Learning the meanings of the cards is just one part of learning tarot. In some ways, it seems like it is the easier part. I cannot tell you how many students learn the cards, with deep and profound understanding and spiritual insight, ask me “how to put them together into a reading that makes sense?”
One of the trouble is, I think, that we forget how to tell stories based on pictures. As children, this is no problem! But when I lay three cards in front of an adult and say, “just tell me what you see…what is the story?” the person freezes and seem to be afraid they’ll “get it wrong.”
So, my first tip is of course that one: lay out three cards. The first card is the beginning of the story. The second is the middle. The third is the ending.
As you get more comfortable, you can add more cards or select cards for other parts of the story. For example pull a court card for the main character. Pull a Major for the theme.
Another way is one that I learned back in the early 1990s from tarot author Sasha Fenton. In her book Super Tarot (Thorsons, 1991) she explains a technique that I think is very helpful. She says:
“The theory of Super Tarot is to work in a completely back-to-front manner by choosing the cards which will illustrate a particular story…. The point of this approach is to encourage you to think about the cards in logical groups which will describe the story which you want told. ”
Sasha suggests that you look at a situation and pick the cards which describe it.
The next time you want to work with your cards, think of what happened to you yesterday and pull the cards that illustrate your day, or a movie you just saw, or a book you read.
When I know people are working on learning tarot, one thing I do is this: when they post a status update on Facebook, I respond in the comments: what card is that? It is a simple, easy, quick way to practice Sasha’s technique.
Another way I use this concept is to do a reverse tarot reading. Think about your situation and lay out the cards that represent what you would like to have happen. Turn those cards into either affirmations or an action plan. Or both!