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A beginner's guide to tarot cards

You may have heard of the mystical deck of cards used by fortune-tellers to reveal hidden truths. Perhaps you've had a friend get their cards read, or you recieved a deck for your b-day. However you ended up on this witchy spiritual path, we're here to guide you on your journey.

What are tarot cards?


Let's start with the basics. Tarot cards, at their core, are a way to practice cartomancy (AKA a fancy word for fortune-telling). They come in a deck of 78, which can be divided into two sections: major arcana (or major mysteries) and minor arcana (minor mysteries). The majors give you info on those extra-serious life events and themes, like love, relationships and long-term choices. The minors deal with day-to-day insights, or stuff that tends to shift on a more regular basis. 

The cards will be the same no matter which deck you pick up, but interpreting them is up to the reader. The way to do that? Ask the deck a question, draw a certain amount of cards and gain a peek into your past, present or future. Each card is associated with a meaning or energy, and you can use that to reflect on your own life and hopefully the obtain guidance or answers that you seek. 

How do I use them?

Step 1: Clear your mind

Trust is key when you're reading tarot. It all relies on your ability to pull cards that you truly feel drawn to, then basing your interpretations on that intuition. Make sure your mind is in a space where you can fully trust your decisions. 

So set the mood with a bit of candlelight (or any type of alternative lighting—salt lamp, anyone?), and meditate while shuffling your cards. Trust us—setting the scene will make tarot time just *that* much more terrific. 

Step 2: Ask a purposeful question

We're not talking yes or no here. Try not to ask Q's like "When will my crush *finally* get me?" or "Who is my real dad, Sam, Harry or Bill?" Instead, go for the more open-ended options, like "How am I standing in my own way?" or "What can I do to feel more confident?" If you need inspo, check out this list of questions to ask a tarot deck!

Step 3: Shuffle, while remembering your Q

Once you feel you can stop shuffling, there are a ton of different ways to go about sorting the cards. For beginners, just choosing the face-down card that speaks to you the most is your best bet. Maybe a card fell out of the deck while shuffling, or that one card is just *really* calling your name.

You can also go for a spread (such as a three-card spread, where you separate the deck into three sections representing your past, present and future!). As you gain more confidence in your tarot abilities, level up by increasing the size of your spread. Read up on these different spreads here

Step 4: Discern the meaning

Final step! Take a look at the cards you've chosen and formulate your own answer to your Q. How do the images on the cards relate to your situation? Close your eyes, and think deeply about what the card is trying to tell you.

Then, look up the real meaning of the card using this website. Maybe it gives you a totally diff answer than your OG thought, and that's okay! Just use your creativity to concoct an interpretation based on the cards.  We'll give you an example.

Question: I'm considering changing schools because it has better opportunities, but it's a really big leap and I'm scared of the unknown. What should I do?

Card chosen: The Magician

According to, "The Magician is the representation of pure willpower. With the power of the elements and the suits, he takes the potential innate in the fool and molds it into being with the power of desire." AKA: Go for it! The Magician is telling you to celebrate new experiences and take chances. Harness some of the "willpower" this card holds and use it to make the big leap and switch schools. 

So...should I try it?

Tarot cards aren't going to tell you exactly what the future holds (sry, fans of XO, Kitty! The deck also doesn't know if there will be a season two). However, this practice can be a fun way to experiment with your spirituality and help out with a choice or question. Happy tarot-ing!

Have you tried out tarot? Let us know your *all* the deets @girlslifemag on Twitter!

Slider image: @shannon_thetarotdiagnosis


by Julia szymanski | 5/28/2023