Tarot readers and teachers are often asked, "What is the best way to learn tarot?" All teachers have an opinion, which is generally reflected in their teaching style. What is probably a better question to ask is: How do you best learn? There are various theories about different learning styles and this article will just touch on a few, and I imagine most people are combination learners. So look through the possibilities below. Pick the ones that sound the most interesting to you and dive in.
The Visual Learner
A visual learner likes to see things. Instead of starting card by card, build your understanding by starting with a few bird's eye views and then drill down to individual cards. If you need to see things, then to start, you'll want a large space so you can lay out all your cards and create a visual map or maps. Start by laying them out in suits: Major Arcana, Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. You can then see the map the cards create and begin to see the stories they tell. Examine the progression from beginning to end of each suit, noting how the progression plays out in the various elements.
Then regroup them by number or rank, such as The Magician and the Aces, the High Priestess and the twos, and so on. Look at the similarities and differences in order to learn a deeper layer of nuance.
To take this even further, compare the same cards from different decks. The cards mean so much that any single image cannot present all the facets. My book Tarot for Beginners helps illustrate this approach.
To help enhance your retention of information, create diagrams, draw comic strips, make posters, or develop a power point. These activities can help you refine your understanding and give you visuals that you can refer to in your mind's eye as you work with the cards. Tarot lends itself well to art journaling and would suit any visual learner's style.
The Aural Learner
Aural learners respond well to the spoken word and to music. Methods of learning to consider include classes and workshops or audio books. If the book you want to learn from isn't recorded, consider recording it for yourself, perhaps doing one card at a time in conjunction with other learning techniques.
Another avenue to explore are podcasts and radio show archives (such as can be found on Blog Talk Radio).
To help enhance your retention of information, write jingles or rhymes or create a mnemonic device.
The Verbal Learner
Verbal learners like language and the written word, so of course reading is an obvious choice, although selecting from all the books available can be overwhelming. Take into consideration your other learning preferences when selecting books (see some of the recommendations mentioned in this article).
Journaling is also useful for the verbal learner.
Another way you can enhance your learning is by teaching—not teaching professionally (if you are a beginner), but many people do learn by teaching. Find a buddy who is interested (perhaps an aural learner) and explain things to them as you learn them or join a meet up or local tarot group and offer to lead a meeting. If you don't have a buddy handy, write out your own instruction books…knowing that they are exercises and not final products.
The Logical Learner
The logical learner can use the suggestions for the visual learner, because by laying out the cards in groups, it is easier to see the inherent logic and structure of the deck. After the initial overview is mastered, the logical learner will enjoy grouping cards by theme and comparing and contrasting them to note the subtle differences that deepen the understanding of the cards. For example, group together cards that you consider "cards of change," such as Death, The Tower, and The Wheel of Fortune. Look at "cards of beginnings," "cards of endings," "cards of love," and so on. Kim Huggens's book Tarot 101 would be a good choice for the logical learner, as it presents the cards in this fashion. Also, Around the Tarot in 78 Days by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin takes an interesting systematic approach.
To enhance your retention, journal or make posters or mind maps of your compare/contrast studies as well as your observations from the activities from the visual learner section. These help you see the patterns in tarot, which is something the logical brain loves.
The Social Learner
If you are a social learner, you like learning in groups, so classes and workshops (online or in person) and local meet ups are perfect for you. Consider also this idea: interviewing other readers or students.
One way for social learners to reinforce their knowledge is to play games. One common game at conferences is for everyone to have a card taped to their back. You get to ask yes or no questions until you determine what card is on your back. Another idea is to give everyone a court card (that they don't show anyone else). Then draw three cards from the rest of the deck (without court cards in it) to create a scene. Every interacts improv-style as their court card character.
Tarot Face to Face by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin has other activities that can used in a social setting, as does Tarot Diva by Sasha Graham.
The Solitary Learner
The solitary learner enjoys learning on their own, and books can be their best friend. Doing research is often their natural inclination and they often use the same techniques as the visual or logical learner. If this is you, you don't need me to tell you what to do! You are an in-depth researcher by design.
However, not all solitary learners are scholars, nor do they want to be. Any of the other methods (except social) can be used and enjoyed by solitaries. Books that might appeal to the non-logical solitaries are Mary K. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card by Mary K. Greer, a book that takes you through twenty-one different ways to consider a single card, or Psychic Tarot by Nancy Antenucci, that explores the cards in a more intuitive way.
Solitary learners can enhance their learning in many fun ways. Journaling, of course, if a natural fit. Writing book or deck reviews is a great exercise, if done right. Rather than simply a record of your opinion, make the first step to understand the creator or author's purpose, their thesis, if you will, and then outline their supporting material. Understand what they are trying to accomplish and how they are accomplishing it. Then critique how well they achieved their goal. What could they have done differently or better? What did they do that was great and why?
Jump In and Do It
This is a method often mentioned as a way to learn tarot. It is simple. Ask a question, draw some cards, and just read them. Craft an answer to the question based on the images and symbols. It's a great method, but to be honest, I wasn't sure how to classify it. So here it is in a class all by itself and open to anyone who wants to try it. But if someone tells you it is the only or the best way, be wary. There is no one size fits all for learning tarot. The only best way is the one that is a comfortable match for you. So consider your options and follow your gut…an important lesson all tarot readers learn!