Three-Card Tarot Reading for Beginners




Defining Tarot

What is Tarot? Simply defined, Tarot cards are decks of cards with pictures, symbols, and numbers printed on them. Tarot cards were originally used as playing cards in Europe, but began to be used for divination purposes in the 18th century.

In theory, Tarot cards are used for divination and can give insight into your past, present, and future.

To many, Tarot reading may seem supernatural and intimidating to approach. However, Tarot cards can be quite simple and offer a different perspective to a difficult situation or question you may have. Additionally, reading Tarot cards can be simply a fun hobby.

How Tarot Cards Work

The tarot deck is made up of 78 cards divided into the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the labeled cards and represent principles, concepts, and ideas, and are typically more significant. The Minor Arcana are divided into four suits and represent the details of the situation described by the Tarot spread.

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the cards before continuing. Click on the following links to get a better understanding of the Major & Minor Arcana!

Major Arcana

Minor Arcana

Tarot cards work by arranging them in a certain "spread." There are several different types of spreads you can practice for different situations, and they reveal different amounts and types of information. Tarot spreads range in difficulty, and some can be very complex to interpret. Therefore, we will be focusing on the simple three-card spread to get a better feel for how Tarot works!

Getting Started

If you are a beginner to Tarot, the three-card spread is a great place to start learning and get some practice reading Tarot cards! Even if you are an experienced Tarot reader, this spread is great for quick answers and getting back to the basics.

The three-card spread is good for suggesting some sort of linear path or sequence of events. The three-card spread can be used for many different questions and situations. For the purpose of this instruction, we will be focused on the three-card spread that gives insight into your past, present, and future.

Gather Your Materials

  • Tarot cards
  • Tarot interpretation book or booklet
  • Optional: Sage, candles, incense, etc

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Step 1: Choose a Tarot Deck

First, you will need to purchase your own Tarot deck! There are hundreds of decks available, so it is important to purchase a deck that really speaks to you. Pick something that appeals to you aesthetically. However, if you are new to Tarot, it may a good idea to pick something that is widely referenced. The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is a popular and standard Tarot deck, and is a good starting point. I am using a Rider-Waite deck for this demonstration.

Tips: Tarot decks can be purchased anywhere from bookstores (I purchased my own at Barnes & Noble), local stores, or online at sites like Amazon.

Step 2: Find a Quiet, Secluded Area

You will need some space and a quiet environment to conduct your reading. Pick whatever space is convenient and feels right to you! This could be somewhere like your bedroom, living room, outdoors, etc. Just make sure you choose a place that is relaxing and you are able to focus, uninterrupted.

Tips: You may also want to include sage, incense, crystals, stones, or candles. This is optional, but is a good way to set the atmosphere and cleanse the area.

Step 3: Focus on a Question or Intention

Before you begin your reading, you will need to pick a question or intention you have. Tarot is a great tool for helping us understand areas of uncertainty in our lives by revealing different perceptions through our unconscious selves. Therefore, try to pick a topic that you do not have any bias toward. Questions should be simple and open. Focus on your question while you handle the cards, especially while shuffling them.

Tips: If you are having a difficult time choosing a question, ask yourself what you would like to learn from the reading. Questions can be as simple as, "What can I expect from the upcoming month?"

Step 4: Shuffle Your Deck

Shuffling the cards may seem simple, but this step can sometimes be challenging. Tarot cards are much bigger than normal playing cards, and you will want to avoid bending them. There are several different ways to shuffle your deck, so it is up to you to choose which you prefer. Below are some suggestions:

  • Cut the deck: Cut the deck into several different piles, then bring them back together
  • Scrambling method: Spread all of the cards on a table or floor, and then scramble them together
  • Insertion method: Hold half the deck in each hand. Next, insert one half of the deck into the other half in a haphazard way

Tips: Remember, there is no "right" or "wrong" ways to shuffle the cards. Use whatever method of shuffling that is most comfortable for you.

Focus on your question or intention while shuffling the cards.

Step 5: Divide Your Deck Into Three Equal Stacks

Now, divide your shuffled deck into three, separate piles. Lay these piles beside one another.

Step 6: Flip Over Your Cards

Flip over the top card on each mini stack from left to right.

Step 7: Examine Your Cards

Before we interpret the reading, let's first understand what each card symbolizes. There are 3 cards in this reading:

Card 1: The Past

  • Past events that still affect you
  • Past events that are either holding you back or have the potential to help you

Card 2: The Present

  • Your current situation
  • Present challenges

Card 3: The Future

  • What direction things are moving in
  • The outcome of the present situation

Tips: Remember, your tarot reading represents a specific question, focus, or situation you want more clarity on. Therefore, your cards represent the past, present, and future as it relates to your question.

Step 8: Get a Feel for Your Cards

Get a feeling for your cards! Scan the images on the cards. What sort of reaction do you have to them? Do they give you some sort of impression? Do you have any personal connection to any of the cards? How do the colors, symbols, and images resonate with you?

Step 9: Interpret Your Cards

Now, it's finally time to interpret your reading. Interpreting tarot cards can be difficult, and takes lot of practice to get good at. If you are a beginner, you will need a reference to explain the meanings of the cards. Most tarot decks come with a tarot interpretation book or booklet. You can also use several online resources to expand upon your understanding. Refer back to the Major & Minor Arcana links under 'How Tarot Cards Work' in this instructable for a better understanding of the cards!

Look up the meaning of each of the cards you have revealed. Think about how these meanings relate to your past, present, and future as it relates to your question.

Tips: It is important to remember that the cards often work in combination. The big picture is more important than each individual card. How do the cards relate to one another? Can you identify any patterns?

As a general rule, the Minor Arcana tend to point to the events, people, and issues that make up our everyday lives. The Major Arcana, on the hand, refer to the larger themes of our lives. The Major Arcana also refer to the overall energies we are dealing with.

Remember, properly interpreting a tarot spread takes lots of practice! While interpreting individual cards is like understanding words, stringing a multiple-card spread together is like learning to speak in sentences. Check out the below link to get a better idea of how to interpret combinations of tarot cards:

The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Combinations

Step 10: Record Your Reading

Finally, keep a notebook and record the date, question, and impression of your reading. This will help record your progress, test your results (to make sure you are interpreting correctly), and keep a log of everything you have learned.

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