Five Easy Tips for Learning Tarot Card Meanings Without Memorizing Them

The idea of learning the meanings and interpretations of 78 individual Tarot cards may be one of the most daunting challenges for the Tarot beginner, but memorization is not the only way to become proficient in reading the cards. In fact, for many readers, rote memorization can make it more difficult to trust their own intuition – and intuition plays an enormous part in making useful interpretations of a Tarot layout. These five tips can help beginning Tarot readers reach beyond the confusing and sometimes contrary meanings given in the most familiar books and lead them to a more intuitive and fluid understanding of the cards and how they interact with each other in readings.

Choose a Deck with Pictorial Pip Cards

For the beginning reader, it’s generally most helpful to choose a Tarot deck with illustrated pip cards, the cards in each suit that are numbered from one to 10. While there are dozens of decks available, today’s most popular and common decks are based on the Rider-Waite deck, illustrated in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith. Smith’s clear illustrations make it far easier to remember the meanings of individual cards, and many teachers recommend it, or a deck based on it, as a beginning deck for that reason.

Learn the Story of the Major Arcana

The 22 cards of the Major Arcana tell a story of a journey through life, with each card representing a milestone along the journey. When first learning to read the cards, it’s helpful to lay the cards out in order and trace the story of development, from the ego manifested in the Magician to to the completion of the cycle represented by the World. Understanding the place of each card in the story makes it easier to interpret their meanings in a spread.

Know the Rule of Four and 10

There are four suits in the Minor Arcana, each consisting of 10 numbered cards and four court cards. The meaning of each individual card is a combination of its suit meaning and its number meaning. For example, the number eight represents infinity, the endless cycle, and Swords represent conflict and doubt. The eight of swords can be interpreted as being trapped in a situation by doubts and uncertainty. Every card can be interpreted the same way, so a beginning Tarot reader can get a jump on full interpretation by simply learning the 10 key concepts and the base meanings of the four suits.

Study the Cards in Groups

One of the easiest ways to understand how the number and suit work together is to group the Minor Arcana cards by number or court position – all the fives or all the queens, rather than all the Pentacle. Grouping them that way helps cement the basic meaning of the number, while highlighting the different ways the number interacts with the suit.

Play with the Cards Often

It’s easier for most people to learn the meanings of the cards when they’re not searching for answers to burning questions. Playing with the cards – laying out random readings and looking up the card meanings is an easy way to practice and become familiar with the cards.