How to Read Tarot Cards Using Your Intuition

Even after reading tarot for three years – I still have moments of doubt, but choosing to rely on my intuition versus definitive textbook meanings reminds me to trust what I see and what I feel over what may or may not be written on paper.

This is easier said than done since most are no stranger to faltering confidence but I’ve learned a few things through my use of different decks, reading often for myself, doing readings sparingly for others, and creating my own short oracle deck for my Senior Thesis project that have helped me personalize my tarot practice and rely comfortably on my intuition.

1. Choose A Deck That Resonates with You

There is no shortage of tarot decks for one to choose from and their consistent appearance in mainstream mediums and across social media these days has led to the steady creation of new decks practically every month.

But the first step to becoming an intuitive tarot reader is choosing a deck not because it is what’s most traditional, popular, or photogenic – if anything that is a surefire way of having inaccurate readings and becoming discouraged or disinterested – but choosing one or a few that correlate with how you see and experience the world.

Not every color story, art style, and other artistic liberties taken by a certain tarot illustrator and author will resonate with you. Yes, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is very much considered the mother of tarot decks but if the figures and symbols of the 1909 artworks reflect nothing of your reality then don’t feel pressured to own and learn from it.

The Modern Witch Tarot which closely follows the RWS style but replaces the imagery with a cast of colorful, queer and diverse people who interact with objects more relevant to our time such as cellphones and laptop, is a terrific example of a deck designed to reflect more contemporary visual experiences.

Other relevant examples include, the Dust II Onyx deck which retitled The Hanged Man card as Suspension to appropriately fit the narrative of Black empowerment and beauty, as well as, decks which follow the Marseille format, meaning that the only visual cues a reader will get from the Two of Coins card… are two coins, so if you were hoping for more symbolism perhaps avoid Marseille-style decks altogether.

When I bought my first deck the Death and Devil cards intimidated me which led me to choose The Starchild Tarot because it renamed both, then I bought a borderless RWS deck out of a feeling of obligation (as I have advised you not to do) and it surprisingly became one of my most favorite and accurate decks.

Pick what embodies your life and imagination and feel free to take a chance on a deck every now and then, everything else is just noise.

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2. Ditch the Guidebook + Rebel Against Convention

Read the accompanying guidebooks and any other authored books on tarot that you so please, I certainly did and still enjoy flipping through when it strikes my fancy, but if you depend on them for each and every reading then you will never hear what your intuition has to say.

Some things are enjoyed best when the colors stay within pre-established outlines, tarot is not one of them. If you only ever go by what others have said of the 78 cards, you will be stuck thinking of the opinions and interpretations of others as fact when nothing involving art can ever be truly definitive.

I can almost guarantee that if you ignore your own instincts you’ll find yourself frustrated and confused because your readings won’t make sense regarding the situation you’ve asked about and you’ll try and make up an answer that fits within the confines of the traditional definitions. 

This situation is the equivalent to pretending to be someone you are not, because you aren’t Pamela Colman Smith, Arthur Edward Waite, Rachel Pollack, Kim Krans, or any of the other countless artistic and literary tarot interpreters – having your own way of seeing is an irreplicable advantage, use it.

Read the story in the cards as your own eyes see it. To understand why this is so pivotally important one need only look at the Fool card. Where one might see an idiot walking aloof and without a care or responsibility in the world, hence his seemingly blissful ignorance and recklessness, another could see him as having the courage to being a long journey even as the sun itself looks down on him with disdain and disapproval, still the Fool is unfazed by the doubt of onlookers.

Perspective is everything, trust that your own is enough because it is informed by your lived experience and educate yourself where you feel growth is needed.

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3.“What If You’re Wrong?” But What If You’re Right?

There are few sensations more powerful than sowing a seed of doubt against yourself. If you shuffle, pull and read your cards while asking yourself the entire time if you’re getting it all wrong… you nullify your own intuitive magic.

Think of an instance when you have expressed extreme excitement for something of interest to you and were met with a response that made you feel silly or stupid for feeling that way, did it dissuade or stimulate your excitement? Most likely it did the former.

That is precisely what happens when you read tarot while constantly making degrading remarks, mentally or verbally, about your own intuitive inclinations and cardslinging abilities. Believe me, plenty enough people will attempt to demean you for enjoying tarot cards as it is, you don’t need to make an enemy out of yourself, too.

So, instead of asking yourself if you’re wrong, have you ever even dared to ask if you’re absolutely spot on? Have you given much thought to the times when your readings have perfectly reflected the situation in question and radiated the energy of the person or persons for whom the reading is for? Have you noticed that out of 78 cards there’s a particular one that seems to always find a way to make an appearance?

If you look for coincidence, you’ll find it. If you look for magic, you’ll find your intuition has a whole lot to say.

4. What Is Tarot to You?

Tarot is a divinatory tool linked with the occult and has been used popularly as such to highly dramatized degrees in film and television (some of which I can still enjoy), but it can have an entirely different existence and purpose for you.

A tool, an energy reader, a predictor, a mirror for self-reflection, a source of inspiration, once you decide what tarot is to you and separate it from what others say it is, then reading it using your intuition becomes a much more natural next step in the evolution of your practice.

While I read tarot cards for myself to clear my head and see a situation from a new angle, I also find it to be a useful instrument in my creative process when I am working on artistic projects, storytelling, or poetry writing.

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5. Study Symbols & Visuals from an Academic Perspective

Don’t go to tarot school – that’s not what I’m suggesting. Rather try to study visual culture, the philosophy of aesthetics, the history of symbolism in art, and other similar areas of scholarship to both become more confident in your interpretation of imagery and gain a broader knowledge of art theory and concepts from sources that exist out of the confines of tarot.

This does not then mean that you should reference academic papers and textbooks to decipher each card you pull, instead use this as an opportunity to add another gadget to your tool-belt. If your intuition is informed by diverse sources of visual comprehension, your interactions with tarot will only improve in enjoyment and accuracy.

I also strongly suggest you invest time into reading the mythos and stories of your cultural background(s), local environment, and revisit superstitious and supernatural tales you grew up with. These too will add another layer of context to your tarot readings and make you realize that just because your intuition may tell you something different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Take snakes, for instance, most in modern society see it as a symbol of deceit, lies, and oftentimes outright evil. To the ancient Aztecs, the snake was a symbol of fertility, creation and destruction, rebirth and renewal. Neither interpretation is right or wrong, and yet they are both true.

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