How to read Tarot cards without memorising meanings

I wanted to learn to read Tarot cards for years before I actually did. I bought a deck of cards, books and tried to memorise the meanings. I wrote lists, revision cards, tried memory tricks but none of it worked and I was so disappointed. I read lots of advice online but it all centred around just memorising what the cards meant, which was disheartening as I don’t have a great memory.

If I couldn’t memorise these 78 cards with all their complex meanings how was I ever going to be able to do readings for myself or anyone else? Could there be a better way that didn’t make me feel like I was cramming for an exam?

I was relieved to find there is another way: Intuitive Tarot reading.

What is intuitive Tarot reading?

Reading intuitively is about looking at each card and noticing which details stand out to you the most and what thoughts, feelings and impressions come into your mind. This is different every time; whether reading intuitively or by memorising meanings, the cards mean different things in different contexts. For example if I’m reading the Page of Pentacles I’m sometimes drawn towards the well prepared fields in the background, ready for sowing seeds. At other times I’m drawn to the raised coin in the Page’s hands and the look of wonder on his face.

What’s the difference between intuitive Tarot reading and learning the meanings?

Every Tarot reader is different, but I find I get more accurate and relevant information by reading intuitively. My opinion is that you can get so caught up in trying to figure out how traditional card interpretations relate to the situation of the person you’re reading for, that you struggle to listen to anything unexpected that comes up.

Intuitive reading isn’t about ignoring the traditional Tarot card meanings, it’s a case of increasing your trust in your own intuition instead of relying on what has been ascribed to the cards by others before you. The traditional meanings are very useful and I do use them to understand the cards in even more depth, but they don’t give the whole story by themselves.

What if I’m not creative or imaginative; will it still work?

As humans we are all creative and imaginative by nature. We’ve had to evolve to have these qualities in order to survive, adapt and solve problems. Even if you don’t deliberately make use of your imagination regularly it’s still there, and the beauty of intuitive Tarot reading is that it actively develops your imagination.

Can this technique be used with other oracle cards too?

Intuitive reading works well with any oracle cards, not just Tarot. I have a deck of ‘Sacred Destiny’ cards which show only a picture and a word. They are a great jumping off point for symbolism, metaphors and associations. An unfamiliar deck of oracle cards are a great way to get into intuitive reading because each card will be totally unknown to you so it’s less distracting.

What if I don’t pick up any information at all?

Despite having done lots of readings I sometimes have this fear too; I think most readers do. But although it’s an unnerving thought don’t let it put you off.

Here’s what to do if you get stuck: Pick out any detail on the card and talk about it. Describe it in detail then move on to the rest of the picture until the words flow more easily. I always find that simply describing what I see helps me to set aside my mental blocks and make space for my intuition.

How to read Tarot and oracle cards intuitively

Shuffle the cards and pick one. Look at the card and notice what catches your attention:

  • What detail do you notice first?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • How do you feel about it?
  • What thoughts, words or images come to mind?
  • What else do you notice?

Now draw another card, repeat the same process then ask:

  • What links or contrasts do you notice between the two cards?
  • What could the information in one card be telling you about the other one?

Take your time during this process. If you’re reading for someone else and believe you should be immediately giving a smooth stream of information remember that every reader and reading moves at a different pace. Part of reading for another person is holding a space for them to explore what’s happening in their life. When you pause it gives them time to settle down or digest information you’ve already passed to them.

Anyone can learn to read Tarot and oracle cards intuitively. Take your time, keep an open mind and trust yourself. Combine it with all, some or none of the traditional card meanings; this is your unique experience and is part of growing your trust in your intuition.

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How to read Tarot cards without memorising meanings

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