Tarot and oracle cards for beginners
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Hey there, gorgeous!  Are you curious about using tarot and oracle cards? Don’t be intimidated – they’re not about foreseeing a predetermined future, but rather diving into the depths of our subconscious, revealing the whispers of our soul.

They’re also pretty badass to look at.

If you want to start using tarot or oracle cards for yourself, you’ve come to the right spot!

A Brief Overview of Tarot and Oracle Cards

Tarot cards, steeped in ancient history and symbolism, present a structured deck comprising Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards. Each card carries unique meanings, inviting us to interpret them in the context of our lives.

Oracle cards, on the other hand, encompass various types and themes, providing a more flexible and intuitive approach to guidance and insight.

tarot cards for beginners

My Personal Perspective: Tools for Tapping into the Subconscious and Self-Reflection

In this guide to tarot and oracle cards for beginners, we’ll embrace a perspective that views the cards as mirrors of our subconscious minds. Like ink blots on a page, these cards offer reflections of our inner thoughts, emotions, and desires.  They’re a way to draw out of your things that, deep down, you already know.

Ready? Let’s go!

Understanding Tarot Cards

History and Origins of Tarot Cards

The roots of tarot cards can be traced back to the 15th century in Europe, where they emerged as playing cards before evolving into tools for divination and self-reflection. Initially, tarot decks were commissioned by the nobility, often depicting allegorical scenes and symbols. Over time, these cards transcended their game-like origins and became a means to explore the deeper aspects of the human experience.

Structure of a Tarot Deck

A standard tarot deck comprises 78 cards, divided into two main categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each representing significant life events and archetypal energies. These cards cover profound themes like life transitions, personal growth, and spiritual awakening.

The Minor Arcana, on the other hand, comprises 56 cards divided into four suits—typically Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles (or Coins). Each suit encompasses ten numbered cards and four court cards, reflecting everyday experiences and aspects of our lives.

Symbolism and Imagery

At the heart of the tarot are the intricate symbols and imagery depicted on each card. Every symbol, color, and element holds meaning and contributes to the card’s interpretation. The symbolism within tarot cards is vast and can encompass cultural, historical, and psychological references, providing a rich tapestry of meanings for the reader to explore.

Not Fortune-Telling

Contrary to popular belief, tarot cards are not tools for fortune-telling or predicting the future with certainty. Instead, they serve as mirrors reflecting our subconscious thoughts and feelings. Tarot readings offer insights into potential outcomes based on our current paths and actions. The future is not set in stone; rather, it is influenced by our choices, attitudes, and intentions.

Understanding Oracle Cards

Origins and Purpose of Oracle Cards

Oracle cards have a diverse history, influenced by various ancient divination practices across cultures. They have roots in traditions like the I Ching, Lenormand cards, and ancient oracles of Greece. Oracle cards have evolved to serve as a more accessible and intuitive form of divination, providing guidance and insights into different aspects of life.

The primary purpose of oracle cards is to offer gentle guidance, inspiration, and clarity. They tap into the collective consciousness and offer a personalized message to help navigate life’s complexities.

Varieties of Oracle Card Decks

Oracle cards come in a vast array of themes and designs, catering to different interests and preferences. Some popular types of oracle card decks include:

  • Angel Cards: Themed around angelic guidance and spiritual support.
  • Affirmation Cards: Focused on positive affirmations and empowering statements.
  • Animal Spirit Cards: Connecting with animal energies and symbolism.
  • Goddess Cards: Celebrating feminine energy and divine feminine archetypes.
  • Crystal Cards: Using the energies of crystals and gemstones for insights.

The diversity in oracle card decks is endless.  You can easily find a deck that resonates with your spiritual journey and intentions.

Oracle card meanings for beginners
Work Your Light Oracle Cards

How Oracle Cards Differ from Tarot Cards

While both tarot and oracle cards are tools for divination and self-reflection, they differ in several ways. Tarot cards have a structured system with a specific number of cards, divided into Major and Minor Arcana, each with defined meanings and symbols.

On the other hand, oracle cards lack a standardized structure, allowing for more creative and diverse deck designs and interpretations.

Getting Started with Tarot and Oracle Cards

Choosing the Right Deck

Choosing the right tarot or oracle deck is a crucial step on your journey. Here are a few things to think about to help you decide:

  • Theme and Imagery: Select a deck with imagery and symbolism that resonate with you and your spiritual or personal beliefs.
  • Connection: Make sure you feel a connection or attraction to the deck. It should evoke a sense of excitement and curiosity.
  • Intention: Reflect on your purpose for using the cards—whether it’s personal growth, spiritual exploration, or seeking guidance. Align your deck choice with this intention.

Cleansing and Preparing the Cards

Once you’ve chosen your deck, it’s essential to cleanse and prepare the cards to establish a clear and positive energy connection:

  • Clearing Negative Energy: Pass each card through a gentle ritual to clear any negative or residual energy from anyone else who has touched them. You can use methods like smudging with sage or placing them in moonlight.
  • Setting Your Intention: Hold the deck in your hands and set a clear intention for its use. Visualize the energy of the deck aligning with your purpose and intentions.
  • Shuffling and Infusing Energy: Shuffle the cards, infusing them with your energy and connecting with their essence. Some people like to tap or knock on the deck to awaken its energies.

Establishing a Sacred Space for Readings

Creating a sacred and quiet environment for your tarot or oracle card readings enhances the overall experience and allows for better concentration and insight. Here’s how to create an ideal reading space:

  • Choose a Calm Setting: Pick a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed during your reading. This could be a cozy corner, a dedicated room, or a peaceful outdoor area.
  • Declutter and Organize: Keep the space tidy and organized. Clutter can be distracting and disrupt the flow of energy during your reading.
  • Lighting: Opt for soft, natural lighting or gentle artificial lighting that sets a relaxing ambiance. Harsh lighting can be overwhelming and detract from the intuitive process.  Lighting candles can quickly give a meditative atmosphere.
  • Use Crystals or Stones: Placing crystals or stones with calming or amplifying properties, such as amethyst or clear quartz, in your reading space to enhance the energy.
  • Aromatherapy: You can use essential oils or incense that promote relaxation and clarity, such as lavender or frankincense.  Or burn a scented candle.
  • Comfortable Seating: Arrange comfortable seating, like a cushioned chair or a soft blanket, to allow you to sit comfortably during your readings.  The goal is cozy and relaxed.
  • Personal Touches: Add personal touches like meaningful decorations or spiritual symbols to infuse the space with your energy and intention.

Learning Card Meanings and Interpretations

Understanding the basic meanings of tarot and oracle cards is fundamental to interpreting readings accurately. Here’s a brief overview of interpreting both tarot and oracle cards:

Tarot Cards

The tarot is divided into the major and minor arcana.  Think of the minor arcana like suits in a regular deck of playing cards (hearts, spades, etc), and the major arcana like a trump suit in a game of euchre (they overpower anything else).

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana cards represent significant life events and spiritual lessons. Each card embodies a unique aspect of the human experience and carries a distinct meaning:

The Fool: New beginnings, spontaneity, adventures, and stepping into the unknown with trust and optimism.

The Magician: Manifestation, resourcefulness, power, and harnessing one’s potential to create and transform.

The High Priestess: Intuition, subconscious knowledge, mystery, and connecting with the unseen realms.

The Empress: Motherhood, nurturing, abundance, fertility, and the natural world.  The big feminine energy card.

The Emperor: Authority, structure, power, leadership, and the application of wisdom and order.  The big masculine energy card.

The Hierophant: Tradition, spirituality, guidance, and seeking knowledge from established systems.

The Lovers: Love, partnership, harmony, choices, and the union of opposites.

The Chariot: Determination, control, willpower, success, and navigating through life’s challenges.

Strength: Inner strength, courage, compassion, and mastering one’s instincts and desires.

The Hermit: Solitude, introspection, wisdom, guidance, and seeking answers within.

Wheel of Fortune: Change, destiny, cycles, fate, and the ever-changing nature of life.

Justice: Balance, fairness, truth, and facing consequences with integrity and honesty.

The Hanged Man: Surrender, suspension, letting go, and gaining a new perspective through sacrifice.

Death: Transformation, rebirth, endings, and embracing change for new beginnings.

Temperance: Balance, harmony, patience, and blending opposing energies to find a middle path.

The Devil: Bondage, materialism, illusions, and the need to break free from limiting beliefs.

The Tower: Sudden change, upheaval, liberation, and the collapse of old structures for transformation.

The Star: Hope, inspiration, healing, and renewed faith in the future.

The Moon: Intuition, uncertainty, illusion, and navigating through the shadows of the subconscious.

The Sun: Vitality, joy, enlightenment, and a new sense of clarity and optimism.

Judgment: Rebirth, awakening, self-reflection, and embracing a higher calling.

The World: Completion, integration, fulfillment, and achieving a sense of oneness and wholeness.

Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana consists of four suits, each representing different aspects of human experience and aspects of life. 

Cups tarot card suit
Cups

Element: Water

Representations:

  • Emotions: Relationships, feelings, connections, and intuition.
  • Love and Compassion: Deep emotional connections, empathy, and love.
  • Intuition: Listening to inner guidance, dreams, and subconscious messages.
  • Creativity: Expressing emotions and imagination.
Swords

Element: Air

Representations:

  • Intellect and Thoughts: Analytical thinking, clarity, and reasoning.
  • Challenges and Conflict: Struggles, decisions, and conflicts of the mind.
  • Communication: Verbal and written expression, honesty, and truth.
  • Logic and Strategy: Planning, logic, and objective assessment.
Wands

Element: Fire

Representations:

  • Action and Inspiration: Motivation, courage, and taking initiative.
  • Energy and Passion: Enthusiasm, determination, and vitality.
  • Creativity: Innovation, enterprise, and new ideas.
  • Spirituality: Spiritual growth, intuition, and enlightenment.
Pentacles (or Coins)

Element: Earth

Representations:

  • Material Aspects: Finances, career, physical health, and the tangible world.
  • Prosperity and Abundance: Manifestation, success, and stability.
  • Practicality and Hard Work: Effort, discipline, and responsibility.
  • Connection to Earth: Grounding, nature, and the physical body.

The above meanings are just a brief overview of the card meanings.  They’re based on the Rider-Waite tarot deck, which is the most popular classic deck.  Other decks might have different cards or names and slightly different meanings.  This is just a quick summary to get your tarot journey started 🙂

Oracle Cards

Oracle cards, unlike tarot, lack a standardized set of meanings due to their diverse themes and designs. Interpretations are typically based on the imagery, symbols, and messages depicted on the cards.

Every oracle deck is completely different, so it’s best to refer to the guidebook that accompanies the oracle deck for the intended meanings behind each card.

Intuition and Personal Interpretations

While understanding the basics is crucial, trust your intuition when interpreting the cards. Here’s how to use your intuition and personal interpretation in your reading:

Initial Impressions: When pulling a card, pay attention to your immediate impressions and feelings. What emotions or thoughts does the card evoke?

Symbolism and Imagery: Analyze the symbols, colors, and imagery on the card. What do they mean to you personally? Your interpretation may vary from traditional meanings.

Context Matters: Consider the question or situation for which you’re doing the reading. How does the card’s meaning relate to the context?

Card Combinations: Look at how cards interact with each other in a spread. The cards beside one another can modify or enhance their individual meanings.

Trust Yourself: Have confidence in your interpretations. Your intuition and connection to the cards are unique, and your insights are valuable.

Using Guidebooks vs. Trusting Your Intuition

Guidebooks that accompany tarot or oracle card decks are valuable resources, especially for beginners. They typically provide:

  • Card Meanings: Detailed explanations of each card’s symbolism and interpretations.
  • Reversed Meanings: Additional insights when a card appears upside down in a spread.
  • Sample Readings: Illustrations of how to interpret cards in various spreads.

Guidebooks are great for understanding the intended meanings of the cards and gaining a foundational understanding of their symbolism. They can serve as a learning tool, helping you become familiar with the cards and their potential interpretations.

But trusting your intuition is equally important, if not more, during a reading.  It’s a powerful tool for interpreting the cards based on your unique experiences and perspectives. As you progress in your practice, you’ll find that your intuition becomes increasingly reliable and accurate.

The key is to find a balance between using guidebooks for reference and allowing your intuition to lead the way.

In the beginning, you’ll probably be relying on guidebooks a lot for your readings.  That’s ok! Over time, you’ll develop a personal relationship with your cards, integrating both guidebook meanings and intuitive insights to provide deeper, more nuanced readings.

Performing a Card Reading

Okay, time to sling those cards!  Let’s get into the juicy part – doing your first tarot or oracle card reading!

Grounding and Centering Yourself

Before starting a card reading, it’s essential to ground and center yourself to create a focused and receptive mindset:

Breathing Exercises: Take a couple of deep breaths to calm your mind and body. Inhale slowly, hold for a moment, and then exhale completely.

Grounding: Imagine roots growing from your feet into the earth, anchoring you and establishing a strong connection to the ground.

Mindfulness: Practice being present in the moment, and letting go of distractions, worries, and stress.

Asking Clear and Specific Questions

The quality of the questions you ask significantly influences the clarity and depth of your readings. Here are tips for asking clear and specific questions:

Avoid Yes/No Questions: Instead of asking, “Will I get the job?” frame questions that invite detailed insights, like “What can I do to enhance my chances of success in my job search?”

Focus on Yourself: Make your questions about your actions, feelings, and perceptions, rather than attempting to predict the actions of others.

Open-Ended Inquiries: Phrase questions in a way that encourages comprehensive and insightful responses. For example, “What do I need to understand about my current relationship?”

Be Specific: Specify the area of your life you’re seeking guidance on, whether it’s relationships, career, personal growth, or spirituality.

Card spreads for different insights

The next step is to decide what kind of card spread you’ll use.  Here are two classic tarot and oracle card spreads:

Simple One-Card Draws

Purpose: Quick insights or daily guidance.

Process:

  • Shuffle the cards while focusing on your question or intention.
  • Draw a single card from the deck.
  • Interpret the card’s meaning and how it relates to your question or situation.

Insight: Provides direct and immediate guidance, giving a clear perspective on the matter at hand.

Three-Card Spreads (Past, Present, Future)

Purpose: Understand the past influences, current situation, and potential future outcomes related to a specific issue or question.

three-card tarot spread for beginners

Process:

  • Shuffle the cards while concentrating on your question or topic.
  • Draw three cards and lay them in a row: the left card represents the past, the middle card represents the present, and the right card represents the future.
  • Interpret each card and its placement to understand the progression and connection of the issue over time.

Insight: Offers a holistic view of the situation, illuminating its history, current status, and possible outcomes.

The past, present, and future spread isn’t the only way to do a 3-card reading, however.  Here are a few other ways to set up a 3-card spread that I like to use:

Mind, Body, Spirit
  • Mind: Represents thoughts, beliefs, and mental aspects related to the question or situation.
  • Body: Represents physical circumstances, actions, and tangible factors.
  • Spirit: Represents spiritual insights, intuition, and higher guidance.
You, Your Path, Your Potential
  • You: Your current state of mind, emotions, and beliefs.
  • Your Path: The direction or path you’re currently on or considering.
  • Your Potential: The potential outcomes and possibilities based on your current trajectory.
Issue, Action, Outcome
  • Issue: Identifies the core concern or question at hand.
  • Action: Suggests actions, choices, or approaches to address the issue.
  • Outcome: Indicates potential results or consequences based on the actions taken.
Problem, Solution, Outcome
  • Problem: Describes the problem or challenge you’re facing.
  • Solution: Provides insights into potential solutions or approaches to the problem.
  • Outcome: Reveals the possible results or consequences of implementing the suggested solution.
Past, Present, Lesson
  • Past: Represents events, experiences, or influences from the past that have shaped the current situation.
  • Present: Reflects the current state of affairs or the current challenge.
  • Lesson: Offers guidance and wisdom to learn from the past and navigate the present.

Remember, the interpretation can vary based on your intuition, the specific question asked, and the context of the reading. Choose the interpretation that aligns best with your intention and the insights you’re looking for.

Interpreting Card Readings

Trusting Your Intuition and Initial Impressions

When interpreting card readings, trust your intuition and the immediate impressions you get from the cards. Here’s how to trust your instincts:

  • First Impressions: Pay attention to your initial reactions upon seeing a card. Your instincts are usually right.
  • Emotional Responses: Notice how a card makes you feel. Emotions can guide you toward understanding the card’s relevance to your situation.
  • Imagery and Symbols: Trust the meanings and connections that naturally arise from the imagery and symbols on the card.

Your intuition is a powerful tool in tarot and oracle card readings, helping you connect with the cards on a deeper level.

Noticing Patterns and Connections Between Cards

During a reading, look for the patterns and relationships that emerge between the cards:

  • Card Repeats: Note if a specific card appears multiple times. This indicates a heightened importance or emphasis on its meaning.
  • Card Positions: Look at how each card’s position in a spread influences its meaning and how it interacts with other cards.
  • Card Themes: Identify recurring themes, symbols, or colors across multiple cards, giving you a cohesive message.

Noticing patterns helps you weave a comprehensive narrative and gain a deeper understanding of the guidance being offered.

tarot cards for beginners
The Ophidia Rosa Tarot

Acknowledging Subconscious Messages and Insights

Be open to the subtle and subconscious messages that come through during a reading:

  • Dreamlike Associations: Allow the images to evoke memories, feelings, or thoughts that may have been dormant in your subconscious.
  • Intuitive Flashes: Trust sudden insights or “aha” moments that come up during the reading. Your subconscious could be trying to tell you something.
  • Symbols and Archetypes: Pay attention to symbols and archetypes that resonate with you, as they can trigger meaningful realizations.

Using Tarot and Oracle Cards for Personal Growth

Self-reflection and Self-awareness

Using tarot and oracle cards can be a profound tool for self-reflection and self-awareness:

  • Insightful Questions: Ask deep and introspective questions during your readings that prompt self-reflection.
  • Exploring Emotions: Use the cards to explore and understand your emotions, reactions, and underlying motivations.
  • Identifying Patterns: Recognize recurring patterns or behaviors that may be hindering your personal growth.

Tarot and oracle cards act as mirrors, reflecting your inner world and encouraging a deeper understanding of yourself.

Setting Intentions and Affirmations Based on Readings

After a reading, set clear intentions and affirmations based on the insights you gained:

  • Positive Affirmations: Make affirmations that align with the guidance received from the cards, and repeat them to yourself daily.
  • Setting Goals: Establish achievable goals based on the recommendations of the cards.
  • Daily Mantras: Use card messages as daily mantras to stay focused and manifest the desired changes in your life. 

You can even keep a certain card with you in your purse or wallet as a constant reminder of what you’re working towards.  I have The Empress card tucked into my planner that I organize my blog stuff in as a reminder that I have the power within me to create the business that I want.

Tips for Ongoing Practice and Growth

Regular Card Practice and Journaling

The best way to get better at something is to do it often, and the same goes for learning to read your tarot and oracle cards;

Daily Draws: Make a habit of drawing a card daily to gain insights and maintain a strong connection with your deck.  I like to do this with a new deck I’ve bought as a way of getting used to the deck’s energy and seeing how it connects with my daily life.

Journaling: Keep a tarot or oracle journal to record your card pulls, interpretations, and any synchronicities or realizations that arise.

Reflect and Revisit: Periodically review your journal entries to see your growth in interpreting the cards and understanding their messages.

Joining a Tarot/Oracle Community or Group

Online Forums and Groups: Participate in online tarot communities to share experiences, ask questions, and learn from others.

Local Meetups: Attend local tarot meetups to connect with like-minded individuals and engage in group discussions or readings.

Continuously Evolving Your Understanding and Interpretations

Read Books and Resources: Read books and online resources on tarot, oracle cards, symbolism, and psychology to broaden your perspectives. The perspectives from different authors can help you see a card’s meaning from a new angle.

Workshops and Classes: Take online or in-person workshops or classes to deepen your understanding, learn new techniques, and expand your knowledge.

Meditation and Reflection: Meditate on card images and symbols, allowing your intuition to provide deeper meanings and interpretations.

Have More Than One Deck

While I suggest sticking with one deck for a while at first, your tarot and oracle deck collection will gradually grow.  As it does, it’s fun to notice different interpretations by the various creators of those decks.

I love seeing the different ways creators choose to visually represent a certain card, and seeing different ways of the ideas behind a card being presented has really helped me develop my connection and meaning to the cards.

As an example, the Death card in one deck I have is renamed to Transformation, and it shows a gorgeous picture of a butterfly.  That card alone has really helped me grasp the change/rebirth aspect of the Death tarot card.

Caterpillars turn to goo in their chrysalis before they reform into butterflies.  They break down, leaving behind everything that they were.  But the result of the complete ending to their lives as caterpillars is to be reborn with gorgeous wings that let them go places they’ve never been before.

the Death tarot card is usually scary for beginners

Little “aha” moments like this that happen by working with different decks and the different energies they have are moments that I absolutely love because they can shift the entire perspective I have of a card, and they help me to see the meaning of a card in a whole new light.

…or maybe that’s just my own justification for my ever-growing tarot/oracle card collection.😅


Whew!  You made it to the end of this guide, high-five! 

Tarot and oracle cards are amazing tools that offer valuable insights and guidance for personal growth and self-reflection. They provide a means to tap into our subconscious, unlock our intuition, and navigate life’s intricacies. 

More than predicting the future, these cards illuminate our present, helping us make informed decisions and evolve on our unique life paths.

If you’re a beginner to using tarot and oracle cards, they might seem intimidating at first.  But trust your intuition and embrace the journey with an open heart and mind. Your interpretations are valid, and the insights you derive from these cards are unique to you. 

May your experiences with tarot and oracle cards be enlightening and enriching, propelling you toward a path of self-awareness, personal growth, and fulfillment.

Additional Resources

Books:

Websites & Forums:

Biddy Tarot: An online platform offering a plethora of tarot resources, including card meanings, spreads, and courses for beginners.

Aeclectic Tarot: A helpful website with reviews and images of various tarot and oracle decks, aiding beginners in choosing the right deck.

Tarot Subreddit (r/tarot): A vibrant online community where you can participate in discussions, ask for advice, and learn from fellow tarot enthusiasts.

Tarot Decks:

Rider-Waite Tarot Deck: A classic and widely used tarot deck known for its clear symbolism and imagery.  This deck sets the bar.  I always recommend it to beginners as their first tarot deck.

Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck in a Tin: A pocket-sized version of the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, perfect for beginners on the go.

The Linestrider Tarot: A gorgeous deck that mixes vibrant watercolor-like images with animal and human imagery.  The guidebook that comes with it is also a great read for beginners. I bought this deck after my Rider-Waite deck and I still gravitate to it often.

The Wild Unknown: An iconic modern tarot deck. You’ve probably seen this on Instagram. Its mix of crisp black and white with striking color is pure magic.  Featuring only nature-based images (no humans), this deck gives some new perspectives to traditional tarot imagery.  I wouldn’t recommend it as your very first tarot deck, but once you’re comfortable with the classic meanings it can be a beautiful addition to your collection.

Oracle Decks:

FAQ: Tarot and Oracle Cards for Beginners

How do I choose the right tarot or oracle deck as a beginner?

Start with a deck that resonates with you visually and intuitively. Look for decks with clear symbolism and imagery that speak to you.

Can tarot and oracle cards really provide helpful insights, or are they just a form of entertainment?

Tarot and oracle cards are powerful tools for self-reflection and guidance. They tap into your intuition and subconscious, offering valuable insights for personal growth and decision-making if you’re open to their messages.

Do I need to have psychic abilities or special powers to read tarot or oracle cards?

No way!  Anyone can learn to read tarot or oracle cards. It’s about developing a connection with the cards, trusting your intuition, and interpreting the imagery based on your personal understanding.

How often should I do a card reading, and is there a “right” way to do it?

The frequency of card readings is up to you. You can do daily pulls or as needed. There’s no absolute right way—follow your intuition and choose a method that resonates with you, whether it’s a specific spread or a single card draw.

What if I get a “negative” or challenging card in a reading?

Remember, no card is entirely negative. Challenging or “scary” cards offer opportunities for growth and self-awareness. Explore the card’s message, understand the lessons it presents, and use it as a catalyst for positive change.

I hope this guide has been helpful to you as you start your tarot/oracle card journey.  Happy card-slinging!

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