First off, there are literally thousands of tarot decks, most novelty decks such as Lord of the Rings or Shakespeare, and each with its own symbolism. While tarot originated by reading playing cards, in 1909 the first Rider-Waite deck was published by the Rider Company -- the most widely-used deck in tarot. Pamela Colman Smith painted these cards with instructions from mystic A. E. Waite. The symbols from this famous deck closely resembled earlier decks but with some adaptations. "The Pope" became "The Hierophant" and "The Papess" became "The Priestess," along with other minor changes.
In the earliest days of tarot it was seen as a form of witchcraft. Indeed, today it still is, although it is disregarded as false readings. My personal opinions on this subject aside, let me walk you through a typical reading.
I start by asking the Querent (the person the reading is for) to think of a question. This has to be an open-ended question (yes/no questions are not allowed) and it has to have a time restraint -- instead of asking "What does the future have in store for me?" the Querent would ask, "What do the next two weeks have in store for me?" And the question has to be important, although that's a personal rule. I just don't like wasting my time on frivolous questions. I'm not a hair consultant.
Once the Querent has settled on a question -- keeping this question to him or herself -- they shuffle the cards while thinking of their question. I then take back the deck and lay out the cards in whichever layout they want.
Popular layouts include:
- 3-card spread -- past, present, future
- Cover/cross spread -- a six-card in-depth version of the 3-card spread.
- Horseshoe spread -- past, present, future for two different paths
(the type of question using this spread would be: What would happen if I did this versus if I do nothing or I do that)
- Celtic Cross spread -- this is the most common in-depth reading. Some tarot readers use ten, some use eleven cards
Once the cards have been laid out, I interpret them without knowing the Querent's question. Interpretation books such as It's All in the Cards by John Mangiapane are priceless for those just starting out.
You'd be surprised how uncannily on-the-ball my predictions can be.
Lindsay Below is the author of Lurkers, a young adult novel coming from MuseItUp in July 2011. Her middle grade novel, Same Old Lie will be released from MuseItUp in November 2011. Visit her at www.lbelow.com.