A Brief Introduction to Tarot Cards
Tarot cards have been in use for many 100’s, if not thousands of years. They help predict and also gain insight for the future by using special tarot card spreads with meanings assigned to each of the tarot cards. In fact the Tarot card deck formed the basis of the playing cards we use today to play games such as poker and bridge.
Every complete tarot card deck is made up of two arcana: the major arcana and the minor arcana, with tarot card meanings for every card. There may be some tarot decks that only have 22 tarot cards which is the major arcana. This is because when you start out it can be really daunting to try and learn the meanings of all 78 cards. Some tarot card readers never go beyond using the major arcana. There is no right or wrong way, you should do whatever feels right. When you’re comfortable with the major arcana feel free to start using the minor arcane too.
The Two Arcanas
The twenty two cards that make up the major arcane are based around classic archetypes. An archetype is a representation of something typical, such as The Priestess, or The Fool. It’s not too difficult to draw on your own knowledge and your experiences to determine the meanings behind the cards.
The major arcana can be considered as representing the major events and potential turning points in our lives. Their meanings typically represent events that are outside of our control but have some effect. The meanings are not always literal, in fact they are rarely literal and part of the skill in reading the cards is being able to interpret the meanings of the cards. Take for instance The Death card; it does not really mean that you are going to die! It’s a card that represents change, either an ending or beginning.
The fifty six cards in the minor arcane are made up of four suits typically Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles. Different decks may have different suits such as Coins for Pentacles) and staves for Wands. It was the minor arcane, with a few changes that was used to create the playing cards we use today so they may feel pretty familiar. There is one notable exception to the playing cards, the tarot deck has an extra picture card for each suit. The actual card will vary from deck to deck, but all suits will have four picture cards instead of three.
The minor arcana represents the more mundane events and issues in our lives. These are the events which are within our control or our sphere of influence. Once you start using the full tarot deck for readings you will be able to highlight major events with the major arcana and see how they will affect us with the minor arcana. This will help give guidance on the best course or courses of action.
The Suits Of The Minor Arcana
Every suit in the minor arcana is representative of one of the elements, earth, air, fire and water and the meanings reflect these elements. Given the symbology of the tarot and the different tarot decks, these associations are not set in stone and can differ for different tarot decks. Most decks do come with a small booklet describing the symbology and meanings for the cards.
Generally the earth element is associated with the suit of Pentacles. This can be considered as being solid and steady like a rock. Earth also has a link with money, so it reflects on matters of material possessions and financial health. The suit of swords is associated with the element of air and can signify changes and distances. Air also represents authority and ambition and even opposition. For fire we have the suit of wands. Wands represents growth, creativity and enterprise. The final suit is cups and their association with water. Water represents a free flowing element so cups reflects intuition and creativity,as well as fertility and emotion.
Using Tarot Card Spreads
The taro cards are not supposed to be read individually as any tarot card meaning will be affected by its position in the spread as well as the tarot cards surrounding it. You can think of it like the words in a sentence. Every word in a sentence has individual meaning but both where it appears in the sentence and the words around affect its meaning.
There is a variety of tarot card spreads and each is used for a different reason. Over time you’ll find that you develop a preference for two or three spreads. Some of the common tarot spreads you’ll run across are the celtic cross, the horoscope spread and the pyramid spread.