No, you don’t. You can get by without learning the meanings and just using a book. That’s what I did for years and I got some amazingly accurate readings. But it doesn’t look very pro. You don’t see doctors reaching for their medical encyclopaedias in the consulting room, do you? In the UK, I think that’s even forbidden.
With a Universal Rider Waite Smith deck you can look at the pictures and guess the meanings. For example, the three of Swords is about heartbreak, the 10 of swords is about overwork. Even with Marseille-style decks, you can intuit the meanings without too much difficulty. The trick is to look. Enrique Enriquez is a very famous and popular Tarot reader and he does not use the card meanings when he reads, just what the cards look like. Find out about him here:
Psychics sometimes use Tarot cards but they are not thinking about the meanings when they give you a reading, they are listening to the voice of their guides, and using the cards just so you have something to look at. If they were only looking at you and giving you the reading it would seem altogether too freakish.
Not knowing the meanings of the cards can help you to develop psychism. Looking at the cards and imagining a story can help you to make a bond between you and your Guides. Knowing the meanings of the cards cuts you off from your imagination and your intuition.
So why do people learn the meanings of the cards? Why spend all that time and energy, not to mention money, buying books, learning the different meanings of each of the 78 cards?
For my part, I really love using the meanings of the cards as a springboard for my intuition. I loved getting to know the cards for the first time, arranging them on the table and seeing how they fit together; did they fight or support one another? I loved learning all the different aspects and ways of reading Tarot, all the rules of elemental dignities and Astrological associations. But that’s just my style. Also remember that once you learn something it’s usually forever in your mind and it’s difficult to over-ride that and go back to reading the cards using your imagination only.
If you want to communicate through visual images with your Higher Self in a non-cognitive way, why not use Oracle cards, or make your own deck?
So, all in all, I’d say that learning the meanings of the cards is not an absolute necessity. But is it stylish? I should say so.