The tarot consists of a total of seventy eight cards divided into the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is made up of twenty two cards which trace the Fool’s Journey through the experiences of life which are common to all of us as human beings. You could say that these cards trace the archetypal, overarching themes that everyone on this crazy roller coaster we call life must face.
The Minor Arcana consist of fifty six cards divided into four suits. Each of the suits relates to a different area of life.
• Wands – represent the element of Fire and relate to action, inspiration and creativity
• Cups – represent the element of Water and describe the world of emotions, relationships and intuition
• Swords – represent the element of Air and symbolise the mind, ideas and rationality
• Pentacles – represent the element of Earth and relate to the physical material realm
The Minor Arcana cards relate to more mundane, everyday experiences which we face on our journey through life.
Some say that for every conceivable situation we could find ourselves in, there is a card or combination of cards that could perfectly illustrate this. Hence tarot is seen as a holistic and all encompassing system for describing the human condition.
For anyone embarking on an exploration of the tarot it can be daunting to know where to start. There is a plethora of different decks available with countless different themes and artists interpretations. In some decks it becomes even more confusing as the Minor Arcana cards are not always illustrated, but simply show the number of the card, not giving you much to go on for interpretation if you are just starting out!
My advice therefore would be to go for a classic deck to begin with like the Rider Waite Smith (RWS). In this deck all the cards are fully illustrated giving you much more opportunity to glean information when interpreting the cards.
Another advantage of selecting the RWS deck is that you will find an amazing amount of resources to assist in your study of the cards from books, to online resources and discussion groups. Once you have a basic grounding and understanding of the tarot you can then branch out into other decks, many of which follow the basic RWS meanings but may have different symbolism depending on the creator of the deck.
So, how to begin using the cards to gain a greater insight into the issues you face in your day to day life? My recommendation would be to start small by drawing a daily card. This has the advantage of not being overwhelming and allows you to slowly but surely learn about the card meanings. You can meditate on the card drawn, or just consider how it’s themes might have shown up in the events and incidents of the day.
I would also suggest that before looking up the interpretation in a book you firstly use your intuition to see what the card is saying to you personally. Tell a story about the character in the card….what are the doing; where are they going; do they look prosperous and wealthy or down at heel?
Next look at the symbols in the card. What do they say to you? Do any words or phrases come to mind when you peruse the card? The colours within the card can also impart a lot of information. Is there a lot of red indicating action and dynamism, or yellow to symbolise creativity and ideas? Green can show abundance and prosperity, and blue usually signifies emotion, relationships or intuition.
Try not to get too hung up on the book meanings, but instead start to assimilate your own understanding of what the cards mean to you. A really great way to do this is by starting a tarot journal/notebook where you can record the meanings that you intuit for each card so that eventually you’ll have your own personal tarot dictionary.
Be aware also that the card may not always mean the same thing! Try to go with your first impression, maybe based on whichever symbols within the card seem to be prominent at that time. It’s important not to second guess yourself!
I hope that this blog post helps you to approach learning about the tarot with a sense of fun, curiosity and exploration. It is a fascinating adventure and a journey that can enhance and inform your life.