For centuries, people have been intrigued by occult practices and the mystic arts. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them! One of the most popular of these practices in modern times is the use of tarot cards. At some point in your life, you’ve probably come across these interesting little cards, a popular tool used by those searching for spiritual guidance. By tuning in with the Spirits, those with the practiced ability to read and interpret tarot cards are able to see meaning in the cards’ images, and thus seek to make positive changes in their lives based on their reading. If you’re looking to delve into the world of tarot, you’ve come to the right place.

Origins of Tarot

Before we dive into the process of tarot reading, it’s important to first understand the history of tarot cards. What are tarot cards? You may be surprised to learn that the original use of tarot cards was vastly different from how they’re used today! Tarot cards were first created in the mid-15th century and were used for playing card games, not for guidance. This would all change in the 18th century though, at which point, the origins of the tarot practices we know today would take root and people would begin to find meaning in the cards. The first known person to use tarot cards in this way was a French occultist named Etteilla, who in the late 18th century, popularized this practice throughout Europe and eventually the world. Thanks, Etteilla!

What Is Tarot?

So, what exactly is tarot, and how do tarot cards work? One of the most common misconceptions about tarot is that it is used for telling the future, which leads many to be skeptical. Well, then if not to tell the future, how do you use tarot cards? In truth, tarot is used for spiritual guidance. By interpreting the cards, tarot readers can use their intuition, or their inner voice, to seek guidance for either themselves or for others. Tarot is not solely focused on the future, though. In many tarot readings, the past, the present, and the future are brought together to tell a story from which the reader can learn. In learning from the past, being cognizant of the present, and seeing possibilities for the future, a tarot reader can understand the context of their unique situation and make appropriate changes in their life.

Choosing a Deck

The first thing you need to know before picking up your deck is that there is no exact science on how to read tarot cards. While guidebooks are certainly a beginner’s best friend, the cards’ meanings are subjective and, certain combinations of cards may elicit a reaction from some readers simply based on their intuition. Because most of this process is based on feeling and intuition, it’s important to choose a tarot card deck that speaks to you. There is no clear-cut method on how to choose a deck – you’ll know the right one when you see it! Luckily for you, Spencer’s offers an array of tarot decks, so one is sure to catch your eye. While many start with the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, we’ve got no shortage of options to choose from!

The Cards

Now that you’ve chosen your deck, let’s take a deeper dive into the cards in a tarot deck. In your standard deck, you will find two types of tarot cards: 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is made up of named cards numbered 1 through 21, and the Fool, which is unnumbered. The Major Arcana are the strongest, most impactful cards in the deck. These cards represent the big picture and are said to hold deep meaning regarding one’s life. Conversely, the Minor Arcana consists of four suits, each containing 14 cards, making up 56 total cards. These four suits are the wands, which represent passion; the swords, which represent action; the cups, which represent emotion; and the pentacles, which represent the material world. These cards tie into temporary situations and challenges and will concern themselves with everyday life. Think of the Major Arcana operating at the macro level and the Minor Arcana at the micro.

Note: As you become more familiar with the meanings of each card, you may be interested in exploring reversals. When a card is revealed from the deck and it is reversed rather than upright, it could be telling of a potential area for growth and improvement. Some readers elect to ignore reversals, believing that the Spirits choose to reveal certain cards from the deck with intention and no regard to the card’s orientation. The choice is yours!


As you prepare for your tarot reading, you should be highly cognizant of your feelings and inner voice. Ensure that you center yourself before proceeding with your reading and perhaps even meditate to clear your mind. Attempting to do a reading when you’re emotional or upset is never a good idea! Determine the purpose of your reading: Is this a general reading to gauge your current state in life, or do you have a specific situation in mind for which you are seeking guidance? Now, hold your deck of cards with your dominant hand on top and your non-dominant hand underneath, and shuffle the deck any number of times based on your intuition. Fan out your cards face-down and hover your dominant hand over the card or cards to which you feel drawn.

The Spreads

There are many different types of tarot spreads that you can implement during a reading, and each has a different purpose. Each pattern and position in the spread should be intentional and will evoke a different meaning. You can utilize these spreads whether you’re doing a tarot reading for yourself or for someone else! A popular spread for beginners is a three-card spread. Pull three cards from your shuffled deck and place them face-up. The first card represents the past; the second, the present; and the third, the future. These types of readings are open-ended and are great for general readings where one may need guidance applicable to their life as a whole. For guidance in a specific situation in one’s life, especially if one is deciding between two choices, a two-card spread is very straightforward. Choose two cards from your deck, each card representing one of the two choices. If you’re looking to start your day with some spiritual guidance, a one-card reading is a simple option that will give you some insight into the day to come, all by drawing a single card. There’s no wrong answer on how many tarot cards to pull. Trust your intuition!

In this post, we’ve only scratched the surface of the intricacies of tarot card readings. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned reader, there is always more to learn in the rich history of tarot. From the different interpretations of each card to the various spreads you can employ in your next reading, the types of tarot readings you’ll come across are abundant. If there’s one thing that you take away from this lesson, it’s to trust your intuition. The Spirits are sure to guide you in the right direction!