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Tarot For Newbs

Author: Greenhammer (John A Almada)
Posted: August 26th. 2012
Times Viewed: 4,044

The origin of the Tarot goes back thousands of years, and tarot may have its origins in Egyptian history, or maybe, even the cave painters, the mammoth hunters, who began drawing its earliest symbology. I have found a way to help people who are giving and getting tarot decks for our celebrations to explain how to get started. Some people collect decks like coins and are only interested in the artistic creativity and symbolic values. My purpose is to explain a way to help the curious learn to read tarot with a simple overview. Some of the stuffy traditionalists have way too many ‘shoulds’, so I am compelled to demonstrate a basic introduction so anyone can learn to do a Tarot reading.

Like any of the mysterious arts, some people try to foment exclusivity with it, by saying things like, “You know, not everybody should do it. I’m psychic and understand how to use it. I’m fortunate to have a special gift.” Well, don’t let anyone tell you how to use it because all you need is an interest. I learned. It was a crash course at first, and I feel I can do a fundamental reading as long as I have my best book with me, the book that came with the cards. Of course, I understand that to be really good at it will take years, and I hope to develop a more intuitive skill, but my desire to learn is Important to me.

During a pagan pilgrimage to Salem, Massachusetts, I was open to all things Pagan and Wiccan. Poking around one of the interesting shoppes, I saw a large variety of Tarot Decks, and the storeowners had sample packs to inspect. The Lord Of The Rings has always been a borderline obsession with me and I was really drawn to those 78 Lord Of The Ring Tarot Cards. I took them out of the box and looked at them eagerly. As I scanned the symbols and pictures, I was shaking my head, ‘Oh yeah, NOW I’m going to learn.’

Looking at them during my pilgrimage I was just as puzzled as ever. After getting back to Florida I even took the pack with me to work and took another look at the instruction book that went with it trying to figure it out. ‘I’ll read the books entire 260 pages cover to cover and somehow that will kick start the effort.’ There were a lot of pictures in a small book, so it wasn’t as daunting a task as you might think, and what I have discovered is a way for all of us to have access to this wisdom, knowledge and fun.

Part 1: The next day, as a way of starting, I took out the ten most interesting cards to me personally and looked up their meanings. If you’re new to the Tarot, you should try this yourself; go through your deck without any preconceived notions and pick out the ten cards that call out to you. I was a total Newb at this point, but determined. The LOTR book discusses the three-card throw, the Gandalf spread and other ways of interpretation but they didn’t feel right.

The next day, I stopped off my favorite local nursery. I got what I needed and was leaving when some mysterious force pulled me into the statuary area. How about this here Celtic cross piece? The Celtic cross is some pagan remnant of the Celts, right? Well, I stared at it and said ‘That’s what I want!’ Imagine Homer Simpson saying, “Mmmmmmmm… statuary.” The rest of the day it rode in the back of my work van. I still had the ten cards I thought were the most interesting and was planning on reviewing them again and picked three as my favorites, indicator cards after a fashion.

That evening my driven, focused, semi obsessive determination to figure this out made me concentrate. I was ready to give up… but don’t you know the very best part was in the last couple of pages. Buddha Bing! There it was… the Celtic Cross spread! Thank the goddess. Celtic Cross Synchronicity! This is supposed to be the most common spread anyway, so I laid them out as directed.

Tarot decks can be lame looking in my opinion, but this Lord of the Rings Deck is really well drawn and easy to relate to because only characters from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit are used. If you know the stories, then every card has some meaning for you.

Part 2: Get out your cards. At this point, it’s time to figure out what to do with your deck. We all know how to shuffle cards, right? Tarot cards are a bit bigger than playing cards but it’s easy to adjust. New decks can be slippery at first, just work with it.{Update: Lord of the Rings Tarot author, Terry Donaldson, writes that oiling your cards is one of the first things you should do. Look into it if you like.} Don’t damage them or bend them in half, it influences your outcome; even if you try to ignore that bent or marked card, your Zemyna (favorite goddess) , spirit guide or angel knows that you still see it in your subconscious.

Here’s my new easy to understand Tarot. Shuffle the deck five times and cut it four times, which makes nine passes with the cards. Very importantly, on the last cut, concentrate solely on the Question. If you are doing a reading for somebody else, then that person (asking the question) makes the last cut as he/she completely concentrates. The cards that are cut last are the ones you will be using, so (duh) , these are important so focus on. Shuffle and cut thoughtfully because this is an absolute.

9 6 (1 and 2) 4 10

Try a dry run. Shuffle the cards 5 times (elements) and cut them 4 times (directions) concentrating on the question throughout, especially on the last cut. “Will I ever take a European cruise?” “What will be my economic future?” The first two cards are laid out as indicated above and my Lord Of The Rings Tarot book says card 3 goes above (a crowning) and this is where this reading diverges from other Celtic Cross readings: Other deck instructions say to start on the right, for no particular reason and there are books that say card 3 goes on the bottom!

My Lord of the Rings Tarot book says the third card goes on top and Card #4 goes to the right; #5 goes at the bottom and #6 to the left. (See above) Card six concerns future influences and is where you’re really free to interpret future events and influences. This is where you put your knowledge to work, because Tarot is not just for the esoterically gifted, I insist, but also a way for friends and family to communicate and influence the future in some way and to also share in some fun. Divination? Yes. Evil? No.

Hey! I just remembered what one of the other books said. The Celtic Cross reading has something to do with the Catholic ‘sign of the cross’, though it didn’t say how. The sign of the cross is a razzle-dazzle Catholics do with their hands before they pray or walk in a church. I was wondering what to do with the last 4 cards, so utilizing this idea, we go top, bottom, left and then right for a symbolic sign of the cross as you lay out the last four cards. (See diagram.)

Traditionalists say a tarot deck that was given to you should be the deck that you use. Here’s a good time to mention that a Tarot deck would be a great Christmas, Samhain or Solstice gift and a good way to introduce your friends, relatives and co-workers to two aspects of Paganism, Tarot and our Holidays. Run them off a copy of this chapter and fold it up in their present. Get them a deck they will be able to use and, happily, most decks have books to go along with them. If not, order Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis. There are so many interesting tarot decks, so find some books you feel comfortable with.

Part 3: When you read about Astrology and Tarot, just remember that, “astrological aspects are an addition to a reading, and they are never required." Astrology and Tarot have crossed paths at different times in history but are exclusive of each other. For instance, where did the choice of 78 cards in a deck come from? The twelve houses of the zodiac say some. Add 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12=78.”

Okay, if you still have your cards laid out then let’s start. Sometimes I have simple questions.

Today my question is: Should I put Tarot for Newbs in my book, History Of The Pagans, or make it something separate? Let’s find out. I shuffle five times to mince up any previous throw. Then I cut 4 times concentrating solely on the question throughout. The first card is the three of coins. My Lord of the Rings Deck shows Bilbo in his library. The first card indicates the present situation of the questioner. Recently, my life seems to be about learning new things and this card says to ‘extol in the learning of new things' to make life even more interesting. Learning a new craft such as tarot is an excellent use of time’ this card says.

The second card lays sideways across the first one and directly influences it. This card is the Ace of Swords and most prominently featured is Gwaihir the Eagle. Remember, in Lord Of The Rings, Gwaihir saved the day a several times when least expected. A positive card, it says unprecedented opportunities are present. ‘By all means, include the tarot chapter’ is what I’m hearing so far.

The third card concerns goals. It’s the six of Cups. Remember, card three goes above, a crowning achievement in your life. (See diagram) A playful card, the six of Cups shows Merry and Pippin smoking Saruman's ‘pipeweed’ while they laugh about the victory of the Ents and the fall of Orthanc. The card says ‘re-discover the child within’, a reminder to not be so serious and to have fun. Sometimes I do take things too seriously; I need to loosen up and have fun so I should make a tarot chapter fun and accessible. Our modern sensibilities demand excellence with playfulness and I need to remember this.

The 4th card goes to the right of the center cards and the card will show some aspect of the distant past that links with this question. It’s a card from the 22 card major Arcana; the important cards, if you will. The Hermit is the card, that’s me -- not real keen on city life, even in my distant past, I had been wishing for a country paradise. Never planning on doing anything of significance in life, but secretly hoping I could and History Of The Pagans is where all the different aspects of my life come together. I feel that writing History of the Pagans is what I was meant to do.

Paganism will be one polarizing issue in the near future. Everything that has been under the media radar regarding paganism will charge the atmosphere. Maybe I can help by revealing some of the mystery while admitting that, even to a skeptic like me, magic is there when you use the Tarot.

The 5th card is below the center. I deal a card that indicates that careful thinking, but decisive action is needed regarding recent past events Can I learn tile and stonemasonry and be a better father and husband and increase my business income? Can I learn Tarot and many other things that have fallen in my lap lately? Determination and focus may yet trump my chronic procrastination.

Card 6 is about future influences and I draw The Hanged Man, which I don't ever remember getting before. This is not good because it means some delay is in store. Should I rename the book, Pagan History and Culture? History of the Conquered People? A stumbling block is “in the cards" says card 6. Hanged Man indicates some sort of delay and with some readings it concerns court cases plodding along and delaying action, but I don't think this is the case. When I type out the book I shouldn’t waste time. Things could get delayed and the card says to persist with my goals. {Update: Grandma went into Hospice and died shortly after I did this reading and it took a while to get up to speed with our lives I can see now in retrospect. Grandma was an important aspect of the children’s lives and she was very helpful and kind and we honor her memory.}

In the study of Tarot, you will read about cards ‘reversed’. I make sure they are all facing the same direction before I shuffle them. Those reversed cards add so much inexactness, bewilderment and negativity that I personally avoid them altogether. I recently discovered that reversed cards were introduced barely 100 years ago… specifically to discourage people like me who try to explain tarot for everyone’s use. (Some might say there is something to cards that are near each other or related to another but that is another layer of difficulty I need to comprehend, and this will lead to a deeper level of understanding.)

Card 7 is the questioners’ attitude. My book says three of Cups means rediscovering someone from the past. This has come up in my readings a lot. Someone I know from the past is going to have some sort of influence on a job or occupation, my book and my future. How does this relate to my current attitude? I used to think that my friends are more likely to enjoy things I write than people off the street. Buddha Bing! Now I’m suddenly inclined to think that I really need to rediscover maybe not a friend from the past, but the attitude I had in the past.

Here is the magic of the tarot; follow what your heart is telling you and be open to what may be revealed. Loosen up on the direct ‘meanings’ of the cards and stay intellectually nimble with interpretation. As I was contemplating this card, I realized that it may not be an old friend from the past, but how I used to meet dozens of people in short periods of time during my young adulthood. I learned so much from the constant parade of unique people and the situations and scenarios of my youth. Tarot is not Rubik’s Cube.

Card 8 is about how other people affect the outcome, and environmental factors (like if a hurricane blows the house away and I have to move) . It’s the 4 of Cups and that says ‘new friendships will occur’. The last couple of years have been about full time family, and besides, you get older and you tend to want to stay home anyways. But, I do need to send up the periscope to see beyond the current existence I had been leading and card 8 encourages me to get out and make new friends, friends who know what the tarot is.

Card 9 is about inner emotions, my hopes, fears and anxieties. I flip over a card; it’s The World. Everything I’ve done before is just practice. History of the Pagans and the Tarot chapter is to be my entry into The World.

Finally the 10th card indicates the final outcome, the Net result and cumulative factors in answering the question. High Priestess comes up. This indicates balance with our goddess, everything lining up for a positive yin and yang result. Pagans will accuse me of occasional insensitivity and Christians will accuse me of… who knows... whatever they can think of, but the end result will be something that pleases the goddess. Tarot for pagans? The cards say ‘by all means!’ It will be part of the balanced picture in the book I’m writing. So there you have it, Tarot is for all of us.

I hope this has encouraged you to try a reading on your own. The readings I have done for myself so far seem freaky accurate, but more than that, I’m able to see problems and obstacles in a different light. The Tarot opens up the creative parts of our mind. The readings have given me more confidence in myself and provided me the occasional illumination to move forward with this new kind of life I’m creating.

When I went and got my first professional reading, the results matched the ones I was coming in with; they really were. Tarot Card practitioners can interpret my results here and let me know if I’m close with my interpretation.

I remember the Tarot reader explained to me ‘she had a gift’ and said I ‘had a guardian angel over my left shoulder’. Maybe us simple folk can’t really see angels but we all have gifts, remember? Tarot is for me and Tarot is for you, too.




Greenhammer (John A Almada)

Location: Indian River County, Florida


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