Tales from the Psychic Toolbox - TAROT Part 2

Tarot cards are not Magic 8-Balls. “You will meet a tall, handsome stranger...” is more the stuff of fortune cookies than tarot. The purpose of a reading isn’t to tell you what to do – it’s to engage your own intuition. The pictures on the cards are powerful psychological archetypes which can help you gain insight about yourself and your circumstances by tapping into your subconscious.

About the Tarot Deck
The traditional tarot deck has 78 cards, although modern variations may have fewer. Like ordinary playing cards, fifty-six of them are divided into four suits.

Instead of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs, you have Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.
Each suit has 14 cards, with numbers 1 through 10 plus four royal cards – Page, Knight, Queen and King.

What most people think of when they hear the word tarot are the archetypal cards, like “The Tower”, “The Star”, “Justice”, “The Fool”, “The Lovers”, and “The Sun”. There are 22 of these trump cards, called “The Major Arcana”. The 56 suit cards are “The Minor Arcana”. Arcana means mystery in Latin, and the term wasn’t applied to tarot cards until later in their history, about 1870.

A Sampling of the Major Arcana
From one of my all-time favorite decks:
STRENGTH by artist
Robert M. Place, 

THE FOOL – Often the appearance of this card signifies a beginning of a journey, although not necessarily a physical one. It may be mental, emotional or spiritual in nature. Happiness and optimism abound.

THE LOVERS – This card often indicates harmony and union, but is not necessarily about love at all. It may represent choices to be made or a decision between two paths.

STRENGTH – This card typically shows a woman with a lion. She may be holding the lion’s mouth open or just standing beside it. The image represents not just strength, but courage, self-control and determination.

THE CHARIOT – This card often represents triumph over adversity, some obstacle overcome, a well-deserved victory.

THE EMPORER – As might be expected, this card signifies authority, corporate structure or government. It may stand for someone in a position of authority in your life, like a boss or a parent.

THE HANGED MAN – The picture is usually of a man dangling by his foot, and as such, often means a temporary suspension of progress. Circumstances may actually be turned on their head and a waiting period may be in the works.

OMG, I’ve drawn the Death Card!

From one of my all-time favorite decks:
DEATH by artist
Robert M. Place, 
With its skeletal figure, the Death card has been often been used in stories, movies and even video games to scare the bejeebers out of people. First and foremost, it’s not about literal death (whew!).

In fact, the Death card can be a very positive card. It's usually the symbol for CHANGE, signifying either the end of one thing or the beginning of another. It can mean transformation and regeneration, hope and rebirth. In fact, psychologist Carl Jung attributed the Death card in tarot with a new standpoint or perspective.

Think of the Chinese word for crisis – the glyph contains the symbols for both danger and opportunity, and opportunity is stronger. Drawing the Death card can indicate that despair can now give way to hope – a very good change!

Choosing your Tarot Deck
HELLO KITTY TAROT - with the least
scary Death card imaginable!
(Apparently not in print at this time)

You need to use a deck of cards that appeals to you and there are thousands of decks out there to choose from. Many people collect tarot decks for their gorgeous artwork (I own a Celtic deck called the Sacred Circle Tarot, simply because it’s beautiful).

Two popular decks have a Native American theme, the Sacred Path Cards: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings and Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals.

If you have a particular passion, someone is sure to have designed a deck around it. For instance, the Tarot of White Cats (yes, all of the characters depicted in the cards are cats), Mystic Faerie Tarot, Salvador Dali Tarot and Golden Dragon Tarot. There’s even Hello Kitty Tarot! Shapes and sizes vary too. There are even decks with round cards, hexagonal and triangular cards!

It’s important to find cards that you feel good working with. It’s an intensely personal choice – what feels right to one person may feel very differently to someone else. The very first deck I purchased was the traditional Rider-Waite design. When I opened the box and touched the cards, I was repelled. It’s not that I didn’t know what they were going to look like, it’s that they didn’t feel good to me. I got a headache every time I tried to use them and I soon gave them away. Other people swear by the Rider-Waite and use nothing else. Through trial and error, I eventually found a deck called The Gilded Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck, but more importantly, the cards resonate with me and I can work with them easily.

Be Energy-Conscious

Owning your own deck of tarot cards and handling them regularly is very important. This is so the cards pick up your energy and hold it. For this reason, they shouldn’t be handled by anyone else. (This is also why buying a used deck of tarot cards isn’t advised – they’re saturated with energy from strangers.) In fact, most people who do tarot readings keep a separate deck only for that purpose or ask you to bring one of your own.

The more familiar you become with your personal deck and the more you develop a close working relationship with them, the more your natural intuition will be enhanced and the better your readings will become.

Some people believe that it’s bad karma or bad luck to buy your own tarot cards, that your first deck must be gifted to you by someone else. Most tarot readers agree that this is a myth. There’s nothing wrong with getting your own set of cards – in fact, it’s desirable to do this so you can select the deck that appeals most to you. Note: it might not be the deck you think. You might love all things Victorian, but a Victorian-themed deck of tarot cards may not work for you. Who knows, you might respond better to Feng Shui Tarot or even the brightly colored Hawaiian Tarot!

Books to Help You

There isn’t room in a blog to discuss all there is to know about tarot. You’re going to need a good book (or more than one) to use as a resource. As I said before, I mostly use Josephine Ellershaw’s Learning to Use the Tarot Once and For All, but you need to find the one that resonates best with you. Many tarot decks come with their own books, which is a good place to start.

You might want to look at books specifically designed for beginners such as Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning, Tarot for Beginners: An Easy Guide to Understanding and Interpreting the Tarot by P. Scott Hollander. There's even an Idiot’s Guide and a For Dummies book on Tarot! (I didn't like the For Dummies book myself, but someone else might.) 

For someone who wants a deeper understanding of Tarot, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack or Mary K. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card may be for you.

Most of all, don't forget that no matter what a book says, the meanings of the cards are fluid and adaptable. What a card means is what you feel it means. Intuition trumps all!Happy Reading!

Dani Harper

YOUR TURN – Have you ever worked with Tarot before, or had a reading done for you? Is there a particular deck that you enjoy working with or a book that you’ve found helpful?

Tales from the Psychic Toolbox -- TAROT

"The true Tarot is symbolism; it speaks no other language and offers no other signs. Given the inward meaning of the emblems, they do become a kind of alphabet which is capable of indefinite combinations and makes true sense in all.” – Arthur Edward Waite

I came to my appreciation of tarot late. Like most people, I grew up thinking of tarot as those fortune-telling cards used by gypsies in old movies. Despite my interest in the paranormal, I didn’t even see a real tarot deck until I was ... okay, nevermind how old I was. Then a friend of mine told me how she used these cards as tools for personal growth and insight. That really got my attention. I started studying up on the subject of tarot and have found it both fascinating and useful. I'm still learning of course – and while I'm not sure if anyone ever finishes learning about tarot, I can share some of what I've learned so far.

Brief History of Tarot

The word tarot rhymes with “arrow” and refers to a deck of vividly illustrated cards, traditionally 78 in number with 56 of them divided into four suits and 22 trump cards that are not associated with any suit at all. Originating somewhere around the fifteenth century in Europe, these cards were used to play Tarocchi, an Italian game which still exists.

Since their invention, playing cards of all kinds were occasionally used for divining the future, and tarot was no exception. The Church in Europe didn't take issue with tarot specifically; rather, it condemned all playing cards due to their association with gambling and other vices.

Why Use Tarot?

Today, the Tarot is more popular than ever, but not for playing games. And while some people treat them like fortune cookies or Magic 8-Balls, tarot cards are most often used as a method of obtaining self-knowledge and an intuitive understanding of circumstances. Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, studied the Tarot and described its symbols as "primitive or archaic thought-forms", and that “the unconscious is revealed in symbols”. He noted that, like dreams, Tarot symbols generally have some universal meaning but their interpretation could also be intensely personal. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a picture is supposed to mean, what really matters is what it means to YOU.

An effective tarot reading involves asking one clear and specific question. The tarot doesn’t lend itself to yes/no questions, but more to who, what, when, why and how. The tarot can help you sort out your own thoughts and feelings on a situation, can bring your intuition and subconscious to the forefront to help bring clarity. If there’s a situation I’m confused about or when I can’t decide on a course of action to take, a reading can sometimes help me think outside the box. And yes, I've even used it to help with writing. If I get well and truly mired in a plot, a tarot reading can sometimes help me see how I might work my way out of it. Notice that the tarot doesn't tell me what to do. Rather, it helps me help myself.

Tarot Readings

The person who desires a reading shuffles the deck while thinking of his question, then draws cards. The number of cards drawn can vary widely. Some people choose a single card, some three, for a “quickie” reading. A more detailed and in-depth reading uses many cards, laid out in a precise order and pattern (called a spread). The Celtic Cross spread is one of the most popular (I use this one myself), and requires ten cards. Sometimes an additional fan of three is added to it.

Another way of obtaining a tarot reading is to use an online computer program, such as the one at http://www.newagestore.com/Divination/Tarot.aspx . (This is a site I’ve used often and my anti-virus program has declared it safe) You can choose from a number of spreads and get a free personal reading. There is no human on the other end to skew the results. Yes, the computer program is designed to offer random cards, but some people believe our personal energies are stronger and we draw to us the same cards that we would if the deck was physically in front of us. You can also buy your own software for this purpose and personalize it.

You can go to someone else to have your reading done, but you need to find someone who is skilled, ethical and that you can communicate well with (just like choosing a doctor). As mentioned before, the symbols of the Tarot can be more useful for what they mean to you personally than what they are accepted to mean universally. A human reader needs to help you assign meaning to the cards you draw, rather than tell you “this card means this, this one means that”. While reading tarot requires no psychic powers, there IS an art to it. Some readers are wonderfully gifted. Some aren’t. And no, I’ve never tried any of the spammy-looking “Live Psychic Reading” sites that appear in ads all over the internet – it just doesn’t seem to me like a productive way to connect with someone with the traits I’m looking for.

You Don't Have To Be Psychic

What about reading the tarot for yourself? Anyone can learn to read tarot but how to learn depends on the individual. There are courses to be found, depending on where you live, but the easiest method has to be to pick up a book. There are many good ones on the subject, yet you may have to read several before you find one that “speaks” to you. I’ve run across a few that were more confusing than helpful, but when I found the deck that was right for me, The Guilded Tarot, it happened to come with the “Easy Tarot: Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All!” by Josephine Ellershaw. http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Tarot-Learn-Read-Cards/dp/0738711500/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287940891&sr=8-2   This lovely set proved to be the perfect resource for a beginner. Ellershaw has a very laidback and easy to understand approach and I continue to use both book and deck to this day. There’s a review of her book at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZ17MLJx60 .  YouTube, by the way, is the source of MANY videos on “How To Read Tarot”, some good, some not so much. My personal rule of thumb is that a book or a course or a website was worth my time if I learned just one or two things from it.

More about Tarot in an upcoming blog!

Dani Harper

YOUR TURN - Have you ever used tarot cards or had a reading done?