How to Read Tarot Cards - The Beginner’s Guide | PsychicWorld

How to Read Tarot Cards - The Beginner’s Guide

So you’re interested in the mystical and ancient art of tarot card readings but aren’t really sure what tarot cards are and how they can be used. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve produced the definitive guide on how to read tarot cards. Along the way we will look at what is in a tarot card deck, the meanings of some of the cards, the importance of cleansing the deck and then how to go about performing your very own reading.

What’s in a tarot deck?

A standard tarot deck is made up of 78 cards, divided into two main categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.

The Major Arcana cards

In all, there are 22 Major Arcana cards in a tarot deck. These are the most significant cards in the deck, and they represent the most significant events and experiences which shape our lives and how we view them.

Major Arcana cards often indicate to someone reading them that a significant change is around the corner. They often relate to personal growth offering guidance as to how to find meaning and purpose in life.


Examples of Major Arcana cards

The Fool - The Fool card encourages a new beginning. It suggests to the asker that they should go through a phase of being open-minded and non-judgemental towards new experiences. It advises the asker to embrace a child-like innocence, and have a more carefree, less pent-up approach to life.

The Hermit - This card encourages the asker to go through a spell of introspection and solitude. The Hermit values the need for quiet contemplation and the ability to gain insight and wisdom through time spent alone and reflecting on our thoughts.

Death - Don’t fear, this card doesn’t refer to a literal death. Rather this card is calling for the asker to embrace a spell of transformation. They should let go of the old to make way for a new beginning. This could refer to an old way of thinking, or be direct, and the asker should consider changing occupation, lifestyle or relationship.

The Star - The Star card indicates that the asker should be optimistic for the future, even if they are currently living through difficult times. It also encourages the asker should have faith in their own abilities and their power to charter through choppy waters.

The Minor Arcana cards

There are 56 Minor Arcana cards and they make up the rest of the pack. These cards are far more reminiscent of a traditional pack of playing cards. They are made up of four suits, Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles, and there are 14 cards in each suit. Suits are made up of an ace, cards numbered two to ten, and four court cards, Page, Knight, Queen and King.

Importance of each suit

Cups - This suit focuses on the emotions, feelings and relationships of the asker, and goes a long way towards illuminating the internal state of the person receiving the reading.

Wands - In contrast to the Cups, this suit is all about the passions of the asker, and what drives and inspires them.

Swords - This suit represents how the mind works and how it comes to decisions.

Pentacles - The Pentacles suit represents material matters, finances and the physical realm. They often indicate the person’s financial situation as well as their physical health.

Types of tarot readings

A common misconception is that tarot readings are simply designed to help the asker know their future. In fact, they are far more nuanced, rather than trying to outline someone’s destiny, they are more commonly used to offer guidance and advice. The Major Arcana cards in particular are on hand to influence askers and encourage them to embrace a new lifestyle or way of thinking.

There are plenty of types of tarot readings. Here are some of the most common:


For a broad overview of your life, as opposed to tackling an individual concern or dilemma, then a general reading is the one for you. They are used to help you get a big-picture view of your life and offer a fresh perspective.

A table with a candle and six face up tarot cards


These readings are useful to provide answers to a specific question that is causing you concern or grief. It may be about whether you should move to another country, or have children. No matter how mundane or life-altering the question, the tarot cards will have an answer.


A theme reading is designed to explore a specific theme or aspect of your life in depth. Common themes that people like to explore include careers or relationships.

Past and future

If you want a glimpse into the future or a deep dive into your past, this is the right reading for you.

Yes or no

One of the simplest readings around, by taking a look at the tarot cards should give the asker an answer to a specific question. If you’re unsure about how to make your question feel genuine and authentic then check out how to ask tarot cards a question page.

One card

The quickest tarot reading around involves drawing a card and interpreting its message as it relates to your question or intention.

Cleansing and preparing the deck

Cleansing and preparing your deck of tarot cards is a crucial step in the process. By cleansing the deck, you remove any negative energy that may have attached itself to the cards. Without cleansing the deck you may get a reading that is inaccurate, or overly pessimistic.


There are a number of ways to cleanse a tarot deck. One of the most common aura cleansing techniques is known as smudging. It involves using smoke or even burning herbs to remove the deck’s negative energy.

To do this, you need to kindle the smoke, and then with the pack in your hand, pass it through the smoke several times, while holding the intention that you are clearing away any negative energy.

A pack of tarot cards being cleansed using crystals and a candle


If you’re a lover of crystals then this is the perfect opportunity to put them to good use. To cleanse the cards this way, place them on a clear quartz crystal, alternatively you can use selenite or amethyst. It’s important that you have charged the crystals beforehand, using sunlight or moonlight, otherwise they won’t have as much of an effect.


Anything from ringing a bell, playing singing bowls or even just clapping your hands can help you cleanse your deck. It’s important as you do this to have the intention and the belief that this will cleanse the deck.


For a really powerful purifying force, make use of Mother Nature’s power. This could involve burying your pack of tarot cards in the ground, and placing them on a tree that is special to you. Some people have even placed their cards in a body of water.


For something a little simpler, many tarot readers favor simply breathing on the tarot cards. To perform this cleansing ritual, all you need to do is sit quietly, hold the deck in your hands, take a deep breath and then simply exhale over the cards. For full effect, repeat this process several times, while focusing on the intention of cleaning the deck.

Drawing the cards

Now the cards are fully prepared and you understand their significance, now it’s time to draw the cards and take the reading.

Step one: Picking the right deck of cards

No two decks of tarot cards are the same. They each have their unique character, personality, and artwork. You want a pack that you can trust, so choose one that corresponds with your tastes and sense of style.

Step two: Revise the meanings of the cards

Before you start, make sure you have a really clear understanding of what each of the cards mean, so that you don’t misinterpret the results. We recommend having a guidebook on hand so that you can quickly look up any readings that you don’t fully understand.

Step three: Decide what you want from the reading

With tarot cards, intention is everything. Make sure before you begin you have a clear understanding of what you want from the reading, whether that is just some general advice or a clear answer to a question that has been buzzing around your mind.

Step four: Give the cards a thorough shuffle

As you shuffle the cards to ensure you get a valid response, have at the forefront of your mind what you want to achieve from the tarot reading.

A woman holding a hand of tarot cards

Step five: Choose your spread

Each spread has its own meaning. Some spreads are also more complex than others so if this is one of your first reading, one of the best tarot card spreads for beginners is a a basic three-card spread.

Step six: Interpret the cards

This may seem to be the tricky bit, but in fact, it is rather simple. All you need to do is consider the meaning of each card, and what your innate, natural, initial response to it is. Also, look out for any patterns or symbols that stand out to you.

Step seven: Have a moment of reflection

There’s no point rushing to conclusions. Spend some time thinking and reflecting on the cards that have come up, pondering the relevance of them and how they relate to your life or a particular issue. Consider what insights and guidance they can provide you with.

If all of this sounds too complicated to do on your own, then perhaps you’d be better suited to one of free weekly tarot card readings.

Choosing a tarot spread

There are many factors to consider when you are deciding which tarot spread is right for you. You’ll want to consider the purpose of the reading, with certain spreads more appropriate for certain types of reading. You’ll also want to consider how many cards you want to use. Smaller readings may offer more clarity, whereas those with more cards may offer a more nuanced response.

Overall, you should trust your intuition and go for the one that feels right.

Three-card spread

One of the most popular spreads, it simply involves drawing three cards and placing them in a row. It’s ideal if you want a simple overview of past, present and future events.


The Celtic Cross

At the other end of the complexity spectrum is the Celtic Cross. The Celtic Cross involves 10 cards, six of which are in a cross formation, whilst the other four are in a vertical row.

The Horseshoe Spread

As the name suggests, this spread involves seven cards drawn in the shape of a horseshoe. Its use is similar to the three-card spread, except the extra cards add another layer of detail.

The Pentagram Spread

Often used for gaining an insight into the future, it helps you to identify the steps that need to be taken to achieve a goal. Five cards are placed in a circle on the outside, whilst there’s another one in the middle.

The Decision Spread

A four-card spread, with each card placed in an opposite corner, the decision spread is a good method for weighing up the costs and benefits of a particular decision.


There it is, everything you need to know about reading tarot cards. Now all that is left for you to do is to find the right pack of tarot cards for you, cleanse them, and then try out your first reading.

If you’re new to PsychicWorld there are plenty of other guides for you to check out, including articles about how long a psychic reading is, and the difference between a psychic and a clairvoyant.

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