From the Universal Waite Tarot DeckOne common myth among new readers is that you should not read for yourself. This is simply false! There are numerous reasons that this myth is false:

  • Gaining Direct Insight About Yourself: Who better to read for you, than the person who knows you best? You! The tarot is a tool for you, not just for others.
  • Learning Tarot Applications In Life Situations: You will need to become very familiar with the cards, their meanings, and why they appear in layouts at different times in your life. In order to become proficient at this, you will have to do a significant number of readings and gain follow-up feedback on how the cards drawn reflected life. There is no better person to use as a guinea pig in this area than yourself.
  • Learning Objectivity: Although there are times that you may like an outside objective opinion about a reading for yourself, you should be training yourself to be an objective reader. Avoid letting your personal views get overly involved in a reading as they will significantly hinder the accuracy. When consulting a second opinion on readings for yourself, it is sometimes helpful to try another mode of divination first such as checking the runes or the I Ching. In later lessons, you will learn about how to avoid addicted clients and how to avoid becoming one yourself.

Your tarot deck should be mixed to ensure random orderTarot User's Maintenance Manual: Shuffling Your Cards

The most basic technique for you to learn is shuffling your deck. This doesn't have to be a mystical procedure, however shuffling the deck and performing other preparatory rituals will help you to enter the mind state necessary to do readings. These mind states will be covered in later lessons, but for now it is important for you to develop your own shuffling ritual.

There are many theories about the shuffling process such as the theory that your subconscious re-orders the cards while you shuffle to make the ones appear in a reading that your inner self knows should come up. Regardless of what belief you hold, if any, it is important to thoroughly shuffle your cards before and between readings for the simple purpose of mixing them.

In order to insure that your deck is properly mixed, either shuffle the cards at least nine times*, or place them all on a clean surface face down and mix them up by stirring them gently with your hands. The later technique is what I term the "fish bowl" method because all the cards are swirled together in a pool. Take extra care to mix them well and to not bend or crease any cards using this method. If you are able to shuffle the cards as you would a normal deck of playing cards, my technique for shuffling nine times is as follows:

  • Shuffle the cards three times.
  • Divide the deck into three piles and re-stack the three piles in whatever order you are intuitively drawn to.Use three stacks for a traditional technique
  • Shuffle the cards three more times.
  • Divide the deck again into three stacks and then back into one stack in whatever order feels right.
  • Shuffle the cards three more times.
  • For the last 'cut' give the deck to the querent* to re-stack, or if doing a remote reading over the internet or on the phone, you might ask the querent to select the left, middle or right hand stack to be on top of the deck. If you are reading for yourself, again stack the piles back in whatever order feels right to you. During one or all of the cuts into three piles, you may also wish to turn one of the stacks around so it is upside down.

Do the Tarot Deck Shuffle

Shuffling nine times will normally insure a well mixed deck.

Much of the research in extra sensory perception has been discredited because of the use of a deck of +Zenner+ cards or standard playing cards. When cards are used in research, the critics claim that they are not thouroughly shuffled and this in turn does not guarantee their randomness. Allegedly, subjects of experimentation can memorize the 25 cards (Zenner deck) or 52 cards (playing deck) in their general order so that their answers are above average and statistically significant. However, recent research by Dr. Dave Bayer and Dr. Persi Diaconis indicates that shuffling a deck of 52 cards seven times is sufficient to merit randomness.

Most of the studies with Zenner and playing cards show the technicians shuffled these decks over twice that amount. Therefore, many discredited studies may now hold more significance.

Through simple extrapolation, we can see that a tarot deck then would require nine or ten shuffles to be random from your last reading. My preference is to shuffle three times, cut, then shuffle thrice again, cut again, and shuffle one last time leaving the final cut to the querent, or doing it personally.

* A querent, seeker or questioner is the person consulting the cards or asking a question. The reader is also known as the diviner.

The Tarots: The tarot deck divided into three stacks shows the back of a Taroky Hracikarty deck from the Czech Republic.

From Tarot Cards to Tattoos, knowing these can be helpfulWhat are all those letters in front of the Major Arcana tarot cards?  What is that tattoo on your friend?  They are Roman Numerals and even if you hate math, you can read them!  There are seven letters used to represent numbers. They are as follows:

I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1000

When a letter appears twice it is doubled. For example II is two and XX is twenty. The same goes for tripling, III is three and XXX is thirty.

If a letter with a lower value is to the left of a letter with a greater value, you subtract the lower from the greater. That sounds confusing but it is easy when you look at the example below:

IV = one subtracted from five, or 5 (V) minus 1 (I) = 4
IX = ten (x) minus one (i) = 9
CD = 500 (d) - 100 (c) = 400

How would you write the number 40 in Roman Numerals?
The answer is at the bottom of this page.

Ok, still with me? If not look over the examples above again until you understand. Now we'll move on.

When a letter of greater value is followed by one of lesser value, you add the letters. For example:

VI = five (v) plus one (i) or 5 + 1 = 6
XI = ten (x) plus one (i) or 10 + 1 = 11
DC = 500 (d) plus 100 (c) = 600

How would you write the number 60 in Roman Numerals?
The answer is at the bottom of this page.

So to summarize. If the lower letter is on the left, subtract. If the lower number is on the right, add.

When a line appears over a letter, it means you should multiply that amount by a thousand. For example:

V = 5
V = 5000

Now, one last thing. Say you have a Roman Numeral with a lot of letters, like this: XXIV

Look at it closely, the first two are the same amount and you know whenever a letter appears twice, it is doubled, so XX is 20. Next you have the IV part. You see a letter of lesser value to the left, so you subtract one (1) from five (V) = 4. So add the 20 (XX) and the 4 (IV) that was to the right of it to make 24.

Now if all this was still too confusing, and you read it over several times, there is still hope. You can just use the chart on this page below, or you can use a Roman Numeral Converter here.

Arabic Equivalents of Roman Numerals

1 I 11 XI 10 X 100 C 1000 M
2 II 12 XII 20 XX 200 CC 2000 MM
3 III 13 XIII 30 XXX 300 CCC 3000 MMM
4 IV 14 XIV 40 XL 400 CD 4000 ___
5 V 15 XV 50 L 500 D 5000 __
6 VI 16 XVI 60 LX 600 DC 6000 __
7 VII 17 XVII 70 LXX 700 DCC 7000 ___
8 VIII 18 XVIII 80 LXXX 800 DCCC 8000 ___
9 IX 19 XIX 90 XC 900 CM 9000 ___


XL is 40 because the lower letter is on the left.
10 (X) subtracted from 50 (L) is 40

LX is 60 because the lower letter is on the right.
L (50) plus X (10) is 60

Beginning your journey.

Designed to help you become proficient in reading the tarot without consulting a reference book, this course is excellent for both beginners and professionals. Learn how to connect the meanings of numerous cards and symbols to the individual you are reading for (querent - the one who seeks).

You must provide your own tarot deck, however all textbook and materials for any tarot deck are provided in the online course materials. In addition there is extensive help for selecting a tarot deck and numerous resources for finding one inexpensively.

Please note that occasionally we will find a good deal on a suitable (punny) deck and offer it in the shop to Members only at cost and with free shipping.

Not a Premium Member yet? Courses are available to Premium Members of who are 18 years of age or older and keep this site online and ad free.  Premium Memberships are about $25 a year.  Those modest Membership dues cover all the courses in the PaganPath Academy, and all course materials.  You can take any or all of the classes available in Witchcraft and Wicca, Tarot and Herbs. Become a Premium Member now and enjoy the PaganPath Academy.

This course is an overall approach to Tarot that will enable you to create your own interpretations and reading style. As a refresher course, or as an introductory course, the lessons here will assist you in developing a deeper understanding of the tarot. The primary goal of this course is to enable you to be a proficient, accurate, book-free, professional-style tarot reader who uses intuitive and traditional interpretations to create a complete and illuminating reading.

This course is an overview of the standard historical tarot. There are many contemporary decks available which do not completely follow the traditional tarot imagery and deck design. Although it is possible to use this type of deck, it will make learning through this course a somewhat greater challenge.

We feel that it is important to learn the basics and historical symbolism of the standard tarot, and then move to the many new interpretations of tarot designs if desired. In this way, the deviations from the "standard" decks have more meaning and it is possible to form a deeper understanding of them. For example, some decks such as the Wonderland Tarot (like Alice in Wonderland) contain many visual puns that could only be understood if you already have knowledge of the classic tarot. However, we also believe that it is equally important to follow what you feel is best. If you are drawn to a particular tarot deck and can only afford to aquire a single deck, get what you feel comfortable with!

We recommend that you try to use a standard 78 card deck which contains scenes on the minor arcana. The symbolism used in the standard tarot will be referred to in the lessons, and if your cards deviate greatly it will be more difficult to follow along. If you decide to use a tarot type variation because you are drawn to it, please feel free to discuss any confusion you may have when applying the lessons to it.

This chart is a very general indicator of decks which are easier to use for these lessons vs. contemporary cards which will be more challenging. If you are going to purchase a deck specifically for this course, it is recommended that you select one from the column on the left. If you already have a deck, see if it is somewhere on the chart so you know what you are in for. Again, let your instincts guide you first. If your current deck is not listed, see the chart below this one.

Table A: Decks
Tarot Decks With Fairly Standard Symbolism ~Recommended
Contemporary Tarot & Divination Decks ~More Difficult for Lessons
Universal Waite
Aquarian Tarot
Tarot Classic
Thoth Tarot
Hanson Roberts
Sacred Rose
Tarot of the Old Path (Old Religion oriented, by Howard Rodway)
Tarot of the Witches (Used in James Bond movie, by Fergus Hall)
Witches Tarot (Ellen Cannon Reed)
Tarot of the Spirit
Mythic Tarot
Merlin Tarot
Tarot of a Moon Garden
Connolly Tarot
Starter Tarot  (can be restrictive)
Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg
Robin-Wood Tarot
Unicorn Tarot


Motherpeace (somewhat close to tarot)
Medicine Cards
Power Deck
Celtic Tree Oracle
Faery Wicca (close to tarot)
Mayan Oracle
Morgan's Tarot
Lakota Sweat Lodge
Enchanted Tarot (close to tarot)
African Divination
Inner Child (somewhat close to tarot)
Russian Gypsy
Sacred Path
Shakespearean  (close to tarot)
Pomo Tarot
Voice from the Earth
Medicine Woman  (close to tarot)
Haindl Tarot
Stairs of Gold  (historical tarot, but no scenes on some minor arcana cards)

If your cards are not listed above, don't fret! Use the list below to compare your cards to the references used in these lessons.

Table B: The Major Arcana
Card Number Common Card Name Primary Symbols to Look For
0 or 22/XXII The Fool Person near cliff, animal at heel
1/I The Magician Indication of "as above so below" such as a figure pointing to each. Symbols of the 4 suits such as cup, wand, pentacle, sword.
2/II The High Priestess Two contrasting colors in background, one on each side of card (such as a black pillar and a white pillar) scroll or book in hand of figure
3/III The Empress Figure surrounded by symbols of fertility such as grains, rabbits, fields, pregnancy, etc.
4/IV The Emperor Symbols of authority or organization, an orb or scepter in hand of figure, wreath of laurel, rams heads, etc.
5/V The Hierophant, The Priest, or The Pope Signs of spiritual authority, morals etc such as keys, crowns, kneeling figures, etc.
6/VI The Lovers Two figures, sometimes a winged creature above them
7/VII The Chariot Symbols of movement or navigation such as stars, a chariot-often with one black horse and one white horse or other creature drawing it.
Justice or Strength Some decks number Justice as 11/XI and Strength as 8/VIII, others use Strength as 11/XI and Justice as 8/VIII
Strength: Symbols such as a lion, muscles, a figure with a confident appearance
Justice: Scales of justice, pillars of strength, sword of enforcement, crown of authority
9/IX The Hermit Lamp of illumination, a lone figure, an empty landscape
10/X Wheel of Fortune lion, bull, Anubis, eagle, angel, snake, sphinx, books, and obviously a wheel (sometimes with astrological or other symbols) Vanna White, hehe
11/XI Strength or Justice See number 8/VIII
12/XII The Hanged Man Symbols of suspension and/or initiation such as a figure hanging upside down, often with left leg bent and hands behind back, symbols of a tree
13/XIII Death Symbols of cycles or passing, a scythe, prone bodies, flag with white rose, mysterious figure, sunset, bundled grain in fields
14/XIV Temperance Bright figure sometimes winged, water may be represented
15/XV The Devil Signs of lust or being trapped in the material world, chained figures below a beast, fire, etc.
16/XVI The Tower A tower or other structure being blasted or crumbling
17/XVII The Star Stars, water, duality such as water in each hand of a figure or a figure with one foot in water the other on land
18/XVIII The Moon The moon, two towers, two dogs, a lobster/crab/spider, a body of water
19/XIX The Sun The sun, a son or baby on horse, sunflowers, etc.
20/XX Judgment Apocalyptic scenes with open graves and/or angels and/or reunited families, etc.
21/XXI The World a circle surrounded by symbols, usually a bull, lion, eagle, and man, a figure within the circle holding two wands

The Minor Arcana Cards can be compared easily by checking just a few of them. Remove all the cards numbered "five" from your deck and compare them to this list.

Table C: The Suits
Suit of your Five Card
Cups, Hearts, Vessels, Cauldrons
Chalices, etc.
A figure looking down, three cups tipped over, two left standing or being offered to the figure who does not see them.
Pentacles, Disks, Coins, Diamonds
Stones, etc.
Two figures exposed to the elements, wearing tattered clothing or homeless, often outside a secure structure such as a bank, church or home.
Wands, Rods, Staves, Staffs, Sticks, Clubs, etc. A battle, sticks everywhere, sometimes fighters are smiling
Swords, Spades, Athames, Knives, etc. A proud figure stands in the foreground, holding a sword(s) while two figures in the background conspire.
The suit in bold green above is the suit name used throughout these lessons. 

The Next Step

Now that you have identified what type of deck you are using, take a look at them! Spread them all out on the floor and look at each one. How do they make you feel? What are the dominant colors? How do they smell?

Explore your cards, even if you've had them for a while, look at them again with 'new eyes' as if you've never seen them before. Sort them into five stacks, one with the major arcana and one each of the four suits of the minor arcana.

What is an Arcana?

Arcana means secret, such as mysterious knowledge or language. Arcana means information accessible only by an initiate. The tarot is divided into two arcanum, the major and the minor.

The Major Arcana

A standard 78 card tarot deck contains 22 major arcana cards. These titles are listed in the second table (Table B) on this page. The major arcana addresses what we will term here as 'big stuff' in people's lives. These influences are portrayed in the cards as broad, and sometimes overly general influences such as hope, despair, love, destruction, etc. The minor arcana will help to add details to these specifics, as will your intuition and other factors.

The Minor Arcana

A standard 78 card tarot deck contains 56 minor arcana cards. They are divided into 4 suits which vary among the many decks available. These suits can be seen in the left column of the third table on this page (Table C). There are fourteen cards in each suit. These are numbered ace through ten, page, knight, queen and king. The titles of the trump cards do not always correspond to royalty. Some decks use different titles such as apprentice, shaman, child, etc. in place of page, knight, queen and king. The minor arcana provide details about more specific circumstances in people's lives.

Continuing to Say Hello to Your Cards . . .

Look at each of the five stacks of cards you made. Spread out all of the cards in a single suit and look for a dominant theme. When you look at the cup cards, do you notice a dominant theme of emotions? Love, family situations, pride? When you look at the swords do you notice a dominant theme of strife or conflicts?


In your notebook, write  a few notes about the dominant themes you see in each of the four suits of the minor arcana.

PaganPath Academy & Witchcraft Classes Open Enrollment Now

PaganPath Academy Enrollment:

Our Academy remains the most outstanding available, and also the least costly!  Join any or all of the courses in the Academy for $49 a year, and start your classes right now.  Special: You get 25% off today!  Become a Premium Member & Enroll now for only $36.75, just click here.

Join as a Free Full Member (no Academy access) here to access the forum, downloads and more great stuff.

Save when you pay dues for more years:
What areas of study interest you most?
Any Notes or Comments to Add?