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How Do Tarot Readings Work?

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

I’m so glad you asked, let me tell you …

To begin, it’s important to know that there is no ‘one’ way to do a tarot reading, as each tarot reader works in his or her own unique way. This means that my explanation of how I do a tarot reading may differ greatly from another reader’s, so what I write here is how ‘I‘ work and not the definitive answer to how ‘it‘ works. Also, book after book has been written about the ins and outs of tarot readings so this is just an introduction into this mahoosive topic.

Right, disclaimer over, the second thing to know is that the tarot cards themselves are actually just a tool. They are not magic cards imbued with spirits that dance across the table and tell you your fortune. They are simply cards – pieces of paper with images and words on them. In fact, some psychics I know use traditional playing cards instead of tarot cards to do their readings and get exactly the same results.

Unfortunately it doesn’t help that tarot cards in most films and television programmes are presented as being something spooky and magical only used by gnarled witches and scary-looking gypsies (yawn, zzzzzzzzz) which they are not. There are also all sorts of myths about how the cards can only be used if kept wrapped in purple silk cloth weaved on the second highest mountain in the Himalayas, nestled in a box handed down for fifteen generations and bathed under moonlight every second month.


They. Are. Just. Cards. No magic. No spells. No spookiness. (Tarot is sooooo overdue an image overhaul, if only it could hire it’s own PR.)

Now, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t be treated with respect, and looked after. Is a painter careless with his brushes and drop them down the toilet or let his paints rot in the open air? Is a writer careless with her Apple MacBook, chucking it on the sofa or dropping cups of tea on it? No, they are not. So tarot cards are like any other precious tool. You look after them, and you respect them. And if that means that you do cover them with the softest handwoven silk and bathe them under moonlight then this is what you do. However, this is a choice, not a requisite.

Still with me so far? Ok good, so onto the reading itself.

In a nutshell, a good tarot reader uses the tarot deck alongside their finely-tuned intuitive skills to do a tarot reading, with the deck acting as a map or as a signpost to signal exactly what part of the sitter’s life to focus on in that moment. In other words:

Tarot reader + cards + intuition = tarot reading.

There are general meanings for each of the cards and suits, so for example, pentacles generally relate to the material aspects of money, work, business, income levels etc., so if a reader lays out the cards and the first three are all pentacles, then they immediately know which direction to take the reading into (the cards are acting as the map or signpost here). But, this is where their intuition comes in … the cards may have laid the groundwork for what aspect of the sitter’s life to focus on, but the reader must then use their psychic-intuitive skills to interpret the cards specifically for that person. This they do by focusing on the card and the person sitting in front of them and allowing their intuition to give them the information (NB: what intuition is and how it works specifically is a whole other blog post). Because a combination of the card and intuition is being used, a reader could lay out those same three pentacle cards for a myriad of different people, and each reading would be different, because of course, we are all different!

So how do you achieve this magical combination?

Well, firstly, you get yourself a good foundation in the general meaning of each card (you only really need a general overview, as learning specifics for each card would not only take for-e-va but would actually distract you from using your own intuition) and then, you practice, practice, practice accessing your intuition in order to fully ‘read’ the card. I believe we all have the capability to do readings, as we are all inherently intuitive beings; however, like anything in life – some of us will be better at it than others.

So, to recap, tarot cards aren’t magical, but they do need to be treated with respect, a tarot reader uses the deck to point them in the right direction, but uses their intuition to fully interpret the cards, and finally, we are all capable of it, but some of us will be better than others.

So that my friends, is how a tarot reading works. To learn more about the reading itself stay tuned for the next blog post!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them 🙂

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