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learning the cards

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 05 Sep 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

ultraviolet  05 Sep 2003 
Hi all,

I'm new to tarot and I'm interested in discovering some effective ways to learn the meanings of the cards without having to memorize definitions from a book. I'm reading several books about the cards, but I'm really not good with definitions and I'm having a hard time trying to take in all this information at once. If there is already a thread on this topic could someone point me in the right direction? If not, then I'd love to hear some examples of how experienced tarot users learned their first tarot decks, and how you would suggest/teach someone else to learn. Thanks!


jmd  05 Sep 2003 
With the cards, it isn't so much remembering their meaning, but slowly developing an understanding of not only each card (for which Thirteen's posts may be useful), but also really allowing a narrative to develop as one looks at the cards and begins to speak what one notices.

I would also very much suggest looking carefully at each card, and asking what others see those cards as. These would be not the 'one and true' meaning, but the nuances which may emerge through reflection.

Of course, also participating in a course - whether an internet one (as per matfav's) or with a group of people, may be beneficial (though I have known some who make claims which are, to say the least, questionable).

... but allow the cards to speak, and read books for the sake of enjoying them, and not to remember what they say. Maybe question why the author may say what is claimed - even if you cannot provide the answer! 

Umbrae  05 Sep 2003 
first begin with the numbers...then add the suits.

example: Why are all the three's similar? Why are they different?

Then move to fours and fives...(of course you may want to begin with ones or twos.

I suggest you shun 'courses' and books (but that's my opinion) want to learn the cards - and what they mean to YOU. Not what they mean to me, or someone else. I would distrust anyone who says, "You need a teacher."

Your meanings are the only correct meanings.

Store the books for now. Spend time with cards.

Begin with One Card spreads. Don't go near a celtic cross for six months.

...and welcome. 

HudsonGray  05 Sep 2003 
Right, lay out all the suits together. How are the queens similar & how are they different from each other? How do they compare to the Empress? All the court cards can be looked at this way, you'll see that they're all very different & show personalities.

Then the Aces, two's, etc.

With the majors, look at it as the Fool's Journey (where the Fool walks through his steps of learning, one card at a time, in sequence. Then read about the Bataleur's tale (I know I spelled that wrong)--which is the Magician's journey through the majors. You can find those journeys here on Aeclectic or just do a word search for them, they're listed in different places but all sort of go the same route.

By going through the deck in different ways, a lot of the meanings will stick with you. You can always fine tune it later. Just see what the general gist of the cards are at first and work from there. It'll take time, but in a lot of ways it's easier than memorizing each card one at a time. 

Dark_angel  05 Sep 2003 
What I do is I ignore the LWBs (after looking through for mythology references to explore and useful spreads) and meditate on each of the cards. I don't necessarily even write things down, I just try to step into the story of each card and watch what's happening, imagine what the person (if there's a person) is thinking or saying. I don't know if this is the 'best' way to explore cards, but it seems to work ok for me. It's a bit harder with unillustrated minors - that's why I don't like them! 

lunalafey  05 Sep 2003 
what deck(s) are you working with? 

Mimers  05 Sep 2003 

You have gotten a lot of good advise here. I must agree, from experience, that Umbrae's advise to put aside the books for now is wise.

Play with the cards. Go through them one by one. What stands out to you in the cards? If there is a person in the card, what do you think is going through their mind? What colors stand out? What do those colors make you feel? What symbols stand out? What do you relate them to? Is the person blindfolded? Why do you think they are blindfolded?

Pretend you are a child that can not yet read. You are looking through a story book and you are creating the story with just the pictures.

Most importantly, write down in a journal what you come up with. This should become your book of meanings. Your own personal one. After you have done all of this, then you can go to the books to enrich your meanings.

once you get your own meanings for the cards, I would reccomend Mary Greer's book, Tarot for Yourself. She provides many exercises to highten your intuition and your interpretation of the cards.



matfav  05 Sep 2003 
Best to seek out a teacher of Tarot, A professional school.
Or simply join any professional (hobby) Tarot organisation.

You can learn the meanings of the cards from books but you need a teacher to help you integrate it. Search the net for any Tarot internet courses or find someone locally who will be willing to take you on as a student.

Best to you


ultraviolet  05 Sep 2003 
Thanks for all the great advice! I really connect with some of the suggestions here. I love the idea of finding similarites and differences between the cards, and I like the idea of creating my own book of meanings. I've also given a few readings now without the use of a book, and I'm finding my first impressions of the cards to be quite accurate. I guess I really just needed to learn to trust myself and to not be afraid of being wrong. The images on the cards really do seem to say a lot more than the books. That or I just have a good imagination.

lunalafey - I am using Aquarian, Enchanted, Medicine Woman, Tarot of Transformation, Fey, and Roots of Asia. I also have a bunch of oracle cards, but those all seem to be much easier to read than the tarot.

much appreciation!

Little Baron  05 Sep 2003 
Excellent advice given already. I go along the intuative route as well. The feelings and thoughts I get through the stories I make stay in my mind so much better.

Comparing decks is also a good way to learn; seeing what is different and what is the same. However, I would recommend that you only use a few for study or it may get quite confusing.

Good luck and best wishes


Thirteen  05 Sep 2003 
I agree with Yaboot001. Stick with the Aquarian, ONLY for now. It's a great deck for learning on. Once you've got the rudiments of meaning and reading, you can go to town with the others.

How to start? Simple. Memorize the first eleven Majors (0-10)--not what they mean, just what they are. Then memorize the rest of the Majors. Now that you know them, you can start investagating meaning--both what folk say (here or in books) and how you feel about them.

Move onto the minors. Do as folk said, look at all the "3's" etc. Investagate the meaning of "swords" of "wands" as well as "2's" and "4's"--connect the two together. 2 means + wands mean = 2 of wands? See? 

The learning the cards thread was originally posted on 05 Sep 2003 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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