Tarot cards have been around for at least 500 years, and probably much longer. Like the I Ching or runes, tarot cards are an object oracle, used to seek advice about the future; and like an astrology horoscope, they can also be used to give you a detailed outline of what your next year may look like. Originally, gypsies used them to tell fortunes, and wealthy nobles to play games of chance.
Today, you’re more likely to find them in the hands of a psychic or an ordinary person, or you can learn to read your own tarot cards for yourself.
Tarot decks come in a wild variety of styles, from the original trionfi deck to the Egyptian Deck, from the Tarot of the Cats to the beautiful art of the Lord of the Rings Tarot. All modern tarot decks are based on the same 72-card layout, and each can be used to create a layout.
Tarot cards are read in a ceremonial fashion, and each reader has her own method for storing cards, shuffling, and laying them out for the reading. My personal preference is to store the cards in their own box (it prevents most wear and tear), then to have the querent (person whose cards I am reading) select a significator card and lay it down, then shuffle the deck and lay it down next to the significator. After this, I do my layout.
Tarot Card Storage
As I said, I like storing my cards in their own battered box. However, I know many readers who won’t store cards any way other than wrapped in a pure silk scarf, then stored in what they consider a psychically neutral area. If I were to store them any other way, I’d probably use a sandalwood box just so the cardboard cards would pick up the scent.
Your storage method should take into consideration your personal preferences as well as a means to prevent wear and tear on the cards. You should always approach tarot cards with a certain amount of reverence, so keep that in mind when deciding how to store them.
Querents who approach you should never be allowed to tell you what their question is. This is for the cards to decide. Not knowing will keep your mind clear of bias – very important when reading the cards.
Choosing A Significator in Tarot
Your querent must choose a significator – a card out of the 72 Tarot cards that he or she identifies with. Most tarot manuals suggest that you use specific cards depending on sex, age, and coloring: wands for blondes, pentacles for dark brunettes, swords for black or white hair, and cups for redheads or light brunettes. Further, they suggest only court cards – page through king – with pages for young girls, knights for young boys, queens for mature women, and kings for mature men.
I do this differently. I prefer to allow my querent – who ideally knows nothing about tarot – to choose his or her own significator card by flipping through the deck. I allow them to take their time, and it gives them a chance to get attuned to the deck – or at least used to handling its oversized cards!
The significator card is laid down on the table or divination surface – floor or rug or whatever.
Shuffling Tarot Cards
After choosing the significator, I have the querent shuffle his or her own deck. I tell them to shuffle however it makes them comfortable, and to lay the cards down next to the significator when they “feel ready.”
Tarot cards do have an up and down in most decks, and I believe in reading the reversed meanings of cards as well as the upright ones. The orientation of the deck in relation to the significator tells you which end is up.
Once your deck is shuffled and laid down, you can start laying them out. The two most popular layouts are the Celtic Cross and the Zodiac readings; the Celtic Cross requires ten cards, the first six laid out in a cross form with four cards to the points of the compass, the other two crossed in the center over top of the significator. The other four cards are arranged, bottom to top, to the right side of the cross.
Zodiac is much simpler, but more complex. It is recommended that you do the Zodiac reading no more than once a year, preferably in January. In the Zodiac, you arrange 12 cards to correspond roughly to the positions of the zodiac, with Pisces at the bottom left and Aquarius at the bottom right.
For the simplest possible reading, lay out three cards in a row, the middle card on top of the significator. Read them in order. The first card represents the past of your question or problem; the second one the problem itself; and the third card gives you a direction in which to move in order to solve the problem. Remember that card interpretations differ depending on whether the card is upright or inverted.