[If you want a more in-depth course, consider The Sceptic's Tarot course, Reading the cards for your self, available for $5.]
A tarot deck has 78 cards; 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards.
The minor arcana cards comprise 40 'pip' cards and 16 court cards.
The minor arcana cards are also divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.
There are hundreds of tarot decks. The one I often use, and is popular, is the Rider-Waite Tarot which dates to 1910.
A tarot spread is a pattern you lay the cards in; each card position has a particular name.
This is what the traditional Past-Present-Future spread looks like:
Card 2 is called Present. What is currently happening in the context of your question?
Card 3 is called Future. What would the consequences be if you go on as before?
There are hundreds of spreads, and you can also create your own. You could also look at The Sceptic's Tarot spreads.
What can tarot tell you?
If not done for prediction, a tarot reading reflects you in a particular moment under specific circumstances. Like looking into a mirror, you see not only what you expect but also what you might not have expected. It prompts you to pay attention.
It encourages you to delve into emotions, motivations, thoughts, and desires you might or might not be aware of, but which you should reflect on.
It can help you understand yourself better.
Revealing assumptions and biases are often helpful.
A reading can help you set goals and intentions, and reflect on beliefs holding you back.
It can help you process difficult emotions.
A "Future" card prompts you to reflect on the likely future of your situation. It prepares you for potential joy or disaster. And, of course, gives you the opportunity and ideas for strengthening the first and avoiding the second.
It can reveal challenges you may have to overcome.
Asking, "What don't I know?" prompts you to look further and deeper.
Thus, a tarot reading inspires, prepares, and uncovers without having to involve the supernatural.
What would you want to ask? The most useful questions start with:
- Tell me more about ...
- How can I ...?
- I need to decide ...
- Why ...?
- What if ...?
- How else ...?
- What have I not considered ...?
Shuffle your cards, decide on a question, and choose a spread.
Suppose you ask: "How can I improve my productivity until the end of the year?"
Shuffle the cards well, then draw a card for each position in the spread above. Place them face up. You can deal the cards from the top of the deck or choose any three from within the deck.
Look at the first card. You can follow the traditional meanings or let the image alone inspire you.
Suppose you drew the Three of Cups as Card 1 ("The Past).
Look at the image, the colours, the symbols, the people. What does the card suggest to you? What is your first reaction on seeing the card?
Its traditional meanings refer to friendship, community, celebration, abundance, emotional fulfilment, creativity, and synthesis, prompting you to consider relationships and actions that might have affected your productivity.
Can you think how the image or the meanings reflect something that happened recently? Have you gone to a party, visited friends, celebrated something, or had a little too much to drink? Or have you had strong support from your friends and community?
Once you have explored the first card, move on to the second card, "Present," and the third card, "Future". How do the last two cards relate to your productivity?
What if the card makes no sense to you?
The human mind enjoys creating meaning, so more than likely, you have made connections. If a card refuses to make sense, draw another random card as a replacement. (But don't draw extra cards because you don't like the first one! Be honest with yourself.)
A fourth card?
Once you have done your three-card reading, you might want to draw a fourth card and call it "Solution."
What if you draw Death or the Devil?
Please don't worry; no one is dying or going to the Devil. In the traditional meanings, Death refers to an ending or a transition; the Devil refers to temptations and obsessions.
There are a few other 'scary' cards. Just check the traditional meanings and relate them to your question. Remember that the cards are nothing more than images on cardboard and cannot harm you.