The Rider-Waite deck has very standard images that you’ll see other decks mimic all around the world. Its graphics are recognized universally. This is a great deck to start out with – the imagery will help you remember meanings and you’ll be drawn to specific images in the cards.
EXPLORING THE CARDS:
The Rider-Waite deck has exactly 78 cards. Be sure that all cards are present, otherwise, your readings may be inaccurate or lacking information. The cards are sorted into Major and Minor Arcana. To better understand the impact of certain cards, you must know which cards fall under which Arcana.
All the suit and court cards are listed under the Minor Arcana. You may hear some people refer to the minor arcana cards as Pip cards. The suits are Swords, Cups, Wands, and Pentacles, whereas the court cards are Kings, Queens, Pages, and Knights.
For this brief overview, we are going to focus on the suits.
- are generally about communication. They relate to truth, honesty, intellect, thoughts and communication. In regards to the zodiac, swords represent air signs.
- always have something to do with emotions. They are usually shown filled with water, which represents these sentiments. These cards are often about love and/or hurt feelings. In regards to the zodiac, cups represent water signs.
- mark new beginnings, growth, and development. They mean excitement, creativity and enthusiasm for the changes in the near future. They sometimes represent sexuality as well. In regards to the zodiac, wands represent fire signs.
- are circles with stars in the middle – another name for a Pentacle is disc. The pentacle dates back several thousands of years in ancient Greece and Babylonia. It holds religious meaning. Religion was a part of everyday life for the Greeks. In tarot, Pentacles represent day to day energies such as your home, work, and finances. In regards to the zodiac, pentacles represent earth signs.
The Major Arcana are not associated with the suits or court cards. They are also known as Trump cards in some circles. Major Arcana always come first in the deck, so they are numbered. However, the numbers don’t really matter until advanced reading (numerology aspects are great to integrate into your readings, but perhaps not when you’re starting out).
Major cards are major energies – very important and life-changing, with longer-lasting impacts. Minor cards, on the other hands, can last a day, a week, or are things that are non-consequential in the larger scheme of your life’s major events and happenings.
Some examples of Major Arcana cards are The Lovers, The Tower, and The Hierophant. Major Arcana cards will start with “THE”.
At first, it will feel overwhelming to use the cards. There are 78! That’s a lot! They all hold a lot of meaning on their own, let alone in relationship to one another, and there are a whole other 78 definitions associated to the reversed card (when it’s upside down) if you decide to read reversals (a personal preference that will vary from reader to reader). Calm down. These feelings are normal. Take it one card at a time!
One way to start learning the meanings of the cards is to pull a random card out from the deck. Write down what you think it symbolizes before you look it up online or in an accompanying book. The most important question to ask yourself is, “what does the card mean to you?” Online definitions may not resonate with you. In fact, as you begin to master the tarot you will start to develop your own meanings for certain cards and the meanings of specific cards may even change for you over time.
Create your own rituals. Some sites will give you very specific steps to follow – don’t listen to them! The whole point is to make the cards your own. Do what feels right to you, and the readings will be more accurate. You do not have to wrap your cards in black velvet to make sure they work and are magical. The magic is within YOU; you’re getting in tune with your own psychic intuition with the cards as a guide.
One thing however, that is imperative, is that you’re sure to take the cards out of the box and slowly spread them from palm to palm. This is a way of bonding with your cards, to ensure that your energy is infused into the cards. Meditate on them if you wish. Ask the angels to help you develop a relationship with the cards if that’s helpful, too!
(Again, strict rituals are not necessary.)
Some people feel (me included) that it is important to cleanse your cards. Cleansing the cards will remove any energy from a previous reading, whether those are feelings or a person’s energy. It’s a way to start fresh for a new reading or even on a new topic of discovery or questioning if you’re extra thorough.
As you progress in your tarot journey, you will create or find your own rituals. Until then, here’s a simple method:
- Take out your deck. Touch each card, run your hands over the spread deck, then hit the top of it so that the negative energy drops out.
- Next, get a candle. If you want, it can be scented to suit the mood of the reading. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose, and out of your mouth (this is more about centering your energy to give a clear headed reading, than it is about the cards).
- Then, imagine that white light is coming through you, shooting through your body, coming out of your feet, and surrounding you in a big ball of white protective light.
- During this cleansing ritual, ask the angels for guidance to channel messages and keep you and your client protected. The whole point is to help people and give them answers the answers they need, not to scare them (asking angels for help is as simple as thinking the thought! This doesn’t need to be a complicated and drawn out secondary ritual).
- Finally, ask the angels to help you cleanse the cards. Run the cards over the candle flame one by one to clear any energy they may have picked up from a previous owner, from a previous reading, or even in the factory where they were printed. Now, you can begin the reading.
Starting A Reading
Shuffle the deck. Ask a question in your mind; then pull out cards to get your answers. It is literally that simple. (I will explain in greater detail in other blogs about how to ask good questions, and about how to know which tarot spreads to use for which type of question).
If a card flies out, then read it. It’s the deck telling you that that card is very important to the question. It wants to be read! These cards are often referred to in the tarot community as “jumpers”
If something doesn’t make sense after you draw, pull another card for more information. Sometimes, you just need more context. These are called “clarifier” cards.
Things To Keep in Mind
You may draw a Death card. Death cards don’t usually prophesize a literal death. They normally talk about the end of something, making way for a new and better beginning!
There are many ways to do readings. For example, you can pull several cards at a time and read them like a movie plot (identifying the characters involved, the setting, the problem, the resolution, the outcome, etc.). Or, you can pull three cards in total, one for the past, for the present, and the future, then pull some clarifying cards if needed.
Once again, you do not have to follow everything you read in a book, online, or hear from someone else as the one and only true way to do this– the whole point is for the rituals and cards to be yours, so that the cards resonate with you. Your individual style and your unique talents and strengths will emerge over time and that’s exactly why you SHOULD read tarot! If everyone read the same, it’d be boring and basic. That’s not your style.