Ways to Practice Reading Tarot Cards

by James Ricklef

James RicklefAfter having taught quite a few Tarot classes, I found that one of the hardest things for my Tarot students to do is to find ways to continue practicing their Tarot skills after they have completed my class. I can
help students find card meanings that work for them, I can show them the steps to take when doing a reading, and I can explain to them a variety of useful spreads. But unless they put all that theory into
practice, what they learned in class will fade from their minds, and ultimately they will end up with little more ability to read the cards than they had before taking my class. Indeed, practice is the essential final step in the learning process.

Some students are lucky enough to have friends or family members who are open to getting a Tarot reading, but many are not. And even those with access to willing subjects can benefit from additional means of practice. With that in mind, I have compiled the following list of ways that a beginning Tarot student can practice the art of reading Tarot cards. (Of course, these suggestions also can help an advanced student hone his or her Tarot skills as well.)

Tarot Buddies

The most obvious suggestion is to find a "Tarot Buddy" with whom you can get together periodically in order to do readings for each other. Alternatively, the two of you can take turns doing self-readings wherein you do a reading for yourself while your partner observes and comments where appropriate. Readings for ourselves are generally the hardest ones to do, but having an objective observer to tell us when it is our ego, not our intuition, that is talking and to help us see around our blind spots can be a valuable aid to learning how to read Tarot cards.


The problem with this idea, however, lies in finding such a Tarot Buddy. I encourage my students to make such connections with other people in the class, but there are other ways as well. For one, some occult bookstores provide a bulletin board where you might post a request for a Tarot Buddy, and some stores host occult or new age events where you can meet other Tarot enthusiasts. You might also try local Psychic Fairs and regional or national Tarot events such as the annual Los Angeles Tarot Symposium (LATS), the annual Bay Area Tarot Symposium (BATS), and the Tarot School's annual Readers Studio. The opportunity to meet and connect with other Tarotists is one of the many attractions of such events.

Local Tarot clubs are another great way to meet other Tarotists. If you are lucky, you might be able to find a Tarot club near you, but if not, consider starting one of your own. The Tarot School's Tarot Tips newsletter is a great place to post an inquiry about a club near you, but you also might try using one of the many online Tarot groups. (For example, there are quite a few Yahoo! Tarot groups.)

But what if you just cannot find a Tarot Buddy? Admittedly, that option tends to be less feasible for some people, especially those who are not living in a large metropolitan area. Fortunately, if you do not have anyone — a friend, relative, or Tarot Buddy — to do readings for, there are other ways to practice.

Trivial Pursuits

Although the hardest person to do a reading for is yourself, you are, by far, the most available subject for readings. What usually makes self-readings so difficult is the fact that whenever your ego has a vested interest in the results of the reading, it will try to intrude and shout down your intuition, which it can do quite easily. Meditative practice can help you overcome this problem, but an easy way to get around it is to begin with small, one-card readings for relatively trivial questions, i.e., questions in which your ego does not have much of a vested interest. Doing such readings starts you off slowly and allows you to practice with baby steps before you try to run. After all, being able to do a ten-card Celtic Cross reading to gain insights into your love life, for example, is an admirable goal, but for many Tarot students, it is an overly daunting challenge. The following are but a few suggestions for minor questions that you might use:

    What should you do for dinner — go out (and if so, where?)
    or make something at home (and if so, what?)

    What movie should you go to see (or to rent)?

    What fun thing might you do today?

Tarot Journaling

Pulling one card daily and recording its message for the day is a common practice called Tarot Journaling. The following are a few suggested ways to journal with the cards, but there is no right or wrong way. Feel free to experiment until you find what works best for you.

journal One journaling technique that works well is to pick a card in the morning and note what it seems to say at that time. It may be a comment about your plans for the day, or its message may be more general in that it concerns what is going on in your life right now. Sometimes the message of the card may address very practical issues, and sometimes it may lend philosophical or spiritual insights into your state of affairs. In any case, when you delve into a card to find its relevance to your life, you essentially are doing a one-card reading for yourself.

Then in the evening you can reflect back on the events of the day to see in retrospect what the relevance of your daily card was. This step can provide valuable feedback on how well you did your one-card reading in the morning.

Besides using your daily card for a general one-card reading, you also can use it for a very specific intent. Currently, I am using my daily card to show me what I should be grateful for in my life. As another example, you might use your daily card to suggest an affirmation for the day. These more specific ways of journaling with a Tarot card provide excellent practice in the art of interpreting a card's meaning within the constraints of a positional definition, which is what you need to do for the various cards in a multi-card spread.

Famous, Fictional, and Philosophical Readings

Another suggestion is to do readings for famous people, such as someone currently in the news or an historical figure at some crisis point in his or her life. You also can do readings for fictional characters, perhaps to see where their lives may be headed after the end of the story. My books KnightHawk's Tarot Readings, Tarot Tells the Tale, and Tarot: Get the Whole Story all provide many examples of this process.

If you care to get a bit more philosophical with your readings, you can use them to address metaphysical issues. You might, for example, try to do a reading to answer the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?” For excellent examples of such readings, see the book The Forest of Souls wherein the author, Rachel Pollack, presents “Wisdom readings,” which she uses to delve into thought-provoking issues such as the nature of the soul and of divinity.

So you can see that practicing your Tarot skills can take many forms. You may do readings for God (as Pollack did) or for Abraham Lincoln or Scrooge (as I have). You can keep a Tarot Journal, use the cards to help you make mundane, everyday decisions, or share readings with a Tarot Buddy. But no matter how you choose to work with the cards in a divinatory practice, you will deepen your understanding of the Tarot and hone your ability to do Tarot readings. And although (contrary to the old adage) practice may not make you perfect, it certainly will bring you a bit closer to that lofty goal.

James Ricklef is a Certified Tarot Master — a Tarot reader, lecturer, and freelance writer. For the past five years he has been a regularly scheduled workshop presenter at the annual Los Angeles Tarot Symposium (LATS). In May of 2005 he was one of the featured instructors at The Readers Studio.

You can visit James' blog at http://jamesricklef.wordpress.com/