How Do Tarot Cards Work [Simple Guide]


In these uncertain times, many have turned to spiritual guidance. Some seek it through meditation and yoga, others through tarot card readings. But, if you’re completely new to this realm of spirituality you might wonder – how do tarot cards work? Many think that tarot readings are just psychics doing fortune-telling with the help of astrology, but the way experts see tarot cards and their function is completely different.

In this article, we will break down what tarot cards are and what their meanings are, their short history, as well as how to read for yourself and for others as a beginner.

What Are Tarot Cards?

So, what are tarot cards and how do they work? The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards, and each one has its own imagery, symbolism, and plot. Life’s karmic and spiritual lessons are represented by the 22 Major Arcana cards. Whereas the 56 Minor Arcana cards stand for our everyday trials and tasks. Each card has its own interpretation.

History of the Tarot Cards

You might be wondering, when were tarot cards invented? The answer is as long as the tradition, but we’ll summarise. In the middle of the 15th century, the Duke of Milan first mentioned tarot cards as playing cards. The cards were used to play tarocchi, a bridge-like game common among nobles and other leisure seekers at the time. This is the farthest back tarot cards can be traced, however, it is possible that they go way further than that.

Tarocchi gradually spread to other European countries, including southern France, where it became known as tarot. When Europe’s obsession with magic and the supernatural arose, so did the popularity of tarot cards.

Many of today’s decks follow the Rider-Waite format and style in general, but how and when did it originate? British occultists Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman Smith created the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, which was first published in 1909. Waite commissioned Smith to create the artwork for a new tarot deck he was working on in 1909. Waite was interested in seeing a tarot deck with every card illustrated, which was a first. Smith used The Sola Busca (created in the 1490s, earliest known tarot cards that were illustrated) for inspiration. Because of the strong use of Kabbalistic symbolism in the imagery, it is commonly used as the default deck in almost all Tarot instructional books.

Understanding Tarot Cards

In order to understand how to do tarot cards, you need to know their meaning. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each depicting a different aspect of human life. The Major Arcana cards are divided into three categories: the realm of the physical world, the realm of the intuitive mind, and the realm of transformation. Most card illustrations are from the Rider-Waite deck, which is one of the most common tarot decks available today and is often used by new readers to learn about the tarot.

In order to know how to read tarot cards, you need to understand what the Major and Minor Arcana stand for. The 56 Minor Arcana cards reflect the ups and downs that we face on a daily basis. These tarot cards are related to what’s going on in your life, and they will help you understand how your current situation is impacting you and what steps you need to take to reach your goals through manifestation.

There are four different Tarot Suits within the Minor Arcana:

The Suit of Cups

Your thoughts, emotions, instincts, and imagination are all represented by the Suit of Cups. In tarot readings about relationships, twin flames, and your emotional bond with yourself and others, the Cups cards sometimes appear.

The Suit of Pentacles

Your finances, work, and material possessions are represented by the Pentacles Suit. They often appear In tarot readings about career and money.

The Suit of Swords

Your feelings, words, and acts are represented by the Swords Suit. In tarot readings about sharing your thoughts, making choices, and asserting your authority, the Swords cards often appear.

The Suit of Wands

Your energy, inspiration, and enthusiasm are represented by the Wands Suit. They appear In tarot readings about life’s meaning, spirituality, and new ideas.

There is a different meaning of tarot cards in different positions. Interpretations of cards change depending on their position in a spread. When you lay each card down, you’re filling in the blanks with the cards’ meaning to create a timeline or plot. When the significance of the card is interpreted through the prism of its place in the spread, the meaning of the card becomes more accurate. Another dimension of meaning is given to a card depending on whether it’s upright or reversed. A reversed card means that its definition needs to be flipped over. For e.g. The Fool is generally associated with someone who is carefree and willing to take chances. When the Fool is reversed, it denotes someone who is constantly worried and takes extra precautions.

How Do Tarot Cards Really Work?

To those unfamiliar with divination, reading tarot cards can appear to “predict your future.” But how do tarot cards work in actuality? Many Tarot card readers will inform you that the cards only serve as a guide and that the reader is merely interpreting the likely outcome based on the forces at play at the time.

Many claims that using the cards to access your intuition and inner wisdom is the most effective way to interpret the Tarot. The imagery in the cards allows you to tap into your subconscious mind and intuition right away. You will learn how to make meaningful changes now in order to manifest your goals and desires in the future from this position of inner strength and knowledge.

How to Do a Tarot Card Reading for Beginners?

So, how to do tarot cards if you’re a beginner? The first step after purchasing a deck is to familiarize yourself with the cards. Many people do a regular card pull if they are just starting out and working alone. They pull one card from the deck and just think about the value of the card. When interpreting and talking to others, it’s important to relax and trust your own agency.

The way that tarot works are by creating spreads. Two simple spreads are recommended for beginner readers: a three-card pull and the Celtic Cross. The former involves drawing three cards from the deck. These three cards reflect the individual’s past, present, and future or mind, body, and spirit. The Celtic Cross spread is a traditional spread in which each card has a specific location and a specific significance. It’s a 10-card spread with a lot of detail and a very simple layout.

Many wonder how to shuffle tarot cards. Since the left side of the body is associated with feminine, intuitive, and responsive energy, card readers have traditionally used their left hand to manage the shuffle and deal with the cards.

It is believed that it’s important to perform an energy cleansing after receiving a new tarot deck or a secondhand deck. Generally, you cleanse tarot cards by meditating with your deck while moving each card through palo santo or sage smoke.

Learning to read tarot cards for beginners can be a bit tricky. The first step is to hold the cards in your hands and think about a question you’d like an answer to. Then concentrate on that question and shuffle the cards as you see fit. You can now draw your cards after they’ve been shuffled. How you draw your cards depends on the spread you’re doing.

How to Read Tarot Cards for Yourself?

Reading tarot cards for yourself is a great way to connect with your instincts and get the answers you need. The Tarot will assist you with deep metaphysical matters as well as practical, day-to-day issues. You can follow these steps to create a peaceful atmosphere for your reading:

  • In order to get the best out of the tarot reading, create an appropriate mental and physical space. Light a candle, burn some incense, or choose your favorite crystals for the reading. You can read more on which crystals are best for what purpose here. To help you concentrate on the reading you’re about to do, clear your mind and take a few deep breaths.
  • After clearing your mind, think about questions to ask the tarot cards, and remember to ask the right question. For example, if you’re going through a rough patch in your relationship, avoid asking “What is wrong with me and my partner?”. Instead, mindfully look at the issue at hand and ask something like “What do I need to know about this energy that’s surrounding me and my partner?”. Don’t expect the tarot cards to give you a straight answer since this is not how tarot works. If you need a more straightforward answer, getting a psychic reading is a better option.
  • Then, it’s time to choose a spread. Simple 3-card tarot spreads are best for self-reading and can indicate Past, Present, and Future, or perhaps Situation, Action, and Outcome.
  • After choosing a spread, shuffle your cards. Channel your energy into the reading and concentrate on your question as you shuffle. Lay your cards when you’re ready. Place them face-up, side-by-side, from left to right.
  • From left to right, go through each card and map out what it means to you. Begin by looking at the card and paying attention to the card’s energy as well as any intuitive “hits” you might get right away. In order to understand the tarot cards and their meanings, don’t forget to pay attention to the picture too. After you’ve opened all your cards in front of you, look at the bigger picture – what story are they all telling?
  • Finally, it’s important to go back to your initial question, since it’s easy to get lost in all the separate meanings of the cards. To end your self-reading, you can write everything down in a notebook and use it to reflect back on that specific reading. This can help you develop your tarot reading skills as well as validate your intuition.

How to Read Tarot Cards for Others?

Tarot cards for beginners are even more challenging when it comes to reading tarot cards for others, as they are not completely relaxed when it comes to reading for people other than themselves. The best way to get to know the people you’re reading for is by asking them questions related to the interpretation you’re getting. So, for e.g. if you’re getting a strong sense from the cards that the person is in a long-term relationship, ask to make sure that it is so. One card can have multiple interpretations and that all depends on the person you’re reading for. In order to get the best reading, it’s crucial to get the facts right before making too many assumptions. Explain upfront that you can ask questions during the Tarot reading and that this is an important part of the experience.

Do Online Tarot Cards Work?

In-person psychic and tarot readings have been practiced for years, but in recent decades psychic and tarot websites have gained popularity. If you choose to go to strictly in-person tarot card readings, you’re restricted by your location. By doing things online you can choose from a large number of tarot readers from all over the United States and the world. So, how do tarot cards work when done online? Online tarot card readings can be done over the phone or via a video call, the choice is up to you. Online card readings, like in-person tarot readings, are only as accurate as the tarot reader’s experience and the bond you two have allowed. That is why it’s advised to do some background research on the best tarot card readers so you know you’re choosing the right person for you.

Besides understanding how online tarot cards really work, it’s important to know a service’s actual values. With so many online tarot reading services, you’re bound to be tempted by the ones offering free readings. Many free tarot readings are based on a script that is created by a computer. Since these sessions aren’t tailored to you or your situation, they won’t have the nuance, detail, or personal experience you’re looking for. So make sure to read up on a certain service to avoid jumping into a scam.

What You Can Expect From a Tarot Card Reading

How tarot cards work is not exactly what you might expect. When approaching a tarot card reading, it’s important to be open to new experiences. For the best reading experience, one should always leave stereotypes and expectations behind. Tarot reading is not ominous like in the movies. You shouldn’t expect 100% accuracy. Nobody has a complete picture of your future. A tarot reader can predict what could happen based on your current circumstances, but you have the ability to change gears at any moment. You’re still in command. Readers will answer any questions you have during the reading, but do not expect hard yes or no answers. Tarot is all about individual interpretation and how you choose to look at the information you’re being given.  If you like that approach, read about angel numbers and what they can tell you.


Many think of tarot cards as mystical, spiritual guidance to reach their ideal future. However, tarot cards serve as a tool of interpretation, where one can apply the card’s different meanings to their life.

In order to get the best out of tarot, get to know the Major and Minor Arcana, their meanings, and different spreads that you can do for yourself or for others. Tarot readers recommend starting small with three-card spreads and slowly expanding to more complex spreads. At the end of the day, tarot is all about getting in touch with your higher self, inner wisdom, and manifesting goals, and not some sort of magic.


What are tarot cards used for?

Tarot card reading is the process of formulating a question, then drawing and interpreting cards to gain insight into the past, present, or future. Tarot card reading is a form of cartomancy.

How much are tarot cards worth?

There are 78 cards in a tarot deck. Tarot cards vary in price depending on the manufacturer and design. Tarot decks can go as low as $10, or as high as $50. Some decks are even pricier if they are deemed vintage or part of a special edition.

What is the difference between oracle cards and tarot cards?

You might be wondering how do tarot cards work and how they are different from oracle cards? A tarot deck traditionally contains 78 cards divided into the Major and the Minor Arcana. An expert tarot reader studies and interprets tarot cards in order to gain insight into a person’s life story. Oracle cards, on the other hand, are less constrained by the tarot’s fixed structure. An oracle deck will simply mean whatever the deck’s creator desires.


I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

Latest from Jelena

5 Must-Have Spiritual Tools You Can Use for Daily Spiritual Practices Why Do I Twitch When I Sleep? [Common Reasons Explained] What Is Past Life Regression & How to Do It 7 Symptoms of Negative Energy at Home

Leave a Reply