Three mistakes new tarot readers make – and how to avoid them

Note takingIf you’re new to tarot, or have been trying to learn for a little while now, you’re probably looking for as much information as you can about what to do:

How to read the cards…
How to connect to your intuition…
How to know if your interpretations are accurate…

But what about the pitfalls?

I always say there is no wrong way to read tarot, but that doesn’t mean that readers don’t mistakes. (We all do it. Tarot is hard. It takes times to learn.)

Throughout my time teaching tarot, I’ve noticed some patterns that many new readers fall into that keep them stuck in their tarot practice.

Here are three of the most common mistakes (IMO) to stay aware of:

1. Losing context. Tarot cards can be a bit dramatic. Many decks – especially the classics, like the Rider-Waite-Smith – feature images that can be pretty jarring. I remember doing a reading for a woman who had pulled Judgement: “Are those people rising up out of coffins?” she asked, obviously unsettled.

If can be scary and confusing when you see an intense-looking card in a reading, regardless of the nature of your question. But that’s what’s important to focus on – the question itself steers the reading.

It takes practice to learn how to put your knowledge of the cards into context. But this an important step in being able to move your readings beyond basic tarot meanings and into a new level of insight.

2. Wanting to be right every single time. I know, I know…you’re probably thinking, “But isn’t that the point of learning something – to be good at it?”

Yes: Whatever you choose to do in life, you should certainly put in the effort to know it and do it as best as you can.

Like anything, tarot has a learning curve. And part of embracing that learning curve – as well as embracing your intuition – is risking being wrong.

Studying - Priscilla Du Preez

photo by Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

When I first started reading for strangers, I would do unpaid gigs at friends’ houses and local venues: Small parties and gatherings where there would be 8-12 people I barely knew. I’d already been reading tarot on my own, and for friends one-on-one, for several years by then. But doing it for strangers is a whole other level.

And of course, I was nervous. I wanted to do a good job.

It’s really different to go from reading to people you know to people you don’t, because you have no frame of reference for a stranger. You don’t know if they have a job. You don’t know what they are sensitive about. You don’t know their mannerisms. You don’t know what they expect of you.

I remember early on having first impressions from the cards, but holding back on sharing them: “What if I’m totally off?” I would think.

And then, once the person in front of me started sharing a bit about their own experiences – because usually they will at some point – I realized my first impressions were right on.

I learned back then that it’s important to fall forward in tarot: To let yourself make mistakes, to be willing to be wrong. To say something that you have no true basis for, except in your gut.

Because those impressions you’re getting may be exactly what someone needs to hear. And if you’re totally off base?

Well, let the person you’re reading for offer feedback. Take note of how their stories connect to the cards in front of you. Let your mistakes lead you to new knowledge about tarot.

Holding back out of fear of being wrong won’t allow you to grow.

3. Rushing to go pro. This is warrants a blog or two all on its own, but we’ll keep it short and sweet for today.

There is so much pressure out there today to find your calling, to create an income off of work that feels fulfilling, to do something meaningful that allows you to sustain yourself at the same time.

It is definitely possible to make a living from reading tarot. But there is a difference between being a tarot reader and being a business owner.

Some people might decide to learn tarot with the sole intention of becoming a professional reader, just as they might choose a college program at school to help them launch a career in any other field.

But the path to tarot – or any type of intuitive work – may not always be as linear as a cookie cutter career choice.

Most professional readers that I know were reading tarot for years before they ever charged a dime for their readings. And most of them didn’t come into this work specifically expecting to build a business out of it one day.

Guts Over Fear

Tarot is often a very organic process, and it’s not something that can be rushed.

Do I believe there are some people out there who take to the cards naturally? Absolutely.

Do I believe you have to read for a certain length of time before going pro? Not really.

But I do think that you have to be careful that you’re not forcing something to happen before it’s ready. Putting pressure on yourself to learn tarot out as soon as possible so that you can start charging for readings can bring up a whole other layer of confusion and frustration.

Because there will be blind spots. There will be techniques you haven’t learned yet. Or other ways of working with the cards that you haven’t had time to find and explore. There will be client questions you’re not prepared for. There will be cards you might not feel confident about yet.

So it’s important to give things time, and to really make sure you have a solid foundation to work from.

It’s totally fine to have goals around tarot, like going pro, but be realistic about the path you are taking, and stay open to the time it might take to go from a new tarot reader to a really excellent professional reader.

All throughout my work with tarot, I’ve found it incredibly helpful and enriching to read varying perspectives about tarot, to continue taking classes, and to learn different people’s perspectives and techniques.

Because every tarot reader and tarot teacher will have their own ways of working with the cards. I don’t subscribe to every new technique I come across, but I do find that every bit of information helps me become a better reader in some way.

Tarot is something you are always learning, whether you’ve been at it for a little while, or a long while.

Until next time,

Liz xo

p.s. If you’re to enhance your knowledge of the cards, you might like my book, Going Beyond the Little White Book: A Contemporary Guide to Tarot. Buy it here.

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