One of my recent reading victims -- Muahahahaha!-- wanted to know how I got into tarot and learned all this vast reservoir of tarot knowledge. I will tell you all a secret: I am a tarot newbie. I've only been reading the cards for about four years.
About 20 years ago I had my first tarot reading. A friend of mine read my cards at her dining room table. The pictures on the cards made no sense to me, so I just walked about the room making sure my four year-old son didn't do anything he shouldn't do, listening to what she said. At the time I had just recently left my first husband, was semi-seeing an old boyfriend for comfort's sake, but was really more concerned with gaining legal custody of my child and staying alive. My ex was psycho and I didn't know what he was liable to do. So when she told me that he was going to remain in my life for a long, long time to come, I was, needless to say, really disappointed. She also told me that a new guy was coming into the picture, not this old flame I was sorta seeing, someone else that I would be seriously involved with. Well, at least she didn't say I'd be getting back together with my abuser ex. I wasn't thrilled with the reading until later, years later in fact, I remembered what she had said and realized it had all happened. My first husband did indeed remain in my life for years as he insisted on visitation with our son even though he did not pay child support, and he continued to be a threat and a thorn in my side until our son turned 18 years-old. I didn't continue seeing that old boyfriend either. It was just an itch that had to be scratched. And that October I met the man I would marry a year and a half later. Hmmmm.
Meanwhile, I had become Born Again, was a pretty darn serious fundamentalist Christian and tarot cards were doorways to demonic activity. I still couldn't shake that feeling - the cards were right. Luckily, I wasn't the kind of Christian to check my brain at the church door, so I eventually read my way out of Christianity. Reading the Bible is probably the best way to do that, but that's a whole other discussion. As I came to more fully understand and grasp grace and freedom, I found my interest in tarot pique once again. I started by reading about tarot online, then in books, and in tarot forums. I got another friend to do a reading for me and once again, right on the money. That was it, I had to get my own deck. So off to Border's I went to purchase a beginner tarot book and deck of cards. I tend to avoid woo-woo. That's super-spiritualistic speak. I've learned my lessons in all that the hard way and nothing but down to earth, real, and sometimes getting dirty and gritty, just like real life, appeals to me. So I had to wade through some books to find one with a minimum of woo woo. I settled on Introduction to Tarot by Susan Levitt. Interestingly, she used both the Rider Waite Smith deck and the Thoth to illustrate the cards. I was torn between these two decks as I really adore the art nouveau of the Thoth and the early 1900's storybook art of the RWS. I finally settled on the Universal Waite deck and planned to maybe purchase the Thoth at a later date.
The book helped to do exactly what it said: introduce me to tarot reading. I went looking for more, more, MORE! I found so, so much online and yet the best place by far that I found was Aeclectic Tarot Forums.
Wow. This place was jam-packed full of all manner of tarot readers from your skeptic to your newbie to the very seasoned professional. Deck artists, writers, dabblers, teachers, students all. I learned so very, very much there. Interacting with others, posting stupid questions, getting wise and not so wise answers, exchanging readings, chatting live, reading live over IRC all helped me grow in tarot at, I believe, an accelerated pace. However, one person truly helped me come into not just knowing what the cards meant but actually reading the cards as well as the space between the cards. On the forum she is known as GoddessArtemis. I won't unveil her identity here as I do not have her permission to do so. She was so open and friendly with me and we became very good friends, though we have never met in person. We read the cards incessantly together, for each other, for ourselves, bounced interpretations off each other, researched meanings, connections to astrology and symbolism, and got entirely obsessed with readings, the cards, decks, etc. She encouraged and supported my decision to start reading professionally and has been such an incredible mentor and friend, apart from tarot.
It was GA that said, "Stop over-thinking the cards! Say what you first think and see!" If ever there exists the best EVER advice about reading tarot, that's it. In all our studies and classes and practice, we so often second guess, and third and fourth and so on only to come back around to that first rush of intuition. Or we ignore it and find out later we were right. Hate that!
The first year I read tarot the cards went everywhere with me. I read them incessantly. I read about them incessantly. I couldn't get enough about tarot, tarot, tarot. That tends to be the way I am, though. When I am into something, I go in up to my eyeballs, bathe in it, eat it, drink it, dream it. I still have a deck with me most of the time. However, I find there are days that go by now that I don't pick up a deck or read the cards at all. A full week can go by without a look at the cards. I feel very comfortable with my 20-some-odd decks I've collected and my one shelf of books. I don't need any more. I learn more and more about tarot all the time and mostly now I learn by reading -- both doing tarot readings and reading about the history and lore of tarot. I'm comfortable in my gypsy reader skin. Tarot just fits me and I found that out fairly quickly. Others have their own coming to tarot stories. I'd love to hear yours.