My lovely friend Janine Mulone joins me to discuss getting started with tarot! It’s a primer for beginners offering an overview of this magical, mystical (and shockingly practical!) tool. We dive into our personal relationships with tarot, and dive into the energies of of The Major Arcana, The Minor Arcana, and The Court Cards. Plus, we share some of our favorite resources and ways to get started reading for yourself.
Referenced in this episode:
- Episode #9: Let’s Get Elemental
- Resources for learning tarot:
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Getting started with tarot
I talk a lot about how developing your connection to your inner voice is so important for cycle-syncing. mental health, inner peace, for understanding your body’s signals, for being able to practice intuitive eating — so many things! One of the practices I recommend to start developing your intuition is to practice tarot.
Tarot is a 78-card deck with 14th-century Italian roots (tarocchi) traditionally used as a divination tool.
The way I practice tarot is not predictive, but I use it as a visual medium for my intuition to speak to me. I see the images in the cards, I take in the story they’re telling, I interpret it based on my intuition, my experiences, and my understanding of the symbols in the cards. I think about what it all means, I meditate on it. Sometimes I use the guidebook, sometimes I don’t!
The longer you are in relationship with tarot, the less you’ll need the books. But you do need a place to start!
How we use tarot in our daily lives
One thing we love about tarot as a tool is that it can take incredibly complex experiences that sometimes have the ability to make us feel that we’re all alone, and it reminds you that we all go through these different phases.
In my practice, I go through times when I’m pulling cards daily. Sometimes I do it more periodically, such as at the end of the month or during the moon phases. Because I use multiple decks now, I will use the cards I want to work with on my altars as well.
Janine ebbs and flows with her tarot practice too — we don’t have to be perfect! She does note that sometimes she avoids it when she needs it the most, like when you avoid the friend who’s going to give you real talk and instead gravitate towards the friend who will coddle you and sugarcoat things to make you feel better. Sometimes your tarot cards will drag you, and we’re not always ready for the real talk!
Neither of us uses tarot to tell the future, as it’s disempowering. We all have free will. Being in the here and now is more important than knowing what’s happening in the future.
That said, we do pull cards before meetings or when making decisions, for example, to help us reframe what is important to potent about the moment.
Rather than zooming in on the future, what about zooming out to look at the bigger picture?
Meet the Major Arcana
Tarot is an amazing tool because we can always learn more and dive deeper no matter how long you’ve been practicing. Don’t let its depth overwhelm you — there’s also a lot to gain just from understanding its basic form.
The deck consists of three main parts: the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana, and the Court Cards. Technically the Court Cards are part of the Minor Arcana, but we think they have a special flavor so we like to call them out specifically.
The Major Arcana are the 22 big-picture, high-energy cards that reflect “the Fool’s journey.” If you’ve seen tarot depicted on movies, TV, etc., you’re probably familiar with some of the imagery of the Majors (Death, The Sun, The High Priestess, etc).
The Major Arcana takes us through the process of spiritual development and enlightenment. The deck begins with The Fool (card #0), and the following cards build upon one another and tell a story.
If you are brand new to tarot, we recommend laying the cards out to see the story all at once.
When Major cards show up, pay attention to the bigger picture, the life lessons in the cards, karmic influences, and their big archetypal themes. The Majors are an invitation to see the current moment through a different lens.
They’re also very cyclical. Throughout the Fool’s journey, you encounter similar themes but at different levels of intensity or ego. This allows for a lot of flavor, depth, and nuance in your interpretation and shows you that you’re always evolving through different levels of the same song and dance. Maddening, but comforting!
Once you complete the journey with The World (#21), you will eventually be invited to revisit The Fool and move through the process again on a new plane, having lived through different experiences and outcomes. You’re always going to be invited to find a different perspective.
Meet the Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana is most similar to a deck of playing cards. You’ll see Ace through 10 and court cards through four different suits. Each suit corresponds to different elements and areas of life.
Here’s a cheat sheet for you:
- Pentacles = earth = physical realm: work, money, habits
- Swords = air = mental realm: thoughts, beliefs, how we communicate
- Wands = fire = creative realm: actions. what we’re manifesting, how we evolve
- Cups = water = emotional realm: feelings, intuition, the deepest parts of us
Lots of flavor!
The Minors are very nuanced and specific. In addition to looking at what suit you pulled, which sort of helps orient you in space, you can also pair the number of the card with the suit to think more deeply about how it shows up for you. It’s like a puzzle!
You can look up the meanings, but the best thing you can do to deepen your personal relationship to the decks you’re using is to sit with the card first. What does it symbolize for you? What is it making you feel?
If you’re not feeling so confident, we can still take some hints from symbolism and numerology.
Here’s another cheat sheet:
- Ace = initiation
- 2 = balance
- 3 = collaboration
- 4 = foundation or stability
- 5 = contraction
- 6 = expansion
- 7 = reframe or transition
- 8 = transformation
- 9 = climaxes or sacred pause
- 10 = completion
Pair these correspondences together to start your interpretation. For example, the 3 of Wands — what does the idea of creative collaboration look like? How can you embody that energy? How do you feel about that idea at this time?
While the Majors represent the more broad, archetypal themes of life, the Minors focus more on our day-to-day actions.
Janine shared this great analogy: If you’re hoping to plant a garden, the Minors are everything that we can seemingly control — selecting where we plant the garden, digging the dirt, watering the seedling, pruning, etc. The things we make conscious decision to do, and then do or not do.
The Majors is are below the surface. They require surrender, trust, co-creation — they’re a magical force. Just like when you plant two of the same seeds in your garden, but one grows beautifully and the other doesn’t even though you treated them the same way.
Meet the Court Cards
The Court Cards symbolize embodiment and how we can best show up in an aligned way at a particular moment in time. Each card has a role:
- Pages = students (How can we be curious? experiment? playful?)
- Knights = transformers, actors (How can we catalyze change or movement?)
- Queens = nurturers (How can we be the most caring and compassionate?)
- Kings = masters (How can we express our skills or understanding?)
Some interpretations see the court cards as other people in our lives, but we like to see them as different aspects of ourselves.
How to read tarot cards for yourself
Getting started as a beginner with tarot doesn’t have to be this grand undertaking. Very simply, just start by pulling one card daily. This will help you get familiar with the cards, the story, the journey, and the symbolism.
When you pull your card, think about the following:
- What do you see?
- What does it mean to you?
- What do you think is going on in the card?
- How do you think it relates to your day, or your question if you asked one?
If you feel like you can’t figure it out, you can look at the guidebook, or look a the puzzle pieces/cheat sheets we shared with you
If you read an interpretation and it doesn’t make sense, that is still good information. It means you know on some level what does make sense if you know for sure that the meaning you’re reading doesn’t. So what is it? Dig a little. Pull an extra card to help clarify the first one if you need to.
The practice is for you to make it make sense!
I recommend journaling and reflecting on your readings. Pull a card in the morning, embody it for a day, reflect on how it felt or how it went.
You can even just write down what you pulled for that day and track what’s come up. This allows you to look back and see how things have progressed or changed, or if there are any patterns that come up. It gives you really good insight to see how your personal story develops over time.
Still doesn’t make sense? The practice, your job, is to make it make sense!
Suggested tarot spreads for beginners
You don’t have to do a spread. One card is plenty — there is so much to learn and understand in its rich symbolism! However, we do like three-card spreads for simple readings:
- Past / present / future
- Mind / body / spirit
- You in the present / your potential / your path to get there
Also, go where you feel called! Feel free to ask your own questions and create your own spreads. You make the rules.