How-to Read Tarot Cards

Alicia McGowan
Mar 30, 2017 · 6 min read

Divination, Spiritual Energies, and Correspondences Unleashed

Text and Images by: Alicia McGowan

Photo by: Alicia McGowan

Do you believe in fortune telling? This is not the stereotypical fortune-telling psychic with a deck of cards on the side of the road trying to make a quick $50. Tarot is complex yet beautiful tool used for divination to connect to the universe. Some may say it is strange, while others value it’s quirkiness of the unknown that the universe knows.

There is a stigma with tarot and tarot card readers and some think the standard reader is trying to make a quick buck. Many negative connotations are associated with this skill and I am here to show you the real side to what tarot means and what it can do for yourself as well as others. Don’t get tricked, spooked, or waste your money, duh. Learn the basics on how-to read and find the right individuals who can actually convey a meaningful message through tarot.

Know this for sure. Many people think tarot is a game, when in reality tarot cards can convey meaning. When reading tarot cards, there is a typical spread based on the future, present, and past. Individuals have the opportunity to experience something new and learn something about themselves in a spiritual way.

Joie de Vivre Tarot Deck Photo by: Alicia McGowan

Today’s tarot card designs and readings reflect specific trends in sexuality, religion, culture, and philosophy. People are turning to tarot cards for cultural and sociological trends through a more artistic angle. While others are looking to know about what events will occur in the near future.

There are a number of ways on how to read tarot cards. Tarot is a game to some, just like it was back when it was created in the 1440s. However to others, tarot is a form of divination. There are different ways of reading tarot cards based on the spread or layout of the cards. Some tarot readers choose to go by the book and use models, while others use tools such as crystals, ruins, and different decks.

For beginners, a basic Celtic cross spread may be ideal, but laying the cards in a linear way can open the possibilities for the cards to interact. Witches Brew employee and tarot card reader, Andrew, says a major tip would be to “learn the basic meanings of the cards and expand your knowledge at that point, [it’s like] laying the groundwork.”

Andrew Bifulco, 28, has been interested in supernatural things ever since he was a young teenager, and has had an interest in ceremonial magic traditions, the Golden Dawn, and The Tree of Life as an overall framework. He reads tarot cards with a deeper meaning and believes in the cards corresponding to certain meanings.

“If someone is looking to learn tarot, pull a single card every day and try to give yourself a daily reading and play around with different spreads. It’s almost like getting to know a person, talking to them a bit more everyday.” — Bifulco

Being introduced to tarot depends heavily on the individual and what they are comfortable with. There are different styles on how an individual frames or goes ahead with a reading. Some are introduced by psychic readings, magic, books, the Golden Dawn, Reiki, or current trends.

Anna Iccari, Reiki Master and tarot card reader, has been reading tarot cards as a hobby for 2 years. She dove right in to the tarot world when she joined a free tarot class, which was a composed of a group of people that all had a variety of skills and abilities including: numerology, astrology, Reiki, and tarot. Anna always wondered how it could be possible that people were capable of reading someone’s future. She continues to practice her skills and now reads at local festivals in the Hudson Valley, over the phone, and in person.

Many sources including Anna, say before jumping into reading tarot cards it is important to do research and obtain knowledge.

“I think that you need an introduction, so I don’t think it is something you should do on your own. If you are not spiritual yet, you have to learn what the cards mean and you have to put your energy into the cards and that takes practice.” — Iccari

Joy Dejesus, who is new to reading tarot cards and does it occasionally as a hobby, believes that the cards are a tool for divination. She mentions that tarot can be dangerous if the person reading is not knowledgeable and if someone goes in with malicious intentions.

If someone chooses to believe everything and make abrupt changes according to the reading, this can be dangerous. It is important to keep in mind that not every tarot card reading may be the best. Knowing the right places on where to go and people to surround yourself with, can help make the experience more magical. Coming from a good heart and positive aura would be ideal when reading for someone else.

“I only had one bad experience and that was because the people that had the business were just out to make money, so they kind of robbed us.” — Dejesus

Joy gets her cards read occasionally and has always taken something from all of the readings that she’s gone to because, they gave her some information that she knew to be true about herself.

The following steps are instructional to physically reading tarot cards from pulling from a standard deck. It is recommended by Joy and Anna to start reading in a group setting, and surrounding yourself with people who have some sort of idea about what is going on. Use proper discretion and make sure you are ready when reading cards for someone else because many people will take the message and hold onto it.


  1. Create a calm and relaxing environment
  2. Shuffle and put energy into the cards
  3. Draw a card
  4. Use a spread or layout if needed
  5. If you have the spiritual feeling and the divination aspect is present, say what you feel, especially when the first image pops into your head
  6. Look for symbols in the illustrations of the card
  7. Interpret and unpack the meaning by reading the card, based on the question
  8. End the session
  9. Keep practicing to get better
Photo by: Alicia McGowan


Divination is to foresee the future and to seek knowledge from supernatural powers.

Major arcana has 22 of these cards which represent different stages in life. An example would be the Moon card. These are more major staple cards.

Minor arcana has 56 of these cards including suits. An example would be the 2 of Cups.

Cartomancy is fortune telling using cards such as the Tarot

Reiki is a spiritual healing technique channeling other people’s energies to promote health and stress relief.

Tarot deck is made up of 78 card, 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana, with distinctive meanings.

Supernatural is an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe, can be a higher being, spirit, demigod, god, ghost, etc.

Golden Dawn is a “comprehensive set of ideas, lectures, initiatory ceremonies and magical techniques, which are still kept alive by a large number of active practitioners throughout the world and share the same traditional structure.” []

Ceremonial magic is when the practitioner uses rituals with a mix of occult teachings to call upon the spirit world

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