This is a technique that I learned when first starting to read tarot. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the meanings of any of the cards and was daunted by the idea of having to memorize all of them. However, once I practiced this method, I began to understand each card’s meaning without needing to rely on the guidebook that came with my deck.
This method won’t help you learn the meanings quickly. In fact, it is much slower than using a flashcard method to memorize each tarot card. However, you may find that you have a deeper understanding of each card and will be able to decipher its meaning in relation to other cards in a spread with more depth and nuance.
This method works best for decks with rich and detailed imagery, since it involves “diving” into the cards, though you could adapt this exercise to fit any deck.
So whether you’re just starting out in your tarot journey or if you want to get a better grasp on the cards, try out this exercise!
Begin by setting the mood and preparing your space. Make sure you’re somewhere you won’t be disturbed and reduce all distractions. If you wish, you can call upon spirit guides/protectors or do anything else that’ll get you in the right mindset.
What’s most important is that you have the deck you wish to work with, you’re in a distraction-free and quiet space, and you have enough time to devote to the exercise.
CHOOSING A CARD
I personally recommend starting with one of the Major Arcana, though choose any card that visually appeals to you. You’ll know which card to choose first. You may even want to choose a card that often stumps you during readings.
Place the card flat in front of you and take a moment to notice all the details in the imagery. Just let your gaze naturally travel over the card. Make a mental note of what you’re particularly drawn to (you can write this down later.)
MEDITATION AND VISUALIZATION
Now, let’s take things a step further. Once you’ve thoroughly examined the card, begin focusing on your breathing. Slow your thoughts until you reach a meditative state. Take your time with this step.
Looking at your card, imagine that you are peering through a window. In your mind’s eye, picture yourself climbing through this window and into the world of the card.
Once you’ve “stepped into” the card, what do you see? Are there humans, animals, or other figures? What plants are there? Do you see anything unexpected?
What do you hear? Are there birds singing? Gusts of wind? People laughing?
What do you feel? Does the environment make you feel uneasy, safe, happy, energized? Are you warm or cold? What is the weather like?
Try to explore this little realm beyond what you could see just by looking at the card!
Let these images and sensations come naturally. Don’t try to “force” them or try to make what you experience conform to any expectations that you have. Spend some time experiencing the world of the card with all of your senses! (This is especially helpful if you struggle with visualization! Even if you can’t “see” anything, try to experience the world of the card with your other senses!)
INTERPRETING YOUR FINDINGS
Once you’re content with exploring the world of the card, retrace your steps and exit through the window. Ground and center yourself.
Write down the details of the experience in your grimoire/journal. Using what you’ve experienced, how would you interpret that particular card? There is no “right” or “wrong” answer.
Repeat this process with the rest of the deck, if you wish!
Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, you may wish to use it to better understand how cards are connected in a particular tarot spread. Using the steps outlined above, enter the first card of the spread and explore. However, instead of exiting the card afterwards, “jump” into the next card of the spread as if it is the next scene in a story.
How would you describe the transition of one card to the next? How do your feelings (physical or emotional) change from card to card? Did you notice you lingered in one card longer than the other?
Overall, this method has helped me better understand why certain cards have certain meanings. It has also helped me develop my own associations with certain cards.
Have you ever tried this method before? Or do you intend to try it now? If you test it out, let me know how it goes for you in the comments!