This article is for new students, and the pros are welcome to add any pointers they feel they wish they had known when they were first starting out in the field (on Twitter please!).
The world of tarot isn't just magical, it's very practical. Why? Each card represents an archetype or an element of one and, even if you never actually read for anyone else, you'll have found a way into your higher mind and open heart for the benefit of all.
Make no mistake—tarot changes lives.
The Tarot To-Do List below is a practical guideline for the attitude toward the reading and not so much for the technical work. One assumes that the reader has their cards (preferably if they have been a gift—got a birthday coming up?), read several books, and is venturing out to experience a reading first-hand. The tarot school they come from will not affect the steps below; in fact, it will enhance the direction toward which the divine is guiding them.
For optimal results there are a few things that can augment readings and herein are several, brought forward as gentle suggestions: it will be the divine that offers the environment in which one reads and by no means is there a suggestion of interference with that.
The archetypes are something one needs to familiarize themselves with before allowing the cards to communicate their messages, unless of course one is a hardcore friend of The Clairs.
Below, just to get the feet wet; there are outlines to the three precursors to tarot. They are not prerequisites per se, though being able to call on their energetic realities in the material world and be witness to, that is, observe their possible presence in oneself and others, is of great benefit to learning the more technical side to reading tarot. And they're just way cool, so…
This collective word phrase includes any or all types of psychic sensitivity corresponding to the senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching. Clair Senses in psychic terms are translated: clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, clairscent, clairtangency, and clairgustance. Additional gifts are clairempathy and channeling.
Clairvoyant (clear vision) -- To reach into another vibrational frequency and visually perceive "within the mind's eye" something existing in that realm. A clairvoyant is one who receives extrasensory impressions, and symbols in the form of "inner sight" or mental images which are perceived without the aid of the physical eyes and beyond the limitations of ordinary time and space. These impressions are more easily perceived in an alpha state and during meditation, though many clairvoyants can obtain visual information regarding the past, present and future in a variety of environments.
Clairaudience (clear audio /hearing) -- To perceive sounds or words and extrasensory noise, from sources broadcast from spiritual or ethereal realm, in the form of "inner ear" or mental tone which are perceived without the aid of the physical ear and beyond the limitations of ordinary time and space. These tones and vibrations are more easily perceived in an alpha state and during meditation, though many clairaudients can obtain verbal and sound-related information regarding the past, present and future in a variety of environments. Most Channelers (also known as Mediums) work with both clairvoyance and clairaudience.
Clairsentience (clear sensation or feeling) - To perceive information by a "feeling" within the whole body, without any outer stimuli related to the feeling or information. (Also see clairempathy)
Clairscent (clear smelling) – To smell a fragrance/odor of substance or food which is not in one's surroundings. These odors are perceived without the aid of the physical nose and beyond the limitations of ordinary time and space.
Clairtangency (clear touching) -- More commonly known as psychometry. To handle an object or touch an area and perceive through the palms of one's hands information about the article or its owner or history that was not previously known by the clairtangent.
Clairgustance (clear tasting) -- To taste a substance without putting anything in one's mouth. It is claimed that those who possess this ability are able to perceive the essence of a substance from the spiritual or ethereal realms through taste.
Clairempathy (clear emotion) – An Empath is a person who can psychically tune in to the emotional experience of a person, place or animal. Clairempathy is a type of telepathy to sense or feel within one's self, the attitude, emotion or ailment of another person or entity. Empaths tune into the vibrations and "feel" the tones of the aura.
Channel -- A person who allows his/her body and mind to be used as a mechanism for etheric world intelligence to bring psychic information or healing energy to others.
Channeling -- To allow an etheric world intelligence to enter one's mind and impress thoughts upon the consciousness to be spoken aloud, using one's voice or body to deliver the information or healing energy.
The above human capabilities are not exclusive to psychics—this phenomenon can be cultivated—your connection to Source strengthens, as will The Clairs. Generally, one sense is particularly open while the others act as supporting roles, though sometimes all of them are accessible, and it is a gift to work with each psychic sense in moderation and without overloading the earth-based nervous system. Caution is recommended when setting out to study any esoteric field, as one must be grounded to receive from Source with humility for the good of all: just cuz.
Anyone reading this article will probably understand the concept that humans are flat-out servants to the divine, and the job description is simply to spread love in the most objective way possible. Turn empathy into compassion and there are no wrong turns.
To conjure these energies one can call on various accoutrements that support spiritual work in general and one's personal practice in particular. Yep, introductions to the ever-lovin' altar are in order.
One's altar is as personal as private thoughts, and the expression one chooses is entirely subjective. A minimalist? or… Something the Vatican would like (or dislike)? The main thing is to create a safe place for one's spiritual work, where no one else interferes between the practitioner and their connection with the divine.
Old English alter, altar "altar," from Latin altare (plural altaria) […] perhaps originally meaning "burnt offerings" (compare Latin adolere "to worship, to offer sacrifice, to honor by burning sacrifices to"), but influenced by Latin altus "high." In Middle English, often auter, from Old French auter. Latin spelling restored 1500s. As a symbol of marriage, by 1820. Altar-piece is from 1640s; altar-boy [girl] from 1772.
© 2001-2017 Douglas Harper
Anything kept on the altar (and one can even have it outside in a special place in nature or in the mind, if there's no appropriate space for it in the immediate physical environment) acts as a bridge and supports communication with Source. It's no more complicated than that. The following is a brief lowdown on the four basic natural elements and what they can offer one's spiritual practice. While reading, allow images of any objects that wish to arise, and perhaps they would be perfect for the altar. If one chooses not to identify with the word "altar," it's perfectly fine, just look around the personal space for that special place to keep the stuff of love, it's exactly the same thing!
Relating Oneself to the Elements
The elements connect with emotions, personalities, thinking styles, and with other aspects of experience, including what one sees and one's spiritual experience. In these areas the elements can be immediately recognized, that is, if there is an understanding of what the elements are. The following descriptions are brief and focus on the elements that one readily experiences on a daily basis. They show general emotional, energetic, and mindful experiences anyone already has, and show patterns of behavior easily seen in oneself or others.
It is important to understand that each element contains all the others, and they work with and against each other as energies mix, just as the weather does throughout the seasons!
When earth is balanced, there is a sense of stability, grounding, and confidence. One is responsible and takes life seriously.
If there is too much earth, there might be heavy thought patterns, feeling the blahs, lazy or rigid attitudes, and unclear dull energy. Too solid. There's very little interest to move and creativity is lacking.
The obvious choices for earth on the altar are gemstones or any earthy item that means something, like that wild root from the trip to Guadalupe! Flowers, rocks, and any images of land animals that resonate, or other earth-centric imagery can all be placed on the altar to represent the earth element.
When the water element is in balance, there is comfort in life. It literally irrigates the three centers: physical, intellectual, and emotional. Water allows easy movement around and through daily events and relationships in life and gives the ability to nurture and be in touch with intuition.
Too much water shows up as a lot of feeling and emotion and sometimes the need for everything to be "comfortable." Too much of this can let responsibilities slide and there is a tendency to float through life.
Choosing reps for water often involve a literal cup or bowl of water. Seashells or coral (legally obtained!) are great and add a warm flowing quality to the sacred space.
Positive fire gives the experience of joy, clarity, open-heartedness, compassion, initiating creative projects, enthusiasm… crackling like fire! It's not too hard to imagine the opposite effect if fire gets out of hand. Confusion, hyperactivity, or erratic impulsivity can rule the senses and, as fire is one of the quicker elements to erupt, it's important to keep this one in immediate balance.
Candles! Mmm… lovely, anything red/orange/gold can also be added to the mix, additional items such as incense and other herbs for burning during a ritual practice (if there is one) are some examples of how to bring fire to the altar. Sound yummy, in a medieval kinda way…
Air is the element that promotes change and, when balanced, can transform negative into positive energy at the flip of a switch! Air relates to curiosity, learning and a flexible intellect.
When air is out of whack, it usually means that earth and water are needed. There is little stability or security. It's difficult to focus and the need to shift from one place to another is pronounced. Fidgety, one finds they cannot accept things as they are and is constantly trying to change the outcome. Inner gravity needs support.
Air stuff? Well, feathers of course J and bells or chimes. Plus the wafting action of the incense or a sage stick also utilizes the air element nicely; one can also place the image of a bird to give a strong sense of life to the altar.
The essence of the above information is to be taken as literally as you wish or not at all. Many readers are bare-bonz-stylz and have no altar whatsoever—the important aspect of elemental knowledge is the intention to balance for the greatest clarity possible in your readings. How you go about that is your choice. Respect.
As for archetypes, Carl Gustav Jung has the simplest explanation for the term, and he also experimented with tarot and had a good deal to do with supporting its validity as a bona fide tool for active imagination (Jung, 1933). Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be arrived at indirectly, by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. Carl Jung understood archetypes as universal, primitive patterns and images deriving from the collective unconscious that stand as the direct psychic counterpart of instinct. They are inherited potentials, materialized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world. They are independent, hidden forms that transform once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. Cool, right?
So in short, an archetype is an image that has arrived to the current moment through many performances of others who have experienced them on the level described above. They work through the levels of the mind and help cleanse the psychic shadow, or are a part of it! But that's another article, yikes!
Tarot To-Do List
Now that there's a bit of background to the act of reading tarot cards, it's time to jump right in and go through the steps as attentively as you are able.
1. Tune in for a bit, and get into a comfortable yet respectful posture that this work naturally assumes. There is no one way, the only need is that you have an understanding that you are approaching a higher power here, so call on your humility at this point, if it is lacking (which happens all the time because we're totally human and it's perfectly fine to need to remind yourself of the divine presence inside of you, no judgment!).
2. Call the divine and any spiritual aids that help you focus your attention on the present moment as you shuffle the cards. Archangels? Fabulous...
3. Request that the following reading be from your highest self with humility and love for the benefit of all.
4. Keep shuffling (see tarot card shuffling techniques here!) and say aloud the purpose of your reading, as many times as feels right—this process pretty much takes its own course when you trust the divine to lead the way.
5. Having chosen your spread (see tarot spread formations here), lay the cards down with the same rhythm that the divine has set the tone for up until now, allowing your higher mind to scan the cards and bringing your intellect into play to begin the interpretation.
6. Once all the cards are present, the reading may begin. How you move through the reading depends on your philosophy of tarot and which school of thought you come from, but again, whichever that is, simply allow the divine to govern your basic understanding of the tarot up until now. One assumes you know the spread and the placement of the cards and what they represent generally. Specifically, now you will relate the cards to the current purpose of your reading.
7. Let The Clairs out! Woohoo!
8. The story emerges and you can document it as you go or, if you're reading for someone there with you, recording the reading can be helpful.
9. After the gist of the reading is clear, there might be one or more areas on which you or the querent would like even more clarity, and so you can now pull other cards to do so. The style is up to the reader: you can choose random cards; shuffle again with an audible request; use a completely different tarot or oracle deck or mode of divination such as runes or chiromancy, etc.
10. On completion of the reading (the divine will also be very clear as to when the reading has ended), thank the divine and any spiritual aids you called forth for the reading and if you have some form of closure blessing, now is the time to say it. Sever any connections with The Clairs and rest in the finality of the moment. Now is the time to return to earth-bound consciousness, in gratitude.
Hope this list and fun exploration of the energies surrounding tarot practice have been beneficial. Pleasant readings to all!