You are interested in having a tarot reading, but you have never consulted a tarot reader before and you would like to know what to expect in general.
Tarot is a set of cards that has its origins in the Renaissance in Italy around 1450. Tarot has the general organization of a regular pack of playing cards, with the exception that there is one extra court card per suit, and there are 22 trump cards that are unique to the deck. There is a game of tarot that is sort of like bridge, except for the trump cards being a separate set of cards.
There is very little evidence for tarot being used formally
in divination or as an aid in spiritual discernment until just
before the French Revolution. In fact it was in the middle 19th
century in France, that tarot was developed as an explicit
divination tool related to the Christian Kabbalah and ceremonial
Since the beginning of 1900, tarot has developed vigorously as a popular style of divination. Even though tarot is a relatively new form of divination the structure of the tarot deck and its symbolism touches upon profound aspects of divination that can be seen in astrology and numerology and other ancient oracles.
In the last half of the 20th century, especially after the 1960s tarot has been undergoing a rapid proliferation of decks with variant symbols and purposes. There are some tarot collectors that are only interested in its art. Tarot reading has also become a form of counseling art where one can consult the oracle for any number of purposes to give one insight into events in one's life, problems encountered, or creative issues needing to be refocused.
When you consult the tarot cards as a form of spiritual discernment or divination, in one way you are having your fortune told, if you understand fortune as giving insight into who you are now and what is important to you. Tarot cards do not necessarily predict the future as they give you a way of seeing things that are of concern to you in a different light and with a different appreciation of things that might be impinging upon those concerns.
Some people feel that tarot is a form of magic and occultism, that deals with lesser spirits, or demons, that may cause us harm if we pay attention to what they suggest. Most modern tarot readers do not use tarot as a form of cursing or of developing magic to seek revenge or to cause harm of any sort. There are forms of magic and prayer that are developed from an understanding of tarot, such as psychic self-defense, but these are always used in a way that is for the good of all concerned, and never for harm.
Most tarot readers today, do not understand what they do as having anything to do with the supernatural or the occult. Divination is really seeking to know yourself in the light of greater spiritual forces then we may normally be aware of. The tarot itself does not evoke these forces, but rather reflects upon our own self knowledge and desires and our unconscious attitudes towards issues in our life that may arise in our day to day life.
Tarot then can best be seen as a mirror that is open both to the conscious and the unconscious aspects of our self. When you consult a tarot reader, the reader is there to help you understand what the cards are saying to you about the issues that are on your mind and events that may be in your life.
It takes many years to become a good tarot reader as it is a matter of study of the symbolism and lore of tarot as well as a developing a intuition into the many levels of meaning that a tarot reading may address. There are several certificate programs that some Tarotists recognize.
I believe that tarot cards are generally correct in that any and all cards can reflect aspects of ourselves at any one time. Tarot readers however do need the assistance of the people they are reading for in order to orient the best way the cards may be understood for the person consulting. Making sense of a reading may well require reader and consultant working together. The Tarot reader is there to help you consult the oracle, not to replace it.
If you're new to tarot, I suggest you go for a short, one prominent issue reading, that can be done over the telephone. There are places on the Internet where one can interact with knowledgeable tarot readers and get free and/or very inexpensive readings.
Reader's styles and approaches vary as well as how the cards are shuffled and selected, laid out in a spread and what the positions in a spread mean and how the card interact in the reading. There is plenty of artistic license and creativity possible during a reading so it can become quite an adventure in self-discovery.
If you find any value in the reading, you may want to try a more elaborate consultation of the tarot about issues that are particularly of importance to you that you could use an alternative view of or promptings in different directions. Tarot readers tend to read the same cards in different ways so it makes sense to keep a record of the card and the position and meaning it has in the spread that the reader has selected for it your question.
I hope this little essay will encourage you to consult me for a tarot reading or will encourage you to try tarot reading for yourself. If you decide you want to learn how to read the cards for yourself there are literally hundreds of good books out there that will orient you to a basic knowledge in how to understand reading the cards.
However to become a proficient tarot reader it helps to study with other experience tarot readers to learn their point of view and also to strengthen your own understanding in the intuitive dimensions of tarot reading. Ultimately tarot as a form of spiritual discernment and divination is a form of self inquiry for the ultimate good of oneself and one's loved ones.