Just starting to learn about Tarot? Don’t really know where to start? As a longtime reader, teacher, and author on the Tarot, I thought it might be appropriate to share a basic introduction to the world of Tarot. I’m not a historian, and honestly, I don’t pretend to have anything but the most rudimentary facts concerning the history of Tarot. I just have a love of the divination tool, and for me, it is best to view it as another tool in the toolbox for gaining insight into the bigger questions and using my intuition.


An oracle is a person or thing considered to provide wise and insightful counsel or prophetic predictions, most notably including precognition of the future, inspired by deities. As such, it is a form of divination.


***To me, technically, the actual oracle is the person using the tool of divination, but we often refer to the tool itself as the oracle. For our purposes here, we will refer to the Tarot cards as an oracle.***

Oracles have been around for as long as man has had questions.  As far back as the first civilizations on the Earth, people have been using oracles to help them tap into the divine – the universal consciousness – to get answers to their most pressing questions of survival and of living. Because we create our reality (our reality is as we perceive it to be), and because the universal consciousness is the constant in the use of all oracles, virtually anything can be used.

From the practice of “throwing the bones” to reading tea leaves, to the I Ching, to the Nordic Runes to Tarot and modern-day variations on all of these themes, humans have always wanted to find a way to get answers, and every one of these methods are valid ways to help interpret the messages of the universe.  

Learning to Read the Tarot

The Tarot has a vast history and an interesting story behind it.  I encourage anyone who would like to learn more, to do so.  There are libraries that could be filled with the information gathered over time about this divination system and how it came to be.

Learning to read the Tarot can be like opening the door to a whole new world. It embodies its own cultural and linguistic experience, and it can feel intimidating and adventurous, and wonderful, all at the same time. My goal as a teacher and a writer has been to make Tarot accessible to everyone, so typically talk about Tarot in plain language and leave out a lot of the arcane and superfluous information you may get from other sources

I encourage people to find an easy-to-understand manual or guide (the one I wrote can be purchased here) so you can explore through your own personal experience with this rich and endless reservoir of knowledge and inspiration. I believe in teaching and using the Tarot in an intuitive and practical way to access your higher consciousness and that of the universe to help us find the answers we are looking for.

When I teach Tarot to my students, I always focus on having them read the cards intuitively. I feel that common symbols, emotions, and energy run throughout the universe, and tapping into that universal consciousness is what the Tarot is particularly good for.

Tarot Decks

My favorite deck for use with beginners, and truthfully, the deck I still use myself most of the time, is the Morgan-Greer Tarot Deck. I typically suggest this deck to new readers, or even the traditional Ryder-Waite deck, or one of the other deck variations that align closely with that original Ryder-Waite. I find these decks to be accessible and easier to understand for new readers than some of the newer, more innovative decks.   I feel that the simplicity of these decks and the use of common symbolism make them great decks to learn with.

Whatever deck you choose to use, just understand that the images you see before you hold a universe of symbolism, and tapping into that is what makes being able to “read” a message for yourself or someone else possible.

Every Tarot deck out there has its unique symbolism and graphic representation of the various cards. Many decks journey fairly far afield of the most traditional Tarot, and still, they are perfectly good decks, although you may need to learn them as a separate oracle system.  Whatever deck you choose, I recommend studying the individual images and format of the deck as its own system.  Some things may be the same across many decks, and other things may differ so dramatically that it will only confuse you if you try to think of all of the decks as the “same.”  Most decks come with a manual or a guidebook of some sort, and I encourage you to use that as you start to become more familiar and comfortable with the use of that particular set of images and symbols.

A Quick Rundown of the Tarot Deck

Most modern-day Tarot decks have 78 cards. There are some variations that have a couple more cards or a couple fewer in their decks, but by far, the most common is the 78-card deck.


Wikipedia does such a succinct job of breaking down the main parts of a Tarot deck, I felt like just referencing that here, was enough. I will add a couple of notes to the Wikipedia entry, however. Some of the newer and sometimes more stylized decks will change things around a little bit. They will shift around the names of some of the Major Arcana, sometimes renaming some of the cards to match the theme of their deck, and sometimes the cards will be slightly re-ordered.

Also, in the case of the Minor Arcana, the main difference I sometimes see in naming convention has to do with the Knight and Page cards, which sometimes get names like “Prince and Princess” or something like that. Also, another popular name for the suit of cups is the suit of “hearts.”

A Note About the Minor Arcana

The four suits of the Minor Arcana generally represent the four directions and each suit is correlated with one of four elements.

  • Rods deal with spirituality and passion and represent the elemental force of fire.  
  • Swords deal with mental and scholarly processes and represent the elemental force of air.  
  • Cups deal with emotions, love, and relationships and represent the elemental force of water.  
  • Pentacles deal with money, home, earthly possessions, and other manifestations on the physical plane and represent the elemental force of earth.

Some decks correlate the suits slightly differently, but rather than get bogged down in that, for the purposes of this writing, we’ll just stick to the above. Having said that, it just sort of reinforces the idea that when you are first learning Tarot, especially, it is usually best to find the deck you like and use it exclusively for a while until you are more comfortable. You can always branch out to other decks in the future.

Final Words

Hopefully, this introduction to Tarot and Tarot decks has helped you to understand some of the basics a little bit better. The truth is that you can spend your entire lifetime studying the Tarot and you still won’t know everything. But you just have to start somewhere.

Just remember that whatever deck you use, whatever manual you get, and whatever system you choose to go with, Tarot cards (like any other oracle system) are just a tool or a framework from which to start working.  They hold no answers in and of themselves. They are just the gateway to your higher consciousness and the universal consciousness.

Ultimately, you are the interpreter, not me, not the manual or book or any other resource out there.  Deep down, you know what you are seeing and what it means. When you allow this knowing to come out, that is when you will see just how amazingly intuitive you are! Trust yourself and your knowing.  That is the most important key to being a great Tarot reader!

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