Understanding the Tarot - For Beginners
The Tarot is a book of spiritual wisdom that is told in pictures and symbols. It is a tool of divination, but it is also a tool for introspection, meditation, magick and personal growth. Each card contains a lesson, and each card carries a magickal energy that can be focused and directed.
The Tarot originated in Italy about five hundred years ago. For the past three hundred years it has been studied as an esoteric tool of spiritual knowledge.
- There are 78 cards in a typical Tarot deck.
- The Tarot is comprised of two sections, a Major Arcana and a Minor Arcana. The word Arcana means secrets.
- The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits, much like a deck of playing cards. These suits correspond to the four elements ( Earth, Air, Fire and Water) and to numerology.
- The Minor Arcana suits each contain a Court of four characters, usually denoted as Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings.
- The Major Arcana contains twenty-two cards, numbered zero through twenty-one.Card Zero is The Fool, who is the lead character in the story told by the Tarot.
- Each Tarot card has numerous traditional interpretations and correlations that can be memorized and understood.
- There are numerous published Tarot decks, each with different depictions for the seventy-eight cards.
- Tarot cards have different interpretations depending on whether they are drawn upright or reversed. A reversal does not necessarily indicate something negative, or even an opposite of the upright meaning.
- Tarot cards are often read in a spread, or layout. Generally, each position in a spread has a particular designation, such as Past, Present, Future, Obstacle, Relationship, etc.
Common uses for the Tarot
Random Token Divination
Cards are drawn at random and often laid in a specific pattern where each position has a designation. The cards are “read,” or interpreted, to give information and answer questions.
Cards are chosen based on their visual appeal, or by the emotions the images invoke. The card meanings and images are then studied to reveal deeper information
Tarot images can be used as focal points in meditation, and can be used in creating guided imagery for problem solving and creative visualization.
Tarot images are chosen to represent a specific goal. Those images are used, sometimes along with burning candles or herbs, to create a magickal spell.
Tarot images are believed to heighten psychic senses and strengthen the intuitive process within a reading. When combined with divination, this process of Tarot readings is generally effective and informative.
How the Tarot Works
By interpreting cards as they are drawn we are given insight and information.
The images of the cards enhance our intuition and allow us to hear the guidance of our higher selves, angels and spirit guides.
The Tarot images, especially the Major Arcana, speak to us on a universal level. They represent events, lessons and characters that are present in each person’s life.
The Tarot images evoke emotions and give us ways to talk about and think about our feelings. Our reactions to the Tarot images can be very telling, and can lead to insight and healing.
The Tarot can foster communication between people, between us and the spirit world, and between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
There are correspondences between many esoteric and psychological systems. Some of these correlations were obviously drawn long after the Tarot was developed. There is no historical proof that any of these correlations were intentionally placed within the Tarot.
- The Four Elements
- The Myers-Briggs Personality Types
There are literally hundreds of Tarot decks in print, with new ones being published every year. Some are “art decks” that are not generally used for divination. Others are “theme decks” that reference a particular spiritual path or other kind of theme, such as animals, sports, myths and legends. There are a few Tarot traditions that encompass many of the most popular decks.
Decks that are based on the designs of A.E. Waite and the drawing of Pamela Coleman Smith include numerous editions of the Waite deck itself, and other decks, such as Robin Wood Tarot and Hanson-Roberts Tarot.
The Crowley Harris Thoth Tarot is very different from the Waite designs. It has also had a few editions, and has inspired a few decks, including the Gill Tarot and Tarot of the Sephiroth.
The hallmark of this style of deck is that the Minor Arcana is not fuly illustrated. The Seven of Cups will show only seven cups, versus pictures of people doing things. Some readers feel that reading with this style of deck allow for fuller use of intuition, and involves numeroolgy and sacred geomentry more appropriately.
Early feminist decks include Daughters of the Moon Tarot and Motherpeace Tarot. Groundbreaking at the time of their publication, history has proven them to be somewhat limited in their thinking. There are more modern decks that express the feminist theme in a more balanced, or more gentle way, include Gendron Tarot, Goddess Tarot, and World Spirit Tarot.
This is a term that I coined to describe tarot decks that are based on a theme where each card corrosponds to an archetype within that theme. For instance, Lover's Path Tarot illustrates each Major Arcana card, and each Minor Arcana suit, with a famous love story from fiction, myth or history. Animals Divine Tarot illustrates each Minor Arcana card with an animal, and each major Arcana card with a God or Goddess associated with animals.