Step by Step Tarot
STEP-BY-STEP TAROT A COMPLETE COURSE IN TAROT READERSHIP Terry Donaldson
WHAT YOU WILL ACCOMPLISH
There have been many books on the Tarot, but never one like this.
This book has come into existence as a result of my training other people in the field of Tarot readership, of having trained personally over 1,000 people in the subject to a high standard, in many countries and in many languages, and on a one-to-one basis over a 20-year period.
The techniques which I am giving you in this manual are techniques which I know work, and, if you follow them through, will enable you to experience the wonder which the Tarot holds in store for you.
The experience of Tarot readership is not a trivial one. To desire to work with the Tarot, whether to be able to do readings and to help other people or even for one’s own insight into the meaning of life is a really enjoyable thing to be able to do!
HOW THE TAROT CAN HELP
The Tarot has always held a great deal of mystery down through the ages, especially for those who have desired to become more familiar with its message.
It is a message - or a map - of how we may achieve greater fulfilment in our lives, through a balancing of the emotional aspects with the material. Not through a denial of either. Many people can’t see a way out of their problems because they do not have an alternative point of reference from which they can begin to see what choices they do have. The Tarot reading can be that starting-point for many.
It is important that the Tarot reading is well delivered. It is not enough just to say things off the top of one’s head in the hope that maybe some of it will stick or somehow make sense to the Querent. (A ‘Querent’ is someone who has come to ask a question from the Tarot.) It is also important that the reader is able to work directly from the imagery of the cards, without having to disturb the continuity of the reading by breaking off to get out a book to check on the meanings of cards.
There is an intellectual discipline involved in learning how to read the Tarot, just as there was a discipline involved in first learning how to read the words which you are looking at now. But it is not a difficult one. There is a sensitivity involved in the art of reading the Tarot. It is not a mechanical process either. You could say that it is a bit similar to learning a craft.
There are people out there who still cling to the outdated notion that to be able to read the Tarot you have to be born with a hereditary gift to do so; that the art of Tarot reading is something akin to having dimples or buck teeth: it would have to come down the family line.
The truth is that the door of the Tarot opens itself to all those who genuinely desire to understand its mysteries, and who would make positive use of the knowledge and guidance which they would receive.
The exercises which I am giving you have enabled many people from many different backgrounds, religions, walks of life and educational levels to make sense of the imagery of the Tarot, and to become skilled and effective readers for social, personal and professional purposes.
I have had many professional readers come by to train with me and without exception they have all gained greatly from the experience. I have their feedback letters on my noticeboard for anyone who is interested to come by and look at.
For a long time I was very resistant to the idea of writing up the set of training exercises and making them available indiscriminately to the public. I used to have a very set idea that the Tarot could really only be taught in a one-to-one student/teacher ratio. The Tarot today is being promoted through workshops, weekend courses, correspondence courses, even holidays abroad, as well as in its historical tradition of one-to-one.
THE NEED TODAY
Now more than ever there is a real need for people to think in terms of getting themselves trained as readers, so that they can be effective in giving guidance to the many out there in our society who need it, who are seeking. So that they can be instrumental in guiding themselves as well!
The wonderful thing is that in the Tarot, there’s something for everyone! The basic message of the Tarot is that there is hope and that such hope may be realized through creative change.
In the pictures of the Tarot we have a set of windows through which we may look at life. We have a description of how the mighty creative forces of the universe ebb and flow, of how Yin and Yang manifest their energies in a physical world.
Compressed in the cards, we have many legends and stories from mythologies, astrological and archetypal significance, and esoteric secrets from a wide range of backgrounds.
FINGERS POINTING TO THE MOON
But they are all different fingers pointing to the same moon: hints as to the kind of perceptions we first need to make in order to be able to change our lives. In other words, we all see the same truths from a different viewpoint.
Thus the meanings of the Tarot cards will actually change for you over time. As you grow and develop as a being, so your own needs will evolve and so, therefore, what you see taking place in the Tarot imagery will go through transformation.
As to the historical origins of the Tarot, there are many different explanations. The actual Tarot as we know it today dates back to fourteenth-century Italy where we find a nobleman commissioning a hand-painted deck to commemorate the marriage of his daughter. But there are historical records to indicate the use of cards for divinatory purposes earlier than that.
We have always used symbols, in one form or another. Indeed, it is where we get the letters of the alphabet from, each of which at one time held a particular meaning. The Runestones, the Ogham, etc, all date back a lot further than the Tarot as such, although in one sense we might regard them as the earliest forms of Tarot, with their straight lines being marked on pieces of wood or stone to represent storm, harvest, war, protection, etc.
It is from the casting down onto the ground of these stones in ancient times that we have the phrase ‘magic spell’, because from the single letters which would be carved on each individual stone, the local ‘wise person’ would be able to spell (i.e. make out) the words or utterances of the gods which they believed protected them.
The word ‘magic’ is from the same root as the words ‘image’, ‘imagination’, ‘magi’. It is therefore pointing us in the direction of achieving wisdom, through the development of our ability to creatively visualize, to imagine. To put aside your preconceived notions, to let your intuition function with less restraint from your conscious mind, to become aware of your own limitations and to move increasingly beyond them.
This is the very essence of how to approach the Tarot.
LOOK NO FURTHER
One thing I would ask of you before we begin this course: put aside any other books which you have on the subject, books you have already tried to work with. If you go to one doctor for a course of treatment, it would be inappropriate to continue taking medicine from other prescribers.
You will find all you need to learn the art of Tarot readership here in THIS course. I mean it. After you have completed it, you can then go back to all of those other books and you will then get 10 times more from them than you would ever have done before.
You will master the Tarot not by struggling with ‘the meanings’ or by battling with the cards in any sense whatsoever.
Sometimes it may be that you hit an impasse in your studies.
Don’t panic. Nothing is accomplished without sacrifice, perseverance and patience.
And the sacred mysteries don’t always reveal themselves to the casual enquirer.
You will make progress in your studies if you can allow yourself to enjoy what you are doing.
And by exercising the principle of effortless effort.
This is not the principle of laziness, though, but of gently, effortlessly, stretching into the work which lies before you!
One of the most important matters in the first stages of your Tarot quest is the selection of the deck which you are going to work with.
A few words of warning on this.
It could be that someone has walked into a bookshop and bought you a deck of cards already; or passed on to you the cards which were used by their great aunt back in the nineteenth century.
There are many different kinds of Tarot decks out there. Some are oriented towards specific sets of legends, e.g. Greek, Egyptian, Arthurian. And unless you are familiar with those sets of legends already, you are going to have to handle two sets of learning: the principles of Tarot readership on the one hand and the belief system or symbolic system contained within the deck’s imagery.
There are many decks in which the Minor Arcana are shown not by any picture, but by what we call ‘pip’ symbols, e.g. sets of swords crossed over each other, or rows of cups lined up against each other. But to learn from these decks is going to involve a great deal of memory work as well.
Another category to avoid would be decks which are heavily laden with huge quantities of symbolism, magic, astrology, alchemy, etc. The reason again is obvious: far too much to take in all at once.
Once you have a solid basis to work from, you will find that bit by bit all these other weird and wonderful decks start opening themselves up to you. But until you have a really solid foundation, leave them well alone.
It is important that you select your own deck, so this will entail going alone to a bookshop that specializes in Tarot decks and looking at the portfolio which they will invariably have. Here, you can look through a vast selection of different decks, with all the cards held behind a sheet of transparent film.
Ask for some guidance from the assistant if you are unsure and don’t be afraid to say that you are just starting out on the road of readership. You will find that they may well have a recommendation to make.
Probably the best decks to work from as you learn the Tarot are the Ryder-Waite and Morgan-Greer decks. But in the end it will have to be your own choice.
As you progress in your studies, it is very likely that you will build up your own collection of different decks and will have them out on the table when people come for readings, so that as you begin the session, you will be able to ask which deck they would like you to read from.
If you have already selected a deck for yourself or feel drawn to work with the deck you have, then fine. This is going to be the one for you!
All you have to do now is to follow the training steps and we’ll be turning you into a reader!
The Tarot is something which functions on many levels.
On one level, it is a set of cards which portray a way of looking at the world. A way of making sense of the world, rather than an attempt to define and limit it.
On another level, it is an approach to life, which enables each of us to move away from our own private realities towards the point of being able to have a multi-viewpoint.
A lot of top-level executives these days are finding themselves on expensive courses which attempt to nudge them out of their own personal mind-set and develop qualities of mental flexibility and creativity. This was – and is – the first and primary purpose of the Tarot: to give us a set of windows through which we can look upon life. It has other qualities too:
It is a counselling tool.
It is a means through which communication – sometimes on a highly psychic or intuitive level – can take place.
It is the means through which countless people over countless years have found a place to gain a resolution to the problems which have beset them.
The Tarot works through synchronicity – in other words, the random patterns in which the cards seem to fall are part of a greater pattern within the cosmic scheme of things. This may seem chaotic to some, but not to those who seek to understand the nature of the causes of things; to those who have learned to look for causes which in turn give rise to effects.
This, then, is the function of the Tarot: to facilitate our grasp of how things may be changed in the future through a deepening of our realization of what has happened in the past.
As a trainee, you are entering a new doorway.
May your life never be the same again!
THE BARDIC TECHNIQUE
Once you have worked with this you will be able to open up a lot of modern fiction, especially fantasy, sword and sorcery books, and see how their authors actually did it! I actually know a number of writers who use this technique whenever they get stuck for some inspiration.
We are going to use it because it gets you to the point of working more intuitively and imaginatively with the images on a set of cards, without wondering how right or wrong you might be.
What you must do here is lay out a set of, say, three or four cards. That will be enough for the moment. When you get the hang of it, you might well want to lay out sets and rows of them.
Now, without even trying to remember ‘what they mean’, make up a story – a simple little children’s story or a fairy story – using the pictures on the row of cards as a source of inspiration.
It’s a lot simpler, I have found, for those that already have children, as they often get asked for stories at bedtime.
But even if you don’t have children, it is still part of your initiation to develop your story-telling technique. In the ancient Druid Order (and I believe the same still applies today), the first grade of initiation was that of the bard, the story-teller, whose role it would be to entertain, to enlighten, to teach, using songs and poetry, music and legends, in order to do so. They would travel around the land, teaching and learning as they went.
On the facing page, I have given you an example.
Just below, I have chosen for you at random the Knight of Wands, the Seven of Wands, the Ace of Coins and the King of Swords.
It isn’t a bad idea actually to use the words ‘Once upon a time…’ in starting off. Somehow it seems to set the little story up just right.
KNIGHT OF WANDS (RODS)
Once upon a time, there was a Knight of the Round Table, who became severely disillusioned with how his life was going. He wasn’t even sure what changes he wanted to make; all he knew was that he wanted to do some travelling.
SEVEN OF WANDS
One day he was travelling around the countryside when suddenly he saw a band of brigands setting upon a single traveller, attempting to rob him. The Knight went straight to the man’s rescue, and although the brigands didn’t run off immediately, they didn’t put up too much resistance either.
ACE OF COINS (PENTACLES)
The traveller was greatly relieved to have received such assistance and gave the knight a coin with a special symbol engraved upon it.
‘Take it,’ he said, ‘and if ever you find yourself in the city of Hyperborea, give it to the Sheriff, who will know what to do with it.’
The Knight took the coin, took his leave and set off on his journey, and one day he arrived at the city of Hyperborea, famous for the great arch which marked the entrance to the city’s gates.
THE KING OF SWORDS
While the Knight was there, he got into some trouble and was hauled up before the city’s Sheriff. The Sheriff was known to be a very severe judge in these matters, but the Knight showed him the special coin and instead of being punished, he was welcomed into the Sheriff’s own household that very night.
As you can see, this kind of story could go on for ever and ever! But it is interesting to set the cards out in this way and just to let your imagination do the work.
The point of doing lots and lots of work on the story-telling technique is that it starts to exercise the muscles of your imagination. As this starts to grow, so does your ability to ‘tune in’ to what is going on in the life of the person in front of you.
Your imaginative faculty is what is going to be doing 90 per cent of the work in any reading. It is this – and this alone – which makes the difference between a mechanistic recital of the cards and a lively, living, breathing experience out of which your Querent is going to emerge suitably impressed. You don’t have to write these stories down. You can just let them run in your head, picking cards at random and letting them trigger imaginative tales that don’t have to lead anywhere in particular. You don’t have to make a big deal out of this. You can even take the cards out on the way to work on a bus or a train and go through them there.
You might like to copy the sheet entitled ‘’ and create a complete page for each of the cards, 78 in all. At this stage, I want you to start building up your selection of associated memories and experiences for each of the cards. I want you, when you look at any one card, to reach the point of being able to link the picture with a complete set of feelings, memories, recollections, etc. It is this attribute which makes a great Tarot reading. Once you have worked through the deck in this way, your readings will not just be two-dimensional recitals of ‘the meaning of the cards’, in the way that so many self-trained people’s readings are. They will actually resonate with emotional intensity; they will become three-dimensional. They will acquire depth.
The actual exercise is simple: take each card and place it on a Worksheet. Now allow your thoughts to flow around the images which surface in your mind as you look at it. As they start to appear I want you to quickly write down all the associations which come up.
There will be memories of people, places, experiences positive and negative. Be specific: name names, put down times when things happened. Be as specific as you can. The more accurately you can do this, the more you will be genuinely weaving your own life experience into the symbolism of the cards.
Thoughts, hopes, dreams, ambitions, fears, desires will be triggered as you do this, making associations and connections with each card. Sometimes some of the experiences you will be reminded of will not be happy ones, but in doing this exercise you will be clearing emotional debris out of your system. Better out than in!
The whole purpose of the Worksheets is to act quickly, to get the immediate psychological response which the image of each card triggers off, before the critical faculty has a chance to step in and create a blockage.
It is a good idea to cycle through the Worksheets, going through them fairly quickly at first, and then come back to them when you feel ready. Each time you go through a card, you will get something more from the exercise.
There will be some cards from which you get more than from others. Some will have a lot to say to you; others will have their say with you further along your path. Some of the experiences which come back to you will be very intense. With some of them you may laugh, with others you may well cry.
But to work with the Tarot is to work on yourself, in the sense of looking at your own limitations, your own blockages, and finding a way to clear them. After all, unless you’ve cleared these away for yourself, at least to some extent, how can you realistically expect to help others to do so?
You will notice that the sheet entitled ‘’ gives you the chance to write up all of your own more intimate and detailed reactions to the specific memories thrown up by each of the cards as you move through this set of exercises. The more you put into these exercises, the more you will actively participate in your own growth process.
Feel free to write up any residual emotions, regrets, realizations, hopes for the future, aspirations which you now have. Remember, you don’t have to show them to anyone.
We don’t often get the chance in life to actually sit down and talk much to ourselves, to simply sit there and be, and get into communication with our emotions and thoughts. All the time we are rushing from one sensory experience to another. Sitting down and working your way through the Worksheets is a wonderful chance to befriend yourself, to heal yourself of old wounds, and to determine and prepare for those things that you want to find in life in the future.
What happened here?
What did you learn from this experience?
What has this card to teach you?
SAMPLE WORKSHEET NO 1
SAMPLE WORKSHEET NO 2
SAMPLE WORKSHEET NO 3
Reminds me of Steve when he won the race – Everyone came out to meet him and he led the big celebration through the village
SAMPLE WORKSHEET NO 4
Time: July ’89 – November ‘90 I was confused about my life in general – I was bored and taking tranquillisers – I was getting out of it – I felt it was an effort to get up in the morning. Then, my daughter had an accident and I realised how precious she was to me. Suddenly I was able to snap out of it: I stopped taking the pills and regained control over my life
The purpose of going through the Worksheets is two-fold. The first I have already given you: it gets you much more in touch with yourself. The second is that it enables you to make more of an emotional connection with the person who is having their cards read. You are far more able to connect with them if you have connected with yourself first. To relate to someone on an emotional level is not an intellectual process. It is a matter of the heart. In a very real sense you will not be able to see in anyone’s cards what you yourself have not already been through. You will not see heartbreak if you have never experienced it.
Keep all your Worksheets in a special folder after you have done them and keep them in order, so that you can refer back to them and add extra pages on each card, thus building up the compendium of associated experience for each one.
It is very important that you thoroughly personalize each individual Worksheet for each individual card. We must get all the details of the specific experience or memory associated with each card, locating it all in time and space, with where, when and with whom. It is not enough that you just write down the ‘meaning’ or any other superficial attribution for each card. What we want is Who, Where, When, How, Why and What in connection with your most personal (and painful) memories for each card. You may well go through bouts of crying, anger, happiness, etc. But write down the details of each of these memories. To work with the Tarot in this way is soul-cleansing and therapeutic. Also, you will access a different realm of insight into what the cards are hinting at in each of your Querent’s spreads when you have tapped into the true emotional, gritty meaning of each card and how it is linked with your own emotional past.
Also make a point of writing down any cognitions, thoughts, realizations, hopes, fears, prayers for absent friends, etc. which emerge from these exercises. Again, don’t make a big deal out of these exercises. Get through them so that you can go beyond them. You can always come back to them and redo them. If you find yourself spending more than 10 minutes on any card, go on to the next one. Keep all your notes intact and in order. Write at the top of each Worksheet the name of the card you were looking at when you did the write-up, so that you don’t get them mixed up.
You share karma with the person in front of you. Therefore, by tapping into your own emotional reservoir of experience, you will be able to ‘see’ 1,000 times more things going on in your Querent’s cards than you would have otherwise. This is a powerful technique, but to get the benefit of it you have to go deeply into yourself and the experiences in life which you have felt. It takes guts. But you will end up a far more effective reader if you do it than if you don’t.
ABOUT THE HEIGHTENED MEANINGS
Here I am going to fill you in on some of the meanings of the cards. They are all oriented towards relating the meanings of each card to practical aspects of life and try to move beyond the simplistic meanings which you will find in the little booklets accompanying each deck. By the same token, they also try to get you thinking about the issues which are raised and to enable the Querent to become a little more determined by the end of the reading.
These meanings are more empowering than some of the esoteric waffle found in certain sources.
The Heightened Meanings have been written not with a view to making any definitive statement on the meanings of each card, but rather to get you as a trainee thinking along new lines. So some of the meanings you will agree with more than others. But I don’t want you to get stuck at agreement or disagreement. I want you to continue to develop your own associations, using the Heightened Meanings as a guide for your own continued work.
As you go through this chapter, why not keep a notebook beside you, so that you can write up your own Heightened Meanings, card by card.
You will notice that I have only given you these meanings after you have gone through the Worksheets and other exercises. The meanings you have derived for yourself do not have to match up exactly with the Heightened Meanings. To some extent there should be a basic consensus, because the Tarot is based around a pattern, but within that very wide pattern is the potential for an infinite number of personalizations.
So there is no sense of ‘getting it wrong’, really; only of weaving the symbolism which the Tarot has to offer into the context of your own life.
THE MAJOR ARCANA 0 THE FOOL
Encounters with other people will become very lively indeed! The kind of people you are meeting are outside the realm of what has gone on before. You will be experiencing them as interesting, exciting, enlivening! You will be having the same effect on them, by the way, just in case you thought it was a one-way street!
New relationships may take place which will be totally different from anything you have experienced before! Don’t go into this new world with all your old knowledge – leave your shoes and your mind by the door! It is only by removing the barrier of existing knowledge that you will be able to receive fresh inflows of teaching, which will pave the way for you to go on to the next level of spiritual development.
It may well be that under this influence you are attracting people who are very different from your normal circle of friends and associates. These new associations may tend to have an unusual quality which makes your existing friends wonder about the direction in life which you are taking. Let them sit and wonder – maybe one day they may even find out!
The whole emphasis is upon freedom, spontaneity, the unusual and that which has the capacity to interest.
If it is essential for you to make any important decisions, especially those which might require long-term commitments, then this isn’t the best set of influences. It is far better to postpone these decisions until a time in the future when the correct balance – or at the very least a new balance of the mind’s faculties – can be achieved. In particular, steer clear of business decisions, matters involving finances, property, the drawing up of leases or any legal agreements which would be binding or have long-term effects.
This card would certainly point the way towards the development of new skills, new techniques, new abilities. The only problem here is that under this card’s influence, it might be difficult to focus the mind or to concentrate on one thing at a time sufficiently to achieve anything concrete. But this would probably be the crux of the whole matter.
It symbolizes a brilliant time for pushing ahead with new plans and projects, although there is in this card a far greater degree of the element of ‘experiment’ than is to be found anywhere else. Let’s not get too disillusioned or upset if some of these experiments don’t necessarily work out or at least yield the kind of tangible results which we had originally anticipated!
The Fool is all about the experimental, the original, the eccentric, the different. He is all about not following any pattern at all, just doing his own thing! He is no respecter of outward appearances, but is able to see right to the heart of the other person – or situation – and judge truly. He is a great idealist and by his refusal to compromise himself with the material world he inhabits a rather different dimension. Time, place: neither of these have much effect on him; he is only just in his own body. If he went any higher, he’d slip out of his physical form and go back to the realm of pure spirit. He is a great teacher, but wouldn’t want you around for too long, hanging on his every word. He’s not here to let you slip out of your self-imposed responsibilities and start projecting onto him. He’s not a guru, just his own true self. In the past, he was associated with the element Air, as that was the lightest of all the elements, like the wind, blowing wherever it wanted to blow. More recently, he has been seen in the company of the planet Uranus, which alone out of all the planets in the Solar System rotates horizontally on its axis, going around the Zodiac. So, he is equally eccentric, rotating around the universe in his own original way as well!
He is a breath of fresh air, in a world where orthodoxy has gone mad. Others inevitably copy him, which is where the merchandizing comes in, and the fashion designers, starved of fresh ideas, start seeing new possibilities.
His is the flash of genius which comes like a bolt of lightning: the invention of the paper clip; the rubber band; the milk carton; these are some of his ideas! To hell with 9-5! Who needs all that slavery when you can have a ball?
What could you be doing instead of reading this book? How could you get to meet the Fool? What would you say to him?
1 THE MAGICIAN
In this card you are shown possessing great power, as if a great force were flowing through you, coming in from some higher plane of inspiration and manifesting more fully in your everyday life as energy, action and power. Quite possibly you haven’t got yourself fully connected to this great force – as yet. The Magician is here to show you how to!
This card looks at the role of communication, especially to a much wider audience than that to which you are used. You are being described in this card as an intermediary, as if you are in some way the representative of a message which is flowing in from outside and beyond yourself, into action.
This card talks of learning, teaching and intellectual knowledge. It is in these areas, this card is saying, that your next stage of growth is likely. You may well find yourself in the role of teaching, or of learning from others, or both!
The Magician is saying that in the coming period you will be using your knowledge to influence the minds of others. There may even be very specific points of contact between you and those in the advertising industry, media or other branches of the communication industry.
The Magician represents the principle of reason; of thinking things through; of talking with others and consulting them on their viewpoints. He likes libraries, which to him are symbols of tremendous work done by mighty minds. He is able to look at a book and know just how much work has gone into it, how many years of collecting data, collating it, digesting it and then displaying it so that someone else can share in that knowledge. He likes to visit laboratories, where he can give hints as to how new life-saving discoveries can be made, which will help humanity wipe out diseases such as typhoid, smallpox, syphilis and leprosy. He is helpful to those who wish to roll back the borders of human knowledge. All explorers know something of him. All discoverers, too. He is master of communication and can speak all languages. He rules over all education, by which means alone we are rendered fit members of society. Negative aspects of him are shown in mythology when he appears a Loki, the trickster, or as a deceiver or beguiler in some way. Negative aspects of him in life are the confidence trickster, the card sharp, the loan shark. Even more negative would be when he invents something like a new disease or drugs with horrendous side-effects.
The Magician is also master of travel. The Greeks and Romans venerated him as Hermes and Mercury respectively. One of his most important attributes was that of ruling over trade, travel and commerce. His assistance was always invoked at the beginning of any major journey or transaction.
What could you be doing in your life to continue your education? Why not get along to your local library – maybe you haven’t been there for some time! Take time out to learn that language you always wanted to brush up on. On another level, what messages are you sending out to others at this time? Are you sure that the messages you are actually sending are the ones that you intend? If not, this could lead to some confusion between you and others, could it not? How could you then ensure that you are going to be better understood? Similarly, how sure are you that you are reading other people’s signals properly? For example, do you know about body language, about all of the physical signals which people give off, without any words ever being spoken? Can you tell when someone really likes you and when they don’t? Or when they are telling you the truth and when they aren’t? This could be something else for you to learn, couldn’t it?