How To Do A Tarot Reading Step-by-Step

How To Do A Tarot Reading

Every tarot reader has their own style of reading according to personal preferences, intentions or psychic abilities. You don’t need to have psychic abilities in order to read tarot, but you do need to rely on your intuition, which we all have.

To give you an idea of the general process I go through for each of my readings, the following is more or less what that process usually looks like. Feel free to use these steps to inspire your own style. 

Step 1 Cleanse The Energy Space

First I “clean” or “clear” the energy in my tarot space. I make sure my tarot table is clean and organized. I also ensure that I’m feeling my best and that I don’t have any distractions. 


Step 2 Choose The Deck

After my space is ready, I decide which deck to use. Each tarot set has its own essential elements and qualities. I usually try to match the deck with the type of question/s as best I can. If I’m doing a reading for someone else, sometimes the only information I know about them is their contact info; in that case, I go by whichever deck I’m inspired to use.  


How To Do A Tarot Reading


Step 3 Shuffle The Cards

Then it’s time to shuffle the cards. Since I use reversals, I spread the whole deck out upside down on a wide table by moving the cards around in circular motions. I make sure cards are not stuck together and that each card moves to a new position and a new direction before drawing them all back together again. This requires time and patience and gives me a chance to mentally prepare for the reading. If a card accidentally flips over during the shuffle, I add it to the reading. This card is almost always a confirmation message in the reading. After each card has relocated, I shuffle the cards in the traditional way three times, then cut the deck.


Step 4 Clear Your Mind

While shuffling, I clear my mind of any preconceived ideas or expectations for what the cards might say. I ensure that I’m open to any messages and outcomes. Every reading is unique in and of itself; plus tarot reading goes beyond programmed thoughts of the mind to connect with our intuition or our querent’s, which is connected to the unified energy field of higher knowledge. 


Step 5 Consciously Connect With Guides

Also while shuffling, I let all “spirit guides” involved know that I’m respectfully here to work with them and ask them to make any messages clear. We go over the questions together and make sure we’re all on the same page. These are questions for the tarot spread, or layout, that I’ve decided for myself or have worked out together with my client beforehand if we choose to use questions. I prefer not to use questions and simply allow the cards to speak. But concise questions asked from different angles greatly help to get the clearest answers possible. I’ve found that guides are very willing to work with anything. Sometimes guides even override questions with a more important message they’d like to convey. 


Step 6 Focus On The Situation In Question

paulinaThen I begin thinking about the specific situation in question. This is when I usually feel what my client is experiencing whether it’s deep sadness, anxiety, confusion, or excitement…. This gives me an initial idea of what the reading will be dealing with. This is called clairsentience in the realm of psychics and it means “clear feeling.” If you’re an empath, you know how it feels to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and energies. Being an empath opens our intuitive pathways.

Step 7 Lay Out The Spread

After a very thorough and ritualistic shuffle, I lay the cards out on the table upside down in order of the questions in the shape of a particular spread. I start by pulling the top card on the deck and so on. I usually use some type of grid for my spreads. These help me keep track of the questions. I also bring out any other energy helps such as gemstones and crystals that I specifically reserve for readings. There are no hard fast rules here, only what works for each reader.


Step 8 Study Each Card

Then one by one, I turn over each card in the spread. First I record the card under its associated question in my Notes app on my laptop, which is kept strictly confidential. Then I type out any preliminary thoughts that come to mind as it relates to the card and the question, even if the thought seems a little random. Preliminary thoughts are not set in stone, and are subject to the overall theme or message. 

This is called claircognizance – clear inner knowing – and is the primary tool I use for tarot readings. There is also clairvoyance and clairaudience. Everyone has intuitive or extrasensory abilities. It’s simply a matter of developing them. 

“Do not seek the development of psychic powers out of mere curiosity. It is a serious study only to be undertaken with pure motives and a desire for the highest.”

~ Richard Ireland

I find that the same card in the same tarot deck will have very different answers each time it’s used depending on the overall reading, the specific question, whether or not the card is upright or reversed, and whether something specific in the card image stands out, etc. If I’m unclear on the meaning of a particular card, I ask for clarification by pulling a confirmation card from the deck. But this is a rare occurrence and only used as a last resort. 





Step 9 Look For Commonalities

After every card is facing upright, I look at the reading as a whole. I notice if there’s a predominant message such as a lot of major arcana cards, more active or passive cards, maybe there are a lot of 5’s or a particular suit such as Swords or Pentacles, for example. Sometimes a certain color such as purple or indigo will dominate. I record this information if so, along with their symbolic meanings.


Step 10 Find The Overall Picture

At this point I look for the overall “picture” which is sort of the theme of the reading. This can take some time. An entire reading from start to finish can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours depending on how many cards are in the reading and how quickly I can find the overall picture or theme. Once this becomes clear, it’s much easier to interpret each individual card as it fits into the picture, as well as confirm its accuracy. This is when the reading “clicks” into place.


Step 11 Record The Reading

Then I write out my interpretation of the reading either for my own records or for the querent. I always record my readings to refer back to at a later time, but I keep these records confidential. If I’m sending the reading to a client, I add the specified card images to each question in the reading. 


Step 12 Closing Ritual

For the last step, I have a closing ritual. First I spend time thanking the querent’s guides as well as my own guides for their help, as well as take time to appreciate the whole beautiful, amazing experience. Then I clear the energy again in my tarot space. Sometimes I’ll light a candle or burn cleansing white sage. I also keep a bowl of fresh water nearby which can also keep the energy space clean. Then I put away all cards and crystals and other artifacts in their respective places. (I ensure that a reading is never left out where unwanted energies can affect the cards.) Since the energy work of readings can take a toll on me, I usually spend some time resting, taking a bath or just breathing in relaxation in order to let it all go. I do my best when I only do one major reading a day, although I’ve done up to ten or more readings in a day.


Elizabeth, also known as Intuitive Fish, is a healthy vegan mama living in the Pacific Northwest. Her life mission involves researching the esoteric arts, guiding souls along their awakening path, and contributing to a world of humans doing what they love. She’s available for readings and counseling, and would love to be your friend on social media.