Intuitive Tarot: Pre-Workshop Lesson + Activity

A tarot deck of the Smith-Waite style has 78 cards (we’ll be using this format since it’s the structure most modern tarot decks use). Some decks that follow this style will have extra cards that artists have added over time (Prisma Visions and Pagan Otherworlds, for example), but the basic structure remains the same.

I’m including a printable lesson and activity below to help you get acquainted with tarot before the workshop to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Don’t worry: It’s brief, easy, and doesn’t require any tarot knowledge (or even a deck!). Hover over the embedded PDF below and click on the pop-out icon (looks like a tiny square and arrow in the upper-right hand corner) to open it in a new window. There you’ll be able to download and/or print it.

And if you can’t print it, that’s no problem. Feel free to reflect in the notebook or journal you’ll be bringing with you to class.


That’s all you need to know before walking into the workshop on Saturday… And you don’t even have to have that memorized! There won’t be any tests or anything. I just want all of us to start with the same understanding of the foundations of our decks so we can play within that structure.


One more thing…

If you have any specific tarot questions or hopes for what you want to get out of this class, please share them below.


Learning Resources

You don’t need to know a whole lot about tarot in order to read the cards, but if you like to dive a bit deeper into where the cards come from, how they’ve evolved, and the ongoing scholarship around them, you might like some of these resources. I’ll continue to add to this list as I find new resources I trust.

Note: I recommend waiting until after our workshop to go down the rabbit hole here.

Curious to know more about the origins and history of tarot? This article by Collectors Weekly is a great summary if you feel like nerding-out.

Using cards for playful divination probably goes back… To the 14th century, likely originating with Mamluk game cards brought to Western Europe from Turkey. By the 1500s, the Italian aristocracy was enjoying a game known as “tarocchi appropriati,” in which players were dealt random cards and used thematic associations with these cards to write poetic verses about one another—somewhat like the popular childhood game ‘MASH.’
— Collectors Weekly

Want to know more about the creation of the Smith-Waite deck? Here’s a brief article from Mary K. Greer’s blog about how Pamela “Pixie” Coleman Smith’s experience in the theatre impacted how she illustrated the card.


Pamela Coleman Smith - Photograph by Alice Boughton, Brooklyn Life, January, 1907.


On the hunt for useful resource books?

  • 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack is a classic for a reason. This resources is packed full of information about esoteric symbols, so I encourage you not to get bogged down in it. Instead see it as a well-researched reference book if you’re looking to dig down into the Smith-Waite deck.

  • The Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert is a great deck for folks who like a more elemental approach (it’s honestly one of my most-used decks), but I’m recommending it here because I love just love the guidebook she wrote. I especially like the major arcana journal prompts she included, which would be appropriate no matter what deck you use.


This ‘n That:

In essence, there’s no difference between images and letters, except that we’re trained from birth to understand the system governing the order and denotation of letters, while something like ✭ is left more open to interpretation. Perhaps for this reason, a tool like the Tarot deck or the motifs of mythology can help us escape our institutional conditioning, and explore greater depths of meaning in our worlds.
— Eva Deverell