The tarot is by far the most popular and well known method of Divination. You draw cards and interpret the cards. All tarot decks come with books and there are hundreds of tarot books and websites that teach tarot.
There is even an organization- The American Tarot Association for tarot readers. It costs 25 a year and you get special courses, access to joining their free tarot network and they have a newsletter that comes out every few months.
Even with all this information available, there are some main rules that the books and sites don’t teach. Even though the cards do have meanings, they aren’t always set in stone. When you do a reading, the cards tell a story- and it’s up to you to determine what they’re saying. The cards have generic meanings, but when you really start reading, your intuition will tell you what the real meaning of the card is for your specific reading.
Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re new to tarot, or interested in learning. Here are the basics
How to pick your deck
Now, they say the first deck needs to be gifted, but not everyone has a friend or family member who will gift them their deck. If you’re interested in learning, don’t let the gift rule keep you from going and getting a deck.
It’s best to go to a shop that sells a lot of decks and handle each deck that stands out. Find the one that gives you the energy that connects best with yours.
If you keep shopping in a store, and one deck is always jumping out at you, there is a good chance that deck has chosen you personally.
How to Prepare Your Deck for Use
Now that you found the deck that wanted to go home with you, it’s still not the right time exactly to start using it.
You will hear lots of opinions about timing, but even if the moon isn’t full or new, it will work.
You can place the cards at first in a circle of salt or run a smudge stick around the cards in order to cleanse them first but the three day “rule” is what I follow with new decks.
Carry the deck with you for three days and sleep with the deck under your pillow for three nights. Keeping the cards on you for so long helps link your energy to their energy and purifying can help cleanse any negative energy they may hold.
When you finish binding your energy to the deck, take the cards out and study them on your own without the book.
When you’re ready to use them, you’ll notice all the different cards- they have knave/knight, queen, king, ace (or 1), numbers 2-10, then 0-XXI. They also have cups (or chalices), wands, pentacles and swords. What do they all mean?
The minor arcana cards are the ones numbered like playing cards. They have 4 categories, for lack of a better term. The minor arcana show the day to day life. They are the mundane things that happen to us daily.
Chalices or cups- these are intuition, thoughts and feelings
Cups show that you’re thinking with emotions and your “heart” over your mind and logic. You are looking at either highly emotional situations, decisions or you’re using your heart when it should be logic. If you have cups as the primary suit in a reading, you’re in a highly emotional state. You may be asking a question about a topic where you’re making a highly emotional decision. Remember, guides are good resources but reading the cards is highly intuition speaking. Even if the image “means” something different to the insert in the deck, doesn’t mean it’s wrong if you’re feeling it means something different in the whole of the reading.
Here are a few suggested generic meanings of the cards.
Ace of cups– Ace is the beginning. It could show that a new relationship or a new stage of life are right around the corner.
If you get it reversed, it could mean that you’re needing to flip on yourself and you need to practice loving yourself. Work on self-care or that you have something that you’re repressing.
2 of Cups– Could show a relationship- romantic or business, it’s a duality. It could also show that the person you’re asking about is also interested in you.
If reversed, it could once again show a need for self-care or it could be showing a breakup of your partnership or romantic relationship in the near future (or that a break is needed)
3 of Cups– This could show that you’re feeling like celebrating or you’re feeling good about a friendship.
If reversed, it’s showing you’re feeling crowded out of your close circle. (“three’s a crowd”) or could even show a love triangle of sorts (even if it’s just an emotional triangle)
4 of cups– Meditation and deep thought
If reversed-Withdrawing into yourself and away from others, shutting down and stress
5 of cups– Failure and regret
If reversed– moving past setbacks and self-forgiveness
6 of cups– nostalgia and childlike innocence
If reversed– inability to move on or escape the past
7 of cups– many options, potential and many possibilities
If reversed– too many choices, indecision
8 of cups– withdraw, social isolation, abandonment
If reversed– indecision, drifting through life without a goal
9 of cups– contentment, stability, satisfaction
If reversed– dissatisfaction, inner happiness/peace, overindulgence
10 of cups-spiritual peace/guidance, bliss, love and balance
If reversed– feeling disconnected from the divine, unbalanced relationships
Knave of cups– creativity, curiosity and childlike imagination
If reversed-new ideas, writer’s block or creative block, ignoring intuition
Knight of cups– romance, charm, charisma, creativity
If reversed-jealousy, emotional, instability, creative block
Queen of cups– heightened intuition, compassion and love
If reversed– self-love, self-care, dependent
King of cups– balanced emotions, compassion
If reversed-emotional manipulation, self-love, coming to terms with your internal feelings and emotions
Swords- action or conflict
The swords usually represent conflict. It could be an external conflict with someone else, a person in power, a breakup or near break up or it could be internally battling yourself or an aspect of yourself that you’re trying to repress. They can also show your internal thoughts and feelings.
Ace of swords– Mental clarity or new ideas/solutions
If reversed– Mental clutter clearing up, clear thinking, break down or second guessing
2 of swords– inner conflict, indecision, choosing between 2 hard options
If reversed– indecision, hard decision, stuck undecided
3 of swords– emotional upheaval, heartbreak, pain
If reversed– forgiveness, hurt feelings, negative feelings towards self
4 of swords– relaxation, meditation, self-healing
If reversed-burned out and tired, low mental energy
5 of swords-conflict
If reversed– end of conflict, forgiveness
6 of swords– change and transitional period in life
If reversed-mental or emotional transition, fear of changing
7 of swords– betrayal, infidelity, deception
If reversed– lying to self and keeping secrets
8 of swords– feeling trapped or confined
If reversed– freedom, breakthrough
9 of swords– regret, fear, anxiety
If reversed– negative sense of self and self-talk
10 of swords– Betrayal, backstabbing, painful ending
If reversed– Acceptance or escaping the death or end of something,
Knave of swords– delay of plans, inspiration or news
If reversed– fast made plans
Knight of swords– ambition
If reversed– lack of will power, low motivation, burned out
Queen of swords– independent, leader, great communication
If reversed– Cold hearted, emotional
King of swords– Confidence, discipline and structure
If reversed– lack of structure and no self-discipline
Wands- your passions and what motivates you to do what you do
Wands show your work ethic, creativity, passion, energies and motivation.
Ace of wands– Opportunities, new beginnings and personal growth
If reversed – Lack of direction, too many new ideas, overwhelm
2 of wands– Planning for the future,
If reversed– Goals, fear of the unknown, no plan
3 of wands– Progress, opportunities
If reversed– No foresight, small minded
4 of wands– Relaxation, harmony, peace
If reversed-Inner peace and conflict with others
5 of wands-Conflict, tension, completion of plans
If reversed– Inner conflicting, releasing tensions
6 of wands– Success, being seen and acknowledged
If reversed– Personal goals achieved, arrogance
7 of wands– competitive, winning,
If reversed– giving up, defeat
8 of wands– Progress, speed and gaining momentum
If reversed– backslide, losing speed and loss of motivation
9 of wands– persistence, not giving up
If reversed-overwhelmed, giving up
10 of wands– too much on plate, low energy
If reversed-doing too much, carrying all weight
Knave of wands– creativity, inspiration, free spirited
If reversed– New projects, redirect
Knight of wands– Passion, motivation, workaholic
If reversed– Passionate work, scattered energies
Queen of wands– courage and confidence
If reversed-Self respect and confident
King of wands– leadership, highly respected
If reversed– high expectation and impulsive
Pentacles- finances, successes, material possessions
Pentacles typically show financial well being, security and wealth in general in readings. This is the money suit.
They are also known as coins in some decks.
Ace of pentacles – New financial beginnings and new opportunities
If reversed– starting over or even the beginning after a crash, lack of control over finances or excessive spending
2 of pentacles – balance, equal partnership
If reversed– disorganized, unbalanced partnership
3 of pentacles – teamwork, working with others
If reversed– isolation, not working well with others
4 of pentacles – Saving, security and wealth building
If reversed– overspending, frivolous expense,
5 of pentacles -financial loss, poor management
If reversed-recovery, poverty
6 of pentacles – giving and sharing wealth
If reversed-unpaid debt, insecurity
7 of pentacles – Long term plans, investing
If reversed– mismanagement, short term thinking
8 of pentacles – study, mastery
If reversed– perfectionism, working on self
9 of pentacles -abundance, independence, security
If reversed– self-worth, overworking, excessive wealth building
10 of pentacles – wealth security, success, long term wealth building
If reversed-financial loss and failing
Knave of pentacles – financial opportunity, study, learning
If reversed– procrastination, goofing off, immaturity
Knight of pentacles -productivity, hard work
If reversed– boredom, stagnation, perfectionism
Queen of pentacles -productive, provider, practical
If reversed– financially independent and lack of home/work balance
King of pentacles – wealth, leader, discipline
If reversed– financially immature, greed
The people cards (knave/knight, queen, king) tend to sometimes even represent actual people in your life. They don’t always, but when they don’t they do show masculine and feminine energies.
These are the special cards labelled 0 (the fool)-XXI
They show major life changes and also give special insight that should be considered slightly more important than the minor arcana.
Major Arcana meanings
0- The fool
When the fool appears in a reading, it usually shows some kind of wishful thinking. It also shows the very early, beginning stages, new start or jumping in too fast- immaturity.
The fool means innocence and naivety. It will show up if you’re trusting too much or not trusting the right people. (reversed)
On the flip side, it can show that you’re getting ready to start a new chapter in your life- a new beginning still in the immaturity stages. (right side up)
If you’re reading the fool in a love reading, it’s showing that a brand new, immature relationship is going to begin. It can symbolize puppy love, the infatuation phase. (general, right side up)
It could also be warning you that you’re not seeing the full picture. You’re naive and foolish for going into a relationship like the one you’re entering. (general reversed)
If you see it in a career draw while considering leaving a job or starting a business, it could mean that you’re plans are not thought out well enough and that leaving will be premature or the business isn’t thought out enough yet. (reverse)
It could also show that you’re getting ready to enter an exciting new phase- so it could be telling you that now is the time. It will all depend on what the rest of the cards are telling you in that reading.
I The Magician
Card 1 in the major arcana.
This card also shows new beginnings when upright in a reading. It’s the creative solution to a problem you’re facing that will show itself to you soon. It’s wanting to remind you that YOU have the ability to change your life, you can change yourself. This card shows a bit of a transformation will be heading your way- it’s a very good card to see in the upright position in any context.
It shows creativity and originality, intelligence and an outside-the-box mindset.
If drawn in a love readng, it’s showing that you will find a partner or work through a problem, as long as you try and actually use the will power you will discover. You will be seeing an improvement in your current relationship or your situation- you may not see it at this exact moment, but it will be coming.
Career or Money Reading
If drawn during a career or money reading it’s showing a solution to a problem in your job or a new career that you will be seeing come to fruition if you’re wanting to work on something new. There will be better outcomes to your work life, but you are the one who will need to put the work in- you DO have what it takes to make those changes in your own career.
This card is showing that you DO have the will power and ambition to work through your problems towards a solution or the determination to find a new career path, relationship or whatever else it is that you’re wanting. The time will be coming that it will all show itself to you.
When this card shows reversed in a reading, it’s pretty much opposite of upright. It’s showing that you lack the will power to achieve what you’re trying to achieve and that you’re feeling insecure in your love or work life.
It’s showing that you cannot come up with a creative solution and that your imagination is lacking at the time. When the card shows up, it’s warning you of what you’re lacking- drawing attention to it so you can work on trying to fix the problems.
When the card shows reversed in a love reading, there is something in your relationship or status that is making you feel insecure. If you’re having a problem in a current relationship, it’s showing that you can’t come up with a solution to fix the issue and if you’re single, giving you something personal you need to work on before getting into your next.
This is showing a stagnant or problematic work situation that is making you feel trapped. You’re feeling stuck and can’t come up with a solution. Now is not when you’re going to have a huge breakthrough in your career path, it’s a time to turn inward and focus on what it is about your path that is making you feel lost, confused and insecure.
II The Priestess
When this card is upright, it’s showing a higher calling. The feminine side of spirituality and if you trust your intuition, you will find wisdom.
It can also warn that you’re not being taken seriously by people you need to listen to you- and you need to fight and make sure they do listen.
You know your body and your self better than others, and you know when your intuition is typically right or when it’s thrown off- but you need to listen to yourself on a deeper level.
This is showing your naturally strong intuition. You’re naturally a strong judge of situations and people, so it’s best for you to listen to your gut
In a Love reading
If you feel someone is toxic, listen. If you’re feeling like the person you’re with is the “one,” listen. Make sure you’re trusting your intuition- it will be coming in strong if this card comes up in a romance drawing upright.
In a Career or financial reading
If a deal is feeling “too good to be true,” it likely is or if you’re feeling like someone is trying to sabotage your successes, there is a good chance you’re right.
This card is about your wisdom and intuition- your intuition will give you the guidance you need and the wisdom to determine if you’re in a good or toxic situation.
Generally, it’s the opposite of right side up.
If you get this it means you’re not in touch with your innate intuition and you are at risk of misjudging situations. This card is a warning- that judgement can’t be trusted- good or bad. You need to start thinking deeper into what you’re feeling and make sure it’s intuition or your intuition is cloudy.
In a Love reading
You’re not reading enough into your situation. You’re possibly being mislead. Take a step back and try to listen to that voice because it is likely screaming at you.
In a career reading
You’re at risk of being conned. Your intuition is screaming at you about someone at work or a deal someone is trying to make with you. It seems to be too good to be true, it is.
In both love and career, it’s telling you to not jump to immediate conclusions about the people and situations. You may also be feeling like you’re being unfairly judged or you may actually be being judged- either way, judgement isn’t your friend and you need to remember that at this time.
III The Empress
She is the mother. She is all things soft, feminine and delicate. This is a positive card to draw in the upright position. When she pops up in a reading, she’s showing your maternal instincts and feminine love.
If you’re single, this is showing you’re going to meet someone who will show you true love and romance and if you’re in a serious or casual relationship, it’s going to grow deeper.
Career or money reading
This is showing a creative idea you’re nurturing will be showing signs of growth. It’s showing that you will do best following your instincts but that you should start to see a career or business blooming.
This card can also show a very strong omen if you’re actively trying to get pregnant or are wanting a baby, it’s notorious
This is showing a need to embrace your feminine side but feelings of repression of who you are and what you truly want.
Love Reading- reversed
This is showing that you may find yourself surrounded by wo/men who are interested in perusing you but you’re not interested or not being honest with the type of partner you’re wanting, so you’re attracting wo/men who are not right for you. This card is showing you that you need to start being honest with yourself and the universe so that you will meet the right wo/man and to not just settle just because you’re tired of being single
If you’re in a relationship, it’s seeming like you’re holding back your true feelings. You’re feeling like you’re lost in the relationship because you’re not being honest.
You’re not feeling happy or satisfied with your job. You feel stifled and like you’re not in the right mindset but it may or may not be real, it may be insecurity related and it’s not a time to make any major changes, it’s a time to focus on battling the negative mindset and insecurities- then evaluate what YOU want and need.
When the card is drawn in reverse, it’s showing that you’re holding something back. You’re trapping yourself in situations that you’re not wanting because you’re hiding your true wants, desires and needs. You need to stop repressing and quit trying to hide behind your insecurities. If you want to truly be happy, you need to let your needs known.
IV The Emperor
this is the masculine form of the empress. This means everything is under control. You are able to handle everything and anything that comes your way
This shows that you’re in a secure place in life and everything is going your way.
In a Love Reading
you’re feeling secure in a relationship if you’re with someone, this is a very good time and things will be going well.
If you’re single, things will be going well- you’ll be happy about being single and feeling good alone.
In a Career or Money Reading
your job or career is going well. You are seeing plenty of return for any investment and you have no fears of ending up unemployed, you may even be seeing a raise or promotion soon.
this is showing a loss of control and that either you or someone else is being a control freak.
This is showing the lack of security and could even be a warning of impending loss.
In a Love Reading- Reversed
things aren’t going well. This could be showing that one or both partners are trying to control or you could be looking at a break up.
There is still a chance, but if the controller doesnt see the error, they wont be stable.
In a Career or Money Reading- Reversed
You feel like your finances are out of control. You’re drowning in debt and cant see a way out.
There are ways you can fix things, but it will take a lot of work and self control. You may also be at risk of losing your job or your business going bankrupt.
This could be a warning so you have a chance to correct the issue before it leads to loss but you are dealing with bad insecurity.
V The Hierophant
This card has a spiritual meaning. It’s the masculine form of the high priestess so it shows a male spiritual leader.
Upright meaning- this is showing wisdom with your spirituality and life. Spirituality is constantly learning and this shows that you’re well on your path.
This is typically a spiritual card, but if drawn in a
This shows that you’re feeling secure in your relationship or a relationship is coming that will make you feel secure. This is a sign of a secure and stable relationship.
Once again, it shows that you’re treading down a good path to feeling financially secure. You are secure in your career and you’re on a good track towards financial goals.
This is showing that your personal beliefs are interfering with your ability to fit in to society’s standards. You also are feeling that you’re going against tradition and the popular opinion.
When you’re getting this is in a love reading
It’s showing that you’re not feeling very secure in the situation you’re in. You may be in a relationship you feel is failing or you may feel that you will never find someone.
You could also be feeling that you’re going against your values in the relationship you’re currently in.
If you get it in a career
You either feel that your career isn’t secure or you’re afraid of failing financially. It could also show you feel you’re never going to find a job or that you are having to go against your values in order to keep your job.
VI The lovers
VI- The lovers– Falling in love, true love, marriage, partnership or security in a relationship
In reverse– separation, insecurity, broken home or divorce
This card tends to show up with relationships, but if it comes up with a work reading, it can show that you’re feeling secure in your job and like you’re part of a “family”
If it shows up in reverse, you’re likely feeling like your job isn’t stable or you’re involved in a dispute of some kind with a coworker.
VII The Chariot
VII- The Chariot– Overcoming problems or conflicts, will power and ambition
In reverse– stalled, lack of will power, overwhelm and loss of ambitions
This is a very good card if it comes up right side up. It’s showing that you’ll have the ambition to get your job done or you’ll be able to more easily overcome workplace and relationship feuds.
If it comes up reversed, you’ll feel like you’re being stalled in your career or your relationship will feel like it’s spinning in place.
balanced decisions, justice and fair treatment
If you get Justice in a love reading, it’s showing a balanced, fair and mostly positive relationship. It’s showing that you’re having a good time with decision making if you’re single- and you’re not in a position where you’re going to end up settling.
In reverse– dishonesty, unfair decisions, discrimination
In a love reading, you feel you’re being treated unfair. You may feel that your partner is taking you for granted or feel it’s toxic.
In a career context, this could show that you’re in a job with a toxic boss or coworkers or that you feel you’re being treated unfairly in another aspect.
IX The Hermit
IX-The Hermit– Spiritual enlightenment and study, withdrawing from society to live different, soul searching
In reverse– feeling exiled, withdrawing from family and close friends, depression and loneliness
X Wheel of Fortune
fortune, good luck, unseen positive change
In reverse-setbacks, negative change, loss of fortune and bad luck
shows both inner and outer strength, will power and your ability to keep going no matter what
In reverse– loss of power, loss of willpower, self-doubt and fear
If you’re getting this right side up, you are willing to put the hard work into your job/career you need to succeed. You’re feeling the motivation to succeed.
If it’s a relationship draw, you want to either meet someone and are willing to go through the bad to find the good and put yourself out there. If you’re in a relationship, you are wanting to make sure things work.
Reversed in either would be the opposite- you have no motivation to date, meet or excel in your career. You might be burned out or ready to end a bad or stagnant (or even toxic) relationship.
XII The Hanged man
major sacrifice, selfless decisions, letting go of old habits, breaking a destructive cycle
In reverse– stuck in your ways, arrogance, sacrifice
end of a cycle, failure, illness, breaking a cycle
In reverse– walking blind, illness or end of a cycle
balance, meditation, guidance from your guardian spirit
In reverse-feeling out of balance, Discord or that an illness is starting to take affect
XV The Devil
anxiety, fear, toxic relationship, addiction or feeling bound
In reverse-freedom, breaking a toxic chain, divorce from a toxic partner, breaking addiction
XVI The Tower
unexpected negative or destructive change, chaos, danger
In reverse– obstacle, illness or loss
XVII The Star
guidance, health, seeking your guide, inspiration,
In reverse– missed opportunities or depression, illness
XVIII The Moon
heightened spirituality and intuition, feminine energies, fear, the unknown
In reverse– unhappiness, facing fears, mystery
XIX The Sun
enlightenment, facing fears, leading or being shown the way, success
In reverse-lack of knowledge, mislead, not seeing through the fog
making a major decision, clarity, sound decision
In reverse– bad judgement, feeling stagnant, unable to decide
XXI The World
success, endless possibilities, achieving what you’re wanting
In reverse– failure, unable to finish, displeasure and unfulfillment
Since the cards can hold such importance, I will have separate posts going into detail with each of the major arcana.
These are the basics for people wanting to learn to read. The best way to practice is to get the book out to familiarize yourself with your deck and read for your friends, family and self. Once you have done some readings, you’ll find that meanings are general but specific “meanings” are useless- the whole story is what matters in a tarot reading.