picture of a tarot journal and tarot cards

What is THE BEST Way to Learn Tarot?

One of my moonwise members asked me, "Is the best way to learn tarot to use it and journal rather than doing courses?"

It's such a juicy question! I asked her if I could share the answer as a blog post as I have a LOT of thoughts about this. She agreed and so here we are...

Exploring the Best Ways to Learn Tarot: Courses vs. Self-Learning

When diving into the world of tarot, beginners often face a common dilemma: should they opt for formal courses or is self-learning through practice and journaling sufficient?

As a professional tarot reader and someone who has navigated both realms, I've gathered some insights that might help clarify this path for newcomers.

The Value of Hands-On Experience

Tarot is a tool for divination, introspection, and decision-making. As with any tool your ability to use it well depends on your skill. How do you gain skill? Usually through practice. Yes, you can learn about the standard meanings of the cards but this is only the beginning point. To get good at using this tool it is best to actually use it in your life. Your understanding then becomes enriched by personal and intuitive connections to the cards. This is why I believe actively using the tarot deck can be more instructive than purely academic study.

When you engage directly with the cards—asking questions, drawing cards for answers, interpreting these answers, and later reflecting on how the messages lined up with your actual experiences - helps you develop a deeper, more intuitive understanding of tarot. You become skilled with the tool through using it as it is meant to be used. 

Journaling: A Reflective Practice

Journaling is a powerful complement to your tarot practice. It allows you to record your interpretations and the personal emotions tied to each reading, creating a reflective space to monitor your growth and change in understanding over time. This practice not only enhances your memory of the card meanings but also helps you see the evolution of your interpretations and the nuances of different situations. Many readers - even those who have been using tarot for years - like to keep a record of their readings in a journal. This is such a popular practice because:

It enables you to look back on previous readings and see if you understood what the cards were telling you with the benefit of hindsight. When you have a space to record your readings you can revisit them hours/ days/ weeks and even years later and see how your interpretation lined up with how things actually panned out

A tarot journal is a brilliant space for you to expand your understanding of the card meanings. You can even keep a journal dedicated entirely to this, with a page or two for each card, adding insights gained over a period of time and experience using the cards. In this way you build a personal lexicon of meaning for each of the cards, which is an incredibly powerful thing. 

So What About Tarot Courses?

While hands-on experience is invaluable (and primary in my opinion), tarot courses do have their place, especially well-structured ones that blend theory with practice, taught by experienced readers who are also good teachers. I find the best courses for beginners are those which encourage you to perform readings and then offer feedback, but I also like specialised deep-dive type courses into specific methods of reading, or into certain cards or archetypes. These are especially helpful when you have been reading for a while and want to further enrich your practice. 

Beware of teachers offering very quick results (I've seen some with titles like "learn tarot in an hour"). Tarot is a complex system and, while you can get to grips with the basic structure quite quickly when you understand the suits, numbers, courts and major arcana, it usually takes years of study and practice to get really good at interpreting the cards and bringing the separate card meanings together into a coherent reading. 

Also beware of courses promising certification. While these can be appealing to beginners, especially to those who are thinking they may want to go pro as a tarot reader in the future, the certifications don't really mean anything as tarot is not a regulated profession like chiropractors or electricians, where certification is a standardised and essential requirement. In the world of tarot, such certifications are not externally validated or moderated by any recognised authority, which means they don’t hold the same weight as professional licenses in other fields. 

Many people seek certification as a form of validation for their skills, but in tarot, the real testament to a reader's ability is their effectiveness and reputation, which are typically validated through client feedback and word of mouth, not a certificate. While these courses can offer valuable learning experiences, the certificate itself should not be seen as a guarantee of professional competency.

Side note: There are societies and associations for tarot readers that provide community support and networking opportunities, and while membership can be beneficial for personal growth and professional development, joining these is entirely optional and not a prerequisite for practicing or succeeding as a tarot reader.

 

What to look for in a tarot course

All of this may make it sound like I am against courses, but that is not at all the case. Courses and classes can indeed enrich your understanding, but they are often most beneficial after you've laid some groundwork. Having a base level of familiarity with your deck and a habit of journaling can significantly enhance what you gain from a structured course. This way, you're able to ask more informed questions and engage more deeply with the course content.

There are so many options available now for tarot courses that it can be rather overwhelming knowing where to start. If you would like to take a course I would recommend seeking out a teacher who is an experienced reader and whose teaching style is a good fit for you. Most tarot teachers offer some of their content for free on YouTube or via podcasts or blogs, which is brilliant because it means you can try-before-you-buy by using some of this - often very in depth and comprehensive - free teaching before paying for a course. That way you can be reasonably confident that the teacher will be a good fit for you. 

It is also sensible to take into account your preferred learning style when choosing a course. If you know you're a visual learner, then you may benefit from courses that provide lots of charts, videos, and visual aids to help you understand the symbolism and interpretations of the cards. On the other hand, if you are more of an auditory learner, you might look for courses that offer recorded lectures, podcasts, or interactive classes where listening and discussion are key components.

For those who are kinesthetic learners, preferring a more hands-on approach, courses that include practical exercises, live readings, and the opportunity to practice with feedback can be especially effective. These courses allow you to engage directly with the cards, which can help cement your understanding through action rather than just theory.

Reflective learners, who like to ponder and apply the information in a more introspective way, might find journaling a crucial part of their learning process. For these learners, courses that encourage personal reflection and include assignments like writing about card meanings or documenting readings can be particularly beneficial.

In essence, understanding your learning style can significantly impact your choice of tarot course, ensuring that the teaching methods align with your natural tendencies for absorbing and processing information. This alignment not only makes learning more enjoyable but also more effective, as it resonates more closely with how you naturally engage with new concepts.

It's also important to consider how the structure of a tarot course aligns with your personal motivation and study habits. Some learners thrive under the structure and deadlines of a live course, which often provides direct accountability and a scheduled framework that can help maintain focus and momentum. These live interactions can also offer immediate feedback and the dynamic exchange of ideas, which are invaluable for deepening understanding and keeping learners engaged.

On the other hand, self-paced courses offer flexibility that can be crucial for those with irregular schedules or those who prefer to digest information at their own pace. These courses often provide lifetime access to materials, allowing learners to return to the content as needed. However, the initial motivation can sometimes wane without the external pressure of deadlines, leading to the materials being underutilised.

The difference in cost between these types of courses can also be significant. Courses featuring live components and real-time interaction typically command a higher price due to the additional resources required to facilitate these sessions. Meanwhile, courses offering primarily pre-recorded videos and downloadable resources might be more affordable, though the lack of structured timelines can lessen the push some learners need to fully engage with the material.

Choosing the right type of course often boils down to knowing your learning style and understanding what environment you best thrive in. If you're someone who tends to procrastinate or you know you struggle with self-directed projects, investing in a more structured and interactive course—even at a higher cost—might be the better choice to ensure you actually engage with the material and gain the full benefit of the learning experience.

Recommended Way Forward

For those looking for a middle-ground between hands-on learning and taking a course, I would recommend following a workbook approach. That way you get the benefit of using the cards alongside some structure and guidance. 

My favourite workbook is "Tarot For Yourself" by Mary K. Greer. This book offers a structured yet personal approach to learning tarot. I highly recommend it because it encourages an interactive engagement with the cards through various exercises and journaling prompts. It serves as both a textbook and a workbook in one, making it an excellent resource for beginners. It's a must have for any tarot library in my opinion and is always the first book I recommend to my tarot students. 

Keeping a tarot journal will also serve you well, however you learn, or wherever you are in your tarot journey. (If you're not sure where to start with a tarot journal this may be what you're looking for). 

In the end, the best learning method depends on your personal learning style. Some may thrive in a more structured academic environment that courses offer, while others may find that intuitive practice and self-guided learning resonate more. Whichever path you choose, remember that the journey with tarot is deeply personal, and allowing yourself to be guided by your curiosity and intuition is key. 

Do you agree with what I've suggested here? Which resources worked best for you? Let me know in the comments.

Warmest Blessings

Jessica

*Please note, there may be affiliate links included in posts. It does not cost you anything extra if you buy something through these links but I can receive a commission. Thank you so much for supporting me and my work in this way. 

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