Actually, I hesitate to use the word “mistake,” because as we all know, mistakes are an essential part of learning. Maybe a better title for this post would be “inevitable rites of passage for new tarot readers” — who knows. Point being, here I offer a few tips for those of you who are relatively new to tarot, tips that might help you avoid spending time on what I’ve found is ultimately not as important as it may seem in the beginning. Take it with a grain of salt, and happy reading!
1. Worries of OHMYGOSH am I doing it right?
Whenever we take up a new hobby or start learning a new skill, it’s natural for us to continually question whether or not we’re doing it the “right” way. While there are a few rules that probably could apply to tarot across the board (for example, yes, you do need to shuffle/mix the cards somehow before laying them out), the truth is that there are far too many rules from far too many sources. A good rule of thumb then (here’s me adding to the rules!): study the basics, then find what works and feels right for you. Tarot is best practiced as an art that bears the unique imprint, intuition and personal gifts of the individual reader. Don’t spend too much time worrying about “messing up” or saying the wrong thing. Tarot is an intuitive language and as such, needs to be guided overall by an inner sense of knowing, once the very basics are mastered.
2. Not Having Faith in the Process
Especially for those of us who tend to be very rational, linear thinkers, the tendency to let doubt cloud our vision and feeling the need to logically explain how tarot “works” can be limiting and create stumbling blocks to learning. The paradox about this is that I really believe the rational thinkers among us (myself included!) stand to benefit the most from a tarot practice, for this exact reason: great tarot readings don’t come from the rational mind that’s able to scientifically prove and explain everything. This goes hand in hand with the above advice about not sticking to a super-strict structure and cookie-cutter style of reading. Loosen up! Let the cards speak! And above all, trust the process even if you have no idea if you’re “doing it right” or how it works!
3. Self-Doubt and “I’ll Never Be Good At This”
I suppose this is good general advice for approaching any new skill, but it’s particularly important in tarot, an art that serves to enrich us in our personal growth and in our sense of self: don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like you’re “getting” it quick enough. Tarot isn’t like learning to tie your shoes or ride a bike. In fact, as I’ve said before, learning tarot is a lot like learning a language. That being the case, you can’t approach it with a hurry, hurry, quick attitude. Although there are lots of books on the market that promise to teach you tarot in 30 days or less, and they certainly have their value in getting you to jump right in and get going, the underlying truth is that tarot is a life skill that you can, and should, grow and nurture forever. The learning never stops, so take your time and let the subtle nuances sink in gradually over time. You know what they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
4. Isolating Yourself and Studying Alone
Before the Internet, those of us studying the tarot had little resources other than books to help us learn. Nowadays though there’s no excuse for learning by yourself! The unbelievable wealth of resources both online and in person through meet ups and classes is truly never-ending. Get involved and share with others, don’t be afraid to ask questions or feel silly because you don’t understand something. We all had to start from somewhere, why should you be any different? Sharing the learning will make your experience much richer.
5. Waiting Until You’re Perfect to Start Reading for Others
There’s no need to wait before you start reading for others. While it makes sense that you’ll want to get comfortable with your deck and have some practice self-readings of your own first, truly the best way to learn tarot is to read for others. That’s also one of the greatest gifts of tarot: being able to connect with others and share experience and insight with wisdom that comes from a deeper source of knowing. Don’t be embarrassed if you have to refer to a book at first. How do you think I felt when I was learning Italian and had to wander around Rome flipping through my pocket dictionary? But again to go back to the language comparison, I will say that the liveliest and most memorable experiences I had learning Italian were the ones when I didn’t refer to my dictionary at all, but rather let myself become immersed in the process. You can do the same when doing your first readings for others. Talk to the querent, ask for their insights and opinions, and navigate the spread together. You can ask questions like: “What are you drawn to in this card? What does it seem to be telling you?” or “How do you feel when you look at this card and relate it to the meaning of its position?” You’d be surprised at how accurate and meaningful people’s uncensored, spontaneous reactions to cards can be.
6. Last but not least: Not Enjoying the Cards
This shouldn’t be stressful or difficult or tedious. Studying tarot should, in the ideal setting, be a practice that lifts you up and connects you to an unseen support system of knowledge and clarity. If you feel that you’re pushing too hard, or your tarot practice is starting to feel like a chore rather than a joy, for your own sake—take a step back and a break. Employ other methods of reflection like journaling, meditation or a walk in nature, and go back to the cards when you feel pulled to them, not because you feel you “have” to. Enjoy the process and the mystery of not knowing where the journey will lead!
What tips would you add for a new tarot reading to avoid pitfalls that can undermine confidence? What are you struggling with as a tarot reader? Please share in the comments!
Shelley Ruelle is a tarot consultant who works with clients using the art of the tarot, to help them gain insights and personal empowerment in making conscious decisions and navigating the sometimes confusing waters of life. Invest in your own greater good, walk more confidently on your life’s path, and intimately connect with your higher self through a custom-designed reading by Shelley: book your personalized reading now.