The number one request I get from tarot newbies is (surprisingly!) not for a free card pull, but a recommended reading list.
And somehow, each time I’m asked for it I get a little flustered, a little rambly, because I’ve never formally compiled said list. In fact, I barely remember what I read all those years ago. So I’ve finally done the work, rehashed my old process, and for you tarot beginners I’ve dug up my personal list for getting started and diving deeper.
Keep in mind I am not a cookie-cutter reader. I believe in bringing your own talents and studies to your tarot craft. I’ve divided my recommendations by books and various other sources (such as tutorials and my personally developed learning methods), so there should be at least one thing you can take from it. I hope it helps you on your tarot journey!
1. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot
This one is kind of a must. Rachel Pollack does an extraordinary job of highlighting the fundamental meanings of the cards, while not oversimplifying or degrading their more profound essences. Her research is obviously careful and reliable, and she has an extraordinary way of making big, esoteric principles digestible. Make this your go-to for card meanings, and read it over and over. Boom, there’s your base as a tarot beginner. Now we get into the real meat.
*Bonus for the very serious, check out A. E. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Rachel’s primary source for a lot of her interpretations.
2. Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth
When I got this book I was immediately completely overwhelmed and wanted to return it the next day. Benebell Wen is a brilliant tarot scholar, a true authority on the craft and its history, but her book is almost 900 pages long. I tried to start from the beginning and make my way through, but I found that her compendium on all things tarot better serves as a reference guide. She has excellent recommendations on deepening your personal relationship with the tarot, as well as spreads and effective practices. But her book is best used when you really want to dig in with a certain card. It’s an incomparable tool, as its immense girth proves.
3. Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey
I’m an amateur Jungian, and so this book was essential for me in marrying my interests in archetypal studies and tarot. Sallie Nichols writes with simple, happy precision, so it’s never too dense or beyond a layperson’s understanding. You do not need a background in Jungian psychology to get the rich archetypal insights in this book, which it really is full of. If you want to connect to the bigger archetypal meanings of the major arcana, I can’t recommend this book enough.
*Another Bonus, if you want to dive deeper into Jungian tarot interpretation, read anything by Robert Wang, the creator of the Jungian Tarot deck.
4. Every guidebook I have
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but I can’t emphasize enough how useful and enlightening your tarot guidebooks are. Every deck comes with its own personality, and the guidebooks illuminate its particular quirks and specialties. But more than that it will give you many different interpretations of the cards. Some may argue that this is confusing for a beginner, but it’s an essential lesson. The cards never carry one set message, just as the people you read for are not coming to you with one set question. Every reading has a different heart to it, so the cards will speak in a different way. Your job as a reader is to flow with it, be flexible and attuned. The more you practice with various meanings the more you’ll learn to trust your own gut, the most important piece of reading tarot.
5. Tarot for the Wild Soul Podcast
There’s many tarot podcasts out there, but this one is my fave. Lindsay Mack—the host—is a bright star in the tarot world. I began listening when I was starting to get grounded in my tarot study, and it really helped me formulate my own personal style and opinions. Lindsay dives deep, while also keeping the tarot relevant for the world we live in. She keeps it fresh and contemporary. Some of the episodes are card-by-card, some are overall themes we can use the tarot to work through. What this podcast offers is an internal conversation, an opportunity to reflect on the tarot in an open, meaningful, now-age way.
6. Tutorials tutorials tutorials
Really, any tutorial online is probably fine, but I used Tarot Living’s simply because I liked her speed and the sound of her voice. As with learning any new craft, the internet is your friend, and if your goal is to drum in some keywords Youtube is the answer. Try out a few tutorials and see which one sinks in best. I get asked sometimes if an expensive certificate is worth it, and while I’m sure it’s focused, nourishing work, everything is already out there for free. Go exploring. Maybe you’ll discover an interest in tarot numerology, or elemental dignities, or Kabbalah. There’s lots to investigate. Have fun!
7. Watch readings and give readings
This one is essential. I studied and studied and studied, but when it came time to read for someone I’d freeze up. I knew what the cards meant, I just couldn’t get the hang of weaving them together. So I watched real readings as often as I could. I watched them online, watched my friends get them, really wherever I could witness the container of a reading, I was there. Then I’d immediately jump into giving a reading myself (usually to my cat), pressing into my confidence and mimicking a sense of authority that eventually became natural and ingrained in me. This was a key step for me transitioning into going professional, because it forced me to develop my own sense of empowered flow and skill and ease.
8. Get readings
Really, get them. I have my cards read at least once annually, and more than that if I’m in a period of transformation. While the tarot is a tool of self-discovery, there’s a pretty big philosophical issue with reading for yourself: Your conscious ego-self cannot see beyond its own scope. Or in other words, you only know and feel and fear what’s already inside you. Whenever we read for ourselves we are subconsciously looking for things, expecting things, or resisting things. The tarot is a window for new energies to come in, but sometimes that can only be translated through someone else’s eyes. The best way to learn and continue to appreciate tarot is to get outside help drawing you in, assistance interpreting how the cards show up for you. For this reason I rarely read for myself anymore, but use the tarot more as a portal for daily reflection and meditation. I highly recommend finding this balance, so your love for the tarot grows and deepens inside you.