What Are Tarot Cards and How Do They Work?


tarot reading

Tarot cards have always been a powerful tool for divination. They date back to the 15th century and are still relied on today. Each deck consists of 78 cards that can connect to our “higher selves.” They help us understand the direction of our lives so that we can peer into the future.

Tarot reading is a subsect of cartomancy. Also called Taromancy, it’s the art of using cards for divination. Anyone can learn how to read tarot cards as long as they open themselves to psychic powers. However, unlike some other psychic abilities, tarot reading isn’t innate. It requires you to study the cards to get to know their meaning. Only once you’ve properly studied the art can you attempt to interpret what the cards are trying to reveal.

If you’re interested in practicing Taromancy, or you’re planning to attend a reading for yourself, read on to learn more about this ancient art.

What are Tarot Cards? Understanding the Deck

The first thing you need to learn about tarot cards is what’s inside the deck. Tarot decks consist of 78 cards with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana.

Each card can reveal a powerful meaning if you know what to look for. The symbolism on each individual card is important. But it is also important to consider the placement or arrangement of the card in a spread.

Major Arcana

major arcanaThe Major Arcana cards are the beautifully embellished “picture” cards in a tarot deck. There are 22 Major Arcana cards numbered 0-21.

These cards are used to interpret “greater secrets” or life’s spiritual forces and karmic direction. Some of the Major Arcana cards include:

  • The Sun
  • The Moon
  • The Fool
  • The Magician
  • The Lovers
  • Strength/Justice
  • The Devil
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • The Hanged Man
  • Death
  • The Empress
  • The Emperor

Each of these cards hold a powerful meaning that is key for interpreting the entire spread. You will need to familiarize yourself with each of these arcana cards. This is the best way to get an accurate reading.

Minor Arcana

minor arcanaThe Minor Arcana are similar to the numbered and face cards in a regular playing deck. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards split into 4 suits (usually wands, swords, cups, and pentacles) and numbered 1-10. Each suit also has 4 face cards (the Page/Jack, the Knight, the Queen, and the King).

Minor Arcana cards are used to interpret “lesser secrets” or the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Understanding Tarot Spreads

After you’ve studied the imagery behind each individual card, you will need to learn how to understand spreads. Each tarot reading will begin by dealing a number of cards and placing them down in a specific arrangement or spread.

The position of each card in the tarot spread can change its meaning and how it should be interpreted. Two of the most common spreads in tarot reading are The Three Fates, and the Celtic Cross.

The Three Fates

The Three fates is the simpler of the two spreads, and a good starting point for beginner psychics. This spread involves dealing three cards face down. The first card represents the past, the second card represents the present, and the third card represents the future.

There are many different variations of three card spreads. For example, other three card spreads could interpret:

  •   How to Achieve Your Goals: Card 1: where you stand now / Card 2: where you want to be / Card 3: how to get there
  •   Understanding Love/Relationships: Card 1: what you want from a relationship / Card 2: what your partner wants / Card 3: where your relationship is heading
  •   Making a Decision:  Card 1: where Option 1 will take you / Card 2: where Option 2 will take you / Card 3: what you should keep in mind when making a decision

The Celtic Cross

celtic cross tarot spread

The Celtic Cross is a more advanced spread that contains 10 cards. There is a specific placement that forms a cross/circle on one side of the table, and a line on the other side. The position of these cards creates a specific meaning that can reveal truths about the present, current challenges, the past, the future, hopes/fears, advice, external influences, possible outcomes, and more.

These are just a few of the most common tarot spreads, but even by just mastering these two arrangements you can achieve meaningful results and unique spiritual insights.

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What Can Tarot Cards Do?

Tarot cards help us visualize the story of our lives. They hold up a mirror to our souls and require the reader to tap their inner wisdom in order to understand deeper truths.

Each deck of 78 cards helps us uncover spiritual lessons and guide us on the challenges of everyday life. In order to achieve a successful reading, we have to look beyond the conscious and subconscious mind to access inner wisdom and universal truths.

When used properly, tarot cards can be an incredible tool for direction and guidance.

Can Tarot Cards Predict the Future?

Close up of tarot cards lying on the table

Yes and no.

One of the most common misconceptions about divination is that every detail of the future is predetermined and that the results of your tarot reading are set in stone.

The truth is, the future is fluid. Tarot readings can help us understand the direction of our current path so that we can make changes to better our futures.

While some psychics believe that we have certain destinies and fates that are unavoidable, tarot readings can still help us face daily trials and tribulations. They can help us understand the direction of our lives, in order to make informed decisions that best support our desired futures.

In other words, tarot cards can help us predict where our futures are heading. If you want to change the outcome, it is up to you to take action in the present.

Where Do Tarot Cards Get Their Power?

Psychics have different beliefs on how tarot cards get their power. Some believe that a supernatural being, God, or spiritual force places the cards in a specific order to produce meaning. Others believe the arrangement of the cards is pure fate, and that it is up to the reader to use their own talent to make the right connections.

Most psychics agree, however, that in order to achieve a proper reading, you have to derive energy from within. You must look within your soul and use your own powers of intuition to interpret the meaning of the cards, and call on the universal wisdom of the collective mind.

What is the Difference Between a Question Reading and an Open Reading?

There are two main types of tarot readings: question readings and open readings.

  • Question readings. These are exactly what they sound like: they should help you make a decision about a specific problem you are facing. You should not go into these readings expecting a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but rather these readings can help guide you on how to make the best decisions to support your life goals. The minor arcana will be particularly important during question readings.
  • Open readings. Open readings, on the other hand, are designed to provide insights about larger aspects of life. They can help you understand the energies affecting major life changes, or help you provide insights into general areas (ie your relationship, career, health, family, etc). The major arcana will be particularly important during open readings.

Can You Use Tarot Cards to Ask Questions for Others?

One of the great things about tarot readings is that you can use them for personal guidance, or you can use them with friends.

In order to use your tarot cards on others, you will need to have their permission first. If you would like to ask a question, you will need to tap into the collective wisdom and use your powers of intuition to interpret the cards.

How to Choose a Tarot Deck

Tarot cards and hands of fortune teller on wooden table background.Choosing a tarot card deck and be an exciting step for both beginner and expert psychics. You should feel a personal connection to the deck and a special energy from the cards.

There are many different types of tarot decks on the market—some with traditional imagery and others with references to modern trends and pop culture. There are also travel sized and oversized decks that can be appropriate for various occasions.

If you need help finding the right deck for your needs, check out this guide on How To Choose The Perfect Tarot Card Deck.

Reading the Cards

Now that you know more about tarot cards and how they work, it’s time to experience a reading for yourself.

The cards can reveal powerful insights about our everyday lives. They can help us make important decisions, understand how to tackle a problem, or guide us on how to achieve a lifelong goal.

When we open ourselves to divination, we can look beyond what is right in front of us and perceive things beyond the conscious mind. All you need to do is put your trust in the cards, and use your own powers of intuition and perception in order to understand their deeper meanings.