So, there you are: you've got a Tarot deck in your hands and you're standing at the pivotal moment of your life when you decide that you want to learn Tarot. And, chances are, you're scared shitless. I get it! I've been where you are, and I understand what you're feeling. For the new student learning to read Tarot, the practice can be opaque and intimidating at the best of times, and confusing and frustrating at the worst of times. It's not easy being new, and I sympathize with your struggle.
But you know, this is the same struggle that anybody faces when they choose to start exercising self-mastery and learning a skill. It doesn't even matter that Tarot is an occult practice: any accomplished expression of self-mastery will always appear to be the result of occult forces to the uninitiated. So take a moment to congratulate yourself: learning a new skill is more than many people will ever choose to do voluntarily. However, while you're congratulating yourself, keep in mind that I'm not saying this is going to be easy. I never said great things happen without effort. But for what it's worth, here's my advice to help you accomplish mastery of the Tarot. What follows are my 10 tips for new Tarot readers - use them as you will.
#1) You're going to be bad at this for a long time
Be honest with yourself: nobody ever got good at a new skill over night. Even if you crash-course your way into Tarot with an intense 20 hours of brain training, it's still going to take time to develop your voice and style as a Tarot reader, and believe it or not, but making mistakes is a big part of the learning process. Being new is no shame. Revel in your mistakes. Folly is an indulgence. The error of your ways is the best instruction you'll ever receive, so don't be a in hurry to escape the perceived stigma of ignorance. You must accept that being a bad Tarot reader is the first step toward becoming a good Tarot reader. And, truth told, you're well served to preserve a measure of ignorance so that you'll stay open to new ideas and concepts.
#2) You don't have to be a professional reader
When you start your Tarot studies, you're going to feel like you're surrounded by titans and giants who've honed their reading skills to a fine edge and use this blade to cut a path through the wilderness. You're going to want to follow in their footsteps, and no matter what you say now, I promise you'll catch the money-fever and start having really serious thinks about earning some money on the side. And you know, that's okay. Every reader has to decide for him or herself whether he or she wants to offer paid services. But you also know, for every professional reader you see, there're at least a hundred readers who are happy to read for themselves or their friends, no payment required. Maybe you'll love being a professional reader? And then, maybe you prefer to treat Tarot as a hobby or amusing past-time. Whichever you choose, it's just that: a choice. There's nothing and nobody that say you must become a professional reader.
#3) Read Everything
When you first start reading Tarot, you're going to be overwhelmed by the amount of information available. You're going to feel that you're staring into the abyss, and you'll see a hundred billion Tarot authors staring back out at you, each one screaming for your attention and more than a few of them insisting that they're doing it right (and everybody else is doing it wrong.) It's going to feel impossible to understand where you should start. But you know, you don't have to read everything all at once: just start reading something now. And when you're done, read something else. Ultimately, my advice to you is to read anything and everything you can find from published books to online classes to blogs and newsletters. Just pick something and start reading, and when you're done, read something else. Everything you read will teach you something, and this process of comparing and evaluating different literature will be fundamental to shaping your understanding of the Tarot.
#4) Try Everything
On the same vein of thought, try everything. You don't know what you don't know - you know what I mean? And the only way to discover what you don't know is to try everything. Well, not all at once, but definitely at least one at a time. The best way to learn is to try something new. Reading will only take you so far, because the rest of it is practice, practice, practice. There are a lot of things that look good in theory, but don't look good in application. And likewise, there are things you'll discover that don't sound very well conceived, but once you actually start doing them you'll find out what the noise is about. Also, you don't know what you don't like, and the things you do like might not actually be that satisfying. Try everything! You'll pick up all kinds of tips and tricks from other people. Emulate others' reading styles, try their Tarot arrangements, and let your hands show you the way. In the immortal words of Shia Labeouf, just do it.
#5) You're not wrong if you're not the same
When you first start walking your Tarot path, you're going to naturally want to follow the established routes. You'll look where the crowd is going, and the well-worn pathways will be the most welcoming and the most forgiving. And that's okay! When you're first starting something, well-worn pathways are going to offer the least resistance and be most forgiving of your missteps. Plus, there's a lot to be said for preserving tradition and finding strength and support from a community of like minds. But... you know... if you ever feel like following the pass less traveled, or even cutting your own path where none exists at all, that's okay, too. Going your own way can be lonely, but it can also be liberating. And just because you're going your own direction, that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. People have been doing new and different things with Tarot for as long as Tarot has existed. Tarot is frequently an individual practice unique to each practitioner, so if you see things differently, that's okay. I mean, it doesn't give you license to re-write the established history of Tarot, but it doesn't mean that your approach is invalid. So rock on with your bad self, and as long as you're not trying to re-write objective history, don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
#6) Don't put the Tarot before the Reader
There are people who'll disagree, but I think that the Tarot is less important than the person reading the Tarot. After all, if reading Tarot were just a matter of repeating set keywords and stale definitions, then what do you need to learn Tarot for? If that's all it takes, then you can just read the appropriate entry from the Pictorial Key to the Tarot. But Tarot is a tool used to divine and interpret the ever-changing affairs of human lives, which means that it's also a tool which requires a human mind to interpret and apply to human concerns and interests. So, all of that is to say, don't make the mistake of putting the
#7) Hack your Tarot
Orthodoxy and fundamentalism are both spectacularly ignorant ways to live, and yet there are people in all spheres of life and all affairs of the day who cling to orthodoxy (doing things the same way they've always been done for the sake of doing things the same way they've always been done) and fundamentalism (taking source literature at face-value and insisting on a strict literal interpretation) for reasons that can only be explained by deep-seated insecurity and a search for power over others. And believe it or not, but orthodoxy and fundamentalism turn up in the Tarot world, too. Don't fall for the trap of thinking that you have to read Tarot the way it's always been done, or that you can't ask deep questions about matters that others think are best left alone. Hack your Tarot. Cut it to pieces and put it back together however you see fit. In the fictitious world created by Mary Shelley, everybody said Dr. Frankenstein was crazy, and yet he created an awesome and terrifying monster because he dared do what none others would even discuss. If you like the established traditions and find value in them, then it's okay for you to follow them. But if you feel the itch to start dismembering bodies and building your own monster, then do it: only by daring to stand among the gods will you ever surpass the bounds of mortality.
#8) You don't have to commit yourself to Tarot
Tarot is really cool, and the larger community is so broad and various that you may never find the end of it. But, don't feel like you're trapped in Tarot. Some folks are right at home in Tarot and don't feel the need to branch into other disciplines, and other folks like Tarot but feel the need for other tools in their toolbox. And still other people start learning Tarot anticipating one thing, but they find another and discover that they actually want something else. If you start studying Tarot and find that it's not really what you wanted - that's okay. You can always branch into Lenormand, numerology, astrology, pendulum dowsing, bone reading, palmistry, mediumship, and other even more foreign and exotic practices. Its okay! There's no shame in acknowledging that you want to change paths, so don't feel like you're not allowed to use other tools or branch into other disciplines. I can't say that I've ever seen a poll of Tarot readers, but if I had to guess I'd say that the majority of people who've read Tarot for any length of time are multi-disciplinarians and either use various forms of divination or else have worked other forms of divination into their existing Tarot practice.
#9) Consent is important
This advice is short and sweet, but it's very important: don't give a reading to anybody who didn't request it. My opinion is that it's perfectly fine to read about people without their permission, but my opinion is also that it's wrong to tell people something you saw about them in a reading, or to give them a reading of their own, if they don't ask. If you believe in this sort of thing, you can delve into the metaphysics of it, and if you worry about this sort of thing, you can delve into the morals and ethics of it, but for practical reasons you should never give readings or messages gained in readings to anybody who didn't specifically ask to know that information because - long story short - you're going to come out looking like an asshole. At best, the recipient will be irritated and will also lose respect for you, and at worst you're going to lose a friendship or gain an enemy. Don't tell people Tarot-stuff without their consent: I promise you'll regret it.
#10) Have fun
Finally, remember to have fun. There's nothing noble about wearing a hair shirt. Well, I mean... if you like to wear hair shirts, that's your business, but I think most of us who read Tarot do so because we find it to be enjoyable and fulfilling. If you're not having fun, then you're doing Tarot wrong. If you've enjoyed Tarot in the past but now find that it's not bringing you the same kind of satisfaction that it once did, then you need to explore why that is. Perhaps your time with Tarot has come to an end? Or maybe you just lost sight of the reasons why you started and need to take moment to remember to enjoy yourself. This could be a good time for you to try a Tarot challenge, use the Tarot to channel your inner bitch, get some friends together and play a game, or make your own deck. But however you do Tarot, do it because it brings you pleasure.