Beginning your journey as a Tarot student can feel overwhelming. Looking back I realize there was so much I wish I’d known when I embark on this journey (for a second time as an adult). Here are some of the key things I wish I knew:
- Finding the right deck(s) – I recently read a blog on Benebell Wen’s website. She makes it clear that you really only need one deck. I completely agree with this observation. I have a pretty large collection, but if my house was on fire I would probably only grab a few decks. And that is telling. Anything more than one deck is excessive as Wen says. So, keeping that in mind, plan to only have one main deck you read with. If you want to be a reader and not a collector you really don’t need more than a handful of decks. Finding a deck that speaks to you takes some trial and error. This can land you in the ‘too many decks’ situation but you can trade and sell ones you don’t want. To try to minimize the trial and error, it’s good to start with an understanding of what visual images appeal and speak to you. For example, I like minimalism, classical and historical imagery. This is a reflection of other things that appeal to me, like my wardrobe for example. So now my (too large) tarot collection reflects that aesthetic. I encourage you to take the time to really contemplate what visual language will work for you. It is worth noting that sometimes the deck that communicates best to you is NOT the one you will find most beautiful. If you are not a visual person the above may not apply to you. In that case pick the deck that aligns with the system you are learning or there are also decks with minimal imagery available. So focus on learning not collecting and select one or two decks and work with them exclusively as you learn (having a second deck applies if you want to learn a specific system that is connected to a deck like RWS or Thoth. You will want the original deck from that system).
- Identifying the Tarot system you want to study – You need to decide if you want to create your own system or learn someone else’s. We will cover creating your own system in another blog. I do suggest that you consider learning at least one existing tarot system prior to trying to create your own (which is really a more advanced approach). In terms of systems or traditions of tarot, Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) is the most popular by far… very, very far and Thoth (Aleister Crowley’s deck) is second. You can opt to learn the original Golden Dawn (GD) system which inspired Waite and Crowley who were members of the GD. If these more “modern” occult systems don’t appeal to you, you can learn other older occult systems like those created by 18th and 19th century occultists like, Etteilla, Papus, Oswald Wirth… etc. But be aware that there is a lot less available on these older occultists’ systems and their decks can be harder to find. You can learn a modern system (usually inspired by the modern occult systems or blends more that one of them) like Benebell Wen’s Spirit Keeper deck or Mel Meleen’s Tabula Mundi deck. There are more and more modern systems to choose from these days, some better than others. So, again do your homework before you commit. It can actually be a bit overwhelming. Finally, you can learn pre-occult cartomancy systems, there are many books on cartomancy reading techniques with tarot using older pre-occult style decks like Tarot de Marseille.
- Start your Study – Once you find a system read but don’t over read. Find a few good books on that system and on tarot history and read them and make notes but don’t get too caught up in reading EVERYTHING. (A note on courses, again be wise about where you invest your time and money. There are great courses out there, but some are expensive and very time consuming.) Having a focus on the system you want to learn will greatly help to narrow down options for books and courses. Unless you study RWS (By far most of the available material and training focuses on this system, so again you really want to do your research before spending money.) Find the best authors and teachers for YOU. The best way to do that is to really know yourself and what you want out of your relationship with Tarot.
- Practice, practice, practice – Arguably this is more important that the study phase. Here are a few tips on practice.
- Do a daily draw (3 cards with a question is my preference but many people draw one card a day as they learn).
- You can study the cards the day you pull them.
- You can also record how they show up for you in your life. This practice will allow you to gain meanings from the cards themselves not from an external system. You will start to learn about how Tarot talks to you and this is the beginning of developing your own system.
- Use a tarot journal to record meanings, readings, and daily draws. You can opt to have a separate book for study notes and insights. These can literally be cheap notebooks from the dollar store, fancy tarot journals are unnecessary and can actually be limiting.
- Finally, create a sacred relationship with the tarot – This can be achieved in many ways including:
- cleansing decks,
- sleeping with decks under your pillow or carrying them on you (be careful not to damage your cards),
- storing crystals with your decks,
- using crystals with your readings,
- using candles while reading,
- using incense while reading,
- connecting with spirit guides when you read,
- creating a sacred space for reading,
- prayers prior to reading,
- developing a psychic protection practice,
- using reading cloths,
- using Tarot in magickal practice,
- also consider how you store cards, they should be a respected tool.
- NOTE – These are just suggestions, you should explore and experiment and find ways to develop a reverence for Tarot that aligns with your personal spiritual practices… if that appeals to you, there is nothing wrong with a respectful secular approach to the Tarot.
These are the basic elements of starting a Tarot study based on my experience. I hope you find this helpful. Another helpful step in this process would be to try getting a professional reading, you can learn a lot about reading by getting a reading from a professional. I’m happy to talk with Tarot students about their journey with Tarot when I read for them. If you want to learn about my approach book a reading with me today!
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