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How to do a Tarot Card Reading | Step-by-Step

Updated on January 10, 2016

First Things First

Before you even attempt to conduct an accurate reading you first need to understand how tarot cards work. Take time to get to know the cards. Study them. Reading tarot cards accurately is a mix of both thinking and feeling. Sure it's important to know the textbook definition of what cards mean and symbolize but it's just as important to have a connection with your cards and be able to use your own intuition to read the answers you're give. The best way to do this is through repetition and practice.

Before beginning decide which type of reading you want to do since that will influence the questions you ask. There are hundreds of different spreads to choose from so pick the one that you think will be most beneficial and accurate for your purposes.

Step 1: Relax

You will not be able to conduct an accurate reading if your mind is anxious and stressed. Take 4-5 minutes to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and clear your mind. Reading cards involves a lot of your own intuition, this will be much harder to tap into if your mind is full of other worries.

Try this: close your eyes, and your mouth, and breathe in through your nose. Make this inhalation last 4 seconds. Hold it in for a count of 8. then exhale for a count of 8. Try to go through this 5 times or until you feel calm and your mind feels empty. It may also help to think of large empty places or a deserted beach to get your mind into the right state to do a reading.

Step 2: Shuffle

This is also known as "clearing the deck." Shuffle through the deck a few times however feels best and most comfortable to you. This will clear the deck from the last reading and also improve your connection with it. This can take as much or as little time as needed. Just shuffle until you feel it's time to stop and feel content that the deck will give an accurate reading.

If you're doing a reading for someone else it may also be helpful to let them shuffle it a bit. After all it's their reading and it might help for them to connect with the deck as well. Even if they know nothing about tarot, simply touching the cards can influence the reading. It doesn't matter what kind of shuffle they do, they can spread them all out on the table and mix them around if they like. It's all about connection.

Step 3: Ask Your Question

It's time to ask your question. If you are doing a reading for yourself it's not necessary to speak the question out loud. If you are doing the reading for someone else then they need to say it out loud. As you hold the deck imagine your (or their) question floating down and sinking into the deck. Close your eyes if it helps.

The "right" kinds of questions. Open-ended questions work best for tarot readings and will allow you to gain more insight into the answer. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no or any other one-word answer. Avoid questions that are too specific as these don't allow for much interpretation of the cards. Avoid questions about situations that are out of your hands. Tarot cards cannot change the future. Ask questions that are more along the lines of things you can do to influence your own current situations. Try asking things more along the lines of outcomes if you take a desired path rather than things you should or should not do.

Step 4: Cut the Deck

Like shuffling, this step is mostly up to your own interpretation and what feels "right" to you. Depending on who you ask you can get a lot of different answers as to how to do this, but experimenting yourself and feeling what's best for you to do is how to get the most accurate readings.

The most common way to do this step is after shuffling and arranging your cards back into a stack place the entire deck on the table with one of the shorter ends towards you. Using your non-dominant had pick up the top half of the deck and place it to the right. Pick up the top card from the stack on the left and turn it over like you would turn the page of a book. This card will be used in your reading. Depending on what type of spread you're doing will influence how many times and the way in which you cut the deck. Again, the way that feels best to you is the right way to do it.

Step 5: The Reading

When you turn over your desired number of cards and have the spread all set up and laid out it's time to do the actual reading. Re-think the question and have it fresh and in the front of your mind as you begin to try to decipher the message the cards have given you.

First impressions are very important. How did you feel when you turned the card over? Was it a card you were hoping for or hoping to avoid? The impression you got immediately upon seeing the card turned over will influence the rest of your reading.

Speak out loud the name of the card. This is one reason it's important to have studied the cards well before hand so you'll know the names of them. How do you feel when you say the name of the card?

Ask yourself: How does the card look? What feelings does it convey? Pay attention to the characters in the card. What are they doing? What do they seem to be feeling? What colors are present on the card? Does the card seem to be a positive sign or a negative one?

Once you've thought about the card and decided your feelings on it work on relating it to the question and then give your reading. While this may not seem easy at first it will come more naturally with practice

Step 6: Ending the Reading

Once you've finished your reading and feel confident that it's accurate to the best of your ability it's time to end the reading. Reshuffle your cards to clear the question and give your deck time to "rest" until you use it again. Place it back in to the box or wherever you keep it so it will be safe until next time!


  • Please be aware that these are only guidelines. Tarot card readings are personal and your methods should be too. Do what FEELS right to YOU.
  • Tarot is not a substitute for medical or legal advice.
  • If it feels right it probably is.
  • Have fun with it!


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