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The Principles of Tarot

Updated on July 22, 2012

When I was a kid, I was just like everyone else when it came to the lure of magic. I grew up watching “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched”. As a little girl, I couldn't help but wish it was something real, something even I could learn to do. Wouldn't it be great to just twitch your nose or blink your eyes and have your greatest desires met?

As I got a little older, I wasn't thinking about getting things. I was becoming very inquisitive about the world around me. While I was still pretty much the center of my universe, I was becoming aware of all things external. Like most other children who grow and mature, I became aware that everything really wasn't all about me, but about us, all those who peopled my world. I learned first hand that for every action there is a reaction.

Growing up I had many friends from many walks of life. Some of my friends came from families who were financially comfortable. Some of them came from broken homes. Some of them lived in foster homes. What I learned from these associations is that my understanding of the world around me wasn't necessarily the same view shared by everyone else. By adulthood, I fully understood that personal perceptions based on personal experiences is what shapes our view of the people, events, and objects in our lives.

Understanding this very basic principle about life is the first step toward understanding how and why Tarot can be used as a divination tool to unlock the many possibilities awaiting us down the road. Without an understanding of how perceptions work and how they can actually sabotage our aspirations, or be used to make important decisions, the Tarot becomes only a game for shallow play, not to be taken seriously. The flip side is that it becomes something to be avoided for fear of suffering negative reactions from others who are skeptical.

When I'm part of a gathering where there are individuals who don't know about my practices with psychic phenomenon, the Tarot in particular, I always find myself dealing with several recurring attitudes once the cat is out of the bag. Some folks will look at me with stars shining in their eyes, completely enamored of the idea that they are in the presence of someone who has “special” abilities, links with the paranormal or psychic connections. They are the ones who are lured by the concept of Tarot being magical and mystical.

There are those who have heard of Tarot but are not really sure of its nature. Is it a game? Is it purely entertainment? How is it supposed to work? They are curious about it and wish to know more, sometimes just for the sake of knowing what it is about. There are those who are skeptical, not in the least bit interested in understanding the basis of Tarot because they have set their mind against it without the benefit of study to determine if there are any valid points or not. Whether they realize it or not, they too, are viewing the Tarot as something magical and mystical.

I much prefer to deal with those who are curious. They have relatively few preconceived ideas because they haven't been interested enough to form an opinion based on misinformation. They are open to hearing an earnest explanation, and while they may take or leave the explanation, they rarely find fault with those who choose to engage the Tarot in seeking answers. The curious are actually seekers, looking to understand the concept. They have no other agenda than to learn. Once they have received a satisfactory answer, they will often ask for a reading to solidify their understanding from a personal experience stance.


Those who are enamored of the magical and mystical ideas, can be difficult to disabuse of their notions. These people WANT to believe in magic. They want to believe there are forces outside themselves of which they have no control. They are looking for someone or something else on which to pin the blame for a life which may not have been lived well, or may not have been as nurturing as they might have wished. They choose to believe that consulting the Tarot cards will give them advance information of coming events, not recognizing that they are required to participate in shaping their own destiny.

The hardened skeptics are on the flip side of the coin. Even if they are polite enough to quietly maintain an air of listening to the answers I provide for their questions, they do not hear because they are too busy forming a rebuttal. They have firmly closed their minds to the possibilities, refusing to hear even the most logical of explanations founded in principles of science such as physics. These people claim to have no belief in magic, but if that is so, then why are they also against hearing other explanations? The truth is that they actually DO view Tarot as founded on magical principles and they are afraid of the very idea of magic.

Because they believe they have no magical abilities of their own, they are afraid to give any credence in the possibility. From where they stand, they would lose control of their lives if they embraced an ideal of magic. No personal ability equals no personal control. Therefore, it can't be real and anyone who dabbles in subjects linked in any way to the mystical practices, must be a loony toon in dire need of a padded cell.

So what exactly is Tarot and why engage in its use? I try to make it as simple as possible for people to understand. Though there are many layers involved in understanding the principles and methods of employment, Tarot is really just a tool to becoming self-aware.

First and foremost, the use of Tarot for the purpose of understanding ourselves is based on principles of reincarnation. The modern, accepted reason for reincarnation is simply for the purpose of gaining knowledge and building on that knowledge over many lifetimes until we reach a state of evolution where we are able to fully join and integrate our consciousness with the “Source”. Some prefer the terms Spirit, God, Higher Power, or Higher Self. It matters not which term you are most comfortable with using.

A belief in reincarnation embraces the notion that we select our lives before we are born into each. We have picked those lives based upon the many possibilities to learn our chosen lessons, which are associated with a specific life. That is not to say the events in our lives are predestined and therefore we have no control. Rather, it is the belief that myriad possibilities are present which will lead to events by which we may learn that which we have chosen to learn. How we humanly respond to any such events will determine how well we will learn and gain knowledge. How we respond to an event will determine the next hurdle, obstacle, or experience with which we will be confronted. In other words, our actions and reactions will lead us to take our next step. They will determine whether we remain on a path, or turn off in another direction which will present still more possibilities.

The second important rule governing the use and understanding of Tarot, is accepting the idea that our perspectives of what happens to us are based completely on how we associate our feelings to like events in the past. If you have had many bad experiences that took place at night or in the dark, you may unwittingly view night time or darkness as a thing to be feared, something not to be borne alone, preferring to keep a night light in the absence of the comforting presence of another. If it was night time when you met the love of your life, and when you gave birth to a cherished child, you may view the night as a time to be happy, to celebrate.

We associate our feelings with certain types of events throughout our lives. Our associations may change and mature, but they are our own personal associations based on our own personal observations and experiences. They are what determine our perspectives. They will also become our unconscious guide to future actions and reactions to repeats of those types of events.

Much of the Tarot is based on archetypes, symbols that are universally understood to represent a certain theme, idea, or personality. For instance, when attempting to imply a wily, trickster type of personality, we would refer to the person as a “sly old fox” because we associate certain traits with the behaviors of a fox. If we see an illustration of a knight in shining armor astride a charging horse, we immediately think “hero” because the knight in shining armor always rescues the maiden in distress. There are many other archetypes to be found in literature and psychology.

By making use of the images of archetypes, the Tarot can convey messages to the reader because archetypes are universally understood and generally accepted. By understanding the archetypes and the order in which they have appeared, the reader can construct the story, or message being conveyed.

What most people do not understand is that universally accepted archetypes are really only guidelines for divining the meanings of the cards. The reader's personal associations will hold a higher level of importance in deciphering the message. For instance, the Queen of Wands represents a person who radiates self-assurance. She encourages others to take the plunge, to go for it. She's calm and confident. She uses her intuition to channel her creativity. She is about recognizing possibilities, embracing the dream, no matter how big.

Several years ago, I would never have thought of myself in those terms. I always associated myself with the Queen of Swords who uses clear, logical thought and is an excellent teacher. She can be stern and a bit unbending, not willing to let anyone off with lame excuses for failure. She is strong in her resolve and firm in her stand.

The truth of the matter is that I am both Queens, depending with whom I am interacting. I was doing some readings for my long time boyfriend. During the first reading, the Queen of Wands appeared in a critical position. As I explained the position and personality of the card, he looked up at me in surprise and wanted to know what I had to do with it. I, in turn, was surprised because after more than 12 years, I hadn't realized he saw me in that light. After carefully considering that it might be me, I realized the message was even more concrete.

We followed up the initial reading with a few more to clarify direction and choices to be made. The Queen of Wands continued to appear in all the right places that would make sense of my involvement. Due to the nature of the questions, the events being questioned, and the relationship we shared, I came to understand that, where my boyfriend is concerned, I am the Queen of Wands.

This example is unique in that most readers will not have a personal relationship with their client. I've used it for the purpose of underscoring two concepts. As I've already stated, universal archetypes are a guideline, but readers will come to associate their own individualized perceptions with the images presented. When a reader explains the meaning of the cards to a client, she is relating her understanding through her own perceptions. Those same cards could turn up for another reader and yet, they will represent a different meaning or story. If that reader does a spread for the same client, to answer the same question, it is more than likely that the cards will be much different but her interpretation will be reflective of the first reader's.

Picture of the Universe


The other idea I mean to emphasize by my use of the previous example, is that through use of Tarot we can become more self-aware. Because of my personal involvement with the recipient of the readings, I came to understand another facet of myself. Most of my life I would have to say that the Queen of Swords was more representative of my personality and traits. She is still representative of the core of my being. However, the Queen of Wands is a part of me that enhances and softens the harshness of the other queen.

Once I was made aware of her, I became more comfortable with displaying her traits. Since discovering that facet of myself, I've had others who are very close to me comment that I've grown softer and easier in my judgments, more gentle. Allowing this other facet to show its face has opened more doors for me, brought me more possibilities and set me on an alternative path I might never have had the chance to explore had I maintained and displayed only the Queen of Swords as my persona.

The third rule to understand about Tarot is that it is based on a belief in the interconnectedness of all things in the universe, including the interconnectedness of people and their consciousness. It's the belief that we are subconsciously connected to a greater conscious which allows us to tap into the knowledge and wisdom stored within. All things through the ages, the events, the people, the thoughts and deeds are stored memories into which we may delve to elicit answers to our conscious mind.

By understanding that each person, each micro-organism, indeed all forces of the universe are connected in a delicate balance of energies, we come to understand our place in the universe as one who is also connected. Because of this connection, we are already privy to all the stored memories. In other words, we already know the answers to our questions. We already know the right path to take, the right decision, the right response but our knowledge floats just below the surface of our conscious mind, in our subconscious.

Then why would we even need Tarot, if we already know the answers? Tarot is a tool, just like a screwdriver is a tool. When we are in a conscious state, meaning awake and alert, our minds race at ever increasing speeds to process all the external information bombarding us. We deal with what is going on in the here and now, before our open eyes. We also have our physical brains to contend with. Our level of intelligence is based on our brain formation and function. The brain is like a computer storing information as it comes to us from other sources.

It's through this belief, we operate when engaging in the use of any divination tool. Tarot is one such tool. By understanding that each person, each micro-organism, every mechanism by which the universe operates is connected, we can learn to examine those connections with an eye toward maintaining a balance of energies. The idea is that when we are in a conscious state, our intellect can actually interfere with our ability to receive information from our subconscious. We have ingrained in us certain belief systems. We have been taught from a young age not to put stock in ideas such as intuition and psychic phenomenon.

We disdainfully look back through the ancient histories and view their beliefs as those borne of ignorance and superstition, giving meaning to that which they could not possibly understand in their unenlightened and unintelligent primitive states. Yet, here is humankind, settling into the 21st century but firmly holding onto beliefs that haven't evolved much beyond the 18th century.

Advances in scientific studies have shown us that many of our widely accepted theories must be revisited and given an overhaul. Some of our long held beliefs in the absolutes of the principles of physics are being examined in the light of new discoveries through quantum physics. Studies which were once considered folly and a great waste of money are now being pursued with vigor. Theories regarding the possibility of something more beyond death are now being considered as very real possibilities since the discovery that the Universe is one gigantic energy field, where matter is just a “slowed down” form of energy.

Using Tarot to tap into the vast sea of wisdom and knowledge which is ours for the asking, is simply making a decision to use a tool which will open the doors to one's subconscious knowledge. Subconsciously we choose the cards we pull out, because our subconscious already has the answer. The cards are simply illustrative of what we already know. It is a way for our subconscious to be brought into our awareness. Once we are aware, we are able to see what is ahead, where we are going, how best to get there, and how to alter the end result by choosing to take actions other than we would normally have taken.

For more information regarding the quantum physics discoveries only briefly touched upon, please take a moment to visit this link:

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    • xethonxq profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting hub...I liked reading about this!! Thanks!


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