Five free online resources for learning tarot

There are a zillion sites on the interwebs for learning tarot, and I think I’ve probably visited more than half of them in the past few months. (There are so many, in fact, that it made me wonder if there was any reason to add my voice to the clamour. And yet, here we are!) I have found, though, that there are certain sites and certain voices that I’ve returned to again and again. Here then is my quite subjective lists of five sites whose voice and style resonated with me as I’ve walked down the path to learning tarot as a tool for reflection and mindfulness.

Biddy Tarot

The Biddy Tarot site has an amazing amount of free resources for learning tarot, if you don’t mind working your way around the rather constant pitches for her paid classes and courses. She has extensive card meanings, including descriptions, keywords, interpretations and reversals, plus a lot of general insight into the suits, the Fool’s Journey, spreads, and other aspects of tarot. I love Brigit Esselmont’s style and approach to tarot, and I find it deeply resonates with me. I liked the imagery on her card meaning pages so much that I bought my own copy of the Everyday Tarot mini deck. And if you like podcasts, she has more than a hundred of short podcasts on a lot of different aspects of tarot that I’ve found insightful and entertaining.

The site is in many ways the opposite of Biddy Tarot, in that it was developed in the early days of the internet and looks like it hasn’t been updated in more than a decade. No flashy graphics, no sales pitches, but some really great fundamental information about tarot card meanings and interpretations. Don’t be put off by the charmingly anachronistic look of this site; it’s one of the most useful and comprehensive tarot sites I’ve come across, with a full and free online course in many aspects of tarot reading, including exercises you can work through to reinforce your learning. It takes a bit of work to find what you want on this site; click on “individual card descriptions” to get to the (stark) menu of card interpretations, but don’t overlook the wealth of other information available in the main menu.

Tarot Elements

This site is a rabbit hole of interesting occult tangents: elemental dignities, tarot card counting, correspondences, numerology and astrology. But, it also offers clear and concise keywords and summaries to help you understand the meaning of all the major and minor arcana. I particularly like the daily oracle interpretation she offers of each card, and what daily insight that card might offer. If you don’t own a tarot deck, you can get a free daily reading simply by clicking on a card back on her daily oracle page.

This Might Hurt tarot

This site is a little different from the others. Isabella Rotman is a graphic designer, comic book artist and tarot lover. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across her site, but from the moment I saw her cards, I felt an immediate frisson of connection. She recently designed a (gorgeous) modern, inclusive tarot deck that still retains links to the Rider-Waite-Smith system, and I absolutely love her card descriptions and interpretations. If it weren’t for the prohibitive and painful current exchange and shipping costs, I’d own this deck already. As it is, I have her card meanings bookmarked and refer to them often.

The Labyrinthos Academy app

Want to gamify your tarot learning? I found that once I’d started building a basic tarot vocabulary, the Labyrinthos Academy app for iPhone was quite handy in testing and reinforcing my understanding of basic card meanings. It’s a free app, and aside from flash-card like testing for keywords, you can use it for basic spreads and daily tarot card pulls. The blog section on the Labyrinthos site has some very interesting articles on a range of topics, from simple spreads to deep dives on topics such as Jungian archetypes and tarot history. My only complaint is that my old eyes sometimes find the cards a little hard to read on my relatively small iPhone screen. Sigh.

So, there you have it. Five of my favourite tarot places on the interwebs, when it comes to learning basic tarot card meanings for mindfulness and self-awareness. Do you have any resources to share? I’d love to hear if you have any favourite sites you find yourself visiting again and again.

Tarot reading: The future of her business in these strange times

I thought I’d share a few readings I’ve done recently to show an example of my style. Ashley (not her real name) asked, “I am curious about how my business will fair during social distancing.”

For this question, I did a general three card spread, where no card has a specific question or meaning but all cards are interpreted together. I pulled the Hierophant, the Queen of Wands and the Fool.

In this reading, I see Ashley as the Queen of Wands, balancing the competing energies of the Hierophant and the Fool like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The Hierophant calls for structure and routine, and the Fool is oblivious to conventions or expectations, so he just follows whatever impulse occurs to him regardless of consequences. They are truly opposites in energy and approach. It’s up to Ashley to balance those competing impulses in order to successfully navigate these strange times.

The Hierophant says that during this time of international panic and crisis, Ashley is making the most of her gifts. He is raising his hand as if to give blessing or benediction to her path. The Hierophant says don’t break from your usual routines or rituals or at least rely heavily on those you can maintain

As I said, I feel like the Queen of Wands is the querrant, Ashley, a charismatic go-getter who sees what she wants and charges ahead to make it happen. The Queen shines her light bright – I feel like people will be naturally drawn to Ashley for guidance

The Fool is a wildcard. He doesn’t behave in conventional ways, and is somewhat outside of society. Ashley will need to work with his creative energy to find new ways of progressing as we all pass into this uncharted new territory.

Two major arcana in a three card spread means that Ashley is facing a time of significant change in her business. She has important decisions to make that will have a meaningful impact on the directions her business will take. She needs to think about the effects of her decisions on the community, and be open to new ways of running her business. The Hierophant says favour the status quo, and the Fool says expect the unexpected – with Ashley/The Queen caught in between these opposing forces. Notice how the Queen is looking at the Fool, but her shadow self, the black cat, is looking toward the Hierophant. Ashley is likely conflicted about the path ahead; should she trust what her intuition is telling her (favour the status quo) or her logical brain (which favours the unconventionality of the Fool)? Her success will come when she finds a way to harness both of these opposing forces. I think the outlook for Ashley’s business is very good, but she may be in for a bumpy ride to get there.

Ashley was very happy with this reading. She said she absolutely identified as being the Queen of Wands, and could feel the two paths pulling her in opposite directions. She said, “Overall, I rate your reading 5 stars. The reading gave me a lot of insight into my situation, was extremely helpful to me and provided a lot of value! I would absolutely recommend you as a Tarot Reader to others!”

I’d be curious how any other readers might interpret these cards. Do you see additional insights for Ashley? Anything you might have read differently?

Tarot books: Kitchen Table Tarot

One of the first tarot books I read was Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova. I had had very little exposure to tarot, and knew practically nothing about the cards, their meaning, or how to read, and found it an excellent introduction to reading tarot. Cynova has a breezy, chatty and accessible style that was particularly helpful when I was brand new to trying to wrap my head around and not be overwhelmed by what can be a complex and intimidating system of meanings. It truly does feel like Cynova is sitting across the table from you, chatting about what she’s learned through years of reading tarot for others. She has a very modern sensibility, and strips away most of the esoteric mysticism I was expecting from a tarot book.

The majority of the book is composed of card interpretations, including an interpretation for reversals as well. Her descriptions and examples are rooted in the modern world. She describes, for example, the Knight of Cups: “He sits in the quad. Jeans, a white T-shirt, and a worn copy of Vonnegut dangling limply from his hand as he stares out into the distance. He smokes, of course, and his dark hair is tousled and curly. […] He looks sad, and his sadness is on your mind for the rest of your life. Dear heavens, does this one make an impact. He is so romantic, I can’t even stand it.” The flip side of this, though, is probably my only concern or complaint about the book: the interpretations were great for a quick understanding of the character of each card, but I found I needed other resources to develop a deeper and more comprehensive ability to interpret the cards myself

Despite the casual tone, there’s a lot of information packed into this book. In addition to Cynova’s personal anecdotes and insight, she weaves in some basic numerology and astrology and suggestions for reading and building spreads. She offers advice on the ethics of reading for others and considerations for going pro, but I found this book would be more appropriate for those looking to understand tarot for fun and personal study.

If you’re looking for a fun read that serves as a great introduction to tarot reading, I’d recommend this book. I got it from the local public library!

When the Tower comes to call

By far, the most anxiety-inducing card in the tarot deck is the Tower. A lightning bolt slams into a tower, shattering it and sending poor hapless folks plummeting to what looks like certain death.  It’s generally read as a harbinger of cataclysmic change and destruction brought on by forces entirely out of your control.

I’ll admit that I’ve dreaded the day when this card comes up for me in a reading. Destruction and cataclysmic change are definitely not on my list of things that I enjoy. I’m dreadfully adverse to even the most benign sorts of change. And yet, I laughed when I turned up the Tower as my card of the day yesterday, because no day in recent memory more perfectly embodied being powerless to forces beyond your control. The situation with the COVID-19 virus is escalating quickly: my kids’ schools are closed for two weeks after next week’s March Break, events are being cancelled, and new cases are getting closer and closer to home. It’s an unprecedented world situation and none of us have any power beyond our own small spheres of influence.

Image of Tower tarot card

We have a lot to learn about fear from the Tower, though. Sometimes fear itself can be more powerful and more debilitating than whatever it is that we are afraid of.  Note that the Tower is that it isn’t the end of the cycle; it comes about two-thirds of the way through the Fool’s Journey, and what follows in the wake of the destruction wrought by the Tower is enlightenment. Once we’ve hit that hard bottom, no matter how terrifying the fall might have seemed, we have survived to fight another day. With luck, maybe we’ve even been empowered by lessons learned along the way.

So one hopes that we, collectively, can learn something from the chaos that the Tower marks today. The lightning has struck and the tower is falling. What can you do?

Quote of the day: Good Omens

My favourite book of all time is Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. I’m sure I’m on my fourth or fifth reading by now, and I’ve watched the series on TV and even made my own pilgrimage to St James Park in London, where Crowley and Aziraphale fed the ducks.

Sir Terry doesn’t make a secret of his disdain for fortune tellers, though ironically, he has created all my favourite literary witches. I’m currently reading the Witches arc in the Discworld books and realizing that I am equal parts Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, and as I start my fifth decade on the planet, I’m more in tune with my inner witch than ever before.

I came across this quote this morning and laughed out loud. Sir Terry may not put much stock in fortune telling, but when it comes to tarot, this is still pretty good advice. I’m not much of a prognosticator, but I do believe in the power of context. You’re not done when you read the surface of each card; it’s the narrative, the story and the context that matters. You need to link the cards back to real life.

Anyway, probably not what he had in mind, but I still found it shareworthy and may yet use it as a tag line for the blog! 😉