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  • Writer's pictureThe Blue and White Magazine

An Orientation to the Occult

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

A step-by-step guide to reading tarot this Halloween.

Last year, a friend of mine gave me a tarot reading and predicted that my next great love was right around the corner. When that turned out to be wholly—and maybe inevitably—incorrect, I had to take matters into my own hands. I bought my own set of tarot cards, because I figured if anyone had the right to give me bad life advice, it was myself. And that’s how I became a tarot master! Or at least, became good enough to show you how to scare your friends with warnings and bad omens.

Let’s start with the basics. The Rider-Waite tarot deck, a staple for amateur and expert diviners alike, is comprised of two types of cards: 22 Major Arcana cards are generally thought to represent specific lessons we learn or people we meet in our lives, while 56 Minor Arcana cards relate more to our everyday experiences and encounters. The Minor Arcana are split into four suits—swords, wands, cups, and pentacles. Swords are associated with intellect; wands, with energy and creativity; cups, with emotion; pentacles with the physical and material.

My number one piece of advice for any beginner is to not try to memorize all the cards’ meanings. This may seem counterintuitive, but because of the tarot’s strong connection to our emotion and intuition, I’ve found it’s often easier to recall a card’s significance based on how it makes me feel. A good way to familiarize yourself with the deck is to draw a single card each day and ask yourself, “What do I need to keep in mind today?” Think about how the card you draw might influence your day. If the meaning you derive from a card differs from its defined significance, ignore the definition! Interpretation is integral to a successful reading.

There are two four-card spreads I recommend starting out with. As you can see, the position of each card has its own significance. The cross spread is useful for giving advice or evaluating a specific situation, while the standard spread can be helpful in understanding the querent (whomever you are reading for) or evaluating a certain aspect of their life.

For any reading, begin by asking the querent if there is something specific they want to focus on. The querent should touch the deck before you shuffle the cards. Once the deck is shuffled, have the querent split it into three sections and then put the sections back together. It doesn’t matter how many cards are in each section or in what order the sections are restacked.

You may draw cards off the top of the deck or have the querent choose them at random. Lay the full spread before turning all the cards over. At this point, you will want to make some contemplative sounds or say, “Interesting,” to build suspense and make the querent a little nervous.

Keep in mind that tarot reading is more about uncovering the subconscious than predicting a concrete future. This is not fortune-telling, so avoid bringing up specific events. Intuition is the key to a productive reading. If you get stuck, it always helps to ask a broad and somewhat leading question, like, “I see I’ve drawn the Death card. Are you afraid of change?” If the querent leaves thinking you’ve seen deep into their mind, you’ve done something right.

Tarot readings can seem like merely smoke and mirrors, but they may also hold a surprising amount of truth, as long as you focus on giving interpretations rather than predictions. This Halloween, I urge you to dabble in the occult, if only to scare your roommate into leaving your shit alone.

Cross spread

1. Represents the topic being dealt with

2. Don’t do this / Avoid this

3. Do this

4. It leads to this

Standard four-card spread

1. Represents the topic being dealt with

2. Don’t do this / Avoid this

3. Do this

4. It leads to this


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