Archer’s Quick Start Tarot Guide

If you’re considering getting into tarot, you may find this brief guide useful.


When you’re thinking about buying your first deck, the number of packs available can seem overwhelming. With each deck portraying the cards in a different way, you may wonder which one is correct or which one will help you read the cards properly.

The truth is, there is no such thing as the right deck. That’s because the most important thing to ask yourself when choosing a deck is: Do I like it? Tarot decks are made up of pictures so if you don’t like the pictures in a particular deck, you’ll be less likely to want to use it. Take time to browse through some of the decks that are available and make a note of which ones appeal to you.

The deck usually recommended to beginners is the Rider-Waite Tarot (sometimes referred to as the Rider-Waite-Smith or RWS). It was created in the early 20th Century and many modern decks are influenced by its familiar imagery. This can be a useful deck to begin with as a lot of beginners books feature it; however, if it doesn’t appeal to you (as it didn’t to me when I first became interested in tarot) there is no need to feel you should get this deck.

Some decks feature suit symbols arranged in patterns instead of fully illustrated scenes (which show people or animals doing things). These decks are said to be non-scenic and are often touted as being too difficult for beginners but they’re worth considering. Whereas scenic decks mainly convey their meanings through the images, non-scenic decks rely on the associations of the suits (wands, cups, swords and pentacles) combined with the meanings of the numbers 1-10. This may sound more complicated but if you prefer to learn new things using a orderly system and you have a good memory, a non-scenic deck may be for you.

Remember, whatever deck you choose, make sure it is one that appeals to you visually and that you are excited about using. Otherwise, very likely, it will wind up buried at the back of a drawer.


Take some time to look through the deck so you can start getting to know the cards. Most tarot decks consist of 22 Major Arcana cards (which have titles like The Emperor, The Wheel of Fortune and The Star), 40 Minor Arcana cards (numbering from Ace to Ten in the four different suits – usually Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles), and 16 Court Cards (usually the Page, Knight, Queen and King of each suit).

If you order your deck from Tarot Chest, you’ll get a free e-book with your order called “8 Things To Do With Your New Deck” which (surprise, surprise) contains 8 little exercises designed to help you quickly become familiar with your deck. The better acquainted you are with your deck, the easier it’ll be to read with.

Another great way to start using your deck straight away is to draw a daily card. You can do this first thing in the morning or, if you don’t have time in the mornings, you can draw a card in the evening for the following day. Make this process as simple as possible: just shuffle the deck a few times and then turn over the top card. Look at the card image. What situation does it show and what are the people doing? Is the card image cheerful or gloomy? You might like to make a few notes and look back on them later to see if anything that happened during the day matched the card you drew. Though don’t expect to get any striking revelations with this method – just think of it as a simple way to get used to the cards.


Reading the cards well will take practice. There’s a lot to learn so get stuck in as soon as you can but don’t worry if your readings don’t seem to make much sense at first. If you’re patient, things will start falling into place eventually. There’s plenty of help and advice to be found in books and online but to start off, try a simple 3-card reading.

Asking The Question

When you do a tarot reading, it’s helpful to think of a question you’d like answered. If you don’t have a question, it can be difficult to work out what aspect of your life the cards are referring to (i.e. work, family, love life). Your question can be on any topic at all and it doesn’t have to be serious. You can just as easily ask “Should I buy those yellow shoes?” as “Should I look for a new job?” Of course, the reading may not be for you at all and you may be reading for someone else, but still try to get them to think of a question to make it easier to interpret the cards.

Shuffling the Cards

It may sound silly, but when you first start reading tarot one of the trickiest things is working out how to shuffle the cards! If you read enough about it, you’ll find people who say you need to shuffle a certain number of times or that you need to cut the deck with your left hand and throw it into the air with your right or shuffle under a full moon while chanting a magical prayer. It’s fine to have a ritual if you want one, but it’s not necessary. Rituals can be a way of getting round the nagging thought that you haven’t drawn the right cards for your reading – after all, if you stood on your head and shuffled seven times and then stood upright and shuffled another seven times you must have the right cards! In truth, it doesn’t matter at all how you shuffle. Just shuffle until it feels right or until you get bored. Then stop.

Drawing Cards

Most tarot readings assign a certain meaning to each position in the spread. (“Spread” is just the term used to describe any specific layout of cards in a reading.) A great spread for both beginners and advanced readers is a 3-card “Situation, Advice, Outcome” spread, as it’s perfect for all sorts of questions. After shuffling, place the deck face down in front of you and then turn over the top three cards and lay them out as shown.

CARD 1…………………. CARD 2……………………… CARD 3

Situation……………….. Advice……………………… Outcome

Interpreting the Cards

When you’re starting out, it’s near impossible to memorize 78 different card meanings. Fortunately, as most decks are illustrated in a way that is meant to represent the meaning, all you have to do to start reading is look at the pretty pictures! As you grow more confident you can add in more depth but to begin with it’s best not to overload yourself with information.

First, look at Card 1. This card describes the situation. It may reveal something you already know about the situation that you’re asking about, or it may present a view of the situation that is new to you. Pay attention to what the image is showing and what any people in the card seem to be doing. How could this relate to the situation?

Next, look at Card 2. This is the advice card so it shows a course of action to take. Again, work out what advice it is giving using the image alone. If your question was along the lines of “should I or shouldn’t I?” ask yourself whether the image shows someone going for it and taking action (in which case you could read the advice card as saying “you should”) or whether it shows non-action, or someone considering taking action (which would probably indicate that more thought is needed about the situation and that the advice is “should not”).

Finally, look at Card 3 – the outcome card. This card shows the most likely outcome if you follow the advice given in Card 2. The future is rarely set in stone, which is why this card can only show the “most likely” outcome, but using an outcome card can be very useful in helping you make a decision because it can show the potential consequences of that decision. In your early readings, if you can’t work out what the outcome card is showing you, just try to get a feel for it. Is it a happy card? Does it portray the kind of outcome you were hoping for? If not, you may be able to use the information you got from the other two cards to help you work out why.

Finally, you might like to make a note of your reading, including the question, which cards you drew in which position, and your thoughts. That way you can look back at a later date and see if there’s anything you would have read differently.


There…simple, isn’t it? Okay, no, it isn’t simple – nothing worth doing ever is. But if you persist, you’ll gradually get more and more confident, and then there’ll be no stopping you!

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