There is no set-in-stone method to reading tarot. There is nothing you absolutely need to do or avoid doing to ‘make the cards work.’ I advise you to be very suspect of anyone who says there is. There are many methods, and over time you will discover which ones feel right to you. For now, here are some suggestions to get you started.
1 - Make Space: Take a moment to breathe and relax. If you are doing a reading for yourself, reflect on your motives. If you are doing a reading for someone else, use this time to connect to that person. Some people have rituals that go along with this, such as lighting a candle or laying down a tarot cloth.
2 - Shuffle and Ask Your Question: You can ask the cards a specific question if you want. You can also just ask them about everything and find out what they want to say to you. If you are reading for yourself, shuffle the deck while thinking about the topic you want to discuss. If I am reading for someone else, I usually have them shuffle. Some readers don’t like other people touching their decks, though, so that’s up to you.
But What Question Do I Ask?: I find it most helpful to ask the cards for advice. Yes or no questions usually don’t work. Tarot is better about telling you about a situation than giving a black-and-white answer. Some of the best readings happen when you ask no questions and see what the cards have to say to you. Sometimes the cards ignore your question entirely and just say what they want anyway.
3 - Select Your Cards: There are many ways to select cards after shuffling. Some readers take the cards off the top. Some have the subject cut the deck and select those cards. I like to fan the deck out and move my hands over them until one of my fingers tingles over a card. Do whatever feels right.
4 - Pull Your Cards and Place Them Into a Spread: A spread is a template for laying cards down in a certain pattern, where the position of the card within the pattern gives context to the meaning. There are many spreads you can use to answer different questions. The most famous is the Celtic Cross, which is a big huge spread that tells a story. There are many books and websites full of spreads, so I encourage you to look over options. I usually prefer to do a three card spread, because a smaller amount of cards tends to give me a clearer reading. Here are some options for three card spreads:
Feel free to make up your own spreads, find spreads in books, and look them up online! Use different spreads for different situations or just pull a set number of cards and see if they tell a story together.
5 - Interpret The Cards: You could read intuitively by looking at the images, and/or you could reference the card descriptions in this book. When reading a spread, consider the following three elements in conjunction with each other: the meaning of the card, the meaning of the position in the spread, and the subject of the reading. Allow yourself to link the cards together in a story. If you are reading for someone else I encourage you to make this a conversation between the two of you. Most of my tarot readings for other people look a lot like talk therapy.
6 - Closing: Take a moment to think over the reading as a whole. Some people journal about it, some take a photo of the reading so they can come back to it later. Some people cleanse their Tarot deck after every reading with a ritual of their choice. End the reading however feels good to you.