7 Tarot Tips for Learning Tarot Card Meanings

Learning all 78 Tarot card meanings can seem like a daunting task! Here I will share with you my seven favorite techniques for learning Tarot card meanings. These exercises will allow you to engage with your Tarot cards on a deep level, etching the Tarot card meanings into your brain! Take your time with these exercises and I promise you will gain a strong connection to and understanding of your Tarot cards. I recommend having a good book of Tarot card meanings as your companion for these exercises.

Scroll down to read the written version of my 7 Tarot Tips…

Many Tarot cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck illustrate some kind of scene unfolding. Really look at each Tarot card and ask what is going on here? What is the card imagery telling me?

For example, the Eight of Cups shows a figure walking away from eight stacked cups. It would appear as though this person is going off in search of something, perhaps even abandoning the cups. Indeed, the Eight of Cups meaning is all about moving on and searching for deeper meaning and fulfillment even if it means leaving something that one has worked hard to build up.

Jot down your impressions and then look up the Tarot card meaning in your companion book to see how close you were. Of course not all Tarot cards are so obviously illustrated, but this technique will work for many of the minor arcana cards.

2) Pay attention to the symbols

Go through your Tarot deck and choose one symbol on each card that represents an aspect of that cards meaning for you.

For me, the sun in the right hand corner of The Fool Tarot card represents optimism. The shining star in The Hermit’s lantern, in my opinion, stands for the guiding light of conscious awareness, and the uneven ground that the Page of Swords is standing on symbolizes instability.

The next time you do a Tarot reading, the symbols will act as memory triggers, reminding you of the Tarot card meanings. This is a really fun exercise to do on a rainy day!

3) Understand the Tarot suit qualities

Remove the Major Arcana cards from the deck and group the remaining Minor Arcana cards and Court cards into four groups – Cups, Swords, Pentacles and Wands. Each suit has a particular quality and deals with specific aspects of everyday life.

Cups– emotions, feeling, relationships (Water)
– mental aspect, thought, communication (Air)
– physical world, body, health, money (Earth)
– spiritual aspect, passion, creative drive, vocation (Fire)

  • Lay out each Tarot suit in a row in numerical order from Ace to ten, omitting the Court cards. Look at the progression from Ace to Ten as a “journey” of that suit and notice how each suits qualities are expressed in many different ways depending on the card number.
    For example, the Suit of Swords shows us the many ways our thoughts can effect us, from the Ace of swords (representing clarity, insight and great idea) to the Four of Swords (calmness resulting from letting our minds become quiet) to Nine of Swords (anxiety from letting our negative thoughts spiral out of control).
  • Compare each Tarot suit and notice the different vibes you get from each one. What vibe do you get from the Suit of Cups compared to the Suit of Swords? Does looking at the Suit of Wands make you feel different than when you gaze at the Suit of Pentacles?
  • If you are the creative writing type, try crafting a story starting with the Ace and then progressing all the way through the suit, using each card to inspire the next stage of the story. This can really help you understand each Tarot cards meaning on a deep level. (Another good rainy day activity!)

4) Understand the numerical qualities

Re-organize your Minor Arcana cards so they are grouped according to their number. Put all the Aces together, all the Twos together, etc…until you have ten groups of four cards. Now look for the similarities – can you grasp a particular theme with each numerical group? Sometimes this is obvious and other times it is not. If you can’t see a link between the cards in each number group, what are the differences?Β 

5) Observe any movement (or lack thereof)

Go through your deck and take out the cards that show obvious movement (eg: The Tower – people falling downward, Knight of Swords – charging toward something, Five of Pentacles – limping along with difficulty, Five of Wands – lots of movement but nobody’s going anywhere!)
Looking at each Tarot card individually, how does the movement in that card relate to that cards meaning?

Now go through your deck again and take out the cards that show a total absence of movement (eg: The Hanged Man, Four of Swords, King of Wands, Knight of Pentacles).
Looking at each Tarot card, how are these Tarot card meanings characterized by a lack of movement?

6) Personalize the Tarot card meanings

See if you can relate each card to a time in your life when you experienced what this card is portraying or to someone you know who has these characteristics. Maybe the Four of Cups reminds you of the time you kept getting job offers that just didn’t interest you. The High Priestess may represent your feeling of deep connection to the divine feminine within you. And perhaps the Knight of Cups reminds you of your sensitive, artistic nephew who always follows his heart.

Doing this will help you understand and remember the Tarot card meanings in a deep, personal way so that you won’t forget them easily! This isn’t something to be done in a day however – give yourself lots of time for this exercise, breaking it up over a period of several days or weeks.

7) Write on your cards

Jot down a few keywords on the back of each card, or on the white margins of the card. I have to be honest – this is my least favorite technique for learning Tarot card meanings. I haven’t actually tried this myself but many people tell me that this has worked well for them. I would recommend using an old deck or an extra deck that you don’t care about, since this pretty much ruins your cards!

This technique will not give you the depth of understanding that the previous techniques will, but if you still find yourself getting stuck on the Tarot card meanings after trying them, give this one a shot!

So as you can see, these aren’t Tarot tips for learning Tarot card meanings quickly – but if you play around with these techniques, I guarantee you will not forget the Tarot card meanings quickly, either! Have fun with these and let me know what exercise was your favorite in the comments box below…

Check out some frequently asked Tarot questions or learn more Tarot techniques!

Enjoy This Article? Sign up for updates...its FREE!

My monthly newsletter is full of Tarot tips and insider secrets to intuition & psychic development...and so much more. Stay in the loop!

61 Responses to 7 Tarot Tips for Learning Tarot Card Meanings

  1. McKenzie says:

    Hi Kate,
    So I bought a tarot deck today even though my grandma insisted against it (she’s extremely religious) is there a way to get her to not see them as evil? Like any tips?

  2. Tim says:

    Several years ago, my partner and I were at a party. Just for kicks, we accepted the offer of a tarot card reading from a girl who was there offering them. When she started mine, she looked at my cards, then up at me. She said, “You could do this better than me!” I asked, “What!” She said, “Read tarot cards. With some training, you could do this much better than me and I’ve been doing this for 15 years!” I’ve never forgotten that. But I’ve never followed through. She basically went on to tell me that I had a natural ability to read and translate the cards as they relate to people and their personal experiences. She said that she had never met anyone else with the potential that she felt within me. My question: Is this possible? Could she have seen this within only a couple of minutes of meeting, after just turning over my cards? How hard are the readings to learn? IS IT SOMETING ONE CAN LEARN or is it something inherently within?

    • Hi Tim,
      Wow – sounds like a good reading!
      Yes, you can learn to read tarot. You don’t need to be born with an innate ability to read cards in order to do it well, but some people have been born with gifts that make it easier for them to catch on quickly and have an easier time giving fantastic readings (as opposed to just decent or good readings). It sounds like maybe you have that gift! Hopefully this answers your question and is enough of a push to inspire you to pick up a deck of tarot cards πŸ™‚

  3. Marian Smith says:

    I’m not sure whether I’m reading things right or that I’m reading things into them because that is what I want to see or not see. I’ve asked many of your psychic’s one question and never get a true answer. Simple as it seems (will I get the paper work done in order to sale my mother house, so I can sale it fast) I have a lot of bills from her funeral, doctor bills, and hospital bills, that have put me in the red with my bank and ruining my life. But to no avail have I ever been answered. They ask for the money and then run me around the block with no answer at all. I thought maybe if I could learn to read the cards maybe I could learn the answer.

  4. Chanson Lee says:

    Trying to understand the more esoteric meanings of the Major Arcana has been a great challenge for me. An Adept whose insights I respected suggested that a binary method which might be helpful in unlocking some of the mysteries of the Majors. With key o The Fool standing placed at the top of two descending lines composed of Keys 1 through 1o, the next descending row of Majors mirroring the first,excepting Key 11 (Justice) opposite the top card,again theFool. The opposing cards,ie Key1 Magicia would fall across from theWorld. Both a reflection and an opposite in meaning Amazing insights which I never expected! Also,I enjoy your online offerings.

  5. Tina tregaskes says:

    Found you on Google. Your short video was very informative. I am on a tarot learning course at the local spiritual church, which I am a member. I have been trying to memorize the card written meanings, which has been impossible. Your video on how to look at aspects of the cards and see how I feel etc, is a very good idea which I will try. Some of the ideas you gave about relating to things past of my life I have unconsciously been doing , didn’t realize until you mentioned it. I will certainly be visiting your site again.

    • Welcome Tina!
      I’m so pleased that you found my video helpful and that your learning Tarot πŸ™‚
      Best of luck to you as you learn the cards – it’s overwhelming at first but just go at your own pace and have fun with it.

      Happy Tarot Reading!

    • Tina tregaskes says:

      Thanks for your reply, but I’m still wondering what the small animals mean, I.e. salamanders (lizard things) there’s a rabbit on one card, plus birds and fish. Lions are self explanatory etc.
      Would welcome your reply

  6. Beth says:

    Accidentally stumbled upon this and so grateful I did. An accident? I don’t think so!

  7. Jovina says:

    Greetings. i am very new at learning tarot. i would like to ask a question because i wonder, when we are using tarots we are harnessing the power of our higher self or tapping into deepest intuition i understand. so that would be good when reading for ones self, in sense that we know what we should do subconsciously? But what about reading for others? it is still the readers own feelings, how does this help someone else when feelings is not theirs? i am very interested and hope to learn more! thank

    • Kate says:

      Hi Jovina,
      Great question! I am not sure I can answer it properly here because this topic deserves a whole article/blog post. Reading for others is a whole different thing than reading for yourself, but basically you are using the wisdom of your higher self and intuition to tap into the other persons energy (via your tarot cards) and give them insights into their lives. In some ways this is easier than reading for yourself, in some ways it’s trickier. When you’re reading for another person, think of it as working with them and let them know what your feeling and ask them if that resonates or makes sense to them. Not sure if I’ve answered your question or not, but I hope this helps πŸ™‚
      Good luck!

    • Vanessa says:

      Light an Inscence, candle, use crystals to cleanse the area you sit in to call upon the Angels and spirits, release all negative energies the cards may have accumulated by placing the rose Quartz and clear quartz on top of the deck for a few moments while you close your eyes and voice your requests out to the universe, ask for clear answers and clarity for your own self and self guidance.

  8. JC says:

    Hi. Started venturing into tarot and actually get myself a Glided Tarot.
    Sometimes its quite hard to link your guide due to the illustrations slightly different.
    Maybe you could advice me on how to read it?? Because until now i decipher it using own thinking about the cards

  9. Jason says:

    Hi, recently i just ventured into this tarot thing.. I purchased the Glided Tarot deck. Sometimes its hard for me to relate your Rider deck to my Glided deck. but still manage to do it… Alot of guides and in depth stuff i can do. Maybe one day i dont need to refer to guidebook and online for meaning of cards and can do reading based on how cards talk to me.

  10. Liz says:

    Hi, Kate! Doing these exercise you suggested helped me a great deal about understanding the tarot. Although, I told myself last night that I was gonna focus on angel tarot cards. I kinda ate my words! Lol! I know I should focus on learning the very basic first – that also means that I’m gonna use my Rider Waite deck until I’ve familiarized myself with all the cards.

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, Kate! πŸ™‚

    • Kate says:

      Thank you Liz – I’m so glad you enjoyed this and found it helpful πŸ™‚ And I’m glad to hear that you’re focusing on the Rider deck first – that will give you a wonderful foundation that will help you read any deck after that, whether it’s angel cards, oracle cards, or other Tarot decks.
      Happy Tarot Reading!

  11. Rhiannon says:

    I am so glad I stumbled on your site.
    A friend of mine who is an awesome artist was commissioned to paint a series of painting to be turned into a tarot deck- which is amazing in and of itself- but when I went to the gallery opening that unveiled the paintings I just fell in love with the whole series. I ended up buying the painting and one of the decks. I never opened the cards though because the series is (based on Aesop’s fables) not labeled in the traditional way, and as an inexperienced reader I figured there was no way I’d ever be able to interpret them without going to page 5 for a specific card and reading the “real” meaning out of a guidebook. I kept the deck and the painting (he’s the “widower” card, a beautiful kitsune fox that i just cant stop staring at based on the Mr Fox’s Wedding fable…) on the end table by my bed and decided they’d both be art pieces.
    After reading (stalking?) several of your articles, I am excited to go home and open the cards up, and get to know them. It never occurred to me that they can mean something specific to me that I can figure out through intuition, that the meaning doesn’t have to come from a manual. Thank you SO much for giving my cards a new life!!!!

    • Kate says:

      Rhiannon, I am so happy you’ve decided to finally open your deck! Your comment made me smile so much πŸ™‚ Best of luck getting to know your deck and I hope you continue to use my site for ideas and inspiration!
      I am really curious now – what is the name of your deck?

      • Rhiannon says:

        They’re actually based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, not Aesops Fables like I originally thought. Oh the things you learn when you actually open the box! The box is labeled “Cartomancy 2014” and is by K8e Orr. Inside, the informational card says the deck is based on an Austrian tarot deck from 1904 she received as a present and features 32 Major Arcane and 3 bonus cards. I brought the deck to work with me today so they can hang out.

    • nico says:

      Is the nozomi tarots a good use even if it’s cosplay?

      • Kate says:

        I’m not entirely sure what the Nozomi Tarot is (and I did look it up) – it appears to be the same as a real tarot deck and if so, then yes, you can totally use it!

  12. Teresa says:

    I came back through the articles and this one stood out reminding me how great it was when I was just beginning. I didn’t read all of the comments but will add, that the writing on the deck (with sticky notes) was invaluable to me. as were the other tips. I just bought crystal visions after becoming enamoured with it in a reading you gave, and felt so connected with this hauntingly beautiful deck. I realized also that I am starting to see the thread of universal meanings rendered throughout the most decks. This comes in large portion to things I’ve learned here. Namaste.

    • Kate says:

      Teresa, thank you so much for this! I’m thrilled that my 7 tips article helped you so much – and I love your tip on using sticky notes on the cards – that is much better than actually writing on the cards and wrecking them. And I’m pleased you’re enjoying your Crystal Visions deck – that deck is a stand out favorite of mine πŸ™‚ I’m absolutely honored that you’ve found my site so helpful in your Tarot journey πŸ™‚

  13. jayd says:

    This has been a really great read, full of all the things i was looking for, and so insightful. Thankyou so much

  14. ChrisC says:

    Hi Kate,
    Stumbled on your site purely by accident, and love it. It’s one of the best sites I’ve come across.
    Your explanations are simple straight forward and full of insight!
    Cheers ChrisC

  15. Tara Young says:

    What is the seasons of the four suits? Everything I find is always different! Im so confused haha

  16. amy says:

    thank you for this article; it was really helpful! my question is, for some reason, i have always read knights as messengers, but i’ve been told that is wrong, that the pages are the messengers. do i totally scrap what i’ve always been doing? also, it seems that every book i read has slightly different meanings for each card, and i just can’t wrap my head around the common meaning between one book and another. if you could help me, that would be great. thanks for all you do!

    • Kate says:

      Hi Amy,
      Yes, Tarot meanings differ slightly from book to book. Don’t get too hung up on that though – I see each variation as a different way to see the card, but there is no one “right” definition of each card – how you interpret them will depend on the situation, the other cards, the spread, who your reading for, etc, and of course, your intuition!
      I don’t think it’s wrong to see the Knights as messengers – I often see them as riding into the Tarot reading with a message. Actually, I think all the Tarot cards are messengers in their own way! So don’t scrap what you’ve been doing, but now you can also see the Pages as messengers as well.
      Good luck, Amy!


  17. Mcairlyn says:

    Thank you for the tips. I will be saving your blog so I can refer back to it… OFTEN!! I have had tarot cards for a long time but became frustrated trying to learn how to read them. I can’t wait to try your tips as I believe they will be very helpful.

    • Kate says:

      That’s so great to hear, Mcairlyn! Good to know you found this to be helpful, I hope you have fun trying out these techniques πŸ™‚

  18. Madame Gregova says:

    Don’t forget about your intuition. The truth will come despite the cards drawn and the pictures on them πŸ˜‰

  19. Tomo says:

    Thank you for this insightful list of tips, it will definitely help me learn with my new deck, especially since simply memorizing never sticks with me.
    A question, if you don’t mind. I know that there are different decks based on different time periods and influences both to the culture and the artist, but is there anything that one should watch out for with a deck that has many minor differences? For example, my deck is the wildwood deck, where arrows, bows, vessels, and stones replace the traditional swords, wands, cups, and pentacles respectively. Also certain well known cards from the major arcana are changed in ways that make them hard to recognize to a traditional deck, such as number 16 and 17, which ii believe are supposed to be the hanged man and the tower are now the blasted oak and the pole star. What do you think?
    Thank you again for this video and list of tips!

    • Kate says:

      Hi Tomo,
      Glad you found my article helpful πŸ™‚
      I have the Wildwood deck, so I know what you mean. I think decks like this are hard to learn Tarot on, but if you have a basic understanding of the Rider Waite deck, then working with a deck that breaks from the norm can be challenging and fun. I don’t think there is anything that you need to watch out for.

  20. Ivy says:

    Hi Kate,
    When I first started on the spiritual path I’m on now, I learned that wands represented air and swords represented fire. I later found that many people didn’t agree with that. However, I have a hard time changing now that I learned it that way. I meditated on it for awhile and came up with this: wands come from tree branches which “wave” through the air. Swords (knives) when used in a murder is often times called a crime of passion, passion represents fire. That just seemed to solidify it even more for me to use those associations. I am wondering however, if this is going to represent problems for me as I learn the tarot? By that I mean are the images on most decks designed in such a way that wands are fire and swords are air? Thanks for your insight on this. I am glad to have found this site.

    • Kate says:

      Hello Ivy – welcome!
      That’s a great question – I think that it could cause a bit of confusion for you since I know many decks illustrate the suit of wands as a firey suit with orangey hues and such and Swords as air, with colder colors, but really, I don’t think it matters all that much how you see it – go with the way you originally learned it (which actually makes sense, the way you explained it) but just keep in mind the other elemental association as well. I don’t always pay too much attention to the elemental associations when I am reading, but I always see swords as representing thoughts/mind and wands representing action/passion. The thing with Tarot is that nothing is black and white – so I wouldn’t worry too much about it! Hope that makes sense πŸ™‚
      Happy Tarot Reading!

    • Annaleigh says:

      I actually learned it the way you did, but the reasons given were basically “it doesn’t make sense that an object representing an element can be destroyed by that element.” I’ve never been sure which way to follow, since technically a sword CAN be destroyed by fire (just very difficult), but that is also how it is created. I feel more connected to the original way I learned it, though, so I’ll stick with it unless the other way clicks at some point lol

  21. Mitakshara says:

    This article is indeed useful. The little tips mentioned therein will give a good result while practising and learning tarot.

  22. Debi says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for a brilliant article. I am just learning tarot and sometimes get overwhelmed by trying to remember everything. I love the tips about letting the cards tell their own story and assigning personal meaning to them. Thanks again for this.

  23. AdriΓ‘n Perez says:

    hey kate, well first thanks for this article , it help me a lot. i have another form of learning tarot cards meanings, and its matching the mayor arcana number with the minor arcana number and learning it by the keyword of each mayor arcana. for example, The Mage (I) goes with the aces, The Mage Keyword is “I want” so since each suit or group (Pentacles, swords) has their qualities you match it with the keyword of the mayor arcana. For example, Ace of sword will say ” I will have new beginings with problems”.

    sorry if is isnΒ΄t clear hehe πŸ˜›

    Pd: my vision of qualities for the suit of swords is problems and difficulties .

    • Kate says:

      Thanks for this tip, Adrian – I really like this way of looking at the cards – I am going to sit down tonight with my deck and try this out!
      Thank you πŸ™‚

  24. Ilham says:

    Hi, Kate. Just wanna say I enjoy your blog and I’m saving a copy of this article for learning purpose. I hope that’s okay. Greetings from random Tarot fan.

  25. Cheryl Leonhardt says:

    Thank you πŸ™‚

  26. Cheryl Leonhardt says:

    Thank you! I am just getting started~ πŸ™‚

  27. Deborah says:

    Kate, that was extremely helpful. I especially liked the tip relating a card to a specific event in your own life. It puts the card into perspective more easily. Thank you so much!

  28. kaia says:

    Hi Kate I have a specific question.
    Why is it that in some Tarot decks n8 Major Arkana is the Strenght and n11 is Justice
    while in other decks its vice versa. Meaning n8 is Justice and n11 is Strenght.

    • kate says:

      Hi Kaia,
      Originally, in the older decks like the Tarot of Marseille, Strength was 11 and Justice was 8. Then, The Golden Dawn (a metaphysical group in the 1800-1900’s who had a huge influence on how Tarot came to be viewed), reversed the order because Leo (the lion) seemed to go with Strength and Libra (the scales) went with Justice. In the order of the astrological signs, leo comes before libra. Waite (the guy who commissioned the Rider-Waite deck to be created) was a member of the Golden Dawn.(I got this info from Rachel Pollack’s book “Tarot Wisdom”). Hope that helps!

      • kaia says:

        Thank You πŸ™‚ This was really helpful.
        I did not notice it before but I bought a new pack of cards called Taroth Of The Sephiroth and started to compare the Images of The Major Arcana with my Rider-Wite and Cosmic Tarot decks and I found it a bit confusing that the Sephiroth had 2 cards in different order. xxx

  29. kaia says:

    Thank You! I found this website by accident and really find it useful.
    The Tarot just keeps pulling me. I got a card deck and practiced a bit a few years ago.
    I used the Cosmic Tarot and did just a beginners little readings and study and
    then I totally let it go. But recently I keep stumbling on it over and over and I have now decided to educate myself as much as possible.

    • kate says:

      That’s wonderful to hear, Kaia. I also use the Cosmic Tarot – its such an interesting deck!!! Good luck with your Tarot journey, I am delighted that you found my website helpful.

  30. MJ says:

    Just wanted to say that I really liked your tips and I am going to try them. I have put together a binder full of card meanings, but I am still struggling with learning them and becoming more comfortable with reading them. I bought my first Tarot card kit over the summer (2012) and just love learning more about them, so thanks!

    • kate says:

      That’s great to hear, Mary. Glad my tips are helping! Learning Tarot takes a while, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t learn it fast – just enjoy the process πŸ™‚

  31. Cesil says:

    Really helpful, Thnx! I’ll definitely be trying some of these =D

  32. elaine says:

    That is really helpful Kate, thank you. I’ve been interested for a while but found remembering all the meanings more difficult. These techniques will definitely help πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *