Tarot 101: The Basics of Tarot Decks

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If you have an interest in astrology, healing crystals, or any other form of spirituality, chances are you’ve dabbled in tarot, and if not, you’ve at least heard of it. So, whether you’re just looking to learn a bit more, or you want some advice before you delve in, VALLEY’s got you covered with all of the tarot basics!

Getting Your Deck

First thing’s first, to start reading tarot, you have to get your hands on a tarot deck. There is a bit of tarot lore that suggests beginners should be gifted their first decks (especially by someone who already reads tarot and can serve as a kind of mentor). However, it is more important that the reader finds a connection with the deck, so do not let that stop you from buying one that speaks to you. The energy of a deck is supposed to pick you, more or less, so if a deck catches your eye, that very fact should be heeded.

Above all, it is most important to choose your deck well. If you cannot connect with your cards, you will not be able to get a meaningful and accurate reading out of them, and you will only find yourself needing to get a new deck in the long run. Be sure to take your time choosing a deck until you find the one that is right for you.

Reading Your Deck

Because of the initial connection formed between the reader and the deck, it is suggested that the reader should be able to understand their deck intuitively. Now, to many beginners, that can sound like a bit of a challenge, especially if you’ve never read tarot before. Still, there is a level of instinct involved in reading tarot. It’s not always best to get caught up in the detailed meanings of each individual card; take a moment to look at the art on them, and allow the cards to form their own meanings in your head. Instincts, especially in the world of tarot, are never wrong. Part of what makes tarot work so well for so many different people is the degree to which it can be left up to interpretation.

When you first start out reading your deck, you’ll want to use a spread that will help you derive meaning from your readings. While this is different for everyone, a commonly used and basic option is the three-card spread, in which the reader pulls a card for the past, the present and the future. If this doesn’t work for you, don’t worry – there are many different spreads and shuffles you can try, they will just alter the level of difinitivity to your answers.

Understanding Your Deck

The deck is made up of Major Arcana cards and Minor Arcana cards, with 22 and 56, respectively. Major Arcana cards start with The Fool and end with The World, and their energies are extremely strong and tend to be given more weight in readings. That doesn’t mean Minor Arcana cards should be ignored, though, as they are also very important. Minor Arcana cards are similar to a regular deck of playing cards in that they consist of the four suits and each include their own numbers (1-10) and royal families (page, knight, queen and king).

The four suits are wands, cups, swords and pentacles, with each representing a different element, a different aspect of yourself, and a different speed at which time passes, among other things. Their respective elements are fire, water, air and earth, and they represent (put simply) your passions in life, your emotions, your inner thoughts and your work life. As for the passage of time, that is to say, if a question regarding time frame is asked and a wands card is pulled, that usually indicates a quick solution or an event that is soon to come (while pentacles is the slowest, indicating more of a journey before the answer to that question comes to fruition).

As for the cards within each suit, the 1-10 cards are like a journey, with 1 marking the start or a beginning of something, and 10 being like the conclusion or its end. The family, sometimes called the royal family or the court cards, are a bit more complicated. Basically, they can be interpreted in so many different ways that it really is up to you and your individual readings to find the meanings of each card.

It’s important to remember that with tarot, you can do your own research, but try not to let outside information influence your interpretations too much. The best way to teach yourself how to read tarot is to practice, and let it come to you naturally.

Whether you’re new to the tarot game, or have been a long-time player, VALLEY would love to hear about your tarot experience. Tell us what you’ve learned and show off your deck by tagging us @VALLEYmag on Instagram and Twitter!


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