Does the image of a gypsy sitting with a crystal ball in front of her with cards lying on a table pop up in your mind when you think of tarot?
Maybe she has incense burning; the walls are covered with artwork of the sun and moon, and the beads on the door she enters from sway back and forth, click clacking until they cease to move.
In movies and TV shows this is the popular image of tarot readers, but legit ones know that the aesthetics are not what makes a good reader.
Tarot is a widely misunderstood divination tool that can help you uncover parts of yourself through the use of visuals and intuition. In this article you’ll learn tarot 101 and the most important basics for those beginning on their tarot journey.
What is Tarot?
Tarot has been around for centuries, though it isn’t 100% certain where it originated from.
There are those who believe tarot originated in Italy, then moved to France and from there England. Others believe it has been around since the time of the Ancient Egyptians.
What is widely believed by most scholars of tarot today is that in the past it was a game and fortune telling device. In modern times it’s used as a way to connect with one’s Higher Self and for magical and spiritual purposes.
In its truest definition, tarot is a divination tool that helps to tap into one’s inner wisdom. Each of the cards will have a picture with symbols that tell a story.
What Do the Cards Represent?
In a traditional tarot deck there are a total of 78 cards.
There are 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards.
In Latin, arcana is derived from the word “arcanum” which means secrets. The Major Arcana means “greater secrets” while the Minor Arcana stands for “lesser secrets.
The Major Arcana represents major events in your life as well as spiritual and karmic lessons. This can include getting married or divorced, starting a new career, moving, having a baby, etc.
These are considered the most important cards in the deck. These cards are filled with archetypes and symbolisms to help guide you along your spiritual journey.
The first card, The Fool, represents a person starting off on the path and the last card, The World, showcases one’s completion.
Each of the cards in between The Fool and The World present a storyline and life events that take place during a person’s life and spiritual journey.
The 56 Minor Arcana cards symbolize minor events in your life that happen on a day to day basis. These are the everyday events that may occur and show you things such as work, your closest relationships, eating habits, finances, and more.
There are 4 suits in the Minor Arcana card: the same as in a regular deck of playing cards. These 4 Minor Arcana suits are:
- Wands – element associated with it is Fire and represents passions and spiritual life.
- Swords – element associated with it is Air and represents thoughts and communication.
- Pentacles – element associated with it is Earth and represents materials and the physical existence.
- Cups – element associated with it is Water and represents feelings and emotions.
Each of the suits have 10 cards as well as a set of Court Cards that include a page, a knight, a queen, and a king.
In later posts both the Major and Minor Arcana cards will be dissected and more details will be given on what each card means and the suits and elements associated with them.
The Reader & the Querent
Tarot readers go by a few names. The most popular name today is a card reader, but they’re also known as psychic readers and cartomancers. Cartomancy is the art of using playing cards for divination purposes.
I will be using the term reader throughout this and other articles in regards to the tarot reader.
The person who a reader is reading for is called a querent. For this and future articles I will also be using this term.
How to Use & Understand Tarot?
When you actively use the cards you’re conducting a tarot reading that helps you to answer a question, helps you to understand a situation or challenge that’s in your life, or whatever you need to know at the time.
Before you start a reading, it’s best to cleanse your card so the energy is clear. I prefer to use sage but you can decide what works best for you.
Next thing I suggest would be to meditate. It’s best to go into the reading with a clear mind and meditating helps you focus.
Begin to shuffle the cards and think of a question that you have. It’s always best to ask open-ended questions. This helps you to get insight and give you advice that you can actually do.
A great article on how to ask the tarot the right questions is Biddy Tarot’s The Art of Asking Powerful Questions https://www.biddytarot.com/the-art-of-asking-powerful-questions/.
When you’re done shuffling choose a card and turn it over. Sometimes a card may “jump” out at you which means it’s meant for you to read.
Look at the card and its images. What thoughts come to you? How do you feel? What do you believe it represents?
Though you can look at the meaning in the guidebook, it’s always better to interpret yourself. It helps to build your intuition and you’ll gain a better relationship with the cards.
This article won’t go too deep into tarot spreads, but I will give you an idea of two of the most popular ones.
3 Spread Reading
The 3 Spread Reading, most popularly known as the Past, Present, and Future reading is one of the most common readings that beginners learn and is used at many psychic or spiritual events.
For this reading the reader chooses 3 cards. The first card represents your past. The second card represents the present, and the last card represents the future.
The card that is positioned in the past signifies the origins and roots of the circumstances. The card positioned in the present refers to what’s going on right now.The card in the third position shows the possibility of the future. Because the future is never set in stone, this can always change. This is powerful because you always have the chance to create your future.
This spread is best used to understand what brought the reader and/or querent to this situation now through the past card and what’s the best course of action he/she can take now.
If the future looks positive then you’ll know you or your querent is heading in the right direction. If the future has a negative connotation, then you and he/she needs to look for different ways to deal with the situation so that the future will be brighter.
The Celtic Cross Spread
This spread has been in use since the 20th century and has helped many readers and querent’s get an in-depth reading about what’s going on in their lives.
There are many different variations of the reading so when you’re looking at how to do a reading there is no one fits all answer. The card meanings I’m using in this article may be different from another.
The reading consists of 10 cards that each shed a light on the querent’s question. These are:
- The situation surrounding the querent (what’s going on now).
- Helpful or challenging energies.
- The best possible outcome.
- Distant past
- Immediate past.
- The future.
- How you see yourself.
- How others see you.
- Your hopes and fears.
- The outcome.
As you can see this spread will provide better insight into you or your querent’s question however, it may not give the best advice on what action to take. If this is important to you feel free to pull more cards that will answer that for you.
This is just a beginner’s guide for newly enthusiastic tarot readers. In future articles we’ll go more in-depth with the meaning of the cards, the symbolism, different spreads, and so much more!
What are you most excited about in learning tarot?