by Anne-Marie Krone
"I have put tarot first because it's my favorite form of divination. So
let's dive into the mechanics of using tarot. The first step is
acquiring a deck. When I first started using tarot finding a deck was a
lot more difficult than it is now. Back then they were only available in
occult book stores and the selection was fairly small (Rider-Waite only
usually). Now tarot decks can be picked up in nearly any bookstore that
has a New Age section and the variety of decks is amazing! This is a
fantastic development, but it can be confusing to a beginner. Which deck
to use? I use Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck, but I own an Aquarian
Deck, a Sacred Rose Deck, and a Rider-Waite Deck. (I used to own more
but I have this tendency to give them away to people who need a deck
LOL). My daughter uses the Unicorn Tarot deck. So we are still at the
question of which deck? The answer is any deck will work, but the one
that you find visually and symbologically appealing to you will work
better, so take some time and check out the pictures.
A standard tarot deck consists of 22 trump cards and 56 suit cards. The
four suits are generally wands, cups, swords, and pentacles, but there
are design variants like rods, staves, clubs, coins, disks, etc. There
are now Dragon tarot, Fairy tarot, Womyn's tarot, Wolf tarot, Animal
tarot, Witches tarot, Egyptian tarot, Celtic tarot, Magic the Gathering
tarot, and many others too numerous to name. It is now possible to find a
tarot deck that suits your taste and personality more exactly and this
is a very good thing, as divination works best when the symbols are
appealing. So the best tarot deck for you is the one that you like the
pictures on best...it's that simple.
So now you have a deck, how to use it?
The first and most important step
is to learn the meanings of the cards. All decks come with a little
booklet that gives a brief description of the meanings of each card and
this is perfectly good to get started on. You can purchase a book on
tarot (my fav is the The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, but this is
specifically designed for the Thoth deck) to learn more complete
meanings, but this is not necessary to start off with. Some good
exercises to learn the meanings is to use the cards like flash cards,
going through the deck and trying to name the meaning from memory. After
some practice you should have at least the generic meanings down, the
more specific and subtler meanings will come with practice, also the
pictures themselves should give you mnemonic hints. Another way to fix
the meanings in your head is to take each card and study it, then copy
the meaning down by hand in your book of shadows. Whatever method you
use, once you have become familiar with each cards meaning you are ready
to begin using the cards for divination.
This is done by means of a "spread". Just as there are lots of tarot
decks there are lots of spreads. One of the most common (and probably
the one that is shown in your little booklet) is the Celtic Cross
Spread. This is a 10 card spread laid out in the form of a cross.
The first card is laid in the center and this card represents either the
question or the questioner. It can either be deliberately chosen before
the reading or picked at random.
The second card is laid across the first. This card represents that
which is "crossing" the question or questioner. In other
words...whatever it is that caused you to do the spread in the first
place, the problem to be resolved or the unknown information you are
The third card is placed below the first card and represents the
"foundation" or the basis of the question or the starting state of the
The fourth card is placed to the left of the center. It indicates the
past...the circumstances that led up to the present question.
The fifth card is placed above the center and represents the "crown".
This is how the question or the questioner appears to the outside world.
The sixth card is placed to the right of center. This represents the
immediate future in respect to the question..trends that will soon
The seventh card is placed beside the cross to the lower right and is
the first card in a line that will be made beside the cross. It
represents the subconscious...something that pertains to the question
but that you might not have been consciously aware of.
The eight card is placed immediately above the seventh. This card
represents external relationships with friends and family that might
pertain to the question.
The ninth card is placed above the eighth. This is the card that describes the hopes and fears that are related to the question.
The tenth and final card is placed above the ninth and represents the final outcome of the question.
As you can see the Celtic Cross is designed to foretell the general
future of a person and really doesn't lend itself well to more specific
questions or questions about the properties of a magickal substance. It
also only places one card for each area, thereby limiting the nuances
that could be expressed.
Another spread which I find more specific and effective is the Pentagram spread.
Starting at the top you lay three cards next to each other. These
represent the Spirit of the matter. And all three should be read
together as a combined progression. (This is where knowing the magickal
elements comes in handy) with the left-most representing the past the
middle representing the present and the right-most representing the
Next you lay three cards together at the bottom left (you are outlining a
pentagram with each point marked by three cards). These three cards
represent the Earth of the question...the foundation or basis of the
Next you lay three cards in the upper right. These cards will represent
the Water of the question...the emotions that lie in the question.
The next set of three is placed in the upper left and represent the Air
of the question...the thought or intellectual properties of the
Finally the last set of three are placed in the lower right (completing
the pentagram) and represent the Fire of the question...or what actions
should be taken.
A third spread I call the Yes/No spread, is fairly simple. The question
should be phrased as a yes/no question. You lay five cards in a row from
left to right. Reversed cards mean no, forward cards mean yes. You
count the yes's and no's to get the overall yes or no (majority wins).
The cards then can be read as farthest left~past, left-immediate past,
middle~present, right~imediate future, furthest right~future.
There are many more spreads and you should feel free to investigate
others or make up your own. As long as you know what each place is
supposed to mean the spread will "work".
Mechanics or the Care and Feeding of a tarot deck:)
You can shuffle as little or as much as you like in any fashion you
like, as long as you do it the same way every time. This allows your
dream consciousness a chance to "stack" the deck.
Reading a spread:
Beyond the specific meanings of each card you should look for
predominations. For example a spread that is mostly trumps indicates
great powers at work, a spread that is mostly swords indicates
intellectual matters, cups emotional, disks earthly or material matters,
wands physical or life matters. Also look for oppositions like swords
and disks or rods and cups..this may indicate conflict or opposing
forces at work.
You can keep your tarot deck in the box they came in, but I find it
aesthetically pleasing and conducive to my belief in their power (which
is what makes them work) to wrap them in a swatch of silk and put them
in their own box (I have one in a stain glass box, one in a stone box
carved with celtic knotwork, one in a wicker box and one in an orange
silk pouch). I keep my favorite deck on my altar, but any place where
they aren't going to be upset or casually man-handled is okay.
I keep one set that I use on/for other people (the Aquarian deck) and I
allow whoever I am reading for to touch this deck, but all others are
off limits. I do this because I have found that keeping your decks
attuned only to you makes them more effective. If someone touches your
personal deck though, all is not lost. Simply put them back in order
(0-21 trumps, 1-King suit cards) this "clears" the deck and you can
reset it to your own personal attunement thereafter. (course I still get
upset if someone touches my personal deck cause I have been tuning that
baby for years LOL)
Most important when doing a reading is how and what you are thinking as
you do the spread. Before beginning any tarot reading, I place the deck
in my left hand and say a prayer to the Goddess, then I spend a few
moments in meditation to bring myself to a light trance state. While I
shuffle and lay out the spread (and still in a light trance) I keep the
question as the only thought in my head (sometimes chanting the question
out loud helps maintain the purity of the thought). If you do not do
this your spread WILL reflect whatever happened to be floating around in
your head...for example: you asked a question about the best time to do
a spell, but your mind kept popping over to the car needing new tires.
Chances are really good that the spread will be more about the new tires
your car needs than about the spell timing, so it is very important to
As with everything else, practice is absolutely necessary to getting
"good" with tarot. The more familiar you are with your deck and the more
readings you have done, the better your readings will get and the more
accurate they will become. It is a good idea to keep notes on readings
in your book of shadows, as I have found, sometimes readings I thought I
had blown proved to be very accurate (scary accurate) when I reviewed
them months or years later."
Copyright Anne-Marie Krone 1999.