What makes Tarot Tarot?

I feel compelled to write this post, because I came accross people advising complete Tarot novices, who are asking how best to start out learning to use the cards, that they do NOT need to learn ANYTHING but should just pick up a deck and read “intuitively”.

Now, I am not one for telling people what to do, but I am sorry – that is just wrong!Tarot is a very specific system – the structure of a Tarot deck is what distinguishes it from other systems such as Oracle Decks. Saying you do not need to learn the basics is like saying you can get in a car and figure out how to make it go, without learning the traffic rules or safety procedures.

If your deck does not follow this structure, it is not a Tarot deck. And if you don’t work within this structure, you are not reading Tarot…

I honestly believe that you need to do some groundwork first, so you have a solid foundation to fall back on – once you know the basic structure of a Tarot deck and have an idea of what is depicted in the cards, you can leave the beaten path and think as far outside of the box as you want! Hell, you can even throw the box out if you choose.What happens when you just open a Tarot deck and start interpreting the images, is another process all together – it is Free Association, a psychological tool that can be very useful – but you are NOT reading the Tarot!

I use my Tarot cards for so many things: meditation, affirmation, manifestation, spellwork, dream guidance,… but at those times, I am NOT reading Tarot!

We have to move away from this “don’t read the book”-attitude.READ THE BOOKS PEOPLE!!!

Some very experienced Tarotists have gone to great lengths to write them for you and they are a tool for learning. Look at online resources, join groups and ask questions from other Readers, compare different books – then, YES PLEASE, do add your personal insights and interpretations to the mix. But you can not have insight in to something you know nothing about.

All this does not mean you have to study for ages before you can do a Reading.

You don’t have to memorise long lists of possible meanings – just know that a Tarot deck consists of a Major and Minor Arcana and what they relate to, that you have 4 suits and each suit has 10 numerical cards and 4 Court cards, what each suit represents and one or two keywords for each card…

Whilst learning all this, you can draw cards and use them in spreads, and there is NOTHING wrong with checking the guidebook for meanings! You learn through repetition.

Tarot is a skill and all skills take some practise!

Reading “intuitively” does NOT mean just winging it – it means you know whether you need to amplify or tone down the energy of a card, how to expand, adapt and interpret the meanings and apply them to a specific situation, which spread is best to use, etc.

I think people are confusing “interpretation” with “meaning” – when you know the basic meaning of a card, you can interpret it in many different ways – and that is where the “intuitive” part comes in.

People who are making accurate predictions, using Tarot cards, without knowing ANYTHING about the structure or the meanings, are either practising free association (so using psychology), doing a psychic reading, channeling spirit guides, using their empathic powers, etc. And that is wonderful, brilliant, skillful,… but they are not doing a Tarot Reading…

If you want to use the cards for Free Association, or any of the other things I mentioned, then of course that is fine!

In fact, Tarot lends itself exceptionally well for that – but why not call it what it is?

Say you are doing psychic readings using Tarot, or say you are an Empath using Tarot to focus, or you Channel a Spirit Guide using Tarot as a tool for interpretation… but don’t say you are doing a Tarot Reading. Of course, if you know and use Tarot as it was meant to, you can do a combination of things!



  1. Great advice! You really do need to have knowledge of the basic foundation. As a newbie Tarot (about 1 year now since I got my first deck) I can say from experience, it’s really not as easy as picking up a deck & just going for it. You have to put some time & effort into doing a bit of study, decks come with a book for a reason!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think people are confusing MEANING with INTERPRETATION – the two are not the same… you can not interpret something you do not know the meaning of. But if you know the basic meaning, you can interpret the card in a way that makes it meaningful to your querent. That is were the “intuitive” part comes in!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you! Just about got crucified for saying this on another forum lol but I stand by what I said. I love that Tarot has been having this huge revival these last few years and so many people take an interest – but with the rising popularity also come a lot of people who think being a Tarot Reader is very cool, but don’t want to make any effort to learn… anything good is worth some effort and you will get back tenfold what you put in! It’s all this “intuitive reading” talk that gets a bit misconstrued?


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