Tarot Basics


Ok, you have opened the deck and what do you find?  A ton of beautiful, but otherwise confusing cards!  Well let's begin with the very basics here.  If you all ready know them, then it is your choice as to whether or not you read this section.  Me? I can never get enough "review".

There are 78 cards total in the Tarot deck, and these are broken down into two main categories - the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.  The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards numbered from zero to twenty-one, and these are the cards that deal with karmic issues.  In layman terms, Karmas issues are the archetypal passages in life's journey.  The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards that deal the things that happen to us on a day to day basis. At first glimpse, the Major Arcana imagery seems to be taken straight from mythology.  People usually have very strong reactions to these cards, whether it be like or dislike.  I encourage you to begin familiarizing yourselves with these cards first.  Look at the imagery in each card, let it "speak" to you.  Meditate on that card and see what meanings you get from it intuitively.  THEN, go and look at the book or books you may have to see how someone else interpreted it.  I am not saying that these books are "bad" or "wrong"; quite on the contrary they are wonderful resources.  Notice I said resources, and not crutches.  Sometimes we can be so hung up on finding the "right" meaning, that we tend to ignore the one that is smacking us right in the gut.  Take time to notice not only the central figures in each card, but the colors and surroundings depicted.  There are some wonderful "get to know your cards" exercises in "Tarot and Fortune-Telling for Dummies" by Arlene Tognetti and Lisa Lenard, and I highly recommend it as a general resource too (notice "resource :-p ).

The Minor Arcana themselves are no less beautiful or striking, but a lot of people I have spoken with tell me that they tend to relate to these cards better.  I would suppose this is because the cards deal with the every day issues, but again it is an individual thing.  These cards are broken down even further into 4 suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles.  These suits correspond to clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds in a deck of regular playing cards.  These suits also correspond to the four elements, and also to the 12 astrological signs in the Zodiac.

Tarot Suits, Elements and Astrological elements
Suit Element Meaning Corresponding Astrological Sign

Wands Fire   Beginnings, action Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Cups Water Emotions, intuition Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Swords Air Communication, mental activities Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Pentacles Earth Possessions, the physical Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Sometimes when you are doing a reading you will notice a card in a particular position.  This may indicate a person with that astrological sign who is involved in that area of your life, but I digress!  I promise to discuss this a little more later on, once we have covered the basics.  

Now I am sure that somewhere along the line you might want to tell your friends and family that you have a Tarot deck.  Be prepared for them to ask you if they can have a reading.  What's a reading you say?  Well it is what a reader does when they lay the cards out in a spread (a formation of cards).  You can read for yourself, it is a matter of preference.  Some only like  to have readings done by others; they don't trust themselves to be honest about what the cards say.  Others are just the opposite; they don't want anyone else "knowing their business".  Still others couldn't care less - they will have it done both ways.  In any case, it is extremely important to remember not to let anyone touch your cards expect for the individuals you are doing readings for, and only when you are actually doing readings for them.  Otherwise, you have too much "psychic mish-mash" attaching themselves to your cards and will cause your readings to not be as forthright as you would like.  

Also I would like to let you know that what comes out in a reading does NOT seal your fate.  You are in charge of your destiny and what path your life takes.  The cards can tell you about what is happening now or what can happen in the near future, should you continue in the "mode" you are in.  Nothing  about it (the Tarot) is inexorable or inevitable, and the fears of having your life laid out like a road map are largely unfounded.