Tarot with Holly: You’ve Got Your First Deck of Tarot Cards, What Now?

by Holly on March 14

TAROT with Holly

Hello, Tarot newb! Or if you aren’t a newb, maybe you own a dusty deck of cards you’ve never played with properly before but now feel inspired to (in which case, yay, and welcome!). Whatever the case, Tarot seems to be making a popular resurgence, and it’s exciting that more people are experimenting with it. It can be daunting when first starting out, and the process of laying a spread and knowing how to interpret it can be confusing. But it need not be! Tarot is inspiring, motivating, illuminating, and most of all, fun!

Get to Know the Cards

Start by getting to know the cards, beginning with a literal feel for them, how they feel when you hold them. At some stage, you will want to learn more about the individual meanings of each card, but before this, simply spend some time looking at them as individual pieces of artwork.

The next step is to get a basic understanding of the deck itself. Any deck should have 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards.

Here is some very basic Tarot 101 to get you started.

Major Arcana Cards – In some ways these are the most important cards and carry the most weight in a reading. They represent the major events in a person’s life, the predominant feelings or experiences of the querent (the subject of the reading), whether in the past, current or future positions. They also represent Carl Jung’s archetypes, the patterns and themes inherent in each individual as they progress on what is known in Tarot as “The Journey of The Fool”: beginning with the innocence and naivety of The Fool and ending in the integration and completion that is The World, what we might also call enlightenment or self-actualisation.

Minor Arcana Cards – These are split into four suits, each representing one of four elements.

Cups represent water—our emotions, our innermost feelings, and our imagination. Most strongly of these emotions, cups are related to love and to our feeling-based relationships with other people.

Pentacles, or the suit of coins, represent earth—our connection to our material world, our work, and finances.

Swords represent air—our mind, intellect, and our belief systems. The swords also represent how these influence our relationships with other people. If there is conflict in our lives, we will find it in the swords.

Wands represent fire—our spirituality, inspiration and our creative selves.

Try Simple Spreads

More advanced spreads are great for getting a bigger picture reading on the querent’s query, however, for the novice reader, putting all the symbols together to achieve a satisfying understanding can be difficult and confusing. Thankfully, simple spreads with fewer cards can be just as helpful and fun to perform. The best part is, you can make up your own! There are ‘rules’ to Tarot as an art, but rules are meant to be broken. So, break ‘em and have fun developing your own sense of the medium while building your knowledge of Tarot over time.

A simple spread you can do on your own is a three card spread.

For example, for a general reading, Card One might represent the recent past, Card Two the current situation, and Card Three the outcome.

For a love reading, Card One might represent you, Card Two the other person, and Card Three the relationship itself.

Use Your Intuition

Always, always use your intuition. A good book on Tarot is definitely useful when starting out, but your own gut-level sense of what a card means, and what it means in relation to other cards in a spread is what makes it magical. Tarot is an art that is knowledge and intuition combined. Obviously, the better you know the history and the more familiar you are with symbolism of each card, the richer the readings will be, but they won’t be anywhere near as meaningful without a personal connection and an internal sense of what they mean for you.

Try closing your eyes when you shuffle them and spend some time in meditation connecting with the cards. You might want to set an intention, or focus on a specific question or issue you want guidance on. When doing a spread for a friend, I get them to do the same. We need to be in tune with what we want to know, in order to make sense of what we get—obviously!

Pull a Card a Day

This is a simple and fun way to get to know your new (or rediscovered) deck of cards. It’s also a nice way to begin your daily routine. This is the way I do it: spend some time in meditation, set an intention or ask a question while shuffling the cards. Holding the deck in your right hand, you use your left hand to divide the pack, wherever feels right, and place the top cards beneath the rest. Do this three times. The card on top is your card for the day. You may be wondering why I split the cards with my left hand. I’m not sure where I first learned this, but splitting the deck using your left hand seems to be the standard practice for most tarot readers, and I’ve stuck with it. I did read somewhere that the reason is to use the hand that is closest to the heart. I like that, and being the ritualistic sort of person I am, I’ve stuck with it. However, again, use your intuition, and don’t worry too much about “doing it right.”

Card Care

I have a real attachment to the deck I use most frequently and have had the longest. I keep it among my other precious things; books, candles, and spiritual and sentimental ornaments that are dear to me. I don’t do personal readings often these days, but I know the cards are there for me to draw from, anytime I desire; imbued with history, ritual, and the connections I’ve made with each, some more than others. Mine are wrapped in a soft black cloth and kept in a purple and green drawstring bag: their ‘home’. Some people suggest keeping your cards wrapped in a silk scarf, others keep theirs in their original box. Again, there are no set rules, except to treat them with the care you would with anything that is special to you. Look after them, and they will look after you.

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Holly is a social worker, writer and social justice advocate. She became interested in personal development in her early 20s when she stumbled across a web forum where she met members of the Spiraling Up crew. Holly is interested in psychology, spirituality and astrology. She currently resides in Victoria, Australia where she works full-time as a support worker and plays with spoken word and written poetry.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Di Bell March 15, 2016 at 4:34 am

Great article Holly and very helpful. It’s some years since I regularly consulted my Tarot cards. What you’ve written is reminding me of my connection with wisdom of the Tarot and encourages me to return to ” an old friend”. Thank you


Holly March 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Thanks, Di! I’m glad it got you thinking about Tarot again 🙂 x


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