Demystifying the Tarot – Lesson 1
Tarot cards have been around for centuries. According to tarot historians, the first decks came from Egypt and India. From the Death card featured in the James Bond movie, “Live and Let Die”, to the beautiful tarot imagery featured today in Rosanne Cash’s video “The Wheel” – tarot cards have stirred the imagination. Some embrace what the cards can reveal but, generally people are fascinated nonetheless.
The most popular decks have 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards (everyday life cards), that mirror those that we know from the standard playing card decks. “Arcana” means secrets/mysteries – and it’s the ability of a particular reader to tap into the mysteries for you that determines how good a reader is. There are four symbols of the tarot; wands/batons (enthusiasm, drive, projects, struggles), cups/chalices (emotions, love, spirituality, relationships), swords (intellect, ideas, communication, cutting through obstacles) and pentacles/disks (earth, work, material things, home, security).
There are also court cards that accompany each suit. Court cards are generally page, knight, queen and king but can be represented other ways in some decks as princess, prince, queen, and knight. Decks: there are literally hundreds of decks to choose from. In the past 25 years more and more, artists have drawn, inked, painted, and done Photoshop types of images to illustrate their custom tarot decks. One quite unique deck is transparent, and can be read with one card read and stacked upon another, and another until you get a new drawing to interpret that’s multi-dimensional!
There are decks with animal themes, angels, goddesses, dragons, and children. Most tarot readers have several decks, but tend to favor and read from one to three decks on a regular basis. Tarot decks – the symbols within. Most decks contain four recognizable symbols that correlate with the symbols on the playing cards we know today: Cups = hearts (represents the element water) Wands = clubs (represents fire) Pentacles = diamonds (represents earth) Swords = spades (represents air) When reading, each card can represent several possible meanings. There are many books published on the basic meanings of the cards.
The written meanings are used as a guide, a jumping off point. Communicating what the card means for your reading is determined by several factors; the card drawn, and its position in a layout (a specific “spread” of cards, e.g., a three-card spread of Past – Present – Future) combined with the energy of the querent (person whose cards are being read), and what other cards present themselves that determine what the reader will intuitively interpret for you.
Next Lesson: An introduction to the Major Arcana, cards 0 through 21.
Tarot Deck Artwork courtesy of Ann K Tarot deck Anna Klaffinger of Austria