Tarot 101

Using tarot cards is a great way to heighten your sense of alignment and intuition.  A good reading can put things into perspective and remind you that your guides are available whenever you call on them.

How to Start

Find a deck!  This is the fun part.  Go to cool local shops, checkout online stores and see which decks call to you!  What colors, images, symbols do you love?  A few that I find most striking are Kim Krans Wild Unknown, Alana Fairchild’s Wild Kuan Yin Oracle, The Fountain Tarot, and my personal favorite is the Wildwood Deck.  It will likely take some time to find the exact right deck.  I’ve had many over the years and for some time now I’ve had one that sings when I use it.  If you start on a tarot adventure and all the readings seem off, try another deck.  When you find the right deck you’ll feel the alignment!

Once you have your deck, set a sacred space.  There are many ways of doing this, and much like tarot themselves, creating space is a largely intuitive practice.  I have a room dedicated for my energy, meditation and yoga practices.  It’s a space with plants, oils, found objects, crystals that support my sense of vibration and opening to the unknown.  It’s also a space where my family knows I’m not to be interrupted!  I begin by smudging the room, acknowledging the directions, elements and guides.  I also smudge the tarot deck.  And then settle into my meditation practice.  When that feels complete I’ll turn attention to the cards. 

3 simple tarot spreads

There are multiple guides on how to spread and read the cards – so many that it can feel overwhelming!  It’s important to start simple.  You’ve got this!  One question, one card.  Shuffle the cards, ask a question and pull one card.  In the beginning, just read the description that comes with the deck.  Over time you’ll develop a relationship with the cards and know their symbols well enough to understand the message.

Another simple starting place is to shuffle the cards while holding the question and then place 3 cards down face up.  The first card symbolizes past, the second card is a messenger of the present situation and the third is a guide for your future. 

When you’re ready to move on, you might try this 4 card spread.  It comes from the Celtic tradition and aligns with the cardinal elements.  I use this mostly when drawing from animal decks.  This is a 4 card spread.  Each position of the 4 points (like a t) is one of the cardinal directions.

You’ll shuffle the deck and then place a card face up at each of the 4 placeholders; first the East (top), then South (right), followed by West (bottom) and finally North (left).  The four directions correspond with Celtic names which translate as East = ahead, West = protector, North = Challenger, South = helper.

-Michele Vinbury


In this picture, Wolf is in the East “ahead” as the pathfinder, showing the way. Owl is in the South as the helper or advisor; Lioness in the West is the protector or guardian; and Panther sits in the North as the challenger.

There really are infinite possibilities with tarot, and I’ve developed my own intuitive tarot spread that just feels right to me.  You will develop your own rhythm over time.   More than anything, I’d say trust your instincts.  If you pull a card and you know that it’s not right – consider whether you’ve asked the right question.  And don’t be afraid to drop into an open meditative state, shuffle again and pull another card.  We’re not trying to fight “destiny’ here, but also, this is a practice that can strongly develop your intuition and help you know when things feel in or out of alignment.  If it feels completely out of alignment, the message might be to try again.  As with any other relationship, there is a learning curve!

Show your deck some love

Many people wrap their deck in lovely fabric (my choice would be velvet or flannel, I like soft) or keep your deck in a special box.  I keep mine open at the foot of my altar surrounded by crystals.

The prevailing wisdom is that you shouldn’t let other people use your personal tarot decks to do readings on themselves or to do readings for you.   Not only should you refrain from letting them do readings, but most would say that no one else should even touch your personal deck.  (It’s like the energy workers version of 2nd grade cooties!) I’m not big on rules, but this is something that I follow.  I think when you have a long-term relationship with a deck, there is a certain intimacy that develops and it’s not something that you want to mess with!  I have a deck that no one else touches and then I have a few that have given to me that I use for “play”.

Some people cleanse their decks in the moonlight or by placing crystals on or around them.  I use white sage or palo santo to smudge them and this works great for me.  I also always offer a word of gratitude for the reading and for any guides who held space for it. 

Bottom line, have fun and let your intuition be the guide. 

Michele Vinbury