Tarot Basics: Understanding The Basics of The Tarot Card Deck, Tarot Card Meanings, and Tarot Reading
The most popular version of the Tarot was established in 1910 by the artist Pamela Colman-Smith. She worked under the guidance of occultist A.E. Waite. The Waite deck was the first tarot deck to include symbolic imagery on all 78 cards.
The tarot has its roots in many different philosophical and religious backgrounds. It originated in a time imbued with symbolic imagery that was influenced by many cultures, languages and historical references. The tarot’s symbolism is based on archetypal elements and metaphors, giving its imagery an universal appeal. Regardless of one’s cultural, religious or educational background, the Tarot experience is collective. Their interpretations are recognizable by everyone.
The modern Tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards, 40 in the minor arcana, 16 court cards and 22 cards that make up the major arcana. The 16 court cards consist of pages, knights, queens and kings. The four suits in the minor arcana include the Suits of Cups, Swords, Wands and Pentacles. Each Suit is connected to one of the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. They are also connected to the four directions: North, South, East and West. The imagery of Tarot reflects an association to these elements. This enables the tarot reader to identify the key aspects that are influencing a particular situation or individual.
The Suit Cards
In tarot, the cups suit represents the dream world, the unconscious, feelings and relationships. The wands suit represents fertility, creativity and one's sense of purpose or career endeavors. The sword suit represents reason, life challenges, the mind and truth. And lastly, the pentacles suit represents the material, financial and ethical aspects of a person’s life.
There is a king, queen, knight, and page in every suit as well. They are referred to as the court cards and each one (excluding the page cards) has an astrological sign associated to it. This adds yet another level for interpretation in tarot card readings. To be helpful, here are the astrological associations. I often encourage people to identify their sign and the associated tarot card meaning. This can offer tremendous insights into ones strengths and vulnerabilities.
- Aries: King of Wands
- Taurus: Queen of Pentacles
- Gemini: Knight of Swords
- Cancer: King of Cups
- Leo: Queen of Wands
- Virgo: Knight of Pentacles
- Libra: King of Swords
- Scorpio: Queen of Cups
- Sagittarius: Knight of Wands
- Capricorn: King of Pentacles
- Aquarius: Queen of Swords
- Pisces: Knight of Cups
The Major Arcana Cards
The Major Arcana cards reflect where one is in his or her life’s journey. There are 22 tarot cards in the Major Arcana. The first half of the Major Arcana (the Fool through the Hermit) identifies the transition from child to adult and all of the challenges we must face as we progress into a deeper level of maturity and spirituality.
The second half of the Major Arcana (The Wheel of Fortune through the World) reflects our personal and spiritual world view. In a tarot reading, the second half of the major arcana typically points to a more inward-looking stage or process in our development. Keep in mind, this does not always happen in procession. In fact, in some areas we are still the “fools” while in other areas we can be the “The Hermit".
The Minor Arcana Cards
The Minor Arcana, or Pip cards, are the numbered cards (1-10) that comprise each suit. The Minor Arcana reflect day to day issues. They can represent how you interact with people, your work, your emotions, your finances, and your personal relationships. In a tarot card reading, the minor arcana reveal the who’s, how’s, and what’s. There is no sense of permanence. If there are a number of minor arcana suit cards in your spread, know that you can make changes, work through blocks, and understands where you are emotionally.
Interpreting Tarot Card Meanings
They key to understanding tarot card meanings is to not always be literal. It often requires one to attach their own life experiences to each of the tarot cards. Tarot card meanings can also vary depending on the type of reading that is being done or even where a particular card might appear in a tarot spread. Upside down cards, known as "reversed tarot cards", also have their own unique meanings as well.
The Basics Of Tarot Reading
Now that you know a little about the basics of the tarot cards, we can now look at what you can expect from your first tarot card reading. Most readings typically consists of shuffling the deck, drawing a set number of cards, and placing them in a specific configuration known as a "tarot spread". There are hundreds of tarot spreads in use today, but most psychic tarot readers tend to favor some spreads more than others. They will often use different tarot spreads for different types of readings as well.
Once the cards are pulled and placed in a spread, the tarot reader will begin to interpret the symbols of the cards. Often they will point out the implications of the past, what is happening in the here and now, and what will influence your future. You may ask particular questions and additional tarot cards may be drawn for specific areas of your life. The configurations the cards are placed in add to the complexities of their meanings.
The tarot’s power lies in its ability to distinguish a person’s path through the psychic ability or intuition of the tarot reader. In some cases, a psychic tarot reader will rely primarily on their own psychic abilities to interpret the cards, while a non-psychic tarot reader will rely more on the tarot card meanings themselves. Either way, trust the cards can do their job and ask a lot of questions.