Reading Tarot FAQs - Where to Start
This post is part of a series of posts where I answer your Tarot questions.
Where do you start?
It can be really overwhelming to hold this 78 card deck of unfamiliar and sometime bizarre images, so to answer this question, I am going to start by showing you how to familiarize yourself with your Tarot cards.
I think that is a really good idea to familiarize yourself just with the imagery of each of the 78 Tarot cards as part of your Tarot practice. This process is very important because, you are going to find that you see some interesting connections between the cards and you might even start to notice some unique factors that you are not going to find in the Tarot books. This is because you are looking for symbols and patterns in the cards and it speaks to your intuition.
It’s also important because—on a personal note—I read for a couple of years, just doing spreads and pulling cards daily. Then, one day the Five and Seven of Cups appeared and I thought, Where did these come from?” It was really strange and unnerving because I thought I was really acquainted with my deck.
Action Step: Go through one card at a time and look at each card. You only need to look for a couple seconds but make sure you have looked at each card.
Now, it’s important to understand the structure of a Tarot deck. There are 78 Tarot cards, 22 of those cards are from the Major Arcana. And the Major Arcana really speaks to big life themes that are present in your life, life lessons that you might be learning, or even archetypes.
Action Step: Go through and find all the Major Arcana cards and lay them out in order. See if you can see the story that progresses as you move from Fool to World.
Then there are the Minor Arcana, 56 of them. The Minor Arcana reflect our everyday situations, the more temporary influences that come and go, the things that we are experiencing at a certain time, but they are not going to stick around.
Don’t think that the Minor Arcana are less important than the Majors, they all have their own role in the Tarot deck. In fact, the Minor everyday circumstances sometimes feel bigger or just as strong as the major events of life, simply because they are happening right now. But these everyday moments shift and move, they are more transient.
The Minor Arcana has many cards in it so it can be helpful to divide it up when learning about them. One division is by suit.
We have fours suits Cups, Pentacles, Swords and Wands. Each of the suits also correspond to one of the four metaphysical elements.
Cups = Water = emotions, relationships, intuition, feelings, creativity
Pentacles = Earth = material aspects, money, career, possessions, and manifestation
Swords = Air = intellect, thought, mental processes, communication, and truth
Wands = Fire = passion, enthusiasm, energy, drive, ambition, motivation, and spirit
Action Step: Divide the Minor Arcana into four suits. Look at each suit and try to identify the themes of it’s corresponding element.
We can also separate the Numbered cards from the Court cards in the Minor Arcana. There are 40 numbered Minor Arcana cards.
These are the cards that go Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and they are organized into four different suits. With the Minor’s, because they align to the suits and also the numbers. It’s good to know a little bit about basic numerology.
Ace = new beginnings, opportunity, potential, inspiration
Two = duality, balance, partnership, a crossroad or choice
Three = creation, groups, growth, early achievement toward goal
Four = stability, building a foundation, structure
Five = conflict, tension, the midpoint, change
Six = harmony, cooperation, problem-solving, adjustment
Seven = alignment, achievement, moving forward, spirituality
Eight = mastery, progress, manifestation, regeneration
Nine = fruition, attainment, fulfillment, nearing completion
Ten = completion of a cycle, renewal, ending
You can start to actually match up those numbers with the suits and you can get a sense of what each of those 40 cards might mean.
Action Step: Take all the numbered cards in the Minor Arcana and lay them out like a grid. All the cups in order from ace to ten, then the pentacles below, then the wands and then the swords. Compare and contrast the imagery and the scenes.
And finally you have the Court cards, 16 court cards all together. Four court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King, and four suits equals 16 cards. The Court cards are often about personalities and characteristics (you or someone else) that may be influencing a situation.
Action Step: Make a small grid the same way you did with the number cards. Compare and contrast the imagery and the scenes in these groupings. See if you can relate each of the court cards to someone you know in your life.
You may notice that the imagery of the cards is full of symbols. Each Tarot card shows a different picture, and different symbols. There is a lot going on in each image and the story it tells. Just even looking at these cards will start to trigger things in your intuition, and help you tap into your inner voice and your inner wisdom.
Certain symbols have a collective meaning that are commonly understood and accepted, but there is also your personal meaning of the symbol symbols that you can connect to on another level.
You can look at Tarot cards in terms of the collective consciousness; but the real magick of the cards appears when you look at it from a more intuitive perspective. The imagery, the symbols, and the story within the card, can help you connect with your intuition, and also connect in with your sub-conscious mind. That gives you really rich information about the cards: the traditional, book meaning, combined with your own personal experiences.
It’s definitely important to know the foundations, but it’s even more important to be able to connect to your intuition using the Tarot cards as your guide.
Action Step: Look at a symbol in one of the cards. Think about your own experiences with this symbol and how it makes you feel when you see it. Then, look up some traditional, collective consciousness meanings of this symbol.
Quick Reference Pages
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That is basically the structure of the deck and what things to be looking for. Now of course, there is a lot more that goes into these and more details including your own experiences, but I wanted to just give you a feel for how the Tarot deck is structured and actually how easy it can be to start seeing what each card might mean, without having to memorize all 78 cards.
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