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,
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.
|FENG SHUI TAROT|
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!
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?