The Tarot is a deck of cards used for the purpose of divination1, whereby they are consulted with a question or problem. They are widely used by those with more spiritual beliefs but such beliefs are not necessary to use them. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was fascinated by the tarot and its links to his ideas about the human psyche and as a key for unlocking it. Readers today may use either a mystical or psychological approach to the cards.
A tarot deck consists of 78 cards and includes the major and minor arcana. The major arcana2 meaning 'greater secrets' is made up of twenty-two numbered cards with a strong, often archetypal, image, such as The Fool, The Hanged Man and The Devil. They are considered in a reading to represent the major points in life and events of major significance. The minor arcana, or 'lesser secrets' are four suits of ten cards plus court cards, as is the case with a deck of standard playing cards. The suits are named differently, however, as Wands/Batons, Pentacles/Coins/Discs, Cups/Chalices and Swords/Spears. They are also usually illustrated to give a hint of their meaning and fill in the finer details and life's everyday trivialities in a reading.
There are many designs of decks to choose from today, both classic such as the Rider-Waite deck and more contemporary ones like the Tarot of the Cat People. Once you have found a deck you are comfortable with, you will want to get on with using them for readings.
Anyone can learn to read the tarot, whether they believe tarot gives access to wisdom from a higher power or that it merely contains images old enough to unlock our subconscious and show us what we already know on a deeper level. You do not have to be psychic, or even believe in such abilities at all. All that is required is the time to learn, patience and a little imagination.
Getting To Know Your Cards
Before you begin to practise readings it is a good idea to become acquainted with the cards and their history. Get yourself a good book on the subject; most book shops sell books on tarot reading. Look through the deck at the pictures, in turn thinking on what each says to you personally; fiddle with them, even meditate on one or sleep with it under your pillow if it helps you feel more in tune with them. Please note that most tarot readers advise you not to attempt a reading for yourself. This is because you are too close to the situation to get a clear answer. The same can hold true for very close family members, partners, and so on.
Another good way to practise is to try making a card story. This is where you lay out a series of cards and invent a story that connects the pictures, based either on what they mean to you personally or meanings out of books. This will help your later readings to flow more easily. There are a vast array of books available on the subject, so it should be fairly easy to find one you like and can work with.
There are many spreads or layouts you can use with your cards when reading them. Some of the most popular are the Celtic Cross spread, the Horseshoe and the 21-card Romany Spread. All spreads will endeavour to answer a question, while taking into account outside influences and other factors such as past events leading to the enquirer's current situation or state of mind. The type of question you ask is up to you and it can be anything you wish to have a little insight on.
The tarot cards, like all other forms of divination, cannot tell you your future. They can, however, offer guidance in your situation by perhaps bringing to light factors you were not aware of or options you had not considered. We make our own destiny and can, and do, change it daily.
When beginning the reading you will first need to hand the card deck to your enquirer, the person the reading is for. They should then shuffle the cards well while thinking about the question they want answered (if they have one). If no specific question or problem is to be addressed, a general reading can be done. The enquirer should then cut the cards with his or her left hand3 into three piles and return the chosen pile to the reader to be laid out.
Some spreads require a significator. The significator card is a conscious choice of a card from the deck to represent the person asking the question or the situation being asked about. It is chosen before shuffling the rest of the pack. If the significator is to represent a situation, consult a list of card meanings to choose an appropriate one. Justice, for example, would be a suitable card for a legal situation, or the lovers card for a romantic one. Most decks come with a booklet and you should have purchased a more in-depth book by now. If the significator represents a person, one of the Court Cards is used. The Court cards are the Page, or in some decks Princess, through King in each of the four suits of the minor arcana. The card can be chosen as closest to the person's looks or personality traits, or it can be for star sign and age. For instance, a Taurean woman over 25 would be the Queen of Pentacles as pentacles represents the earth signs of the zodiac. However, if the same woman was fair-haired and artistic, the Queen of Cups may suit her better with its picture of such a woman.
Cups - Represents the water signs, an artistic nature, emotionally sensitive people and those with fair hair and light eyes.
Wands - Represents the fire signs, a fiery temperament, motivation and those with red or auburn hair and dark eyes.
Pentacles - Represents the earth signs, a practical nature, and those with dark brown or black hair and light eyes.
Swords - Represents the air signs, thought and logical nature and those with light brown or fair hair and light eyes.
Page/Princess - Represents those under 18, male or female.
Knight - Represents those between 18 and 25, male and female.
Queen - Represents women over 25.
King - Represents men over 25.
Whichever spread or layout for your cards is chosen, the final card will be the answer to the question asked. It can be tempting to skip straight to that card but if you do so the reasons and factors behind that particular answer as shown by the other cards will be missed. If the answer card is not clear or is a court card, it is possible to repeat the spread using the last card as the new significator until a clearer answer is achieved.