Talking Tarot

Talking Tarot

I get countless questions over on the ‘gram about my tarot practice, people wondering where to start and what it all means. I wanted to share this blog post as a starting off point for you to discover the magic of tarot, learn about different decks and resources and hopefully inspire you to create your own tarot practice. I’m by no means a tarot expert or even a very seasoned reader, but I’m always happy to share what I do know and what I’ve learned through my own experiences. My best advice to you as you begin diving into tarot would be to follow your intuition. From choosing a deck to deciding what spread you want to pull on a given day, tarot is all about harnessing the power of your intuition to guide you. Tarot is a deeply personal practice, so I encourage you to make it your own. Seek the knowledge you desire and use the cards to find deeper meaning in your life.

If you’re lucky enough to have the financial means and are interested, I would also encourage you to receive a reading from a seasoned tarot reader. This experience will undoubtedly give you new perspective not only in your life, but also on how to handle the cards, on how someone else reads them and much more. It’s a great way to learn and potentially fine tune your own practice and readings.

I first became interested in tarot about 5 years ago. I bought my first deck – The Wild Unknown tarot – eager to dive in and learn about this practice. At first I would grab for the guidebook that came with the deck almost immediately after turning my cards over during a reading, but with time has come deeper knowing, patience and curiosity. I’ve gotten to know the cards and their meanings, as well as learned to use the pictures/drawings/symbols on the cards’ faces to intuitively interpret their meaning before reaching for the guidebook. I’ve taken a couple tarot workshops, which have been helpful, and I regularly listen to podcasts on tarot. I’ve listed some of my favorite resources for deeper learning and understanding further down in this post. I often use crystals in my tarot practice to clear or hold certain energies. You can read more about crystals in this post. I also use my tarot cards at different points within the moon cycle. You can read more about moon magic in this post.

The traditional tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards. Broken into two categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. When doing a reading, it’s good to note if your pull includes mostly one or the other, or if there is a certain suit (wands, cups, pentacles, swords) that comes up more than another. This can sometimes give deeper meaning to your readings.

Major Arcana – 22 cards. Begins with the Fool (0) and ends with the World (21). These cards typically deal with larger life lessons and overarching themes. They represent the universal archetypal energies that live within and around each of us.

Minor Arcana – 14 cards within each suit listed below. 56 cards total. The cards numbered 1-10 within each suit typically deal with the current situation or how things are showing up in your life at the moment. The court cards (page, knight, queen, king / son, daughter, mother, father / novice, student, knower, leader / etc.) often represent actual people or characters in your life or you, yourself.

  • Wands – Represent energy, motivation, creativity and passion. Wands often show up in readings about life purpose, spirituality and new ideas.
  • Cups – Represent feelings, emotions, intuition and connectivity. Cups often appear in readings that deal with relationships and the emotional connection with yourself and others.
  • Pentacles – Represent the physical, health and body, finances, work and material possessions. Pentacles often appear in readings around health, home, career and financial wealth.
  • Swords – Represent thoughts, words and actions. Swords often show up in readings that deal with communicating your ideas, making decisions and asserting your power.

Decks I Own and/or Love – 

Mesquite – My absolute favorite deck. I first got this deck for my friend Lee for her birthday, but then loved it so much that I got myself one a couple weeks later.

She Wolfe – The newest deck in my collection. The imagery and symbolism on the cards is strong and powerful.

The Wild Unknown – I was first drawn to this deck because of Kim Krans’ gorgeous imagery. It remains one of my favorite decks.

The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit – This is not a traditional tarot deck. This deck includes 63 animal spirit cards. It’s my favorite non-tarot deck. I love seeking wisdom from animal energies.

Kawaii– This deck, like its name implies, is cute and lighthearted, yet the guidebook offers in-depth descriptions.

Rider-Waite – This is one of the most popular tarot decks out there. It’s the traditional deck that most modern Western tarot is based of off. Using the imagery on the cards is very helpful if you are trying to get better at intuitive readings.

Mystic Mondays – Recently stumbled upon this deck and totally obsessed with the art.

Kaleidadope – Actually so DOPE!

Uusi Pagan Otherworlds – I love this deck. I don’t own it currently, but hope to add it to my collection soon.

The Fountain – I haven’t personally used this deck, but I’ve heard great things.

Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot – Love seeing more representation in tarot. This deck is beautiful!

The Moonchild Tarot – Love the imagery in this deck. Can someone please buy this for me for my birthday? 😉

I always enter my practice with a sense of openness and gratitude. To be able to sit in a silent place and consult with my deck is a privilege. I’m grateful to be able to have the time and space to practice. It’s important for me to honor that before moving into a reading. It’s also important for me to acknowledge that the cards don’t always give me the answers I want. Tarot isn’t always about finding answers or getting clarity on a situation. Sometimes the cards bring up the difficult realities you may have been avoiding, but that you know deep in your heart to be true. The cards often ask you to face what you’ve been avoiding. I find it helpful to take a photo or sketch my reading in a journal, so I can reference the reading at a later date. Usually when the readings don’t make sense to me in the moment, they become clearer in time.

To begin, I usually formulate a question or a series of questions dealing with the same situation or problem in my life. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. I’ve found the best questions start with what, why or how. For example: What can I learn from this situation/experience? Why are negative feelings coming up around this issue/person/situation? How can I move forward with my current situation?

I hold my question in my head and repeat it to myself (or aloud) as I am shuffling the cards. I focus my energy on my question/the situation while also opening my energy and the space up to what answers the cards may offer me. After shuffling several times, I split the deck into three piles then placing the piles back together. With my eyes closed, I spread the cards out in front of me in a long line. Moving both my hands over the cards, still with my question in mind, I slowly pull the cards for my spread, placing them face down in front of me. Once I have all the cards placed or have pulled the cards, I open my eyes and slowly turn the cards over. For me, it’s important to sit with the cards for several minutes to see what thoughts, feelings and emotions come up. I study the pictures on the cards and see what symbols jump out at me, which ones resonate and which ones bring up negative emotions.

A Few Tarot Spreads –

Card a Day:
An easy reading you can incorporate as a daily ritual in the morning. A great way to get acquainted with your cards.

3-Card Spread:
One of my favorite and probably most used spreads. Very simple yet always provides deep clarity. You can assign your own meaning Some different interpretations of the three cards could be:

  • Past/Present/Future
  • What’s helping you/What holds you back/What realization you need to move forward
  • Strength/Weakness/Growth potential
  • Mind/Body/Spirit
  • Current Situation/Obstacle/Advice
  • You/The other person/Your relationship
  • You/Your current path/Your potential’

Such a special way to welcome in a new year. I usually do this 13-card spread on New Year’s Day or the day after. You can read more about it here, but essentially you pull a card for each month of the year and the 13th card is the theme for the year ahead.

Typically the deck you have will list several spreads you can pull in the guidebook. I also love The Wild Unknown blog that has several other spreads you can work with.

Tarot Resources –

Tarot for the Wild Soul Podcast by Lindsay Mack – Lindsay is an amazing teacher and guide. I was lucky enough to take a tarot workshop from her at my first Spiritweavers Gathering. She is an excellent resource for all things tarot. – A great, mostly free resource with tons of information.

Visual Magic – Sarah Faith Gottesdiener (aka Gottess) is the author of the Many Moons workbook that I’ve posted about several times in the past. Her upcoming online workshop focuses on the moon cycle and magic practice including tarot.

The Hoodwitch – Love this site!

Biddy Tarot – This site is PACKED with useful information.



Rachel - 6:43 pm

Hi Alison, who do you recommend for a tarot reading in Portland?

keri - 7:44 am

So stoked about this post! I have been wanting to try out tarot but was hesitant to because it seems hard to interpret the meanings of the cards. This makes things seem easier and I think I will invest in one of the gorgeous decks…now which one to choose first…hmmm.

Zoe - 3:47 pm

Hi there! This was SUCH an amazing, expansive read thank you for sharing it! I just created Greater Hand Oracle Deck in the hope for it to be a vibrant, accessible, and fun way to high-five your cosmic health. If you’re interested in seeing it, please check out my Kickstarter for it:

Danielle - 8:14 pm

Great post Alison! I have a few decks and have been tinkering often fir 20+ years. I guess even longer bc I would sit for hours in high school in new age bookstores and use tarot at home a lot. Anyhoo, Wild Unkniwn is my new fave the last couple years, the art and her meanings are always spot on for what’s happening in my life at that time.

Keri - 2:39 am

I decided to purchase the mesquite deck, and I have been using it for a few weeks now, the insights it gives are spot on, its scary. My husband saw me doing it one day and freaked out. He says I’m “inviting evil spirits into our house” by doing tarot. He has known several women how have done tarot and he says all of them are either extremely unhappy or dead. I truly believe tarot is a tool to dive deeper into our intuition but it got me thinking about the darker side of tarot. I have been doing a lot of reading about it and it started to freak me out. I remembered your post and thought I would inquire with you about what you thought regarding this. Have you ever felt a spirit or presence around?

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