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The Meaning of the Tarot by: David Wells


Tarot is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of fortune telling, as well as a profound route to self-knowledge. There are as many myths surrounding the Tarot as there are decks themselves. You will hear various ideas, from the cards being a device to bury esoteric teaching right through to just a game played by aristocrats. For our purposes they are a window into your subconscious.


The Tarot Deck

The deck itself is made up of 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana ones. The Major Arcana give you bigger messages; they suggest long-term changes and areas you really have to concentrate on. The 56 Minor Arcana suggest day-to-day, more earthly challenges you may have to deal with. The Minor Arcana are split into four suits, just like playing cards. Each suit has 14 cards in it – ace to ten and four court cards, namely the Knight (or King), the Queen, Prince (Knight in some decks) and Princess (or Page). They are then split into the suits of Wands, which represent Fire, Swords, which represent Air, Cups, which represent Water, and Disks, which represent Earth.


If you are buying a Tarot deck, be guided by your intuition. The cards work through images, and images are the language of your intuition and psychic mind. It’s through the plethora of symbols that you will discover more about your own path and how to access the ancient wisdom the Tarot contains. The 78 cards can make you smile as time and time again the same things are suggested to you, as I have found out! I cannot stress enough how important the images are when using the Tarot – and it’s your own interpretation of them that counts. One of the best bits of advice I ever got with the Tarot was to read the books on it then give them away. If you constantly refer to them, you have missed the point!


When I was given my first deck it was suggested that I take the cards with me into a meditation and ask for them to be linked to my subconscious. You too can do this by simply holding your cards during a meditation and asking for that link. Make it short, but do it the way you want to do it. And don’t forget your intention. In this case it’s to form a relationship with your cards.


Before we meet the characters and influences involved with the cards it may be a good thing to know how to handle them. I am a little superstitious with my cards and like to keep them wrapped in a piece of black silk and in a lovely box. I’m not sure if it is superstition or a show of respect for their wisdom; either way, it makes it special when I unwrap them and in a way it sends a signal to my own subconscious to really wake up, it has work to do! I also drop some essential oil onto the silk now and again to keep the cards clean and smelling lovely. I love to use geranium oil for this as it smells sweet and has an air of calm about it. You might want to come up with your own ritual. Ritual is good – it switches you on and somehow connects you to the cards in a way that you won’t have if you simply pick them up and start working.


Choosing the Cards

There are various ways of laying the cards out according to the question you want an answer to, but first it’s a good thing to shuffle the deck! Hold the cards, cut them, shuffle them. Handling them is the key, it puts your energy around the cards, and as you shuffle think about your question once to reinforce it and then let your intuition take over. There is nothing wrong with someone else choosing your cards for you, by the way. There are times when that just feels appropriate or perhaps distance makes it the only practical way.


When the cards are good and mixed up, put them back into a neat pile and hold them sticking out from your belly button. This puts them firmly in your aura. It always makes me feel really connected to the cards. Now run the fingers of your left hand (that’s your intuitive side, whether you are right- or left-handed) up and down the cards and take one out when you feel guided.

Take as many cards as you need for your chosen layout, keeping them in order. Remember to lay them out in the order that you chose them. Mixing up the order won’t give you an accurate reading. Now put them face down the way you want to read them – card one in position one, card two in position two, and so on.


Reading the Cards

Some people prefer to turn over one card at a time. Personally, I like to see the whole lot, as simple things like the dominant colour in the lay can bring something to me or perhaps there are lots of nines or court cards – something that could be significant to the whole scheme of things. You decide how you prefer to turn the cards – it’s your Tarot.


Upside-down cards often have a negative interpretation thrust on them. I don’t bother which way up the cards are. There’s positive and negative in every card and it’s up to you which interpretation you are drawn to. Just go with it. Read each card in relation to its position in your chosen lay, but remember to relate it to the card ahead and the one behind as well. This is a flow of information, not an isolated message, and at the end of the lay you should have been taken on a journey by your psychic self, a journey through your subconscious.


The Major Arcana

As we go through the cards, take your deck out and have a look at each card. Don’t hurry this process. Make some notes about how each card makes you feel and what the colour or symbols mean to you

The Fool - A search for change, a leap of faith

The Magus (The Magician) - To become aware of all you are capable of

The High Priestess – Intuition, listen to your inner self

The Empress – Devotion and motherhood, female forces

The Emperor – Rulership, control and leadership

The Hierophant – The search for hidden truth, a spiritual guide

The Lovers – Union, marriage, opposites attracting

The Chariot – Daring, adventure, taking up the reins

Adjustment (Sometimes called Justice) – Harmony through seeing reality

The Hermit – To seek truth and knowledge through silence

Fortune (Sometimes called the Wheel of Fortune) – Accept the cycles of life

Lust (Sometimes called Strength) – Charisma, creativity, energy

The Hanged Man – Sacrifice, accepting fate, devotion to a cause

Death – To transform, like a caterpillar into a butterfly

Art (Sometimes called Temperance) – To seek the final ingredient that makes the whole thing work

The Devil – To encounter your shadow side, to confront your self

The Tower – The destruction of old structures that no longer serve you

The Star – Living and listening in the moment

The Moon – The subconscious, the journey to encounter and face your fears

The Sun – A move into the light

The Aeon (Sometimes called Judgement) – Renewal, awakening, birth

The Universe – Completion, to become whole


The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana are the cards that deal with many of our day-to-day concerns and highlight details we might otherwise miss. These can also be timing cards – the numbers can represent days, weeks or months until an event. If you want to know when something is going to happen, remember to mention that in your question. Both the positive and the negative sides of the cards are given here, but even the negative is a good thing, as it can show what needs to go.



Wands symbolize energy. They come from the element of Fire. Are you going to be a slow burner or will you have an initial rush and fizzle out before the game is over? We’ll see! Action and creativity are this suit’s blessings.

Ace: Energy, passion, creativity and courage. Arrogance and destruction.

Two: Assertiveness, ruling the roost, action. Devastation.

Three: A new beginning, having confidence in your actions. Seeking attention.

Four: Completion, order and timing. Over-extending yourself.

Five: Proving your abilities through adversity. Reckless actions.

Six: Joy, victory, triumph, celebration. Egotism and presumptuousness.

Seven: Courage, a fighting spirit, having a backbone. Being indecisive, hesitant.

Eight: Communication, knowledge, flexibility. Haste, superficiality.

Nine: Spiritual truth and understanding, being on course. Being off course.

Ten: Righteousness, justice and growth. Authority-figure issues.

The court cards can mean a person or demeanour:

Princess: The joy of life, passion and sexual attraction. Arrogance and egotism.

Prince: Adventure, creativity and moving forward. Unrest and impatience.

Queen: Transformation, maturity and independence. Jealousy.

Knight: The broadening of horizons, humanitarianism. Restriction, the prevention of growth.



Cups represent the element of Water, the emotions. Are you a still pond with all sorts of things going on underneath or are you a raging sea making yourself heard? This is the suit associated with all forms of love.

Ace: New love, longing for affection, harmony. Vagueness and panic.

Two: Perfect union, the highest form of love, happiness. Conflict and separation.

Three: Conception, inner growth, fulfilment in love. Lust, sexual promiscuity.

Four: Caring, nurturing, motherhood love. Emotional possessiveness.

Five: Disappointment and pain, separation and bitterness. Great change.

Six: Pleasure, a sexual encounter, charisma. Detachment from reality.

Seven: Intoxication, escapism through indulgence. Addiction and lies.

Eight: Resignation to your fate, seclusion. Depression, self-pity.

Nine: Happiness, the chance to make a wish, redemption. Vanity and arrogance.

Ten: Completion and fulfilment, optimism. A feeling of emptiness.

The court cards can mean a person or demeanour:

Princess: Exploring your inner emotions, intuition. Love as a weapon.

Prince: Devotion, love, sympathy, warmth. Naïvety, selfishness.

Queen: Inner wisdom, seeing beyond the veil. Vagueness and irrational fears.

Knight: A healer, an emotional man, intuition. Instability, helping others but not yourself.



Here we have the element of Air, the rush of wind that brings communication and clear direction. Are you the sort who just wafts along or will you be travelling like a force-ten gale? Thoughts and the mind are this suit’s domain.

Ace: A new idea, objectivity, solutions not problems. Being weak-willed and restless.

Two: The need for balance, diplomacy and ears, not mouths. Unresolved issues.

Three: Sorrow, grief and tears from feeling helpless. Purpose, wholeness.

Four: Keeping still, a truce, justice and tolerance. An illness to force rest.

Five: Seeing your limits, venting anger appropriately. Harm, a turn for the worse.

Six: A search for the truth (it’s the search that’s important). Mistrust, scepticism.

Seven: Shrewdness. Intrigue and craftiness, misguided trust.

Eight: Interference, nervousness and gossip. A sharp tongue.

Nine: Cruelty. This is my second card that says, ‘Stop reading.’ Overcoming fear.

Ten: Ruin, departure, the final word. A necessary abandonment which will be for the good.

The court cards can mean a person or demeanour:

Princess: Hastiness, dispassion, objectivity. Aggressiveness and rebelliousness.

Prince: Erratic change, overcoming obstacles through will. Clumsiness and curtness.

Queen: Self-determination, freedom and independence. Being too cool and distant.

Knight: Astuteness, keenness and intelligence. Too much thought and not enough emotion.



Here we have Earth as the element. This is related to the slow, dependable and reliable march of the seasons – sow, reap, sow, reap. Are you ready to grow or have things got to the point where cutting back is the only option? Disks also represent money and health.

Ace: Great happiness and contentment, a great idea. Financial arrogance.

Two: Change within two weeks or two months. Instability and flexibility.

Three: Hard work brings results slowly but surely. Lack of direction.

Four: Security and power, a fortress. Stubbornness and stagnation.

Five: Worry, crisis, upheaval and forced change. Failure, a test!

Six: Success and abundance, overcoming obstacles, prosperity. Life out of balance.

Seven: Failure and disintegration, emptiness. Confrontation and blockages.

Eight: Taking a step back and getting perspective, self-discipline. Lack of order.

Nine: Joy and gain, especially financial. Good money sense. Empty pockets!

Ten: Wealth and power given after hard work. Greed and dictatorship.

The court cards can mean a person or demeanour:

Princess: Security, love and warmth. Over-sentimentaliity.

Prince: Physical exercise and wellbeing. Stubbornness and lack of movement.

Queen: Opulence, a stable family, fertility. Looking in the wrong direction.

Knight: Striving for security, a healer, endurance. Overcautiousness, jealousy.


Laying Out the Tarot Cards

There are many different ways to lay out the cards. You will no doubt find them all in time, but to begin with it’s best to concentrate on two basic systems. One is the three-card lay and the other is the classic Celtic Cross. Remember, you can ask any question you want; just be clear about your intention and aware that the Tarot will suggest an outcome rather than give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

The only thing you can do with the Tarot is practice, practice, practice. Look at at least one card a day. Take it in the morning with your multi-vitamin! Ask for a card to help you with that day’s events, see where it goes and learn as you live your life – how marvelous.


 -Excerpted from David Wells' Complete Guide To Developing Psychic SkillsCopyright © 2009 (Hay House).

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