Instructions for the Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Written by tina amo
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Instructions for the Rider Waite Tarot Cards
Learn to read the tarot with Rider-Waite cards (tarot image by e-pyton from

Tarot cards are considered a divination tool that readers can use to understand aspects of their lives and predict events in the near future by asking a variety of questions, from "Will I sell my house next month?" to "What is my life's purpose?" Tarot card readers conduct readings for themselves or for someone else. Beginners can learn to read the tarot with the Rider-Waite deck, which has a recognisable image on each card. With regular practice, readers can become adept at determining answers to their questions.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Become familiar with the cards. There are 78 Rider-Waite tarot cards and they are divided into two categories: major arcana and minor arcana cards. The 56 minor arcana cards are divided further into four suits: cups, swords, pentacles and wands. In a reading, the major arcana cards signify the heart of the issue the seeker is interested in and the minor arcana are supporting cards that help clarify the issue.

  2. 2

    Prepare yourself for a reading. It is important to be calm, alert and focused. It is also important to be respectful of the cards and open to receiving the messages they deliver.

  3. 3

    Shuffle the cards while you think of a question you wish to ask. If the reading is for someone else, ask her to think about a question while you shuffle the cards. Common questions revolve around romance, jobs and relocating. For instance, the question could be "Is he my soul mate?"

  4. 4

    Cut the cards when you have finished shuffling them. If the reading is for someone else, have her cut the cards. Place the stack of cut cards facedown on the table.

  5. 5

    Pick a spread based on the type of question you have. The spreads are templates that guide the placement of the cards. If the question concerns matters of the heart, then you might choose a relationship spread. If it is about guidance on a course of action then consider a five card spread. If you require a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer then a one card reading is ideal.

  6. 6

    Pick cards from the top of the deck and place them according to the numbering in the spread. If you are using a five card spread, for instance, place one card face down. Place the second card on the left side, the third card on the right side, the fourth card above and the fifth card below. The layout should resemble a cross.

  7. 7

    Turn the cards over successively, from first to last. Read the meaning of each card in the accompanying Rider-Waite booklet or in a tarot book and link it to the card's placement. If the card is upside down, then read the reversed interpretation. The following is a sample reading for a five card spread:

    Card 1 -- The Queen of Pentacles -- Changing work situation, developing a business or altering a health plan.

    Card 2 -- The Fool -- The tendency to daydream and miss important clues.

    Card 3 -- The Two of Wands -- The need to choose where to concentrate energy and passion.

    Card 4 -- The Lovers -- Coming across a job, person or place that the questioner will fall in love with.

    Card 5 -- The Wheel of Fortune -- Good fortune.

  8. 8

    Interpret the meaning of the cards in the spread to determine an answer to the question. In a five card spread, for instance, the first card indicates the general or past theme, the second card represents past influences that affect the present, the third card points to the future, the fourth card reveals the reason behind the question and the fifth card shows the potential of the issue. The meaning of the sample spread above could be:

    The questioner is experiencing a change in her romantic life but is unsure of what to do because she has had a tendency in the past to miss or ignore important points. If she can focus and make the right decision then she could find the perfect mate for her, a discovery that would lead to the joyful life she is seeking.

Tips and warnings

  • You may wish to create a tarot card spread that has more meaning for you after you have acquired some experience with reading the cards.
  • Practice with the Rider-Waite tarot cards daily to become familiar with them. recommends pulling a card out of the deck every morning then comparing the events of your day to the card's interpretation later in the evening. If your mornings are too busy, you can pick the card for the following day before you go to bed.
  • Some tarot readers recommend that you sleep with a new deck of cards under your pillow for a week before you begin to use them. This will help you bond with your cards.

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