How do I get started with tarot?

Cat Tarot Wrap, Purple Tarot Pouch, Purple Tarot Cloth, Four of Cups: This Might Hurt, Ace of Cups: Sasuraibito

Your First Deck

There’s this really pervasive myth that your first tarot deck should be gifted to you. I don’t know where this comes from, but to me that seems a lot like gatekeeping. I wouldn’t have gotten started in tarot if I had waited around for someone to gift me a deck. I don’t know anyone in my personal life who is interested in tarot, so this myth seems like a way to keep it inaccessible to most people.

When picking a deck for the first time, I recommend picking something that really appeals to you personally. This is another reason why waiting for a deck to be given to you doesn’t really work. If you don’t like the artwork of the deck, you won’t use it. 

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If you have the opportunity to look through the images on each card, whether in a physical store, or by looking it up online, you will have a much better idea of whether a deck is right for you. Don’t only focus on whether you like the art, but also if you are able to get a good sense of the symbolism or meaning of the card. You want a deck that gives you instant messages, not one that leaves your head a bit cloudy.

When you’re just starting out, it can be good to have access to a Rider Waite Smith deck. You can just check the images online if you like, but many tarot books are centred around the symbolism of the RWS. Being able to quickly check what a particular card looks like can really help you learn at first.

You can have one deck or many, just beware of becoming addicted to buying new decks all the time! Indie decks can be pricey, so if you can only afford a cheaper mass-produced or second-hand deck for now, don’t worry. All that I would ask is that you don’t buy a deck from somewhere like Wish or AliExpress. They are all poor quality faked versions of existing tarot decks, which takes revenue away from the artists, creators, and publishers of the real deck. 

Books

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There’s so much information online that buying tarot books isn’t exactly necessary. But if you’d like to deepen your knowledge or learn a little history and context behind the cards, I do recommend picking up a book such as Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom which is pictured above. Here are a few popular tarot books you might like to take a look at:

Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack

Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen

The Easiest Way To Learn Tarot Ever by Dusty White

Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea

Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova

Tarot For Troubled Times by Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed

All Of Our Stories by Beth Maiden

For more ways to learn tarot, check out the Resources page of this blog.

Journal

If you take no other advice from this blog, please at least do this: keep a tarot journal! Write out your spreads and what meanings you took from them. Monthly readings are a great way to reflect on how your life is going, and you can also do readings for events such as birthdays, moon phases, or any other special occasion or event. Keep notes, little messages to yourself, stories, anything you like. You can use any notebook, but if you need something more guided, Liminal 11 are coming out with this tarot journal soon. 

Storage

You can of course just keep your cards in the original box. But some boxes are a little flimsy, and if you want to take your cards out and about, consider a tarot wrap or pouch. There’s an old myth that you have to keep your tarot deck wrapped in black silk. As luxurious as that sounds, you want something that is easy to access so that you can quickly and easily use your tarot deck whenever you feel like it. In the caption of the image at the top of this post, I’ve linked some storage options that I really like. Etsy is a great resource, especially for supporting small and home businesses.

Reading Cloths

Having your own little ritual for practicing tarot helps to make it a mindful and relaxing experience. You should do whatever you are most comfortable with, but it can be nice to set out a cloth, get a cup of tea ready and take some deep breaths before drawing cards. Reading cloths draw you into the spread that you’re looking at and help to prevent you from losing your cards. Again, Etsy is a great resource, but if you have any furoshiki they’re the perfect shape and size to use as a tarot cloth, and also to store and carry around your deck. 

Other Tools

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I really like this card stand I found on Etsy. I recommend beginning a new tarot practice by drawing a daily card. If you’re able to display that card somewhere you can see all day, it will help you to keep the meaning in mind, and to apply it to the rest of your day. You could keep it in your journal or your wallet if that works for you. Just don’t lose it!

 

If you are an experienced tarot reader, what do you wish you had known when you started? What has been most useful for your practice? I’d love to hear some tips and tricks. 

 

18. The Moon: Cognitive Distortions

The Moon is such an important celestial body for all of us here on Earth. The word moon comes from the word for ‘month’, which shows how important it is for us when it comes to measuring time. The Moon’s gravity causes tides, of which there are two high, and two low in 24 hours.

The Moon has been, and in many cultures continues to be used as a way of marking time. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, today (12th August) is in fact the 22nd of June.

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Source

We only see one side of the Moon, because it is in synchronous rotation with Earth. Occasionally we can see about 18% of the far side, but we didn’t see the rest until 1959. This can make the Moon seem very mysterious. Before the far side of the Moon was photographed, I wonder what humans used to think it was like.

The Moon is also associated with many deities such as Artemis, Selene, and Hecate. In China, they have Chang’e, who flew to the Moon after drinking an immortality elixir. In Japan, Tsukuyomi angered the sun Goddess Amaterasu so much that she created day and night so that she would not have to be near him.

Let’s look at The Moon as a tarot card:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch.

I love how strange it looks. The Star Spinner version depicts Chang’e who I mentioned above. There’s a quote in the Sasuraibito Little White Book for The Moon that I love:

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. – Pema Chodron

This card represents illusions and fears. It gives you a feeling that you’re not sure if what you’re seeing or experiencing is real. Think of the word ‘lunacy’ meaning madness, which comes from another name for the Moon: Luna.

According to A. E. Waite, who co-created the RWS deck, the wolf and the dog represent fears of the mind when there is only reflected light to guide you. Your animal self, fight, flight, or freeze. The crawfish represents universal fears.

This card has a lot to teach us if we are struggling with mental health, or if we are neurodivergent and struggle with masking a lot. I am reminded of the concept of Cognitive Distortions, which are thought patterns in which you interpret reality in a negative and damaging way. If you have ever done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you will have heard of these:

All-or-nothing thinking– Also known as ‘splitting’ or ‘black-and-white thinking’. This is when you see a situation as all good, or all bad. There is no grey area or in-between. Often perfectionists struggle with this one. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, and that you can overcome difficulties without getting everything right. Accept what you cannot change, and know that you’ll get it right next time.

Overgeneralising– This is when one bad thing happens and you think ‘this always happens to me!’ This is a distortion which I think can be improved by gratitude journaling. If you log the good things that happen to you, you can read them back when you’re feeling like nothing good ever happens.

Filtering– This happens when you only remember the bad things out of something that happened. Dwelling on the negative will hurt you. It’s important to recognise when something bad has happened, as rejecting bad feelings will hurt you just as badly. But don’t let the bad outweigh the good.

Disqualifying the positive– This is when something good happens and you dismiss it as a one-off. Alternatively it can mean that someone said something nice to you and you think they don’t mean it. Remember that people say nice things because they care about you.

Jumping to conclusions– It can be frustrating when someone says what they think you mean before you even get to say anything right? So when you’re communicating with others, let them tell you what they mean, and don’t assume. This can also be associated with self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think you can’t achieve something, you probably won’t try as hard and you’ll end up being right. Try to keep an open mind.

Catastrophising– This is where you think the absolute worst case scenario will happen. I recommend letting your mind go down that path and make a quick plan for if the worst does happen. That way, you’ll see that no matter what happens, you can cope. And it probably won’t be that bad anyway.

Please remember that this is just one view, and that CBT does not work for everyone. If you find learning about Cognitive Distortions useful, then great. If not, then feel free to throw that idea out and find something else that resonates with you. My other recommendation when thinking about The Moon is the book The Gift of Fear. This is a book about using your intuition or gut instinct to empower yourself.

When you pull The Moon, take a moment to meditate or journal about fears and illusions, and ways that you can use your own intuition to see through them. The Moon doesn’t ask us to solve anything just yet, only to begin letting your mind work through things.

If you are struggling with your mental or neurological health, please contact your GP. I find tarot to be useful as a self-help tool, but it cannot replace therapy.

8. Strength: Compassionate Action

Answers to yesterday’s riddles:

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

A human- crawls as a baby (morning), walks independently as an adult (afternoon), and walks with a stick in old age (evening).

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

A river- mouth of a river, riverbed, a river runs but can’t relocate.

In some Tarot decks, the 8th card is Justice, and Strength is 11, but all of the decks I work with have Strength as 8, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

When you hear the word ‘strength’, you might think of raw power or physical strength, and that might well resonate with a lot of people. But there’s an interpretation I think might be applicable to a wider range of people regardless of physical ability.

Have you ever seen the TV show What Would You Do? It’s a series where actors sit in public areas like restaurants and shops and pretend to have a disagreement that involves an injustice. An example is this episode which involves a cis woman telling a trans woman that she can’t use the women’s bathroom. The people around are not actors, and you can see their reactions to overhearing this conversation. Most of them begin by looking very uncomfortable, sometimes looking to whoever is with them like they’re thinking ‘are you seeing this?!’ and then in nearly every case, they step in and stand up for the trans woman.

Those situations are really scary, and I’m sure many of us have seen something similar and wanted to step in but felt too intimidated. But sometimes you can’t take it anymore, because the anger and the sense of injustice is stronger than the fear. For me, that’s a major part of the Strength card. When you’re so sure of your convictions that your fear of getting involved in a potential fight isn’t as powerful as that inner strength.

This kind of strength is compassionate and loving. It requires being sure of yourself. That’s really not easy. I think the beautiful symbolism of the Strength card helps us to find that within ourselves. Let’s take a look:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

The image is of a woman taming a lion. But she isn’t doing so brutally or forcefully. You can tell that she loves the lion. She’s firm, yet gentle. The lion represents parts of us that are often in our unconscious mind. In her book Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack describes Strength as ‘the whole force of personality, usually smoothed over by the demands of civilised life.’ Sometimes we have been taught by society to not speak up, or not express certain things. But rather than force those things away, the woman in the Strength card tames those aspects so that she can express them in a way that is useful.

It’s normal and understandable to be angry about something and want to lash out sometimes, but Strength helps us to channel this into something more productive like through activism or Nonviolent Communication, depending on the issue. Accept and love those fiery parts of yourself. Don’t ever force that lion back if you are passionate about something, but rather than letting those feeling explode, use them as fuel. If we let those feelings injure us, we can sometimes feel like the people who have wronged us have won.

It takes courage to release emotion. Sometimes people will call you names. For example, when black women express their feelings, they are often labelled as an ‘Angry Black Woman’, and this is used to dismiss them. Most women are socialised to tip-toe around others, and that’s not okay. Strength is that wild part of all of us that should not be pushed away.

There’s another part of Strength that I love. It’s the idea that you don’t need others’ approval to enjoy something. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

You might have experienced shame for enjoying something that your demographic typically doesn’t engage in. Maybe you’re an adult who enjoys cartoons, or a man who enjoys knitting, or a teenage girl who likes fishing. Anyone who makes you feel bad about those things is truly immature themselves.

Knowing who you are, and what you like is a powerful thing, and that’s what the Strength card asks you to manifest in your life. It helps you to speak up, to endure when things are difficult, and to be proud and confident in who you are. I hope you can use Strength to live your best life.

Today I mentioned Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. If you’re serious about learning Tarot, I really recommend this book. She dives deep into the symbolism of the cards, and I learned a lot from her interpretations.