I have been reading Tarot for a rather long time. It was one of the absolute first forms of divination I was introduced to that I had to actually learn. I had some clairsentient/audient/voyant abilities that I had already begun to hone, but Tarot was something very different, it was something I actually had to work at.
I was rather smug about it in the beginning. I thought because I was already a deep intuitive with some serious medium skills that Tarot would be really easy to learn for me, that I would just pick up a card and everything would be made clear. That first deck of cards, Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, was a huge blow to my ego, which I believe, was definitely the intention. It was through this challenge that I really learned a lot about not only my own skills, but what makes a good solid Tarot reader, and Tarot readers in general.
Tarot readers are a really fun bunch of people. You get a number of us in a room together, and we are comparing decks we have, talking about the new ones coming out, enabling each others wish lists, discussing strange clients and readings we have done lately, and even comparing patterns we are seeing to see if this is shared with the other readers. For all of our differences in styles and deck tastes, there are really actually only three different types of Tarot readers.
I refer to the first type of reader as a Technical Tarot Reader. The Technical reader memorizes the meanings of every card and every combination of cards, works with a strictly formatted spread and never deviates from this. Quite a few people start out this way, buy a book or two and a deck of cards, and sit down to study diligently. There is nothing wrong with being a reader like this. I have known a number of readers who are strong competent reader and give decent readings. The only time they really begin to run into problems is in those moments, that come far more often than you think, where the rules need to go out the window, and the reading needs to move beyond the cards.
The second type of reader is on the opposite end of the structured spectrum, one who reads completely through their own intuition. Many people try to start out this way, and I have met a number of extraordinarily talented Intuitive Tarot Readers in my day, people who really are in tune with the universe and generally have the right thing to say when it is needed. These readers can be brilliantly deep and mystifying, as long as their intuition holds out. There is nothing worse than watching an intuitive reader who is having a bad run, where nothing is clicking or coming through the veil, with nothing to fall back on but guess work.
The third type is, in my opinion, really the strongest, most competent type of reader in the spectrum, sitting comfortable right in the middle. This reader is the perfect combination of the previous two readers. They have a wonderful intuitive connection to the universe and a strong working sense of the Tarot. They have studied and come to understand the technical meanings of the cards, how they relate to one another and the advantages of working within a spread, yet they aren’t locked into the technical aspects. They still allow their intuition to take the wheel in their readings; the technical stuff is just a springing off point and a solid back up plan when things go sideways.
Now, I am not saying that technical or intuitive readers are bad readers, as I have met a number of people from both camps that are fantastic readers when they are on their game. But, the key to becoming a competent, well-rounded Tarot reader, something I learned and experienced over the years, is to find that happy center between the two. Intuition is an amazing thing, but some days it really needs some help. And, understanding the technical aspects of Tarot gives your intuition something to jump off of, a key to unlock the information that the sitter is needing to move forward from where they are.
And whether you choose to just pick up a deck and wing it, or pick up a book and study your backside off, the real secret to competent Tarot reading applies to all types of readers. You have to actually practice. Tarot is like any other skill set. If you do not practice it on a reasonably regular basis, everything you are learning will not sink in. You have to practice over and over again to allow the information you have studied sink in, and that pathway between you and your intuitive self to get stronger. I have taught Tarot for a few years now and one of the most frustrating things I see are the people who only open their cards up during class, and cannot figure out why they are not getting it. Tarot is not just a divinatory tool but a complicated skill set that needs to be honed.
For me, I am happily in the middle. I figured out a long time ago that the Crowley system did not work for me, and switched to the Rider Waite System. I studied, practiced and read for anything that wasn’t nailed down, honing both the technical and intuitive aspects of my reading skills. I feel that after 25 years, I am a decent reader. I should probably read more frequently, but I don’t worry as much about it as I used to. I have really hit that comfortable middle ground in Tarot reading, that place where I can sit back and not stress on neither my intuition working nor my memory holding up but just enjoy reading.