Understanding the Tarot Cards
Article by Craig Hamilton-Parker. There are 78 Tarot Cards divided into two main groups: 22 Major Arcana numbered 0 to 21 and 56 Minor Arcana divided into 4 suits. (Arcana means secret) The Major Arcana take dominance over the Minor Arcana in a reading. Some novices prefer to begin using only the Major Arcana cards, get to know these, and then introduce the rest of the pack later. But for now let’s start by learning about the meaning of tarot cards and spreads.
The Tarot Cards can be shuffled so that they are upright or reversed and the Tarot Cards meaning then changes. My feeling is that the Tarot Cards contain an equal balance of positive and negative imagery anyway and that reversing Tarot Cards adds little to the overall reading. I rarely use reversed cards and for a beginner it over complicates the meanings.
THE MAJOR ARCANA
Here are the traditional Tarot Major Arcana Card Meanings:
- 0. THE FOOL: Youthful folly, innocence, blinded by ignorance, listen to warnings, the novice.
- 1. THE MAGICIAN- Self-control, skill, action, taking charge.
- 2. THE HIGH PRIESTESS- Intuition, wisdom, mysteries, secrets, tenacity.
- 3. THE EMPRESS: Fertility, abundance, mother, health, kindliness.
- 4. THE EMPEROR: Willpower, ambition, stability, father, benefactor.
- 5. THE HIEROPHANT: Marriage, good advice, religion, the higher self, mercy.
- 6. THE LOVERS: Love, sexual union, beauty, emotional success, trials overcome.
- 7. THE CHARIOT: The driving force, triumph, war, vengeance, providence.
- 8. STRENGTH: Fortitude, courage, energy, success, self-discipline.
- 9. THE HERMIT: Prudence, a lonely spiritual quest, treason, caution, inertia.
- 10. WHEEL OF FORTUNE: The hand of fate, a turn for the better, luck, destiny, abundance.
- 11. JUSTICE: The law, truth, balance, control, a contract.
- 12. THE HANGED MAN: Wisdom in difficulties, self-sacrifice, intuition, initiation, prophesy.
- 13. DEATH: Transformation, events beyond your control, ending corruption, a new but difficult start, inevitable major changes. (the tarot will not predict an actual death)
- 14. TEMPERANCE: Management, economy, spirit transcending matter, moderation, wise counsel
- 15 THE DEVIL: Anger, violence, jealousy, greed, deceit, instinct, sexual passion.
- 16. THE TOWER: Catastrophe, repossession, ruin, adversity, calamity.
- 17. THE STAR: Hope, goals, expectations, guiding force,enlightenment, bright prospects.
- 18. THE MOON: Dark forces, nightmares, illusion, hidden fears, danger overcome through intuition.
- 19. THE SUN: Happiness, joy, rebirth, freedom, happy marriage, success.
- 20. THE LAST JUDGEMENT: A major decision, outcome, final result, rebirth, problems overcome.
- 21. THE WORLD: Successful completion, assured success, recognition, long distance travel, harmony.
THE MINOR ARCANA
The minor arcana is divided into four suits:
- WANDS: This suit covers intellectual activities and career.
- CUPS: Represents emotions, love, pleasure and sensitivity.
- SWORDS: Involves struggles, difficulties and illness.
- COINS: Deal with material world, finances and property.
There are four court Tarot Cards to each suit: King, Queen, Knight, and Page. These can represent people in the querant life or aspects of personality. Pages & Knights can represent children or young people of either sex. The aces indicate the beginning of a new activity and the Tarot Cards from two to ten represent aspects of the querants life, past, present and future.
Here’s the basic meaning of the tarot cards for the minor cards:
- ACE: A new job or enterprise, initiative, ideas, invention.
- 2- dissatisfaction with material things, restlessness, thinking about events happening elsewhere.
- 3.- Overseas trade, planned travel, commerce, established strength.
- 4.- Celebration, country life, socialising, prosperity, peace and concord.
- 5.- Petty arguments between groups of people. A sham fight. Squabbles.
- 6.- Victory achieved. Good news. The support of others. Recognition.
- 7.- Valour. Winning against the odds. Overcoming opposition. Getting on top of your troubles.
- 8.- Communication. A message or letter. Swiftness. A speedy conclusion.
- 9.- An uncomfortable wait. Gathering strength. Problems still to be dealt with.
- 10.- Oppression. A burden that’s hard to carry. Overwork. Emotional pressure. Unpleasant news.
- KING- A cleaver, honest, man who gives good advice.
- QUEEN- An astute woman with a good business sense.
- KNIGHT- Change of residence. An enterprising young person.
- PAGE- Good news announced. Faithful young person or child.
- ACE- The beginnings of emotional happiness. A new love or re-kindling of marriage. Joy, contentment, fertility.
- 2.- Emotional and spiritual love. Love blessed by heaven.
- 3.- Celebration, merriment, good friends.
- 4.- Discontentment or depression may cause the loss of a golden opportunity. Weariness.
- 5.- Crying over spilt milk. Opportunity is at hand and there’s new bridges to cross.
- 6.- Childhood memories or friends bring happiness. Happy childhood.
- 7.- Fantasy and illusion distract the seeker.
- 8.- Putting the past behind you. A brave but difficult decision.
- 9.- Satisfaction guaranteed- but beware of complacency.
- 10.- Ecstatic personal and family happiness.
- KING- Sensitive and creative fatherly man.
- QUEEN.-Sensitive, visionary woman. Can sometimes get depressed.
- KNIGHT-.The grail knight. Romantic, artistic, imaginative. A message of love.
- PAGE.- A sensitive youngster. A bright idea. News. .
- ACE- Triumph of the will. The start of a forceful attitude.
- 2.-A decision that requires an unprejudiced attitude .Intuitive understanding. Amnesty.
- 3.- Heartache. Rupture. Division. Delay.
- 4.- Rest, retreat and solitude. A time of recovery.
- 5.- Dishonour and loss. Betrayal by friend.
- 6.- Travel or holiday. Escaping difficulties.
- 7.- Theft, deceit, trickery. Beware of impostor.
- 8.- Frustration, imprisonment. Criticism and sickness.
- 9.- Worry, despair and neurosis. Bad dreams and pressing problems.
- 10- Failure, tears,sadness or illness. But the worst is over and a new dawn comes.
- KING- Critical man in authority.His decision is final.
- QUEEN- Sorrowful woman in authority. She understands pain and sadness.
- KNIGHT- A ruthless person. Acts quickly and will try to twist the law to their advantage.
- PAGE- An untrustworthy younger person. A spy who will stab you in the back.
- ACE- A golden opportunity. Abundance and improved financial prospects.
- 2.- Emotional ups and downs. Juggling the finances.
- 3.- Skills appreciated. Esteem, honour and reward.
- 4.- Saving money. Caution with money. Covetousness. Wealth invested wisely.
- 5.- Poverty and hardship. Material troubles. Entangled relationship. Spiritual poverty.
- 6.- Gifts, presents, help at hand and generosity. Don’t let money pass through your fingers.
- 7.- Impatience. Things will come in the fullness of time. Anxiety about money.
- 8.- Success achieved by hard work. Skills in craft and business. Job improvements.
- 9.- A legacy, unearned money, material contentment, rewards. pleasure.
- 10.- Stable home, riches, family life, success achieved.
- KING- Wealthy intelligent man. Valour, stability.
- QUEEN- Serious, intelligent, motherly woman. Opulence, security, generosity.
- KNIGHT- Dependable, responsible man. A bank manager or investor. Hard work, perseverance.
- PAGE- An ambitious young person. Success in study and career. Management skills, materialist.
TAROT CARD SPREADS
The list on the earlier pages are only a guide. Some Tarot Card packs may emphasise different symbols, to the Waite Tarot pack. Other writers may have different opinions to mine. In the end, it’s up to you to establish your own meanings for the cards. They are a flexible symbolic focus for your intuition.
Lastly, it is almost impossible to read the tarot for yourself: Wishful thinking and inner fears get in the way. Again, like all psychic gifts, it is given to you to share with others.
HOW TO READ THE TAROT SPREAD
The illustration shows the most commonly used spread called ‘The Celtic Cross’. Each position of the cards represents an aspect of the querant’s life. If there’s a particular question to be asked select a card that most represents the problem and lay it in the significator position under card 1. A person is represented by one of the court cards. If it’s a general reading I tend to omit the significator card.
Ask your sitter to shuffle the cards and concentrate on the problem they want guidance for. Lay the cards out face upwards as shown in the illustration.
The meanings of the positions are interpreted as follows:
- Card 1. “This covers him” This card represents the influences on the inquirer or the theme of the problem.
- Card 2. “This crosses him” These are the obstacle in the way. A positive card will show that there is little opposition- but even the favourable cards have some minor negative symbolism.
- Card 3. “This crowns him” This represents the conscious plans and intentions.
- Card 4. “This is beneath him” The card here indicates the persons inner feelings, subconscious desires and state of mind.
- Card 5. “This is behind him” Influences that are passing away are shown by this card. Interestingly sometimes this card represents the nature of the persons life history.
- Card 6. “This is before him” This represents the immediate future events.
- Card 7.”This is himself” This signifies the inquirer’s attitude.
- Card 8. “This is his environment” This signifies other peoples attitude to the inquirer and home and work influences.
- Card 9. “These are his hopes and fears” This card is influenced by card three to the left. It shows how his hopes and fears influence his intended goals.
- Card 10. “This is the outcome” Or rather the potential outcome if the trends indicated by the cards are adhered to.
References and Works Cited:
Craig’s books about the Tarot Card Spreads:
Useful On-Site Resources:
- TAROT CARD READINGS BY PHONE Why not try a tarot reading with one of our professional phone readers. As you enjoy your reading you can also ask for instruction and guidance about the meanings of the tarot cards and get to know how tarot card readings by phone work.
- LEARN TO READ THE CARDS ON LINE – We offer on line courses for novice students
- The American Tarot Association – promote the study and appreciation of Tarot by supporting a variety of educational programs.
- Tarot Therapy – Weekly Spiritual Development Group