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Learning Tarot Cards
What are Tarot Cards?
Tarot cards are reputed to have originated in the mid fifteenth century and most commonly number seventy-eight cards in the deck.
They are split into two parts:
- The Major Arcana, which number twenty-two cards and
- The minor Arcana, which number fifty-six cards.
In many respects, the Minor Arcana are almost identical to a conventional deck of playing cards, the kind we would play poker, rummy or patience (solitaire) or other card games with, but have an extra card in each suit - the knight.
When it comes to divination using tarot cards, it is not uncommon for the Minor Arcana to be discarded and the reading taken from the Major Arcana only. However most adepts will use all seventy-eight cards as they give a fuller picture with more precision.
The meanings of tarot cards
The meanings of tarot cards have a common theme throughout the deck except where the Major Arcana is concerned. It's possible to read a spread using these alone, but it will be fairly general.
The Minor Arcana however has cards with similar meanings, but they will be in respect of whichever suit they happen to refer to.
I'm not going to give you each tarot card's meaning as I would be here for days and this would turn into a book, not a hub, but I can give you the overall feel of each card, which should get you started.
The Major Arcana
The twenty-two cards that make up the Major Arcana are as follows:
- The Fool - The start of a new chapter, which may involve a risk of some sort
- The Magician - Potential and undiscovered possibilities or abilities
- The Empress - The beginning of an earthly phase, perhaps a birth or marriage
- The Emperor - Take a standpoint, perhaps found a business or make a home and family.
- The High Priestess - The discovery of one's intuition, a drawing to the esoteric
- The Hierophant (or Pope) - The seeking of answers of a philosophical nature.
- The Lovers - This usually augers the need to make a choice, perhaps between one love and another, such as work and a person.
- The Chariot - Conflict and struggle, usually leading to a stronger personality
- Justice - Balance and impartiality
- Temperance - The need for a balanced heart
- Strength - Courage, Strength and self-discipline
- The Hermit - The necessity to wait and be patient
- The Wheel of Fortune - The beginning of a new phase, beginning with a change of fortune, which could be bad or good
- The Hanged Man - The need to sacrifice in order to attain something of a higher value
- Death - Something must end. Whether that ending is painful is dependant upon whether the person is willing to let go
- The Devil - A need to accept certain attributes one may have that one is not happy about, but has to accept.
- The Tower - Change, the breaking down of existing forms.
- The Star - Hope and faith in the midst of difficulties
- The Moon - Confusion, fluctuation and uncertainty
- The Sun - Clarity, optimism and renewed trust
- Judgement - An answering of past efforts though sometimes the answer is not a pleasant one
- The World - Achievement and integration, a pat on the back for a successful conclusion
Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to use only these cards to 'read' for a person, unless the reader possesses true 'talent', it is more than possible to misread the rather broad strokes that these cards paint with.
A reading of this nature can produce fairly accurate results however, reading from all the cards would tend to remove any grey areas; ambiguities that may lie within the reading.
Tarot Cards - The Minor Arcana
As you can see from the above, there are more cards in the Minor Arcana than in a standard deck of cards, thanks to the addition of the Knight. Perhaps that should be 'omission' from the standard set, but whatever, it gives the tarot cards fifty-six cards from ace to king in the four suits as opposed to fifty-two.
The Four Suits
The four suits of the Minor Arcana represents a specific phase or aspect of the questioner's life and go as follows:
- Cups - representing water and feelings or emotions in the questioner. It is the original suit now represented in the everyday deck of cards by hearts.
- Wands - representing fire and creativity in the questioner, going from living in pure imagination to the ability to transform ideas into reality, now more commonly known as the suit of clubs.
- Swords - representing air and rationality or understanding in the questioner. this is the elemental force represents the ambivalence of the mind and is now commonly known as Spades.
- Pentacles - this represents earth from which we come and must ultimately return. This suit concerns itself with the material world, mostly money and material attainment. Nowadays this suit would be seen as diamonds.
Each of the four suits is divided into two parts:
- The numbered cards which run from Ace through to ten
- The court cards which are Knave (or jack), Knight, Queen and King
The numbered cards represent or reflect a typical or archetypal experience, where the court cards have far greater significance and fall somewhere between the numbered cards and certain cards of the Major Arcana.
The Court Cards
Although the court cards appear to be a hierarchy, they are all equal as they all represent a particular phase.
The Knave represents the beginning; that pure unadulterated energy with little or no focus, which needs care and attention in order for it to develop.
The Knight represents something very powerful and volatile; that time in youth which is a time of experimenting, questing and exploring.
The Queen represents a time where that power has grown, but now instead of the exuberance of youth, there is the steady measured surety, banked and held tightly within and is the only feminine figure of the court's entourage.
The King represents represents power that is dynamic, outgoing and focussed.
Each of these embodiments of the phases of the questioners life are much, much more than the numbered cards of their suits as they can often come into the questioner's life in the form of experience, but as actual people.
These cards are somewhere between the numbered cards, but not much less than their representatives in the Major Arcana.
For instance, The Queen of Pentacles shares some of the qualities of The Empress, but not to to such a degree, nor so profound. The Queen of Cups, shares some of the intuitive qualities of the High Priestess and the moon, but again, not to the same degree.
The numbered cards
This is just a basic overview of the meanings of each of the numbered cards
- Ace - Heralds the beginning, but it's a beginning in a very raw state - unfocussed
- Two - Is also a beginning, but this time, it could be a reconciliation
- Three - Is the sense of something through the initial stages and things are looking positive for the future
- Four - Dissatisfaction, boredom or depression
- Five - Regret or remorse
- Six - Serenity, where perhaps a dream that had been put on hold looks possible for the future
- Seven - Choice, where much is in evidence, but the questioner is faced with a decision
- Eight - Sacrifice. Something may have to be given up in order to progress
- Nine - Pleasure and satisfaction from the fulfilment of a cherished wish or reward for efforts made.
- Ten - Ongoing contentment.
Learning the Tarot
Learning the Tarot can take years.
It's not simply reading the meanings from the books you may have bought, but listening to them too. I know that may sound deep and meaningful, but so are the cards.
Interpreting what you see needs to come naturally for the best results, however, you can get quite accurate even as a beginner.
Reading for yourself, I would caution you not to expect too much. Just because you're reading the cards, doesn't mean you can influence what they may predict for you in the future. Therefore it's important not to try and focus on particular outcomes as it may well blind you to what's there in your future.
Like many divination tools, the more you use them, the better your rapport with them will become and as it's a skill, the best advice I can give is to practice, practice, practice.
Laying out the Tarot Celtic Cross Spread
Each of the cards in the above spread is placed in a specific order.
This is the card in the centre that is covered by a horizontal card. This represents the questioner now
The Crossing Card
This is the one over the Significator and represents that which is generating conflict either inside or outside the questioner.
The Crowning Card
This is the card that sits immediately above the Significator and represents the atmosphere and situation that literally hangs over the Significator
The Base of the Matter
This is the card below the Significator and represents the root of the issue
This is the card to the right of the Significator. The past influences are those things in the recent past that have brought this about
Which is the card to the left of the Significator. This is what the questioner can expect in the immediate future with regards to the question
Where One Finds Oneself
This is the bottom card of the four to the right. This is where the questioner really is.
The Views of Others
This is the second card from bottom in the four right hand cards. This is how other people see the questioner and his or her situation.
Hopes and Fears
The third from bottom of the four. The hopes and the fears can be encapsulated in one card as all tarot cards have a certain duality.
The top of the column of four. It's hardly going to be final, probably more like six months, but that's not to say it won't last longer or might not happen at all.
So there you have them
That's the Tarot in a nutshell.
There's heaps more to learn, I mean, I would hardly say that this will get you up and running, but it may whet your whistle to find out more.
I looked on-line for the cards I have, but sadly, they're not available at this time. Whether they will be in the future isn't clear, but there are many different styles out there.
Many of them come with a book of rules, and probably interpret the cards slightly differently too. I just bought these on impulse and have had them for about twenty years now.
Taking them out again to produce this has been fun. I don't even know whether they'll be going away as it's rekindled something for me that I might just pursue...