The word “Tarot” derived from “Trionfi” in the early 15th century and referred to a set of playing cards. Tarot card explanations can be confusing and often lead to the wrong perception, while many believe they have the power to predict future events.
What is a Tarot Card?
Decks – usually consisting of 78 cards are split into two Arcanas representing the Major and Minor aspects of our lives. The number of cards, the meanings, and images varies according to different Decks.
The pictorial representation on the cards can be extremely detailed, and form a thousand words. These images have their language – the power to convey insight and meaning on a whole other level of communication.
The language expressed through the imagery of the Tarot Deck demonstrate a universal symbolism, mythology, and archetypes.
One of The Most Popular Decks
One of the most popular Decks is the “Rider-Waite Deck” or simply the Rider Deck. The artist, Pamela Colman Smith, created the images on these cards under the supervision of Christian mystic and occultist Arthur Edward Waite and published by the Rider Company in 1910.
The meaning of the word “arcana”, “secrets or mysteries” is a reference to the significance of the symbols on each card.
The Major Arcana has 22 cards and focuses on the significant life lessons experienced by the Fool as trudges the road of destiny.
The 56 Minor Arcana tarot cards are split into four suits. Each suite contains ten numbered cards and four face cards. The suites are represented as Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles:
- Wands – Creativity and New Things
- Cups – Emotions and Feelings
- Swords – Behaviour and Action
- Pentacles – Material Possessions
The Tarot Card Spread
There are multiple Tarot Card Spreads, each designed to give specific insight or encompass specific scenarios and questions. I know a few readers who each have their favorites. I like:-
- The Next Step Tarot Spread
- The Celtic Cross Spread
- The Ellipse Spread
- The Three Card Spread
Choosing a Tarot Deck
Choosing a Tarot deck can be a bit intimidating; there are thousands of decks available, with artwork ranging from reproduction medieval to whimsical fantasy, to cutting-edge modern. You name the style, and there is probably a Tarot Deck to match.
Let your personal preferences be your sole guide. Do you prefer muted, watercolor style artwork, or bold digital photos? Besides the artwork, many decks have themes that may (or may not) interest you as well. Wicca, African, Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, cats, flowers, Halloween, or even baseball.
One other thing to consider is the imagery and symbolism. Each card in a Tarot Deck has a traditional illustration and symbols, evident in the famed Rider Waite deck. If you are just learning Tarot, you might want to consider choosing a deck that follows the traditional symbolism, rather than a unique deck where the author has to re-interpreted the cards. Of course, this is just a suggestion and shouldn’t sway you from using a deck you’re swooning over.
Basics of Tarot Reading
I’ve yet to learn the meanings of all 78 cards, or understand the nuances of the Tarot spreads, although the actual techniques for reading cards are pretty simple. Just follow these necessary steps:
1. Shuffle your cards – While you shuffle, concentrate on the issue, project, or situation that you are curious about. Don’t think about what you want to see, but on the case itself. Try not to let your hopes or emotions cloud your thoughts. I can’t tell you how long you should shuffle, that’s something you have to develop a feel for. At least 30 seconds, I suppose.
2. Layout the cards – Choose a Tarot spread that appeals to you or one that tailored to your particular question. The Celtic cross is the most common Tarot card spread, but with ten cards, it can be a bit intimidating.
3. Read the cards – This is the hard part. You need to combine the meaning of each card, with the position it holds in the layout. So seeing the Devil in a “past influences” position would have a different purpose than the Devil in a “possible outcome” position. You might want to have a printout of the spread details handy until you know your spreads by heart. Don’t get discouraged if the cards seem to make no sense; just have some fun.
What is Reverse Card in Tarot Reading?
Not everyone agrees with how to deal with reversed cards.
Cards that are upside-down compared to the rest of the spread. There are few different ways to handle these cards in a reading, but none are carved in stone. Feel free to make your interpretations.
- The simplest way of reading a reversed card is to interpret the card with the opposite of the regular meaning. For example, the Devil represents bondage to earthly impulses and desires. So a reversed Devil could be read as being released from these things.
- Another way to look at Reversed Cards is that their meanings are obscured, hidden, or otherwise not so visible.
Some Tarot books include a set of meanings for all the cards in their reversed state. You are more likely to find opposite meanings in a book written explicitly for the deck you are using.
If one of these methods feels right for you, then give it a try with your next reading. If reversed cards still make you uncertain, then don’t read them differently at all.
Tarot Reading skills Tips
Time and practice are the best ways to improve, a dear friend of mine listed the following as the best ways to hone your reading ability (big shout out to Agnus)
- Reference Books – Refer back to a book if you’re unsure of the meaning of a card. Much like anything with more practice you will get a well-rounded interpretation for each of the cards. This also applies to the Spreads.
- Develop your understanding – Think about the images on your cards. What do they say to you? It isn’t supposed to be a substitution for learning the “official” meanings, but try to build your interpretations using them as a guideline.
- Read for others – Find friends to read for; practice makes perfect plus I’ve found there is a lot less pressure when I’m unsure of cards
- Change decks – If you are finding that this is not coming very smoothly for you, try a different deck.
- Spend time with your cards – Many people say you should carry your cards with you, or even sleep with them under your pillow. I’m not going to insist that this helps, but it can’t hurt. The theory is that by keeping your cards close, they will pick up your energy and make them work better for you.
- Keep a journal – Record all your practice readings, especially if you are reading to predict future events. You might be surprised how something you saw in reading makes more sense after the fact.