepare your tarot deck.  If the deck is brand new, you need to look at each card for a few seconds. Notice the details. This ties your energy to the deck.  Next, shuffle the deck 7 times. That is enough to randomize the cards.  Finally, shuffle the deck another 7 times asking your Higher Power to cleanse the deck of all negative energy it may have picked up in the creation, manufacturing, shipping, or storage processes and ask that this deck be fit to give you easily interpreted and accurate readings.  Your deck is now prepared.  For each subsequent reading what I do is shuffle the deck 7 times at the start of every session, then for each question I shuffle 5 times, then I cut the deck into thirds using my left hand (that is ruled by the right side of your brain where your intuition resides), and then I draw the cards for the reading from the middle pile of the cut deck.  

I know this may seem like a lot of work at first, but with practice all of this will become second nature to you.  


The "Yes/No Gossipy Spread"  is a much longer and more involved variation of a very simple spread in which 3 piles of 13 cards each are dealt out after a yes/no question is asked of the tarot.  If I come to an Ace in any of these piles I immediately stop dealing cards & begin dealing the 13 cards of the next pile.  In the end, you end up with 3 piles of cards, each of which contains cards ranging from just 1 to 13.

    The simplest manner in which to interpret this spread is to read only the top cards.  The Aces mean "yes" to your question. 

The interpretation begins with the top card of each pile.  However, I go much further than that.  I designate each pile with a time frame, that is as follows:

    I then interpret all the cards of each pile and put together a running commentary.  This is where the Gossipy part comes in.  I start with the bottom card of each pile, which is the first card you put down while counting out the cards.  Read the cards from left to right until you reach the final card of that pile.  Then start with the next pile.   I put the cards in rows of descending numbers.  For example, if the pile contains 13 cards, I will place 5 cards in the top row, 4 in the second row, 3 in the third row, and 1 card at the bottom so you end up with an inverted triangular looking spread.  Then I read the cards from left to right.  It's sort of like a paragraph and with practice you'll be able to determine when the subject matter changes.  

You look at each pile of cards one at a time, beginning with the left pile, which is the Past.  Then you move on to the middle pile, which is the Present, and you conclude with the last pile, which is the Future.  Be sure to remember to take notes because there is no way you're going to remember it all, I guarantee it.  

This spread may or may not give you more details about the question you asked, but it will always give you information that is relevant to your life.  It can tell you what your boss, co-workers, spouse, friends, and children are all up to and it can also provide you with warnings about possible financial, spiritual, work, or relationship problems.  Many clients have been amazed at the details that my interpretation of this spread gives them.

    In addition to the Celtic Cross and the Yes/No Gossipy Spread, I use many others.  My choice of spread always depends on the nature of your question.  With each reading I inform you of which spread I am using, how it works, and my reasons for using that particular spread for your reading.



VI.  Choosing Your Own Tarot Deck.

   There are now over 500 tarot decks published.  The variety of available decks is staggering.  When asked, I tell clients, choose the deck that appeals to your sense of beauty.  Do you like looking at these cards?  Do you find them attractive?  If so, then they may be the deck for you. 

    However, sometimes, even though you may love what a deck looks like, it may not work for you.  This has nothing to do with the abilities or knowledge of the person using the deck.  Sometimes certain decks and certain people just aren't compatible.  This has happened to me numerous times.  I buy a deck that I think is great, but when I attempt to do readings with it, nothing makes any sense.  When this occurs, I give the deck away because I know that for whatever reasons my guides do not intend for me to work with that deck. 

    Currently, my favorite decks are:  the Golden Tarot by Kat Black, the Nigel Jackson Tarot, The Quest Tarot (both published by Llewellyn), the Voyager Tarot by James Wanless, Ph. D., and the Ancient Egyptian Tarot by Clive Barrett.   Depending on the sort of questions you ask of me, I will use one or more of these decks.  Please check out my Deck Reviews for images of the cards from these and other decks I will be adding.

    When you purchase a reading from me, you're just not having the cards read to you.  You are tapping into the vast wisdom of my spirit guides and yours as well.  In addition, you will receive valuable spiritual information on how you can begin to improve your life today.



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Copyright:  Magickal-Musings

(Ace of Coins,  4 of Wands, the Sun cards are  from Kat Black's "Golden Tarot")

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