What They Are and How To Use Them
- A Little Warning
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- The History of the Tarot - From Their
- They are called the messengers of the Divine, the window
to Universal Law and the sacred symbols of the higher consciousness.
Whatever their auspicious synonym, the Tarot has been mentioned
in ancient texts for 35,000 years. One such text, from the Hermetic
Kaballah, tells of 108 stone tablets that lay beneath the ancient
pyramids at Giza. 78 of these tablets are called the Exoteric
Tarot, the remaining 30 are the ' Esoteric Tarot. This legend
goes on to say, that one day these tablets will be uncovered
and will explain the Universal Law and the soul's path through
the cycle of rebirth.
- Even though there is evidence
that the Tarot has existed for thousands of years, the first
known decks come from 12th century India. In India spiritual
symbols were placed on small tablets and tied together with string.
These spiritual belts were worn by priests and were often referred
to for advice or in service to a parishioner.
- The Tarot came to Europe during the Crusades. The Church
strongly discouraged the use of these tools, and labeled anyone
using them as a heretic. But soldiers of the crusades returned
to Europe with these spiritual decks as trophies of war. It wasn't
long until the modern European began creating their own versions
of these religious decks, which were the forerunners to
our modern playing cards. But unlike the spiritual symbols from
India, the European decks depicted the current structure of their
civilization, Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, and clergy
were all part of these earlier decks.
- It wasn't until the 16th Century that the Tarot really began
it's invasion through the traveling Gypsy caravans. Most of these
Gypsy's came from Indo-European homelands, bringing the essence
of the Tarot back to central Europe. From there, the tarot grew
and their popularity spread through out the world.
- The Modern Tarot
- Once the Tarot returned to it's spiritual essence, modern
artists began replicating the cards with their own spin or interpretation.
These early decks have been associated with the artists that
created them, or at least inspired them. One of the most renowned
was called the Baldini- Mantegna, named after the artist Mantegna
who inspired their creation. This deck separated itself from
other "religious" interpretations and encompassed a
universal theme. It grouped the cards into 10 classes, the first
- The Celestial (the planets)
- The Virtues (hope, justice, etc.)
- The Sciences (Theology, astrology, etc.)
- The Muses (Apollo, Clio, etc.)
- The Conditions of Life (The Pope, the King, the Beggar, etc.)
- As travel became easier and more extensive, different experiences
began to influence the Tarot into the many different decks we
see today. The most popular in this Century has been the traditional
Rider Waite deck, named after the famous occult scholar Dr. Arthur
Edward Waite who produced the deck in 1910.
- The Tarot Decks of Today:
- In 1909, Arthur Edward Waite encouraged Pamela Colman Smith
to produce a tarot deck with appeal to the world of art that
would have significance behind the symbols, and thus make the
deck more important than tarot packs previously used for centuries.
The result was the unique Rider-Waite Tarot deck, initially published
in 1910. It has endured as the world's most popular 78-card tarot
deck. The innovative cards, including the 56 Minor Arcana, depict
full scenes with figures and symbols. Pamela Smith's ability
to capture the subtleties of emotion and experience, has made
the Rider-Waite Tarot the basis for the designs of many 20th
- Modern Tarot decks typically contain 78 cards which are divided
into two sections.
- The Major Arcana:
- Depicts the path or journey to enlightenment. These cards
begin with the Fool, numbered 0 and end with the Universe numbered
21 (22 cards).
- The Minor Arcana:
- Depicts the fabric of life, the actions and values of existence.
The Minor Arcana is separated into four groups, each group depicts
an overall essence of life, physical or spiritual. The following
are the most common groups in a tarot deck and how they relate
to the modern playing deck. Many new artists are designing their
own decks and some of these groups maybe substituted for other
symbology. There are 14 cards to each suit.
WANDS = Clubs
||Represent the essence of Enterprise & Inaction, Inspiration & Pessimism, Distinction & Disregard.
CUPS = Hearts
||Represent the essence of Emotions & Apathy, Happiness & Despair, Abundance & Lack.
SWORDS = Spades
||Swords represent Strength & Weakness, Struggle & Endurance, Animosity & Respect.
PENTACLES = Diamonds
||Represent the essence of Finances & Debt, Possessions & Trappings, Business & Self Interests.
- Why Use the Tarot for Divination?
- Divination means from the Divine, the bases of any Tarot
lies in it's spirituality. The images of the Tarot only serve
as a reminder, a visual connector from your conscious mind to
knowledge you already have in your higher spiritual essence or
soul mind. The sequence of cards is like an unfolding process
to the psyche in its quest for unity with the universe. The cards
aid the psyche to focus, concentrate and guide the energy needed
to make this connection. The series of images depicted by the
cards link our psyche with the process of initiation. "As
initiates we start anew each time we question our direction or
seek a higher level of awareness and understanding". The
Tarot not only helps us find that understanding, but they also
help us to question.
- Choosing A Good Tarot Deck:
- When you go shopping for your first deck of cards, you want
to look for a few specific things. The major characteristic should
be that each card in the minor arcana is unique or has symbology
that sets it apart from the other cards in the suite. One of
the best examples of this is the Rider-Waite deck. When you perform
your divination, you want to see as much detailed symbology in
the 'pictures' of the card as possible. If the suites in your
deck are identical and the only difference between two cards
are one has 3 swords the other 4, than you will not get an accurate
or detailed reading from the spread. This is very important,
I can not emphasize enough the value that symbology plays on
the divination of the cards. Even if the only difference between
one card to another is a back-ground color, that small difference
can add valuable information to a reading.
- The second thing you want to look for is a deck that easy
to handle. Many new Tarot decks are being created as large cards
that are difficult to shuffle and hold. If you don't feel comfortable
with your deck, then you're going to have a hard time making
a connection to it.
- Lastly, if you plan on using your cards a lot and you really
like the deck you've chosen, I suggest you buy two decks. Set
the second one aside somewhere for future use. When your first
deck begins to wear out through use, you'll always have a new
deck waiting in the wings. Many people get attached to one specific
deck and when the time comes to replace it with a new one, they
are terribly disappointed to find that it's no longer in print
or available. So plan ahead.
- Meditation with the Tarot
- Other than the obvious benefits of meditating with the Tarot,
you can learn more about the cards by experiencing their individual
energies, as well as, pull the positive qualities of each card
into your own life. Each card contains a landscape, an event
and objects to be interacted with. By focusing on one card and
pulling that image into your meditation, you can learn and experience
the sights, sounds and smells of that card.
- In your meditation, examine the positive message the card
represents. Does your life incorporate the qualities of that
card? If not, try to feel the positive energy of that quality.
Visualize your life with this quality in it. How would this quality
change your life? Pull those images back with you from that meditation
and consciously try to live them.
- Introduction to Your Tarot
- When ever possible, handle your Tarot deck. This doesn't
mean you need to continually layout spreads, or conduct readings.
Simply hold your deck, shuffle the cards, spread them on a table
etc. This manipulation solidifies your energies to your deck.
It helps your higher consciousness link with your deck and makes
it easier for you to connect with the cards. Keep in mind a channel
would never conduct a reading with an "un-seasoned"
deck. Once you've connected with your deck, never let anyone
else handle them. The only exception to this rule might be in
allowing a client to cut the deck before laying out a spread.
- Think of it this way. The deck is your connection
to the divine. You are the person who is reading the messages
within the cards, so your connection to them is what's important.
The connection to the client is created through you. You are
basically an extension cord. The source of energy comes from
the socket in the wall (the Divine), it travels through the cord
(you) and is delivered to the light fixture (the client). If
you let someone else interfere with that flow of energy, then
the connection can be tainted or not as clear for you.
- There are several methods in storing your deck. Some practitioners,
like Eileen Connolly, recommend that you keep your deck wrapped
in a silk pouch and then inside a wooden box when not in use.
Others suggest keeping your deck wrapped in any natural fiber,
such as cotton or silk and keeping them with you. Personally
I think it's up to the individual. They're your cards, and you
need to feel comfortable with how they're handled and even how
- Preparing for Divination
- As with storage, many experienced practitioners require a
series of items to prepare for divination. Eileen Connoly suggests
- A wooden table to perform the divination
- A silk scarf to cover the table
- A second silk scarf to wrap the remaining cards not used
in the spread
- A wooden box to place the cards into after the deck is wrapped.
Some people may consider this to be overkill, but ceremonial
rituals can help the channel relax and open up to the divine
energies. Incorporate your own rituals, light a candle to symbolize
the internal light of knowledge, clear the "reading"
space with Sage and Cedar. Perhaps your more comfortable with
cultures from the far east and prefer ringing chimes or a gong.
The point is how you prepare and what you use is entirely up
to the individual.
- One thing you should always have is a small tape player to
record your reading. Even if the reading is for yourself, the
tape can help you review the messages you received. This way
you won't be distracted by someone taking notes, or you won't
have to stop in the middle of your own reading to write down
what you think you see.
- I had a student once who felt uncomfortable with talking
out loud to herself when conducting a self reading. She decided
to take her favorite stuffed animal and sit it at the table across
from her. Now she was telling her "best friend" what
she saw in the cards. She used the bear as her "proxy".
Later she would play the tape back to herself. Because our own
voices sound so much differently to us, for her, it was like
listening to someone else giving her a reading. Through this
method, she was able to "hear" the messages she needed.
- What's important here is, that you must feel comfortable
and secure, otherwise it may be difficult to get a clear message.
If you need some more detailed help, you can try this Simple
Process from start to finish.
- Divination (The Spread)
- There are just as many Spreads as there are Tarot channels.
There are some basics that you should find in every Tarot book.
The following are a couple of examples. But it's important to
remember the style of the spread is entirely up to you. Try different
layouts to keep yourself interested. If you get bored, you're
likely to concentrate less and again, it maybe difficult to get
a clear message.
- Before you layout a spread it's important for you to give
each card an intent. In other words, each card represents an
aspect or time, thus the intent of the card in the spread has
a specific meaning. In a traditional 3 card spread, the first
card is usually for Past actions, the 2nd for Present events
and the 3rd for Future consequences. So when you "make-up"
your own spread, know the intent of each card before it's chosen
and placed on the table.
- How to Read a Spread:
- Shuffle the deck several times. The client (if the reading
is for yourself, you are the client) should focus on one question,
situation or event. I like to ask the client what kind of spread
they would like (ie: Past, Present, Future or a general overall
view). Another technique is to ask the client to pick a number
between 1 and 15, the number they choose will determine what
type of spread you want to layout for them. But before any cards
are drawn from the deck, you should have an idea of what you're
going to layout and the intent being given to each card. Again,
by intent I mean, the purpose of each card in the spread.
- Let me give an example;
My client has chosen a past, present and future spread. As I
select the cards from the deck and lay them on the table, I am
projecting the purpose of the card on the card. I lay down the
first card and say (out loud or to myself) "This is the
Past" and so on until all 3 cards are on the table.
- Your Interpretations vs. an Authors Interpretations
- Many readers will layout a spread and then begin to decipher
the exact meaning of the cards specified in a book or an accompanying
pamphlet that came with the deck. By doing this, you the reader
are limiting the information you could gain from all the symbology
in the card. My suggestion and the best results I've seen in
any reading by any practioner (novice or experienced) is to learn
the general meanings of each suite and then throw away
the books and encyclopedias.
- Your psychic connection to your deck should determine the
meaning of the card in any given spread. Your view and interpretation
of the all the symbolic images on the card will give more valuable,
accurate and detailed information for a client then any generic
interpretation of a card listed in a book. Trust in your own
abilities, not in an author who wrote some translation over 100
years ago. Remember, you are the psychic, you are the channel.
So use your divine gift and allow that energy to flow through
- How do you interpret the symbology?
- Place the cards, face down, on the table in the same order
they were selected and in the layout style you have chosen. Close
your eyes, then as soon as your centered on the first card, turn
it over and open your eyes. Focus on the first thing you see
and make note of what it looks like or reminds you of. Don't
look at the entire card, try not to notice it's the 2 of cups
for instance, just focus on one specific symbolic image.
A card may have a cup pouring water out into a stream, but what
you see is, water from a waterfall, pouring into a cup. In this
example you may interpret the image as 'life is filling up your
cup, replenishing you and giving you the gifts of life.' If the
card was reversed, you might see water from the cup pouring out
into the river. In this you might feel the message being
given is 'life is pouring out, the energies are becoming depleted.
The point is, what you see and what you feel
will determine the meaning of the symbolic images.
- Next, concentrate on the images around that spot, moving
outward until you can focus on the entire card. Continue this
process until you've moved out to see the whole card. Then try
to summarize all the symbols you picked up on.
For instance, building on the previous example of the cup..as
you move your view outward you see a pyramid shape..you may interpret
this as a symbol for a desert, you may get the feeling that
the client has just come out of a desolate or dry period in their
life, one with out feelings or emotions. So now, the waterfall
filling up the cup takes on a new meaning. The waterfall of life,
the universal stream is pouring into the clients life, adding
meaning and emotions to their existence. Opening them up to a
new growth period, after all you need water to grow veggies in
Use this method for each card in the spread. Once all the
cards have been shown, try to put the overall meaning of the
entire spread together. When you have examined each card and
tried to interpret the meaning for yourself, check your divination
against your accompanying book or pamphlet. Take notice at how
much more information you gained by relying on your own instincts,
how more accurate your reading is to the clients current situation.
With each divination you will gain confidence, your abilities
and interpretations will increase and become more and more accurate.
- Common Spreads:
- The following are the most common spreads, but you can visit
Tarot Spreads for more patterns
- Daily Spread
The Daily spread can be used to layout your actions for the start
of a day, you can gain insights or warnings before the day begins.
Perhaps you should wear a business suite today for an unexpected
visit from the boss. Or you can use this spread at the end of
a day to review/explain any events that might have occurred.
Perhaps you require clarification or additional information about
an event that took place.
This spread indicates the situation through the first card and
any blockage that may exist through the second card. If the two
cards are of the same suite, then the blockage maybe easily overcome.
The Past, Present and Future
This spread requires 3 cards, laid out from left to right. Typically
a specific question is being addressed by this spread. The Past
explains the situation and how it came to be. The Present explains
the current status of the situation and any blockages that may
exist. The Future explains any consequences and/or any additional
influences that may play a part in the situation.
- Celtic Cross
This is one of the most famous spreads and can be one of the
most difficult to read. Each card in this spread has a specific
intent which builds on the card before it. Connolly give a pictorial
example of this spread and how it should be laid out (because
this document is designed for generic email transmissions, this
type of graphical examples is not possible).
1. The Significator:
the present position of the situation.
2. The Crossing:
existing influences or obstacles.
3. The Foundation:
subconscious influences and the relationship of the questioner
to the issue.
4. The Goal:
the desired outcome of the issue.
5. The Past:
influences in the recent or distant past which are still in operation.
6. The Future:
influences that will come into manifestation.
7. The Attitude:
present position and attitude of the questioner.
8. The Environment:
influences from nearby energies or other people.
9. The Feelings:
inner hopes, feelings or anxieties not expressed by the questioner.
the final result and culmination of the issue.
- Closing Thoughts
- Trust in your own abilities to tap into the wisdom and higher
knowledge the universe has to offer. Everyone in the world is
psychic, everyone! Some people are naturally attuned to their
6th sense, while others need to practice and work on making a
connection to their higher knowledge. But once you become familiar
with your abilities and can trust your own instincts, gaining
information and knowledge from within you gets easier with each
- Additional Reading
- What They Are and How To Use Them
Simple Process For Reading The Tarot
Sources: 1, o58, o59,
- Created: 11.12.1996 Updated: 08.07.2010