How I learnt to read the tarot

Tarot has been a big part of my life for two decades.  I don’t think I am any more than 10 paces away from a tarot deck at any point in my home.  And if you were to peek in the blanket box at the end of my bed, you would find only tarot and no bedding.  Priorities, right?

Learning to read tarot cards has been an adventure in itself.  Time and experience create confidence but we all have to start somewhere.

My tarot story began in south London back in 1990.  It was the year of my first pendulum (still as addicted to dowsing as I am to tarot) and my first tarot deck.

The first attempt

I remember buying my very first tarot deck when I was seventeen.  I was so excited.  I’d gone into a bookstore in Wimbledon and found exactly what I was looking for: tarot cards.  I was going to learn how to read tarot cards and I would be good at it.

I could barely wait to get them home on the bus so I could begin my tarot journey.

Seventy-eight cards.

Only seventy-eight cards.

Surely, reading tarot couldn’t be difficult?

Well, I took them out of the box and gave them a good look.  My heart sank.  They didn’t make any sense to me and, if I were honest, I didn’t like them very much.

I’d read somewhere that it was important to buy a deck that resonated with you.  I’d chosen an ancient Egyptian tarot deck because I liked ancient Egyptian artefacts.  I’d yet to read anything on the mythology so this deck was just something pretty to look at.

The little white book that came with the deck didn’t help me.  I had absolutely no idea about tarot and I’d assumed that the deck would reveal all its secrets to me.  It never even occurred to me that it could be challenging to learn how to read the cards.

I couldn’t connect with it.

It wasn’t for me.

So after about half an hour, I buried the deck at the bottom of my sock drawer.  And that’s where it stayed.  For years.

I’m not even sure what happened to it.  I think I probably threw it away when I moved out.

The second attempt

We skip ahead a decade to 2000.  It was the beginning of my spiritual reawakening but also the start of a life meltdown/breakdown.

That was the year I gave birth to my second son, got married for the first time and bought my second tarot deck.

I was so very much in the spiritual closet.  My life back then didn’t have room for such nonsense or hocus-pocus so I had to keep my re-emerging interests hidden.

I bought a Rider Wait deck and I kept it in my handbag.  I took it everywhere with me, not taking it out for fear of being ridiculed.  When I found myself with time alone, I’d get the cards and look through them.

It wasn’t too long before I had more alone time on my hands. My husband left, leaving me with many lonely nights after my toddlers had gone to sleep.  On the plus side, my tarot cards didn’t have to stay quite so hidden.

For the next couple of years, as my life was falling down around me, I fell in love with tarot.  I used Joan Bunnings Learning the Tarot as a textbook and tackled learning tarot as if it were a school lesson.  I’d write down meanings for the cards until they stuck in my conscious mind.

When I did my first couple of readings, it was all a bit of a fumble. I didn’t trust my intuition as much as I trusted the guidebooks.  Readings looked a lot like me laying cards, having a bit of a panic, grabbing a book and then letting my subconscious fall on the right keyword.

The third attempt

During the first couple of years of the new millennium, I had a good grasp at the basics of tarot.  I’d joined TABI – the Tarot Association of the British Isles – and eventually became an endorsed reader for them. I was also a reader with the American Tarot Association.

Both organisations offer free email readings which gave me the opportunity to gain experience in reading for people.

Starting off your tarot journey by giving only email readings throws you in the deep end when it comes to your intuition.  You can give generic readings based on traditional card meanings or you can choose to tap into the person’s energy and allow the cards to speak to you.

You learn to pay attention to your own thoughts, feelings or hunches even if what you feel is not necessarily written in books.

It takes a lot of courage to go with your intuition in a reading because you don’t want to get it ‘wrong’.  In email readings, you have no way of knowing if you are on the right track at the time of the reading.  You can’t read clues in body language or have any feedback until the reading is over (and sometimes you never get it).

Through experience and trusting in my intuition, I began to understand that what I could see or feel in the cards was more valid that the traditional tarot card meanings.  All the help you need to unlock the meanings is in the card’s artwork.  Your higher-self will point you to something important in the card and you’ll get that ‘Aha! That’s what is means’ moment.

The cards become very personal tools when you trust in them.  They lose their rigidity of having ‘proper’ meanings and become fluid.  They change as you grow and develop.  And they adapt to each client’s energy.

If you read tarot intuitively, you can pick up any deck and read with it.  If you’ve done some groundwork by learning the traditional meanings before you learnt to read intuitively, you can always recall them if you stumble upon cards you don’t resonate with (or cards that lack images).


I’m still learning about tarot.  I still pick up my old Rider Waite cards and notice something new.  I still get excited about new decks and about creating my own.  It’s a journey that doesn’t have a destination – just more decks, more learning, more mysteries revealed, and helping more people along the way.

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