Tarot 101

I first had my tarot cards read in the break-room of my waitressing job. My new coworker asked if I wanted him to pull cards- and I was instantly hooked. I bought my first deck and was blown away by how relevant the card’s messages were. “How is this working?” I wondered. Then one day I had an intuitive thought; I believe that spirit is always trying to speak to us, and tarot cards gives them a common language.

You do not have to be psychic or a professional reader to use tarot cards. I don’t have any experience reading for other people, I use them purely as a tool of self reflection. I quiet my mind and start with a question such as, “Are there any messages for me today?” or, “How should I handle this situation?” and choose a few cards. It is ok to sit and fumble through the guidebook, I am by no means a tarot expert and always have mine with me.

Sometimes I’ll pull cards into a spread. A spread is pulling cards to put in specific positions that represent different things. As in my example, you could pull three cards with the intention that card 1 will represent the past, card 2 the present, cards 3 the future. There are so many spreads online to choose from, but my favorite are the ones I make up to answer my own unique questions.

Starting out, I had a lot of questions (and truthfully still have a lot to learn), so I thought I’d put together a little Q&A to cover the basics.

How did tarot begin? There’s no precise answer for this. There are debated theories that they are derived from ancient Egyptian texts… but in my search I found just as many articles for and against this idea. What is known; in 1420 Italian Tarot cards were being made and used for gaming purposes. By 1790 people in France had begun using tarot cards specifically for occult purposes. In 1909 the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was specifically designed for divination. Most modern day decks today use symbolism and/or meanings derived from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and it has gone on to be the most recognizable tarot decks.

Rider-Waite-Smith deck

What is an Arcana?

Arcana is a latin word that means secrets or mysterious knowledge. The cards in a deck are either part of the major or minor arcana.

Major Arcana– the first 22 cards in a tarot deck that symbolize pivotal life events. In order they tell the story of the fools journey (the fool is the first card in the deck). They are usually interpreted to carry more weight than a minor arcana card when they appear in a reading.

Minor Arcana– 56 cards of the tarot deck belong to the minor arcana. They are separated into 4 suits; pentacles, wands, swords, and cups. Each suit is comprised of cards Ace-10 and 4 court cards (page, knight, queen, king). They are usually interpreted to represent the more mundane day-to-day business of our lives.

What do the suits mean? Each suit has its own theme. Cups represent emotions, Wands are passion, Pentacles are possessions and money, Swords are mind and intellect.

What are court cards? Court cards have different names in different decks but the idea is the same. Traditionally they are Page, Knight, Queen, King. In my deck they are Child, Explorer, Guardian, and Elder. The In a reading court cards theoretically represent actual people in your life, but they’ve also shown up for me as a sign of traits or energy I need to embody to best grow through or manage a situation. Biddy Tarot has a great series on reading the court cards.

Resources

Root Lock Radio Podcast– Episodes 3-13 walk you through overviews of every card.

Golden Thread Tarot App– free app that gives you virtual tarot readings.

Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom – considered a classic and a must read book for any new tarot student.

Biddy Tarot- her podcast and website are both very informative.

Do you have any tarot questions you want answered? Comment below and let me know.

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