How to Read Tarot Cards: A Step by Step Guide

There are a million different ways to read Tarot Cards, but this is my favorite!

In this simple, step by step process, you will learn how to give yourself a meaningful, intuitive Tarot or Oracle card reading, regardless of your level of experience. This process helps you tap into your intuition and look at your Tarot cards in a whole new light.



If you prefer to listen to me guide you through these steps, just download the recorded version of this Tarot reading process.


Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to clarify that there are two ways to read Tarot cards. The first way is to memorize all the Tarot card meanings that are in your Tarot book. The second way is to use your intuition and psychic abilities to interpret the cards. Most Tarot readers do both – they know and understand the meanings of the Tarot cards, but they also use their intuition to guide them.

The method of Tarot reading that I am going to explore here is based primarily on using your intuition. So if you are totally new to Tarot cards, you don’t need to rush off and memorize all the Tarot card meanings. You don’t need to “know” anything to do this exercise!

Before you begin this exercise, make sure you are sitting comfortably with your deck of Tarot or Oracle cards in front of you. Have a notebook and pen nearby.

Step 1: Relax


When you are relaxed and your mind is quiet, the soft voice of your intuition can be heard. Make yourself comfortable and begin by taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the nose or mouth. Visualize exhaling everything that’s on your mind – you can come back to your worries later – but for now, let your mind become clear and empty.

Relax your body by breathing into any areas of tension or discomfort and exhaling the tension until your body feels warm and calm.

Step 2: Clear your Tarot Deck

Since your deck will have absorbed the energies of your last reading or of the last person who touched it, it is important to clear your deck of any residual energies. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is by shuffling.

After you shuffle your deck a few times, hold it in your hands and give it a “light bath” – visualize breathing in a beautiful white light and sending that light down your arms and into your tarot deck so that it is bathed in white light. This not only clears your deck, but it helps you connect more strongly to your Tarot cards.

Step 3: Ask Your Question!

As you hold your deck, ask your question silently in your mind or out loud. If you don’t have a specific question, you may simply ask your Tarot cards “what do I need to know right now?” or “What messages do you have for me today?”

Let your question settle into the deck. Imagine that your question is traveling from your mind, down your arms and into your Tarot cards.

Step 4: Cut the Deck

Place your Tarot deck on the table in front of you and using your left hand, cut the deck in half and place the top half on the left. You should have two piles of cards now. Choose the card that is on the top of the right pile and turn it over.

Steps 5-10: The Reading

For this part, you may want to get out your pen and paper…

First Impression – Notice what your first thought, feeling or reaction was when you turned the card over. Often, our first impression is loaded with intuitive insight because our egos/minds haven’t had a chance to jump in yet.

Body Messages – Your intuition will often communicate with you through physical feelings, like a tight stomach or tingly feeling in your hands. Notice if you get any physical sensations as you look at your Tarot card.

wild wisdom of the faery oracle

Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle by Lucy Cavendish

Say the card’s name out loud – doing this can sometimes open pathways in the mind, giving you access to new insights and information. Notice how you feel when you speak the cards name out loud.

Color – Notice the colors in your Tarot card. Is there a mix of color, absence of color or mostly one color? If one color is more dominant than the others, what does that color mean to you?

Action! – What is going on in this Tarot card? Are people communicating or struggling? Is there a lot of movement or stillness? This one factor can often indicate the issue you are dealing with and its solutions.

Characters – Notice which figures, whether human or animal, are present in your Tarot card. What message does this character(s) bring to you? Imagine yourself stepping into the Tarot card and having a conversation with this character. What would they say?

Symbols – What symbols stand out to you? What do those symbols mean to you? Tarot cards communicate to us through symbols and many “hidden meanings” can be discovered when we take the time to meditate on the symbols.

Step 11: Closing the Tarot Reading

When you feel it is time to end the Tarot reading, hold your deck in your hands and silently thank it for all the insights and guidance it has brought to you today. You may want to enjoy a brief moment of silence just to let the reading settle in.

Reshuffle your Tarot deck and return it to its resting place.

Get my free download How to Read Tarot with Love, Light and Intuition to  practice these Tarot reading techniques.

Not sure what deck to buy? Check out my Recommended decks for beginners.

You may also enjoy…

Free Audio Download!
How to Read Tarot Cards with Love, Light & Intuition

80 Responses to How to Read Tarot Cards: A Step by Step Guide

  1. Autumn says:

    Hi Kate,

    I recently started learning tarot. I never really thought about who I am asking guidance from when I ask my deck a question, but it seems like an important aspect. The cards are just a tool for accessing information, right? When tarot readers ask questions, do you feel they are asking the divine, or their spirit guides and guardian angels, or are they just tapping into their subconscious? Also, would that change if you’re reading from a fairy deck for example. Would you be asking the fairies your question? And finally, if you are reading for someone else, who would you address their questions to? I can’t seem to get a clear answer for this question and maybe it’s because everyone believes something different.


    • This is a fantastic question, Autumn! All readers probably approach this a bit differently. When I do a reading I call on my higher self and my spirit guides to help me get the information and inspiration I need in that moment from the reading. If I’m reading for another person, I ask to connect with their higher self and their spirit guides, as well as asking my own higher self and spirit guides for assistance. You could simply just direct your questions to “the universe” or the Divine – whatever language makes the most sense to you.

  2. shania says:

    where is the best place to buy tarot cards from?

  3. McKenzie says:

    Hi Kate,
    So I just bought a tarot deck against my Grandmother’s advice (she’s really religious) anyway I found your site and found it to be really helpful. I can’t wait to start doing readings

  4. Jami says:

    Why do tarot cards have a difinative meaning and a reveresed? What do each represent? Is the reversed just the opposite of the difinative?

  5. Salem says:

    So I miss placed my tarot cards in a move and finally found them but one is missing! I don’t believe you could use a deck with a card missing and have a thorough reading because the chances you could pick that card tho they may be low are still there. Can you or can you not use your deck if you are missing one of the cards? It’s not a major arcana card either. It’s the Knave of Chalice! Please get back to me

    • Personally, I wouldn’t want to read with an incomplete deck. Get a new deck and save this one for practicing learning the meanings or something.

    • Nancy says:

      I have lost one card 5 of swords from the deck , what i should do

      • You could get a new deck…or ask yourself what the 5 of swords means to you. Is there are reason it’s “missing”? Is your life totally devoid of 5 of swords type energy, therefore, this card isn’t needed in your deck? Or is the 5 of swords energy something you are afraid of try to avoid? Perhaps your deck is trying to bring your attention to the 5 of swords by it’s absence!

  6. Brian says:

    Signifficator: King of Wands
    1. The fool
    2. Prince of Cups
    3. 3 of Wands
    4. Ace of Wands
    5. 8 of Cups
    6. Queen of Swords. Reversed
    7. Wheel of Fortune
    8. The World
    9. 4 of Swords
    10. 6 of Pentacles.
    Asked about future seems like to much icing what am I missing (celtic cross)

  7. Jayd says:

    I want to get tarot cards and start learning to read therm but my parents are very christian and I’m afraid if they caught me buying them they’d accuse me of witchcraft and I’d get in trouble for doing devil worship. I can’t think of a good cover for why I’m get them that would calm their suspicions either, any ideas?

  8. Jacqui says:

    Hi ive wanted a tarot deck for about ten years and a few years ago i spied a faerie deck in one of my favourite crystal shops. I went in there today and the deck i wanted was gone but i did see another faerie one and brought it. (I am very passionate about faeries) the one i got is mystic faerie tarot by Linda Ravenscroft. Im just not sure on the spread and how to read it, i should use. There was one spread a friend of mine used on me and i really liked it but i cant really remember and google isnt provoking any memories.

    • Brian says:

      Barnes and noble or the library or descripe it like 3 in center 2 on top 1 crossed over 4 around and 4 on the side is Celtic cross it is my favorite or find what works for you.

  9. Jon says:


    I have always had a deep interest in learning more about the Tarot. My parents were very strict religiously. Although, I did learn what I could about other paths in my youth. I am a man of inquisition, and simply reading only one point of view has never abided well with me.

    Honestly, I follow a Heathen path now, and use the Runes almost exclusively. I have researched many world religions before deciding to take up my ancestral faith. I have had a few readings in the past, and they appeared to be very accurate. I am considering acquiring a set. However, I am not sure how I should go about choosing a one. In the past I have handcrafted all of my rune sets.

  10. Sri says:

    Hey I’m so happy I found this website , I always have doubts in whatever I do I feel like tarot cards would give me some guidance , I recently wrote my college exam (very important one) , I just can’t stop thinking about it, I really want to ask tarot cards about my results ?
    Also is it ok to make my own cards ( printing from Internet)
    Please help

    • Hi Sri and welcome!
      Sure, it’s okay to make your own cards by printing off the internet, but buying a Tarot deck is probably a better option. They aren’t that expensive and it just seems like a ton of work and bother to print off your own and it won’t be very durable.
      Good luck 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      As for printing your own cards, there is no need. Many used book sotres sell tarot cards, and you can always try amazon. I find it is much more natural to connect with a real set of cards. Hope this helped!

  11. Rebecca Horne says:

    I have just done my reading for a set of cards and I am wanting to know what are the best book or website to learn how to read tarot cards

  12. Purva says:

    Hi Kate, can we read tarot cards while we are pregnant?? Does negative energy affect the baby??

    • Yes, you can read Tarot when pregnant. I am not entirely sure what you mean by “negative energy” in relation to Tarot? Tarot cards don’t have negative energy, but if you do a reading for yourself and you don’t like the cards that came up and you get all stressed out about it, then I suppose that will be creating negative energy! So if you feel you are in a sensitive place, it’s best not to read Tarot – wait until you are feeling less emotionally reactive (but I say this to everyone regardless of whether or not they are pregnant). I hope that helps!

  13. Lilli says:

    So two or so years ago I did some research for a short story that I was writing, the main character was a witch, but while doing my research I came across a few websites about tarot cards and I looked a little further into them because I was interested. After the unfortunate abandonment of said short story (alas it was the result of a 14 year olds imagination – how good could it really be?) I forgot all about tarot cards.

    Yesterday, however at the mention of tarot cards in the film I was watching, I felt this urge to learn more about them. I ignored this urge for the rest of yesterday and the majority of today, but this afternoon I decided to pick up and write an idea similar to the one I tried to write at 14. This lead me to looking at the meanings of various tarot cards that could perhaps represent or be meaningful to my character. I felt totally intrigued by the concept of tarot cards and reading them. This feeling obviously lead me here and to numerous other websites on tarot cards/tarot readings. I’ve also come across a website that ships tarot cards to Australia, and have had the browser open for quite some time.

    Now as a 17 year old, I’m in my last few years of High School and currently I’m going through quite a strenuous time – what with coming to terms with adulthood in two years time, the usual conflict with parents, facing reality, etc., etc. – and I am not sure if this interest in tarot cards has been prompted by a need inside of me to find some sort of clarity in such a messy time, or just me seeing something new that looks cool and liking the ‘idea’ of it.

    I understand that you may not be the single best person to offload my adolescent problems to, but, in your experience is there a difference between genuinely being drawn to tarot cards/readings and the spirituality that goes along with that, and liking the concept of tarot reading. Because I know for sure that I am very skeptical in terms of spirituality and how to connect with that inside yourself – it’s just a matter of whether I have a sense of commitment that I need.

    • Hi Lilli,
      I’m glad that you’ve been following up on your urge to learn more about Tarot – you’ve come to the right place 🙂
      Let me just clarify what you’re asking me: is there a difference between being drawn to the tarot (in a kind of mystical way) or just merely being interested in the Tarot?
      I’m not sure as there is much of a difference and I don’t think it really matters. Being intellectually interested in something and being spiritually drawn to something are just two sides of the same coin, so don’t overthink it!
      I think you’re saying that your more of a rational minded/intellectual person and you don’t really resonate with the touchy feely woo-woo aspect of spirituality – that’s okay, you don’t need all that to learn Tarot anyway. When I first began Tarot I wasn’t really into spiritual things at all, but my practice with Tarot definitely brought me there, although that isn’t everyone’s experience. Hope that makes sense!
      Please feel free to ask me any other questions about tarot as you learn 🙂


  14. Uncle Squinty says:

    I used to read, then went blind. For some reason, the cards are calling me back to them. This will be an interesting experiment. I will probably mark the cards with braille, although I don’t wish to offend the cards, nor cause them pain (yes, I know that sounds a bit looney). I wonder if I will miss being able to see the colors and images on the cards; I can remember exactly how many of them appear, but there are gaps. Advice? Oh, and thanks very much for this lovely, informative site. Blessed be.

  15. Jen says:

    Hi! Im a beginner to tarot cards. I have always been interested but today at a second hand store i came across a set. I felt that i had to have them. I would like to know any recommendations on cleansing? Thanks!

  16. Orion says:

    Hi Kate, I have recently begun reading tarot cards. I used to read years ago. I stopped because my partner did not feel comfortable with it. About two months ago I was sleeping and I had like a calling, as if tarot was calling me back. I woke up and knew I wanted to start reading again. To my surprise, not long after that a friend of mine gifted me with a new deck of her own will. I am a bit rusty now being that I haven’t read in about 4 years. Your advice is amazing, do you have any more places where you give more advice or do you have any forums or anything where I can get my feet back wet again, as far as tarot. Thanks a lot.

  17. Lia says:

    Hi, Kate! I’m a newbie who’s interested in tarot reading but I have not gotten a deck yet. I heard that you should see the deck physically when buying one to see if it calls to you. Do you recommend any decks for beginners? Or maybe even a store where I could physically buy one? Thank you so much! This was very helpful.

  18. Laura says:

    I’ve just came across your website. I bought a Set of oracle tarot cards a few years ago but I don’t use them all that often. I just read for myself. Tonight when picking cards my hands started tingling over 3 cards which is how I found you but I’m just wondering if this has happened to someone else. I finished my reading and closed my eyes while holding the cards and took a deep breath. It was then that there was a blinding white flash and my whole body started tingling it still is. What could this be? It literally happened 5 mins ago

    • Kate says:

      Wow – that sounds intense, Laura! I don’t know what that could be. I have gotten tingly hands before when doing readings, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a blinding white flash before. Did it happen again for you or just once?

  19. Tiara says:

    Hi Kate!
    I have been interested in Wiccan traditions and practices as well as tarot cards for years and I finally bought my first deck, so I am a beginner. I own The Rider Tarot Deck and I have done a few readings thanks to your website. I Googled how to read tarot cards and your website popped up and was by far the most helpful and informative. Following your guide, I have done two readings for others and five for myself. All seven of them have been spot on!! I hope to one day make a successful career of this. Thanks again!

    • Kate says:

      Tiara, thank you so much!!!! That is fantastic to hear, made my day 🙂
      Sounds like you’re a natural at Tarot reading – way to go!


  20. David Mitchell says:

    Cheers for sharing your calm energy and tips in regards to breathing and relaxing body and mind,,,, yup I left my troubled minds back at the Rubbish bin … going well are we. Buying my fret out fit do.

  21. Mel says:

    Just used this for my first tarot reading, thanks for the guide!

  22. Aundria says:

    Hi Kate, I just found your site and have been digging around in it for a couple of hours and wow! Just so user friendly and helpful! I have a beginner question. In this step by step guide, you only described pulling one card for the reading. Is that how it is done typically or is there a specific number of cards one should use per reading?
    thanks so much for your help! -Aundria

    • Kate says:

      Hi Aundria and welcome to my site!
      I’m so glad you’re enjoying it so much 🙂
      You can use any number of cards for a reading, I just focused this exercise on one card because it’s simplest. Typically, you would use a spread for a reading and you can see some different Tarot spreads right here:
      You can do this process for each card in the spread, spending a little more time on the cards that jump out at you or feel strongest for you.
      Hope that helps!

      Happy Tarot Reading 🙂

  23. Sav says:

    This is actually my first article on reading about tarot cards and it was so helpful. I already feel a lot more confident about reading them. I do have one question though. When doing a reading on another person and I tell them to think of a question would it be better for them to keep it to themselves or if they told me?

    • Kate says:

      Great question! I would have the person tell me their question so I could focus their reading on that. Otherwise, they could keep it to themselves but then the reading will be more vague, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer to know exactly why someone’s coming for a reading and what they want to get out of it.

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  25. Lama says:

    Hi Kate,
    I would like to ask you about the direction of the cards, I heard they can be straight or upside down with different meanings each ? Is that right?

    Thank you , Lama

  26. Ashima Sharma says:

    I really love the way you explained everything here in this article. This is very infomative. Thank you soo much! 🙂

  27. VIBHUTI MEHTA says:

    hi! kate.

    i loved your way of readin tarot cards. i believe in intution and i beleive in signs and signals from higher soul.

    recently i have got a deck of tarot cads gift from my brother, he alwys knew that i wanted tart cards but he didnt knew which one to buy so he bought me true love tarot cards by amy zerner and monte farber.

    i asked few questions regarding my relationship.
    Hi! I have bought true love tarot cards, I m very new to tarot cards reading, in the guide book it is written to ask a question for what I m seekin answer, ask it till my mind is focused on the question and is not gettin biased by the ans, I did that I had two questions in my mind, for first question I asked I picked up eight of roses (signals) card in upright position
    And for second question I asked I picked up kings of wings and ace of wings both the cards in upright position and I chose two cards as my intuition made me choose two cards
    My first question was tell me what I need to know about my marriage with kushant, will I get married to him??
    And second question was tell me wat I need to knw will kushant parents agree for our relationship and get us married to each other and accept me as kushants wife n their daughter in law??

    i am very new to tarot cards reading.

    some what i understood wat was written in guide book about cards but i have understood the ans my higher souls wants to give me.

    can you pls help me with this?

    plz reply me by mail..

    thank you so much…

  28. Starr says:

    Hi Kate! I love your site. Thank you for inspiring us. I’m new to Tarot, and I’ve purchased the Rider-Waite deck and also the separate book that supposedly explains how to read the cards. I feel a little apprehensive with their interpretations. I’m wondering if you can recommend any reference books or websites? Also as me being completely new to this, but very open-minded and very intuitive, some initial tips to reading. Thank you!

    Love and light

  29. Lucas Tyrrell says:

    Do I have to order my cards (like coins-cups-wands-swords-major arcana) after every reading?

  30. shalini says:

    hey I just love ur tarot reading method .. I will buy tarot cards soon! pls suggest me from where I should buy original cards ? Thank u ! hv a wonderful day.

  31. Layla says:

    I’d just like to say I love this method and it helped me come to the conclusion of staying with my current partner which I’d been debating for a long time, and coming out to my father, but the decision doesn’t feel forced I feel confident and peaceful in them

  32. Melissa says:

    I was in a bookstore and was drawn to a deck of tarot cards and bought them. I have never had a deck and know nothing about tarot. Could you please point me in the right direction to begin to learn? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you lots.

  33. ribin says:

    I am wondering, where us best place to get a set of tarot cards? Thanks if you can help me

    • Kate says:

      I order most of my Tarot decks through
      Also, your local bookstore might have a few decks, but the selection won’t be as good.


    • brendan says:

      Also, if you’re planning on “meeting with your deck” or seeing if you’re truly attracted to the deck that you purchase and want to visit a shop to hold the cards and pick and choose, I’d visit Barnes and Noble. They have a variety to choose from.

  34. Emma says:

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you so much in responding to my email. I have looked at all the links you provided, including this one. I cannot wait for my new oracle decks to be delivered, so that I can get started….very excited

  35. Erin says:

    Hi Kate! I have been experimenting with creating my own spreads, where I’ll just shuffle the cards and ask a question and lay a card, assigning that question’s response to that card. It sort of turns into a conversation of sorts, and I keep going for a few questions until I feel like I have a nice informative layout. Do you think this is a valid way to read cards.. Or is it better to stick with traditional spreads?
    My reading:
    (asking and thinking I’d the question while shuffling)
    1. Will I be working with X big client again soon- wheel of fortune (luck and a new chance)
    2. Thoughts on the guy I’m casually seeing- tower (uh ending lol)
    3. Thoughts on far away guy who pops in every once in a while- the world (tend to get this card, or lovers in relation to this guy)
    4. What will be there when I move back to NYC eventually – judgment (finally reaching my purpose)
    5. On my spiritual journey- the queen of wands (help from my female spiritual advisor and friend)
    6. How’s my money situation going to look next year – 9 of cups (be happy with what ya got)
    7. Am I going to be traveling with X client if he comes back- the lovers popped out, and the emperor (lovers always flies out! And the emperor would be this powerful man client)
    8. What can I do to make this all happen – 2 of pentacle (find balance )

    So, to me, reading this way is fun and more direct in a way, and I’m really trusting my intuition to interpret the cards for myself.

    • Erin says:

      Oh, and I thought that was A LOT of major arcana cards for one reading…. Which is why I thought “oh this is important, keep asking…”

    • Kate says:

      Erin, I love your method of reading! That’s fabulous. I don’t think you need to stick with traditional spreads at all – I love creating my own spreads on the fly, depending on what questions I have. Your idea of it being like a conversation totally makes sense and I think this is what really great readers do with the cards. Thanks for sharing this and sharing your reading 🙂

  36. Jay says:

    Dear Kate, I just love the way you do your tarot and oracle card readings. I have the Tao Oracle Deck and I’m learning from you by watching your vids on YouTube. I’m doing very well with them. I also want to ask you kate, do you ever mix up your tarot cards where some of them are upside down, and do the readings for the reverse part of the cards? I haven’t notiiced any upside down cards when you do the readings on YouTube for the tarot readings. You have inspired me to go further in the spiritual way of life Kate and I thank you for that. Have a very beautiful day.

  37. Cherie says:

    Dear Kate,
    I just want to thank you for your beautiful site and its many wonders. Being recently interested in tarot, I have been seeking much information on it. I have heard many ‘bad things’ on tarot and how it can bring bad luck or corrupt a soul. Hence, you can imagine how taboo tarot is as a subject matter till recent times, where my interests towards it ignites. I would like to seek your advice on how to perhaps overcome this ‘fear’ of tarot, and embark on this journey with an open mind and none of the preconceived doubts.

    • Kate says:

      Cherie, I am delighted that you are enjoying my site 🙂 Thank you for your question – you have totally inspired me to write a blog post on this issue, as its a big one for many people. I am lucky that I didn’t really have to overcome any major Tarot fears myself, but I have had people tell me that Tarot is “of the Devil” and things like that, so I feel there are plenty of misunderstandings about Tarot out there! My article on this topic (overcoming a fear of Tarot) should be posted next Saturday…thank you for the inspiration:)

  38. Thank you for the written version of your guide, Kate! I really enjoy listening to your guides, but it is always a joy to be able to read them too. I sometimes forget to check all of the aspects in the cards, like action, color etc., this guide is going to help me a lot with that, like a check-list. And I’ll definitely listen to my body more to catch reactions, I found this tip really inspirational, since I haven’t paid much attention to that aspect before. And saying the card’s name out loud? I believe it will open a whole new world!


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