No matter how long we have been working with tarot, or how expert we have become, we are all eternally tarot students. One lifetime will never be enough to learn everything there is to know about tarot, and about all tarot can teach us.
The real goal of most students is to learn to read the cards well, regardless of how much we might know about history, symbolism and classic interpretations. We want to be able to use the cards in ways that reveal a depth of information that is helpful, truthful and healing.
I often tell my tarot students that I can’t possibly teach them to read tarot.
It’s true. I can only show students how tarot works for me. I can create an environment in which each student can discover how tarot works for them.
We each have our own relationship with the cards. However, I notice that some tarot students miss an important step in developing that relationship.
The step they miss is that they don’t read for themselves enough. We often encourage students to study a card a day, which is a great practice. We teach students to do three-card spreads to answer questions. We also need to encourage students to perform comprehensive spreads for themselves. This is something that should happen regularly; not when there is a question or a problem, but when there is a desire to study.
There is a silly old tarot adage that suggests we shouldn’t read for ourselves. I call shenanigans on that! I think we shouldn’t be trusted to read for others if we can’t competently read for ourselves.
Of course, it is wise and good to get an impartial reading from another reader from time to time. Yet, if we don’t read for ourselves regularly, we will never figure out how the cards speak to us.
A comprehensive spread is a spread that doesn’t require a question, and that covers many departments of life. Examples of comprehensive spreads include the Celtic Cross, the Astrology Wheel and the Seven Sisters.
Being able to ask a specific question and pull a few cards to get an answer is great, but that is only a fraction of what we can do with tarot. Practicing comprehensive spreads for ourselves and others will teach us to use tarot on a much deeper and more effective level.
Another problem is that many students do not go deep enough into their self-readings. This mistake takes many forms. It happens when students only turn to the cards when they have specific questions, and only read the cards as far as it takes to get an answer to those questions.
Tarot will usually answer our questions, and more. The cards will suggest questions we need to ask ourselves. The cards will give us information we need but didn’t know we needed. To stop digging into the cards we’ve pulled as soon as we get the answer we seek is like eating the chocolaty Oreo cookies and throwing away the inside creamy goodness.
Tarot students need friends to act as guinea pigs to try out new spreads and new techniques. Finding those willing subjects, reading for them and getting feedback is an important part of tarot study. Online tarot study groups have made finding those guinea pigs a relatively easy task.
Yet, if we are not our own guinea pigs first and foremost, we miss a huge opportunity to learn. Worse, we lose the opportunity to avail ourselves of the greater wisdom that tarot can make available. That is a disservice to us, and, ultimately, to the people for whom we will read in the future.
The remedy for this is simple. Make reading comprehensive spreads part of your tarot study routine. See how the cards speak to you, and how what you have seen in the cards plays out over time. Develop a relationship with your cards by using them to speak to you about your life.
When you do a reading for yourself, find the details in the cards, and in the combinations of the cards, that give you stacks of information to consider, rather than a single answer to a single question.
Try new techniques on yourself, and don’t be afraid to experiment. The more playful and experimental you are, the more you will learn and the deeper your tarot practice will become.