There are many, many ways to read Tarot cards, but it helps to have a consistent method that you use each time – this way, you can think less about how you're going to read and focus completely on your subject, the cards and their meaning.
A basic Tarot reading can be boiled down to seven steps: Rituals, Shuffling, Selecting, Turning, Discussion and Refining.
Rituals: Rituals are an important part of reading the Tarot, but whatever those rituals may be will be uniquely yours. Some people take special care of their deck, wrapping in a beautiful cloth or keeping the cards in a special box. Other sleep with their cards under their pillow, to increase their connectivity with their deck, and many people feel that the must never read their own cards using their deck. Whatever rituals you employ, including the methods you use to lay out and read the cards, keep them consistent. Before reading, make a silent opening statement – a prayer or affirmation, or a greeting to your inner guide.
Shuffling: Always shuffle face-down, so no one sees the cards, and avoid bending the cards – this is no time for fancy tricks. Beyond that, there are a number of methods of shuffling. You can hold about half the deck in each hand, and insert one half down through the other half. Another method, designed for maximum hand contact with little damage to the cards, is the one recommended by Norma Cowie in her book "Tarot for Successful Living": Hold the deck face down in your dominant hand. Push some cards from the top with your thumb into the other hand.
Then, push again, but this time to the bottom of the new pile. Continue alternating a push to the top, then one to the bottom until all the cards have been transferred. At this point, put the entire deck back into your dominant hand and start over. This method can be difficult at first, but your technique will improve with practice. Stop shuffling when you feel that it's time to stop, or if a card falls from the deck (and take note of any fallen card, for it has meaning) and then return it or set it aside. If you choose to return the card to the deck and the same card turns up later in the reading, consider that significant.
Selecting: Spread the cards in a line or sem-circle, face down, above the area you will use for the layout. Ask your subject to choose a card, then slide it face down to the first position within your chosen layout, keeping it vertical, not horizontal. Add new cards in the same order to complete the layout.
Turning: Turn over the first card from side-to-side, so it is not reversed by you. Tell your subject the significance of that card's position in the spread, studying the card to get a sense of its meaning, both alone and in that position. Turn the next card only when you're ready to focus on it, repeating until all the cards are turned.
Reading: Using your knowledge of the Tarot or, if you're new, a guidebook, comment on your impressions of the meaning of the card. Don't just go by the book definitions of the cards – say whatever comes into your mind. Look at the image on the card and remark on the card's themes as they come to mind. Whatever your first impressions are, they're correct. Then analyze the meaning of the card in connection with its position and comment on it – if a card is reversed, explain its meaning ("Upright, it means _____") and then comment on its reversal ("But when reversed, it indicates ______"). Do this with each card, saying what comes to mind. Don't ask for validation from the subject yet, just share any thoughts and interpretations that come to mind. Try not to second-guess yourself or overthink what you're saying – you ant to tap into your intuition, not your intellect.
Discussion: After you've given your interpretation of the cards, ask your subject if anything you've said was particularly meaningful as regards some issue in their life. If yes, reinterpret the cards in more detail, specific to the circumstances that they describe. If your client says no, nothing sounds familiar, ask them questions and re-phrase the themes of the cards – you may well be on the right track, but need to explain the cards in a different way for the client until something rings a bell.
Refining: Once your subject gives you some feedback, reinterpret the cards in a way that's specific to the subject's situation. Tell a story tying all of the cards together, explaining them in as clear a way as possible. tying all the themes together, and perhaps using a different way of explaining them which might make it even clearer to the client. Focus on the positive aspects of the cards, and stress that nothing is carved in stone – the subject's actions can change the situation later.
If any of the cards indicate a negative event, explain again that the subject is master of their own destiny and if they change their course of action then they can remedy the situation and head off trouble. Remind the subject that the cards only reflect what's in his or her mind, and that they have free will to change the outcome of future events. If you can;t get a good read on a particular card, ask the subject to draw another and use it as a modifier – read it in connection with the original card. If a card was dropped or set aside during the shuffle, interpret it as a guidance card, offering overall advice on the entire reading as a whole.
Naturally, your style of reading Tarot cards will be unique, and you may have a method that's very different from this one. As long as you're consistent with your rituals and techniques, you'll be able to focus entirely on reading the cards without the distraction of wondering what you should be doing next.
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