Some tips to learn Tarot (and not feel overwhelmed in the process)

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I have always wanted to learn Tarot. I used to have a friend at work, who used to read the cards for us. I remember she had a number of books and photocopies and she would consult them whenever she did a reading. For a long time, I thought that this was the way a reading should go.

And so, I bought a book, in Spanish, by Eden Gray. I never read it, I only looked at the meanings of the cards whenever I did readings. And so it happened that I always grew frustrated with the little readings I did for myself, because I couldn’t understand anything. This made me realise that learning the meanings of the cards, presented as individual words, was not particularly useful, and it was very difficult to learn.

I even started a mini notebook where I was taking notes of the different interpretations of the cards that I read in different books. I think this helped me a little bit to learn the meanings in general, but still I would not have considered that I really knew them.

What is important to realise is, that as in many other disciplines, Tarot has to be a mixture of intuition and “theoretical” knowledge. You cannot just invent the meaning of the cards, but on the other hand, Tarot cards are not mere flashcards that you use to memorise concepts at school.

There is a beauty, a flexibility, to learning Tarot. And as with any art, technique can only take you so far. And that is why it seems so difficult to learn. Nobody can teach you intuition, you need to learn to make those special connections on your own. You have to have a lot of contact with your cards, since I think that, at times, we are only conduits for what the cards are trying to tell us.

So, as you do with any people you know and love deeply, you don’t only know their names, but also their reactions, their light and their shadows. Come to think of it, it is such a waste if you don’t strive to know your loved ones as deeply as this.

However, when we talk about the cards, we need to know their names, what they generally represent, but their voices too, their nuances. And at first I found it very difficult to read them because I had learnt to “read” them through these “dictionaries”,which tell you the meaning of the word, but not a single example sentence.

And this is where Practical Tarot Techniques (formerly published as Tarot Face to Face) by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin was a godsend to me. At the very beginning of the book the authors put forward a tecnique called bridging. In simple terms, you start by pulling a pair of cards and comparing them in any way possible, describing what they have in common (colour, some shape, etc.).

Once I started practising this, my readings developed so much. You get the sense that it is not only the individual meanings of the cards that drive the reading, because at the same time you are able to start to make connections between them, and then you can explain intuitively how they are all related to each other.

Another important aspect is learning to relate the cards to different issues that you or your querent might want to know about. What if you ask about love and you get a bunch of pentacles? What if you get swords and you wanted to know about your situation at work? It is essential to learn to place the individual meanings of the cards in a larger context. The fact that you get cups will not necessarily mean love in your financial worries, but it can indicate the need or the possibility of relationships that will aid you in this concern.

In general, I find the Minor Arcana more diffitult to work with than the Major Arcana. Why? Because I think that Major Arcana are archetypes, big concepts that are easy to identify as big, important general elements in your life. On the contrary, the Minor Arcana are like scenes of everyday life, sometimes they are like small details, and this means that, at least for me, they are more difficult to spot. I am a big-picture person.

And so it is important, when doing a reading, to be able to tell the difference between the energies of these two groups of cards and how they come into play. Major Arcana cards can sometimes represent energetic influences in the reading, and as such they sort of flavour it and dictate where it might be going or what may be needed to achieve a certain goal or fulfill a certain task.

The Minor Arcana are the scenes of the story which takes place against the backdrop of the influences of the Majors, and as such they need to be considered as road signs, that can indicate how your current path of action can take you closer or farther away from the energy of the Major Arcana. And your job as a reader, is to listen to the cards and interpret them for your querent, in a collaborative effort, so that the querent herself will put in her own wisdom and knowledge and make sense of the cards.

Tomorrow I will list some resources that you can do if you are just starting on this path, and if, like me, you are on the neverending path to learning.



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