The tarot myth that won’t die (but I wish it would)

Despite living in a time when you can verify almost any piece of information with a few clicks of a button, there are so many myths and misconceptions that persist when it comes to tarot.

One that gets me the most is the myth that you have to be gifted a tarot deck in order to start reading tarot.

I actually get asked this at least a few times every year, and I know I’m not the only one who hears this question. It confirms how persistent and stubborn this belief is.

I can’t remember where I first came across this (wannabe) rule, but I do remember reading about it as a teenager when I was exploring all things occult. Like many other aspiring tarot readers, I took this myth to heart at first.

On one hand, the idea is romantic. There’s something fated about being gifted a tarot deck, as though you’re being chosen or selected to be a tarot reader.

That idea fits with other tarot mythology, such as the belief that the ability to read cards comes through a God-given...

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Don’t skip this step when you’re learning tarot

If there’s one thing that gets overlooked most when it comes to learning tarot, it’s this:

Your why.

Why do you want to learn tarot?

What do you believe it will do for you?

What do you want to use it for?

What do you hope to be able to gain from the experience?

There can be any number of reasons to learn tarot. You may have several answers to each of these questions, or just one or two.

There is no right or wrong. There is no ideal reason, no purpose that is better than any other.

But to have a purpose behind learning tarot can really help you to figure out what to focus on, which classes to take, books to read, or techniques to understand.

For example: If you want to read tarot for other people, then it will for you to focus on being able to answer a wide range of questions. I always say that if you read for others, you need to be ready for anything that might come up.

Developing tarot skills that help you be flexible, adaptable, and fluid in your tarot readings is key...

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3 Common Mistakes That Can Keep You Stuck as a Tarot Reader

When people ask me how long it took for me to start reading tarot professionally (seven years), I always preface my answer with this:

There is no one timeline or linear path with tarot. It is an ongoing journey where you can always be learning.

Some people take less time than I did. Some take more. There is no right or wrong, and no perfect amount of time to measure your own progress against.

But there are things that held me back along the way that I do believe slowed me down. Not that I was in a rush, but if I could have gotten better a little bit faster, I would have taken that option in a heartbeat.

Some of the things that I got stuck on were:

Mistake #1: Confusing complexity for potency in a tarot reading.

You don’t need to layer your readings with a bunch of techniques – reversals, astrology, numerology, significators, etc.

Solution: Don’t second-guess yourself if a reading feels clear and direct. All you need to do when you read tarot is read the cards in...

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That time I blew it as a tarot reader

Years ago, before I was reading tarot professionally, I used to do a lot of tarot parties for friends to get practice.

I was at a café one night where a friend was having a trunk sale for a jewelry line she was selling. The room was full of my pal’s friends and family, and I didn’t know many people there.

A woman sat down for a reading with me. I laid down my cards. I saw something in them that was so specific: A story about a family inheritance.

Except that’s not what I told her.

Because what I thought I was seeing did not match the meanings of the cards that were in front of me.

I wasn’t experienced enough yet to know how to trust myself as a tarot reader.

So I played it safe.

I gave a by-the-book reading – literally – rather than talking about what I’d initially seen.

And it wasn’t exactly wrong. But it wasn’t exactly right, either.

It was generic, safe, and middle-of-the-road enough for this woman to find something...

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Why I struggled to connect to tarot early on

I remember how disappointed I was when I got my first tarot deck.

I went in with big expectations. I’d always thought of myself an intuitive, perceptive person. I felt spiritual.

And I wanted that connection to something greater – be it the universe, deity, or my higher self.

I was so excited, and a little bit nervous, when I shuffled my cards and started turning them over. I wondered: What would I learn? What would I see in my reading?

I went from excited to crushed pretty quickly. As soon as my cards were laid out, I felt…nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true: I didn’t get any visions or insights because I had no idea what to make of the cards in front of me.

But I did feel a mix of disappointment, confusion, and insecurity. That insecurity was directed towards myself: What if I’m not the spiritually connected, intuitive person I thought I was?

What if I’m just not cut out for tarot?

I know that sounds dramatic, and it is. I had gone...

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Are tarot spreads too confining?

When I read tarot for my clients, I rarely use tarot spreads anymore.

Moving away from tarot spreads has been one of the biggest transformations in my tarot practice since I started reading full-time.

When I first started out as a professional reader, I used to put so much time and energy into my tarot spreads: I would create custom spreads for each client, based on questions and topics they sent me in advance.

I thought they were absolutely amazing.

But once those spreads were put to use, I soon realized they weren’t always as helpful as I thought they would be.

Why? Because tarot readings are conversations, and like any other dialogue, they flow in new and unexpected directions.

Which meant that once my readings started, sometimes my querents would say, “I think I have some different questions I need to explore instead.”

Inevitably, many of my big, beautiful, customized tarot spreads would go out the window in order to accommodate a more organic tarot...

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What I Want to Tell You About Tarot

I’ve shared this story a lot before, so if you’ve heard it already, I hope you’ll humour me for a moment.

When I got my first tarot deck, I had very skewed expectations about what would happen when I opened up that card pack.

I had (wrongly) assumed that as soon as I flipped over a few cards, I’d somehow know exactly what they were telling me.

Even though I had no idea what exactly I was hoping to find out. Nor did I consider what kind of messages tarot might even give me.

I had a vague idea that I’d get a glimpse of the future. But I was also in high school at the time, keeping a relatively routine schedule between going to a co-op in the morning, classes in the afternoon, and a part-time job after school.

What kind of big reveal was I hoping for? I had no idea. My life was pretty predictable at the time.

But I wasn’t questioning myself at the time, or thinking much about the how or why of tarot.

And unfortunately, the pressure I’d put on...

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Why is it so hard for new tarot readers to get clients?

A few years ago, I was hired to teach a few private classes to someone who had just started reading tarot. She had bought her first deck a few months before she booked on for some lessons.

After our fourth lesson together, I got an email from her: “I forgot to ask you something in our class today,” she wrote. “How much do you think I should charge for my readings?”

I was surprised.

Our lessons at that point only totaled up to about four hours of study. This student had also only ever read tarot for herself.

Given what we’d covered in our classes so far, I knew she still had a lot to learn.

I wrote back an honest response, telling her it was way too soon to worry about charging for readings. “Focus on learning how to read tarot first,” I said.

Practice, practice, practice is always my mantra with new students.

This wasn’t the first instance I’ve had this question, and it wasn’t the last.

There are a lot of reasons why I...

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How to prepare for a tarot reading

When you’re scheduled to do a tarot reading for someone, what should you do in advance to get ready for it?

Do you have to spend hours in deep meditation?

Should you be clearing your workspace, or clearing your deck?

Setting out crystals or other tools?

You can do all of the above, if you feel it’s necessary.

You can also do none of the above – especially if you don’t feel it adds anything to your process. (That’s right: You can read tarot without any big, fancy rituals involved.)

So what do I do to prepare for a tarot reading?

I like to take advice I received from one of my teachers, Rebecca Gordon: Go out and live your life.

What does that mean?

Go outside. Go about your day.

Watch for any signs, patterns, or themes that might speak to the flavour of the moment.

Tune into the energy of the day: What kind of mood are people in? What’s the pace of the world around you?

This may or may not have anything to do with your reading, or with your...

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Facing insecurity as a tarot reader

Reading tarot, whether for yourself or others, can stir up a lot of insecurities.

It’s normal to feel nervous when you’re reading for someone, especially if you’re still learning. But even experienced readers aren’t immune to a case of the nerves every now and then.

We’re all human, after all. And while reading tarot does get easier with time and experience, it’s still a skill that requires a lot of effort, concentration, and focus.

It also requires readers go out on a limb to offer messages, insights, and interpretations that might feel disparate, unexpected, or unclear at times. Even when a reader feels in flow with their cards, you don’t necessarily know why certain messages are important, or how they connect to a querent’s life.

But your job is to deliver what you’re seeing in the cards, no matter how little you know about the context of someone else’s situation.

That alone can be uncomfortable at times, especially when...

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