An ancient art practiced and refined over centuries, the Tarot allows humans to tap into the Universal consciousness wherein we are connected to all things and all people through time and space.
A tool for guidance and self-discovery, Tarot can help forecast the future and show the outcome of our actions by allowing us to access our deeper wisdom: The intuition.
Tarot cards can be read by anyone, but accurate Tarot reading does require practice, a certain degree of skill, aptitude, knowledge of the cards, and, of course, belief. Using your combined knowledge of the Tarot card meanings and your intuition, there is truly no limit to the answers and wisdom the Tarot can provide.
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A Review of Tarot Cards
The 78 Tarot cards are divided into 2 main sections, the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, and further into 4 suits:
- Wands (Fire, Actions)
- Cups (Water, Feelings)
- Swords (Air, Thoughts)
- Pentacles (Earth, Materials)
Before a Tarot reading, the cards are usually arranged in a spread. A Tarot spread is the pattern in which the cards are placed to be interpreted by a Tarot card reader. There are many different types of Tarot spreads - entire books have been written on the subject!
Spreads can be as simple as a 1-card draw or complex enough to require all 78 cards.
Before a Tarot reading, the cards are usually arranged in a spread. A Tarot spread is the pattern in which the cards are placed to be interpreted by a tarot card reader. There are many different types of tarot spreads—entire books have been written on the subject.Spreads can be as simple as a 1-card draw or complex enough to require all 78 cards.
One of the most popular spreads is called the 3-card spread, which gives you answers to immediate questions about your relationships, career, and life in general. The cards represent a possible past, present, and future.
Tarot Card Meanings
The 22 cards of the Major Arcana tell the story of one’s journey through life. Some refer to the Major Arcana as “trump” cards as they represent larger, life-changing events.
The Major Arcana begins with the innocent and carefree Fool (number 0), and goes through all the stages of life until the final World (number 21) card, representing the journey’s completion. Each card represents a major life lesson or archetypal theme.
As you get to know the Major Arcana, you’ll see that the first 11 cards represent your journey out into the world while the last 11 represent your journey into your own awareness
“While the Major Arcana reveal events that will occur due to laws of the Universe, the Minor Arcana show events that occur due to laws of human nature.”
- Brigit Esselmont, Everyday Tarot
The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana act as a support system for the Major Arcana, speaking to smaller-scale life events.
Divided into 4 suits (much like playing cards), each suit has an ace, 9 numbered cards, and 4 court cards.
Traditionally, the court cards are:
Suits of Tarot
Each of the 4 suits of the Minor Arcana corresponds with a specific area of life. Some decks use different names and symbols for the suits, but their meaning and their rank in the hierarchy of the court cards remain the same.
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Numbered Tarot Cards
Each suit contains an Ace, plus 9 more numbered cards that conclude at the number 10. Each number has its own significance, and, combined with the power of the suit it accompanies, reveals a very specific meaning.
The number 1 (or in the case of the Tarot, the Ace) is the first in a sequence (representing beginnings). The number 10 represents endings and/or closure.
Reversed Tarot Card Meanings
Also known as inverted card, a reversed Tarot card means a stifling or blockage of the energy expressed in the Tarot card (in its upright position). Reversed Tarot cards do not necessarily mean something negative, but they do mean that the energy prevalent in the upright card is being hindered in some way.
Reversed cards can take a long time to fully understand, but they can add extra invaluable insight into readings. For some readers, it can be helpful to learn to read Tarot with reversals, especially when dealing with a particularly negative problem. That said, many beginners start by reading only upright cards.
If you pull a reversed Tarot card, it simply means the upright version's energy is being blocked or working backwards. An example would be the 6 of Wands - upright, the 6 of Wands represents success, victory, accolade and confidence. Reversed, it means lack of success, falling from glory, confidence that has stretched into arrogance, failure and low self-esteem.
By reading with reversals, readers can pinpoint exactly where things have gone wrong and figure out the best way to rectify the situation.
How to Use Tarot Cards
Using Tarot cards is a simple process in itself, though it can take a long time to master. It is best to start with a basic Tarot card deck in order to familiarize yourself with the cards.
It also helps to keep a Tarot journal of your own where you can write down the Tarot card meanings and keep track of your readings. This way, you can go back to your journal and discover any patterns, see where you got the cards spot-on, or where your interpretation may have gone awry.
Before you start reading, you might want to consider bonding or “syncing” with your Tarot deck (check out 4 easy ways to bond with your Tarot deck right here.)
Once you’ve got your journal and a pen on hand, get shuffling!
We recommend trying out smaller Tarot spreads rather than larger ones (like the Celtic Cross) when starting your Tarot journey. Pulling just 1 card daily is a great way to get some practice in and familiarize yourself with the card meanings.
In a Tarot reading, the cards are usually arranged in a spread. A Tarot spread is the pattern in which the cards are arranged to be interpreted. There are many different types of Tarot spreads – you can even create your own Tarot spreads for yourself!
Spreads can be as simple as a 1-card draw, or complex enough to require all 78 cards.
Tarot Talk with Biddy Tarot
Let’s talk Tarot!
Bestselling author, business coach, and professional Tarot reader for more than 20 years, Brigit Esselmont founded Biddy Tarot in 1999.
Bringing her 20 years of Tarot expertise to the readers of Astrology Answers, Brigit’s Tarot Talk video series covers readers’ most burning questions about Tarot.
How to Cleanse Your Tarot Cards
Since Tarot cards work directly with a reader’s energy, many people like to “cleanse” their cards of any residual negative energy that may be trapped in the deck.
This is especially important to do for Tarot decks that get a lot of use, brand new Tarot decks, and decks that have been used by/for other people besides the owner of the deck.
You can (and should!) cleanse any divination tools you use regularly, including crystals, pendulums, and rune stones. Check out some quick cleansing methods in the video below, or dive a little deeper: Tarot & Crystal Cleansing 101: Ways to Clear & Cleanse Your Tools
Tarot & the Zodiac
While both the Tarot and the zodiac are distinct art forms, they overlap. Tarot cards and the zodiac correspond with each other.
Each suit of the Minor Arcana is associated with an element and specific signs of the zodiac:
Additionally, every individual zodiac sign has specific tarot cards that correspond with them. Each specific sign usually has one card from the Major arcana and another from the Minor Arcana that captures the traits of the sign.
The representative Tarot card within the Major Arcana corresponds to the deepest part of the zodiac signs personality, the part that not everyone gets to see. This part of each sign will often manifest over time and become stronger as an individual gets older.
The Tarot card that represents each zodiac sign from the Minor Arcana demonstrates the core traits of each sign. This card shows who the individual in each sign is in the present moment and covers the traits that they've naturally had their entire life.
Knowing which cards represent who is a great tool to use during Tarot readings, this is because you can look to interpret readings based on a card that may appear that is attached to a specific person in your life.
Learn which tarot cards go with each sign here:
Choosing a Tarot Deck
How to Choose the Best Tarot Deck for You
There is no right or wrong way to choose a Tarot deck.
There really is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a Tarot deck. Finding the deck (or decks) that is right for you is an entirely individual thing.
Today, there are literally hundreds of different types of Tarot decks to choose from. It can be overwhelming and confusing trying to understand the subtle differences between them. But the deck that is truly right for you is the one you feel most drawn to on an intuitive level.
It may be that you connect with the images and artwork style of a particular deck; it could be that you feel instinctively drawn towards one, or perhaps you’ll find your deck simply because it just feels right holding it in your hand.
Different decks exist because no two readers are the same. Everyone interprets messages from the Universe differently. If one deck doesn't seem to work for you, it doesn’t mean you are not a good Tarot reader or that you’re doing something wrong! Different decks work for different people and finding the one that you can connect to is a very personal thing.
Need more guidance? Find out how to choose a Tarot deck here.
Why & How to Bond with Your Tarot Deck
After you’ve made your choice, it’s important to “sync” your energy with your new deck in a process called bonding.
Tarot works with energy. When you use the Tarot cards, you merge your own energy with the energy of that deck and the Universal consciousness. Creating a bond with your new deck enables you to communicate with it effectively, and vice versa.
Your Tarot deck is going to be one of your closest friends and allies - it only makes sense that the two of you should get to know each other as thoroughly as possible!
A Brief History of Tarot
The Tarot dates all the way back to the 14th century, first seen in Europe among the French and Italian nobility. 'Tarot' itself is a French word.
Originally viewed as a game by the nobility, in the 1700s, occultists in France and England discovered the Tarot and realized it could be used as a useful divination tool due to the deeper, symbolic meanings in the cards. It was at this point that the Tarot spread throughout occult circles worldwide, culminating in the practice of Tarot we see today.
Some believe the Tarot originated in Ancient Egypt. Though there is no viable evidence for this, it does seem plausible, as the city of Alexandria was, for a long time, a hub for many magical individuals and occultist societies. Alexandria was the birthplace of hermeticism, which encompassed astrology, alchemy, and, quite possibly, Tarot reading.
Today, Tarot is used by many people all across the world. In some countries, such as South Korea, Tarot reading is a booming industry. In others, Tarot reading remains a more underground, mysterious practice.
For Tarot devotees of the past, present, and future, Tarot reading is a fundamental part of life. Believers agree that the insight and wisdom that can be revealed by even a single-card reading is invaluable in making the decisions, big and small, that will shape their lives.
When to Do a Tarot Reading
The tarot can be used for many different purposes. The archetypal images on the cards reflect your story back to you, helping you to better understand a specific moment in time, and your greater journey through life. Those same images make good meditation companions or can provide you with a ‘thought for the day.’ There is no limit to how these images can be used.
Of course, before you can really immerse yourself in the tarot, you have to know a few basics.
The divisions within the tarot may seem complicated at first, especially because each card provides context for the others in a spread; but once you recognize the underlying organization of the cards, you too can master the mysteries of the tarot.
Free Online Tarot Readings
On-the-go? Don’t have a Tarot deck on hand? No problem!
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