When you begin your journey with the tarot, it’s fair to say it will go one of two ways; it will either begin and span many years of learning or it will end as quickly as it began. It quite simply depends on the teacher (you), the cards (not easy to get this one right first time) and your enquirer (you or a friend).
There are also two main avenues for readings that will develop in your relationship with Tarot; you will either become a card reader, knowing each individual card literally and intimately, or they will become the introductory tool to the reading and your connection to spirit will take over. Either way is good and when you begin you won’t really know which will become your own particular style.
My own personal journey spans over twenty years and began with the Arthurian Tarot. I bought many more packs and today read in the main using the Rider Waite pack. I began in a development circle and was taught by meditation with each card – lots of meditation as there are 78 cards! But, as a result I developed a deep and intuitive connection to each card. I slept with cards under my pillow at night, bought a beautiful black silk scarf and wrapped them up for safety. I became obsessed with understanding all that there was to know and bought every book I could lay my hands on. Only when I felt comfortable that I knew each card and had found my own spread (practising on friends) did I feel confident enough to begin readings. The irony is that today I use them as a spirit tool so in truth it doesn’t matter what each individual card means but I still love them, they are my friends and guess what they never lie!.
I hope this article takes on a journey that will give you the same joy I discovered all those years ago.
What are Tarot cards and how do they work?
In simple terms they are a large pack of cards and they work through energy, your energy and the energy of your enquirer. They are a tool that allows you to interpret events that ‘may’ happen and you can still choose to accept or change course. It’s important to understand at the very beginning of your relationship with Tarot, that they are not evil, they are not ‘all seeing fore tellers of the future’ and that only you have power over your own destiny.
The actual deck of cards is usually constructed with 22 Major Arcana (which as their name might suggest are major events or life changes) and four suits (energies or subject matters) of 14 cards each called the minor Arcana (every day occurrences).
The four suits
The four suits have different names dependent upon the different tarot pack; however, in the main they are divided into four main areas as follows:
· Pentacles : Money
· Cups : Emotions
· Wands : Activity or Work
· Swords : Thoughts
Pentacles can also be named coins or discs, from a general point of view they relate to money, material things or success. Lots of pentacles in a reading will signify a materialistic time and other cards will generally point to root cause and possible outcome.
Cups also known as hearts or chalices represent the emotions. This suit is perhaps everyone’s favourite as it will indicate affairs of the heart, love interests and emotional well being of the enquirer.
Wands are also known as rods and are easily identifiable with the physical act of doing or work. A reading full of wands will be leading towards an intense time of activity; other cards will indicate the source, reason and possible outcome.
Swords can be a tough suit to deal with as they can look pretty bleak when reading them. They are the suit that’s connected to the mind. As a general rule a lot of swords will indicate a tough time mentally for the enquirer, sometimes leading to melt down. Try and guide the person into a positive state of mind and remind them that the mind will control the outcome so look for the positive cards and guide them accordingly. Remember that the cards are only portraying the current possible outcome which can easily be altered.
The Minor Arcana
The Minor Arcana cards start at number 1 which is the beginning and end at number 10 which signifies completion. There are 4 more cards, the court cards, which are interpreted as messengers, direct messages or people. This really does depend upon the pack you are using so they will vary quite significantly from pack to pack.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana tends to be the most familiar to the novice and you may recognise some of the cards, the infamous death card is included in the Major Arcana, which conversely is interpreted as a rebirth.
Some readers will remove the entire Minor Arcana and only use the Major Arcana for readings. There are no rules with Tarot, except one, if you read for another person, you must choose your words carefully and always remind the enquirer that this is only a current course of action, it can be changed accordingly to a state of intent.
To clarify for example, if you see the aforementioned Death card – this means that an old way of life will go, a rebirth, it does not mean that you should say ‘someone will die’. That’s not a prediction as people die all the time! And it is cruel.
If you see a number of swords, it means that the person is too involved in their mind and it could be causing loss of clarity, too much thinking unless it’s positive is never good for the soul! Try to help the enquirer see the positive side of the spread by ‘choosing your words with wisdom and caution’.
It is important to remember that what is a passing moment in your life will without doubt leave a lasting impression on the person sat opposite you. They remember what you have said for a long time to come so just take a moment and don’t rush yourself before speaking.
There are many tarot spreads in use and you will usually find a few examples in the accompanying booklet of the pack that you buy. Personally, I use a modified version of the Celtic Cross and a three card spread which I’ve detailed below:
Celtic Cross – Adapted
This is always an interesting debate and will very much depend upon personal choice. There are those that insist you cannot give a reading without the reversed cards included and those that will only read upright. I am of the latter group and I know that if the cards wish to advise of a ‘tricky or reversed’ situation they will find a way through the cards whichever way they are laid out. As I really don’t enjoy reversed cards I have included a spot as you will see from above sample readings purely for obstacles/barriers in my readings.
Choose a deck – this can take some time, it’s best to start with a pack that has easy to understand pictorial representation of the meanings. I recommend the bestseller Rider Waite but there are hundreds – you will usually feel drawn to your pack.
Treat them with care – when you open them for the first time, touch each card to imprint your energy, be respectful and keep them in a cloth or pouch for protection as they receive and relay energy.
Get to know them – this is far the part that requires the most patience. You can meditate on each card, study them individually say 7 per week and memorise, perhaps you can join a class, better yet find a development circle where Tarot will become just one tool of many.
Once you feel ready to lay your cards in a spread you will need to create a neutral and peaceful environment. Fill yourself with white protective light and drink a glass of water. You don’t have to do this but you will find reading cards can be very charged energetically and you may become quite exhausted.
The only other step is to shuffle the cards in whichever way you feel comfortable, pass to the enquirer for their imprint and then lay the cards. I also fan a few extra and if I need an additional card for clarity I will ask the enquirer to pick another card from the fan.
Finally, I hope that I have portrayed my passion and enthusiasm for the tarot cards. I also hope that I have convinced you that they are nothing to be afraid of, surrounded by mysticism and superstition, and that they are something you feel you could easily learn and master.