I have been reading tarot since 1995. That’s quite a while.
My first deck was the Dragon Tarot. I then purchased a copy of the Rider-Waite for Walter’s class, followed by my Thoth deck, which I picked up on Walter and Jack’s recommendations and wasn’t able to make sense of for several years.
I learned to read tarot by learning Qabalah. The overlay of the Waite pattern on the Tree of Life made understanding the system easy. And the pervasiveness of Waite as the “standard” meant that I could read just about any deck based on that pattern, even if the images were flavored differently.
And I’m good at tarot. I admit court cards still give me some issues, as do reversals, and I’m working on that. But most decks use the same pattern and ascribe similar enough meanings to their cards that I can make sense of them.
Many years ago, my friend Sapphire gave me a copy of the Marssaille Tarot. I never managed to read it. It was in French, and the cards didn’t make sense. Now I know that this is because that particular deck predates the Waite pattern, but I didn’t then, so I set it aside.
Recently my friend Garnet introduced me to the Book Of Shadows tarot set. This includes two completes decks: As Above, which reflects Wiccan spirituality and cosmology and emphasizes spiritual matters, and So Below, which is based on the Waite system and deals with more mundane matters.
Well, the As Above deck confused me. Its meanings are vastly different from the Waite configuration and didn’t make sense at first.
So I did something I haven’t done for a tarot deck in almost 20 years. I had to pull out the book during readings.
One of the reasons I have trouble learning foreign languages is because I get frustrated trying to express myself with a 1st grade vocabulary. This was a problem I had with this deck as well. But I looked at the pattern, and I’m getting it.
And there’s an advantage here. Because it offers new perspectives that the other decks don’t. I’m learning a new language.
Other oracle packs like the increasingly popular Lemound act similarly. Because they don’t follow Waite, they take time to learn. But they can also say some things the Waite pattern has trouble expressing.
And in comparing the card meanings, I’ve been learning the Waite pattern better, too.
So I have some thoughts on learning these new decks.
1. Review the book definitions of all of your decks.
Most decks are based on Waite in some way, but have unique flavors. Double check the specifics of those decks. They may even help with an aspect of Waite you missed.
2. Use the books during readings.
Let your querent know you’re practicing and ask for patience, but don’t be afraid to look.
3. Look for the pattern.
Tarot has some manner of pattern, which is usually suit x number at its most basic. This can help guess cards you don’t know yet.
4. Practice with a familiar spread.
This way you’re not trying to learn two things at once.
5. Solicit readings.
Social media are great for this, especially Tumblr. You can also request that people ask questions that they already know the answer to so you can verify your accuracy.
With a little work even old readers stuck in their ways can learn new deck.