UPRIGHT: Beginnings, innocence, spontaneity, a free spirit
REVERSED: Holding back, recklessness, risk-taking
FOOL DESCRIPTION The Fool is numbered 0 – the number of unlimited potential – and so does not have a specific place in the sequence of the Tarot cards. The Fool can be placed either at the beginning of the Major Arcana or at the end. The Major Arcana is often considered the Fool’s journey through life and as such, he is ever present and therefore needs no number.
On the Fool Tarot card, a young man stands on the edge of a cliff, without a care in the world, as he sets out on a new adventure. He is gazing upwards toward the sky (and the Universe) and is seemingly unaware that he is about to skip off a precipice into the unknown. Over his shoulder rests a modest knapsack containing everything he needs – which isn’t much (let’s say he’s a minimalist). The white rose in his left hand represents his purity and innocence. And at his feet is a small white dog, representing loyalty and protection, that encourages him to charge forward and learn the lessons he came to learn. The mountains behind the Fool symbolise the challenges yet to come. They are forever present, but the Fool doesn’t care about them right now; he’s more focused on starting his expedition.
Understanding the general meaning of each card is just the beginning. The real power comes in using the cards to tap into your own intuition and wisdom so you can start taking positive steps into a brighter future.
Generally, a tarot card reading follows a simple format:
First, you need to ask the card deck a question. It should be clear and open-ended. For example, avoid asking questions that begin with “Will I…,” as they run the risk of locking you into a passive role in your own future.
The idea is to use the card reading to illuminate a path forward, so the tarot reader should ask questions that are broader. Here are a few frameworks to consider if you’re new to tarot:
“What do I need to know about…?” “How can I understand…?” “Why am I feeling anxious about…?” “Where is the hidden opportunity in…?” “What should I focus on in my relationship with…?” “How can I move past…?”
Once you have the question in your mind, it’s time to shuffle. There are multiple ways to shuffle tarot cards. The overhand shuffle involves holding the deck of cards in one hand and using the other to move cards from one side of the deck to the other.
You can also “cut” the deck by dividing it into several piles and then combining them into one again.
Or you can try spreading the cards facedown on the table and sweeping them into a big, messy pile before tapping them into place again.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it: Give all these techniques a try, and see what feels right.
Pull your card(s). Again, there are multiple ways to go here. Cutting the deck with your left hand and pulling the card on top is a simple, no-nonsense approach. You can also try holding the deck in your left hand and tilting it slightly so that part of the deck reveals a gap from which you can take the top card.
Or, you can fan the cards out like poker, and choose the card that draws your eye or feels right in your hand.
You’re free to pull a single card for a simple reading or several cards for what’s known as a spread. Instead of answering one question, tarot spreads can speak more broadly to your situation or life path. The more cards you use in a spread, the more in-depth the reading tends to be, but a big spread can be overwhelming for beginners.
Once you’ve chosen your card or cards, lay them facedown in your spread. Then, turn them right side up so you can gaze at their words, symbols, and imagery, paying attention to what comes to mind as you go.
How to interpret the cards you pull. The key is to stay as calm and focused as you can to fully connect with your intuitive abilities by way of the cards. If you’re drawing a complete blank about how a certain card relates to your question, check your deck’s reference book for guidance on card meanings.
Simple tarot card spreads to start with. As I mentioned, there are an infinite number of ways to spread out your cards. If you’re ready to branch out from single-card pulls and try more in-depth, multi-card spreads, here are a few to start with.
A three-card spread for centering yourself during chaotic experiences.
This spread comes from intuitive tarot teacher and founder of Soul Tarot School Lindsay Mack. After shuffling, pull three cards from the stack. As you turn over each one, consider how they speak to the following. Remember to breathe slowly and evenly, and feel into your intuition as you go:
Card 1: Represents what you can do to surrender to the change in your life. Card 2: Offers direction on caring for yourself during this process. Card 3: Serves as a guide for centering yourself in the midst of this change.
A five-card spread for illumination and clarity.
For this spread, also inspired by Mack, shuffle your cards and choose the five that call to you, or cut the deck into five piles. Take a deep breath and pull a card for each question:
Card 1: What is happening at the moment? Card 2: How can I weather it easily and with grace? Card 3: What is the lesson? Card 4: What is leaving at this time? Card 5: What is arriving at this time?
As your gaze at your cards and ponder these questions, take time to focus and reflect. It can be helpful to journal about your thoughts and feelings on each card for deeper interpretation.
Choosing A Tarot Deck Picking out a tarot deck is like going to the crystal shop and immediately running to the one that you feel drawn to the most. You’ll know exactly which deck you’ll resonate with. No matter what deck you pick, always cleanse them with whatever you please, I personally use sage.
Connect With Your Deck Before you even try to do a reading, take a minute and look at each and every card. Pay attention to the imagery and what you notice about it. Tarot decks usually always come with a little booklet that gives brief descriptions of what each card means, but I wouldn’t recommend reading that book just yet. Knowing the definitions of the cards when you’re an absolute beginner can sometimes take away from the intuitive messages you get from them. Once you’ve made sense of all of the images, then you can add in the definitions. This is how you make your deck personalized to you. No one out there is going to give the exact same reading as you because everyone’s intuition tells them something different. When you start reading always set the intention of only connecting with your spirit guides, angels, ancestors, or higher self. This will protect you from any negative energies that want to come through and mess with you although, this is usually never an issue.
Story Telling A very popular deck that is still widely used today is the Rider-Waite deck which was created in 1909. This deck is great for beginners because the images are very detailed and a lot of the time you don’t even have to know what the card means for you to understand the message. For example, this card is the Two of Swords.
Without even knowing what it means you can see a woman blindfolded holding two swords in opposite directions. This can represent that there are two paths to go down and you don’t know which one to take. From prior knowledge, we know that swords are weapons that were once used in battle, so you can infer that the card has to do with the conflict. Put it all together and the card is saying that someone is conflicted about which path to go down or which opportunity to take because they’re not seeing the situation for what it really is. The hardest part of tarot reading is not so much understanding what the card means, but more so understanding how the cards around it changes the meaning and creates a story. Let’s say you add the Wheel of Fortune next to the Two of Swords, how does this add to the story?
We know that the Two of Swords means inner conflict and indecisiveness. The Wheel of Fortune means abundance and things turning out in your favor. If you put the two together you can say that after a period of indecisiveness, you’ll eventually make a decision that will turn out to be successful and you’ll reap the fruits of your labor. The more cards you add the more the story will begin to come together and make more sense.
Tarot cards are shuffled and laid out in any number of Tarot spreads. The best known spread is the Celtic Cross, but there are countless other Tarot spreads you can choose depending on what type of question you want to ask and how many cards you wish to draw. If you want to start out very simply, you can draw just one card about a specific person or situation. In fact, your question doesn’t even need to be a question! It’s called an “open reading” when you simply think about a person or situation instead of asking a direct question — the cards will still provide insight.
Each position in a Tarot spread has its own significant meaning, just as every card has its own meaning. For example, your spread may feature positions for “past,” “present” and “future,” or for “possible outcome,” so it’s important to pay attention to the position in which each card turns up. A card speaking of heartbreak would surely mean something different if it turned up in the past instead of the future, right?
Laying out your Tarot cards Once you’ve determined your Tarot spread, it’s customary to shuffle all 78 cards in the Tarot deck and cut the cards as many times as you like while thinking about your question. This allows your energy to interact with the energy of the cards to achieve the best results. It also helps if you do your reading in a peaceful and relaxed environment.
When you are done shuffling and feel the moment is right, speak your question out loud, then pull your first card from anywhere in the deck and lay it on the first position of your spread in the upright position. Do the same for the remaining cards until every card is in place. Now comes the hardest (and most fun!) part — figuring out how to interpret your Tarot reading.
How to read Tarot cards Tarot beginners will likely need to refer to Tarot.com or to a Tarot reference book to find the meaning of each card in their spread. The illustrations on each card depict archetypes of the human experience, but they can also take on personal meaning for you.
Let’s take The Fool card, for example. This card features a happy young man gazing into the distance. He’s about to step off a cliff into the unknown as the Sun rises behind him, and he has a small knapsack of supplies. Now think about how this literal description of The Fool might be translated into an insightful message. The classic interpretation is that of a person at the beginning of something new — perhaps a new relationship or a life-changing adventure — and they should be feeling positive about it because they have everything they need to succeed.
See, doesn’t that make sense? Now you try. Begin by studying each card and the position it is in, write down notes about how the card makes you think and feel based on its imagery and symbolism, then look up the classic meaning and make a note about that, too. Once you have done this for all the cards in your spread, you’ll start to see a story developing — a story that’s all about you!
Like many forms of divination, Tarot cards are a tool to help you tap into your own intuition and the wisdom of the universal energy that guides your life. Tarot, which has origins in 14th century Europe, is not a form of fortune telling. It’s more like a mirror that reflects what is happening in your life at the moment. Tarot is able to tap into hidden thoughts, feelings and truths and bring them to the surface so you can use that information to make decisions about life, love, emotions, health, career and more.
About Tarot card decks Most Tarot card decks consist of 78 Tarot cards broken into a Major Arcana (22 cards) and a Minor Arcana (56 cards). The Major Arcana cards typically represent significant life events on a large scale, while the Minor Arcana cards deal with day-to-day life. The Minor Arcana includes four “suits” that each has a theme. Each suit is numbered one through 10, with four additional Court cards (Page, Knight, Queen and King).
Pentacles ~ Also referred to as “Disks” or “Coins,” cards in the Pentacles suit pertain to things in the material and physical world. Pentacles cards often indicate money matters, career and success, but they also can indicate levels of emotional and spiritual prosperity, too.
Wands ~ Sometimes called “Staffs,” the suit of Wands is more spiritual and is used to illustrate the energy of movement, growth and new beginnings. Wands represent ideas and innovation. They are often related to your career or your sense of purpose in the world, but they can deliver strong love messages, too.
Cups ~ The suit of Cups is connected to our emotions and to our relationships, and to matters of the soul. Cups cards can reveal how we truly feel and how others truly feel about us. They also speak of our emotional well-being.
Swords ~ The Swords cards are most associated with conflict and strife, which can refer to internal conflict, as well. Swords cut to the heart of a matter, revealing our greatest challenges. They can tell of illness, heartbreak, war, loss and death, but they can also reveal truths we need to face in order to move forward, which ultimately is a positive thing.