How to Read Tarot Cards

So tarot has interested you, and you’ve acquired a tarot deck, so now what?

Step 1 – Start off with a clean, clear deck

You want to have a clean start every time you pull out your deck to consult with them. Beyond keeping your cards clean of dirt, you need to clear the deck of past readings and energies. Even if you just cringed at that last sentence because talking about energies makes you feel weird, then at lease consider that you want to make sure your mind is clear, and not distracted with other worries or concerns unrelated to the reason why you are consulting the cards.

Here are some things to try that will help you clear your deck and your mind:

  • Sort through the cards and put them in order. Group them by numerically by suit, and set the Major Arcana before the Minor Arcana
  • Shuffle your deck a few times without counting until you feel that it is well mixed.
  • A combination of the above, shuffling, sorting in order and shuffling again.

I like to shuffle the cards with the images upright when I’m not doing a reading. I feel like this helps trigger my subconscious mind to tell the difference between routine shuffling and shuffling in a divinatory reading.

Firmly decide why you decided to do a reading

Decide on your question, your spread, and what you want to know. The question is important because it forms your intent. The question will also influence the spread that is used.

  • The question can be for
    • self-exploration
      • Who am I?
      • How is fortune smiling on me
      • Where is the love in my life?
      • What can I learn from the past
    • considering situations
      • How can I best overcome the obstacle of…?
      • What do I need to understand about…?
      • What could I have forgotten about…?
    • Making decisions about life goals or choices
      • When is the best time to…?
      • What can I do to help…?
      • What is standing in the way of my…?
      • What is the next step I need to achieve…?
    • relationships with others
      • Am I ready for and/or capable of commitment?
      • Are our spiritual paths compatible?
      • How can I get closer to my sister/brother/mother/father etc.

Decide on what spread you will use. Spreads could vary in card count and layout and explore different things. You want to consider what the positions represent, and the insights they will provide. Here are some featured on my blog:

Best Tarot Card Spreads for Career and Finances

Best Tarot Spreads for Planning and Goal Setting

Three Card Tarot Spreads: The Ultimate list of 3-Card Spread Variations

Advice Tarot Spread: I Need Advice!


Step 2: Find a way to Relax!

  • We all have subconscious and conscious voices within us. The conscious mind, the analytical voice of reason, is always the loudest and if often overpowers our subconscious voice. The tarot cards are going to act as a guide for your conscious voice to focus on and process your subconscious messages. Do allow your conscious voice to step aside to allow for your subconscious voice to be heard, you need to relax. The goal is to quiet your mind and be relaxed so that you have access to your intuition.
  • What do you usually do to relax? Here are some ideas to help you.
    • download a guided meditation app, or a guided meditation from audible. Podcast iTunes or Google Play?
    • play relaxing/meditative music
    • soften the lighting by lighting candles unscented or scented candles
    • light incense
    • I will light a candle that I have prepared with cleansing and protecting herbs and oils;
    • I will light incense;
    • practice gratitude exercises
  • Once you have found a method or combination of methods you enjoy, commit to doing this every time you decide to a reading. This will be your own personal ritual, and it will help enhance your connection with your intuition even more. As you repeat the ritual, your mind and body will recognize that now is the time for your intuition to speak, and it will become easier and easier to strengthen that connection.

Step 3: Asking your questions:

Hold your deck in your least dominant hand. Ask the question you decided to ask silently in your mind or out loud. Shuffle the cards again now that you are relaxed

Step 4: Cut the deck with your least dominant hand

If you are right handed: cut the deck in half with your left hand and place it down to the left of the other cards forming two piles of cards. Choose the card that on the top of the right pile and turn it over. Follow the same directions with the right hand if you are left-handed.

Step 5: The reading

  • Lay the cards out according to the order and physical placement dictated by the spread you choose.
  • Look at the cards as you flip them over, and consider your first impressions. What is your first thought, physical feeling or reaction when you place the cards?
    • Are you experiencing memories?
    • is your stomach tight, or are your toes tingly?
  • Speak out loud. let the names of the cards and any words flow out of you.
  • Analyze the Action: What is going on in the tarot card images.
    • Try to pick out similarities. Are they mostly calm images, or dramatic images.
    • what direction are the cards looking in? What can you conclude from this?
  • What color is dominant in the cards? Is there a mix or color, the absence of color or mostly one color? What do these colors mean to you and how do they make you feel?
  • what are the characters and animals doing? Who or what do they represent to you.
  • Symbols: What symbols are presented and which are repeated. What do they mean to you?
  • Review any written materials you have including books, online websites, and booklets with tarot card meanings


  • Go back to your question and use what you deducted from the cards. Form a sentence to concisely answer the question
  • Next steps
    • Record your conclusions in your tarot journal
    • Review your journal to try to see if you can draw any connections to readings you’ve done in the past.
    • Consult with other readers, and see if they can offer any additional insight.