Tarot for total beginners: How I got started using tarot cards to write

Hello, faithful readers! This is the first in a series of posts I plan to share about how to get started using tarot to read and write for yourself and others. I’ll kick it off with how I got started using tarot cards, then go into how you can use them (everything from finding a deck to some simple readings you can do to start). I’ll finish up with some specific ways to use tarot to write (especially fiction). If you don’t already get these posts in your inbox, sign up here to follow along (plus get a free copy of Suck It Up and Revise, my writing guide allllll about revision). 

Copy of Suck it up and (3)My first reading

I sat for my first reading at a local juice bar during their weekly Tarot Tuesday special where a tarot reader came in and gave quick readings for ten dollars. It was a total whim; I’d seen the sign and recently had a birthday. The reader, a local woman who had taken classes from another tarot card reader, was friendly and inviting. After I sat down, she shuffled the cards and asked me to cut them into three piles. She was happy and easygoing; she fit in with the wooden chairs and rainy windows of the juice bar.

I cut the deck and the reader pulled my cards from the top of each of the three piles. One represented past, one present, and one future.

I don’t remember the details of that first reading (I’m sure I asked about writing and my family, the two things that are almost always on my mind). It was a simple reading; she pointed out details in the cards and asked if they made sense with what I was thinking about. It was lovely to be in such relaxed company.

Back again…

A year and a half later, I sat for another reading on Tarot Tuesday. The reading had changed a bit, the price had gone up—but it was the same friendly reader, with clear answers and questions for me, and observations about the cards that fit in well with what I was thinking about (as usual, writing and my family). She drew a past, present, and future card. Then, on top of the future card, she pulled cards until she arrived at one of the Major Arcana—the “big” tarot cards that symbolize the phases of life.

The first card–which represented the past–was a card I had pulled while writing the “research project” novel I’d begun a year before—the Tower card. I felt giddy seeing it, as though it was confirmation that I was on the right path.

The next was a card that symbolized a young man—it seemed to fit in with my son, a toddler who I spend most of my time with.

The next was another young person—I was pregnant with another child, and it seemed to represent him or her.

The extra cards were all from the suit of swords, and the Major Arcana card they ended in was Justice. They seemed to show a progression that would end in a final judgment. I had just sent my tarot-inspired manuscript to my agent, and in a few weeks she would send it around to publishers.

It was tempting to see Justice as a happy outcome for my novel—maybe it would be picked up by a publisher. “The cards are reminding me that I am not a fortune-teller,” she told me.

Then what are they, exactly?

This question underlies the practices I will share in this series. I am a doer, and I believe that the best way to understand tarot cards is to use them. I hope that by the end of this series, with the help of your own exploration, readings, and reflection, you will have your own answer to this question.

Since I began using tarot cards, they have become a tool for me to understand my own intuition. As a person who writes in solitude and stays at home with a two-year-old, I have very little outside confirmation that I am on the right path. My life can sometimes feel very enclosed; I don’t get a congratulatory email from my boss when my kiddo puts on a shirt all by himself (though I should—getting dressed is hard!). Tarot is a way for me to feel as though I am on a meaningful path. It confirms my intentions and points me in the right direction when I am waffling.

But maybe this is the most important part: using tarot cards is fun! It’s hard to find a practice of reflection that isn’t heavy. Shuffling and drawing tarot cards feels like playing a game with your innermost self.

I love it. I’m glad that two-years-ago me was curious enough about tarot to venture into a hippie juice bar, and that I stuck with it even when it was no longer strictly research. I hope that this series empowers you to go on your own tarot card adventure.

Cheers and hope you enjoy this series. Sign up below to follow along!

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