The Basics: Using the Tarot.

To wrap up my little bit about Tarot basics, I want to talk about how the cards can actually be used. Unlike the last posts about the Tarot basics, in which I covered the structure and history of the Tarot, my thoughts here are highly subject to my personal experiences. While some of the things I suggest may not be for everyone, and while I’m sure I’ve left out some possibilities which others may advocate, I hope that this post works well to conclude the basics by opening the door, so to speak, for the Tarot novice to actually get down and dirty with the cards.

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Once you’ve obtained a Tarot deck, the first task is to begin to learn what each card is supposed to mean. 78 cards are quite a lot, and this process of learning them can seem overwhelming at first. A lot of people recommend doing a daily draw, where you pull one card each day and take the day to internalize its meaning. I think this is a great idea, even after you’re no longer a beginner, although I admittedly have difficulty in keeping with the habit myself.

Journals are another commonly recommending way of learning, and again, I totally agree. I kept a couple Tarot journals for a while, although that habit also fell to the wayside once I started up this blog (I still have them, though, and am often surprised by what I find when I go back through them).

I learned primarily by reading. I devoured Tarot book after Tarot book, and before I even realized it, I had a basic idea of what every card was supposed to mean. It actually happened much more quickly than I’d ever hoped it would at the beginning. Some people don’t care for books on the Tarot, possibly because they don’t want their practice to be restricted by someone else’s methods. I disagree with this. For one, reading a book does not mean you have to adhere to what it says. But more important, books contain the wisdom of those who came before us. In an age when oral tradition has been largely forgotten, books are the best we can do to learn. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Every book I read, each with its own perspective, only adds to the big picture of my understanding of the cards. Now, with that being said, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using the information books provide as a crutch, preventing you from truly learning what the cards mean. If you find yourself thumbing through a book to get the meanings of every single card in a spread every single time you do a reading, and the book definitions are all you’re taking away from the cards, than you might do well to put the books away for a while and trust your intuition instead.

I also highly recommend new users to visit Aeclectic Tarot. This website was instrumental in helping me get familiar with the cards, and the forums contain many insightful discussions. It’s also a great place to find other resources on the Tarot.

Regardless of how you learn, if you keep at it and continue to practice, you will eventually understand each card as an individual, as well as how they can work together in groups. Then the possibilities of the Tarot will really open up for you.

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So, once you’ve got the basics down, what’s next?

When it comes to the Tarot, the possibilities are virtually endless. Most people go to the cards for divination, and indeed they do work well for this purpose if you are so inclined. Given their history, they also are great for gaming, be it some trick-taking game with friends or solitaire (I’ve also toyed with the idea of making a drinking game). And if you admire artwork or are into collecting, the Tarot is a great hobby.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Tarot is an amazing tool for meditation, path working, and developing metaphysical awareness. It can act as a spiritual guide no matter what your religious leanings may be. It’s also a great psychological tool that even the staunches of skeptics would have a hard time disputing.

Once you understand the archetypes, the Tarot can be used to aid in the understanding of great works of literature. It can also work as a creative tool for writing or artwork. And, if you are the sort of person to practice magic, the Tarot is an excellent tool for that, as well. In fact, if you are open to the occult (it’s ok if you’re not), the Tarot has also been made into a compendium of western esoteric doctrines. If the occult makes you uncomfortable, you can steer clear of it and still gain a fulfilling enjoyment from the cards.

There is so much potential in these cards that the user is only limited by his or her imagination. What I’ve suggested above are but mere glimpses of what the cards are capable of. An appetizer, if you will, to get you eager for your own journey with the Tarot.

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Before I sign off here, I want to add my recommendations for beginner’s decks. Again, this is based entirely on my own experiences, and any other approach is equally valid.

I heartily recommend the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot to any first time user, especially those who have no idea how or where to begin. Besides being the most popular deck, as well as the basis of many themed decks, this pack’s illustrated Minor Arcana makes the learning process much easier. The interpretations of the Minors in this pack are by no means the only ones out there, but it is an excellent starting point. Furthermore, there are probably more books published with this deck in mind than any other.

The RWS was my first Tarot, and I hold it in very high esteem. From there, I branched out with a Marseille Tarot and the Thoth Tarot, both of which are also considered classics, although neither of which are quite as user-friendly as the RWS. For anyone looking to begin a serious collection, these three decks are the best place to start.

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Anyway, that’s it for the Tarot basics, at least for now. I hope any readers who are unfamiliar with the cards can find these posts useful, and I hope any readers who are familiar with the cards can find these posts agreeable and perhaps even a bit interesting for what they are.

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