1. Choosing a Spread
2. Drawing and Turning the Cards over
3. Reading the Cards
4. Upside-down Cards
1. Choosing a Spread: Before you start reading the cards, you should phrase your question or concern precisely. Only then should you choose a spread (a certain pattern of laying the cards you draw). If you just want a short and sweet, clear answer to a simple question, it can be quite useful not to use a spread at all. For example, you may want to know, “What makes me feel so downcast?” You can then draw one or two cards and interpret them as the answer to your question: “This makes me feel so downcast!”
2. Drawing and Turning the Cards over: Once you've phrased your concern and found the proper spread, shuffle the cards and then fan them (face down) in front of you and draw the number of cards which the spread requires. Many people do this with their left hand, which is considered to be the more intuitive hand since it is closer to the heart. Whether you turn all the cards face up now, before the reading begins, or one after the other during the reading, is up to you. I prefer the former because then it is possible to include interdependences between the cards into their interpretation right from the beginning.
3. Reading the Cards: Now go through the cards one after the other in an order corresponding to the logic of the spread. Interpret each card according to its position (e.g. depending on its position in the spread a card might stand for your feelings, or for a chance, or for the cause of a problem, etc.). If you are at a loss with a certain card, just move on and come back to it later. Often, the meaning of a card only becomes clear if we take its interdependence with one or more of the other cards into consideration as well.
The reader has to learn to feel intuitively which level of meaning a particular card should have in the reading. Let’s say you’ve drawn the 4 of Pentacles (testiness or being overburdened) for the position in the spread which describes “My Situation”. The 4 of Pentacles could now mean that you feel testy or overloaded. But it could also mean that you are overtaxing someone else, are over pampering them, or making them testy.
A card only signifies a certain topic that is somehow connected with you at the moment. It does not say whether this topic applies to you directly or only through another person, or whether it applies positively (it is the case) or negatively (this is what you’re missing right now). To feel which level of a card’s meaning applies to you is an ability that needs practice as well as the readiness to face and recognise even those parts of the self which are not pleasant.
4. Upside-down Cards: Last, a few words about cards which are upside down when you turn them over. How these cards should be read is handled differently by different Tarot readers. Some read them as meaning the opposite of their "true" meaning, or highlight different aspects of the “true” meaning. Others - including me - prefer to just turn the cards the right way around and read them as usual. On the one hand this gives a bit more freedom for the interpretation. And on the other hand this approach is simply more reasonable, especially if you are a beginner. After all, it takes enough time to remember the meanings of 78 cards without having to remember as well what each card's "upside down” meaning is.