What Is Tarot?
Playing the cards you’re dealt.
Published: October 21, 2012
Getting to know YOU through ancient wisdom.
If the tarot cards of ancient times—(pronounced "tare-oh")— had a contemporary theme song, consider Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells A Story." After all, each generation demands new symbols, new names.
The tarot recalls eternal pictures and symbols that include myth and folklore, and express basic psychological ideas. The tarot cards were first dealt sometime during the early half of the 15th century in Italy. There is no evidence that they were created as part of any religious or magical tradition, but as a poetic game for the upper classes. As this entertaining "Game of Triumphs," as it was called, spread throughout the world, mystical meanings with respect to its increasing arcane symbolism expanded, and changes were made.
Like the playing cards of the time, the tarot deck included ten numbered cards in four suits; as well as page, knight, and royal court cards. But it also contained something more: 22 special cards not belonging to any suit— the magical arcana— were added. These unique cards bore symbolic pictures such as The High Priestess, the Wheel of Fortune, The Moon, and Death. Many modern decks, like Doreen Virtue's Angel Tarot, have tweaked the traditional names, but the tarot's heavenly teachings remain the same. "We are symbols, and we inhabit symbols," Emerson reminds us.
The Angel Tarot is a divine deck to start learning the tarot. Based on traditional lore, this is a favorite deck for enhancing intuition, and emphasizes spiritual values. However, whichever deck you have is fine and good— your spirit led you to it, after all. Now, grab a writing utensil and paper, find a quiet spot in your home, and begin by separating the major 22 cards from the court and four minor suits. Afterwards, while gently shuffling your pile of 22, focus on and repeat: "What do I most need to consider in my life right now?" Don't be nervous, or in a hurry. Like the initial months of bringing a new pet or baby into a household, it takes love, attention, and patience for getting to know the cards.
Continue to repeat asking "What do I most need to consider in my life right now?", and choose 3 cards from your shuffled pile, laying them face up in a row, from left to right. The tarot operates on the Law of Attraction— that is, what may appear as a random selection of shuffled cards is actually a precise arrangement that coincides to form the answers and insights that address a specific query. The cards are meant to supplement— not supplant— decision-making. Learning the tarot begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Like a restaurant menu, it provides food-for-thought entrees, and allows you to make the choice.
Next, note and record which cards, if any, are upside-down (often, energies of "reversed" cards are considered more internal or subtle). Is there a specific color or image that links together or unites each card, or do they appear non-related? Which pictures look to you to be calm, or tense and cluttered? For now, examine each card's number and reduce it down to a single digit sum total, like #14 (Temperance-Balance) becomes 1+4, which adds up to a 5; or, shrink 21 (The World) from 2+1 into a 3. Now, write down the sum total digit for your first, second, and third chosen card. The following are some descriptive, prescriptive, and instructive keywords for each:
ONE (and 10 & 19) arouse and inspire, and urge you to move on, take action; new beginnings; you're stronger than you think; go solo.
TWO (and 11 & 20) urge you to think twice; ponder and reflect; calls for patience, not action; teamwork.
THREE (plus 12 & 21) prompts strength in numbers; your support system; growth, integration, and expansion; not a time for laziness.
FOUR (and 13) calls for planning, patience, and prudence; slow accumulation; material concerns/investments; rules and tradition.
FIVE (and 14) delivers inner fortitude and strength; sowing health karma/lessons; do what's necessary; listen to your spiritual consciousness.
SIX (and 15) seeks joy and appreciation in family and home concerns, unions; social concerns; ridding your life from toxic acquaintances, ungood habits; self-actualization.
SEVEN (in addition to 16) relates personal victory, triumph over personal struggles, take a chance, exchange philosophies; explore the other side of the hill.
EIGHT (and 17) calls for reconsideration and restraint; move forward by looking backward; reorganize, re-prioritize; budget; quality, not quantity.
NINE (and 18) says think beyond the box; relax, recoup, and restore; out with the old; solitude, solo action; endings, final chapter.
ZERO (card 0; the Fool-The Dreamer) inspires novelty, innovation; in with the new; open-mindedness.
Time now to look at all three cards from an internal perspective, and trust your intuitive reactions to the cards. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit, from within. In this exercise, the topic of the three chosen cards is "What do I most need to consider in my life right now?" Common in many card readings is past, present, future. Same here, but create your statement-answer in a short and precise affirmation in 1st person present tense.
Consider the Card One position to suggest energies/vibes/power you have in reserve, on the back burner. Ponder the number description for that card and finish the statement: "I _______ and have ___________." For example, if you selected tarot card number 11 (Justice), yours could read "I am patient and have help from others."
To acknowledge your current situation, do the same with your chosen Card Two and its associated keyword, and finish the affirmation, "My potential is unlimited. I _________." Here, for example, a chosen tarot card 13 (Death-Release) affirmation is "My potential is unlimited. I plan, and follow the rules." Lastly, for chosen Card Three, complete: "_________ brings me reward."
Using tarot card 0 (The Fool-Dreamer) for example, your affirmation-answer may read "Being open to change brings me reward."
In respect to our sample question and selected cards, take a step back and look at the trio of cards as a whole. Meditate on your affirmation-answers. Sense the overall vibe from their images and numbers, and record your feelings. From the gut comes the strut. Extrapolate, riff on, and get comfy with what the numbers, colors, and symbols invoke within you. "It's not what you look at that matters," wrote Thoreau, "it's what you see."
Dennis Fairchild is a best-selling author of more than a dozen books and prediction calendars.