Understanding tarot card deck completely is the first step in learning the art of reading tarot cards. These cards have been used for centuries as one of the best indicators of what lies in the future.

Understanding the Tarot Card Deck

By Lisa Lamont

understanding tarot deck image

One of the first steps toward understanding the Tarot lies in appreciating the meaning of its two Arcana – the Major and the Minor. But even before that, the novice does well by committing to memory the meaning of “Arcana” – defined as “mysterious knowledge, language, or information accessible only by the initiate.”

By its very definition, the word “Arcana” exudes secrecy and a certain esoteric eeriness – making it the perfect word for the two branches of the Tarot so important to believers, including new “initiates.” To learn about Tarot is one thing; to truly learn the meaning of the Tarot’s Arcana is quite another.

Because the Arcana are secret, and because their deeper meanings are closed to many, learning them takes time, determination, and perhaps even a gift. This gift belongs to those with a desire to learn the mysteries and knowledge of the Ancients, the special few, the Chosen. The Arcana, though seemingly somewhat simplistic at first glance, are in actuality the great secret to reading Tarot.

The first of the Arcana, termed the “Major Arcana,” symbolically relate to our physical, as well as intellectual, emotional, and spiritual states of being. These 22 powerful cards illuminate our strengths, weaknesses, fears, wishes, and the light and dark portions of our souls. The Major Arcana in a commonly used Tarot deck include the fool, the magician, the high priestess, the empress, the emperor, the hierophant (wise man or teacher), the lovers, the chariot, strength, the hermit, the wheel of fortune, justice, the hanged man, death, temperance, the devil, the tower, the star, the sun, the moon, judgment, and the world.

A number of the Major Arcana cards serve as archetypal representatives of real people in our lives, either as a whole or in symbolic parts. Some archetypes, for instance, would be authority figures, mysterious or mystical people, or parental, sibling, or other familial figures.

The Major Arcana cards each represent, through their images, positive and negative forces. The interpretation of the meanings of the cards, however, relies on many factors. Some of these factors include how the cards are laid, which cards surround others, the information sought, the reader, and the person for whom the reading is being performed. So even though each individual Major Arcana symbol or card holds its own unique meanings, it must be taken as only one part of a whole with the above critical dynamics taken into account.

When dealing with the Major Arcana, one deals with some of the ancient, mystical, and hidden secrets of the universe – and should do so with the caution attributed to the wisest among us. But be cautious, not afraid! Some may say, “Curiosity killed the cat!” But we also know: “Satisfaction brought it back!” And even though cats do purportedly have nine lives, you’ll have to consult the Major Arcana to even hazard a guess as to which life the cat in question is now living – once you’ve learned the Major Arcana secrets, that is!

Getting the most from a Tarot card reading relies on the reader’s ability to perceive not only the symbolic meaning from the spread, but also the mystical significance. Although every card of both the Major and the Minor Arcana possesses its own individual symbolism within the representative images on the cards, it is the deeper, spiritual enlightenment of the cards that leads to a greater understanding. Attaining this type of perception is the key to making Tarot a truly valid part of life.

The 76 cards of a Tarot deck each have a specific, external meaning. These are specified by the positive and negative characteristics governing the chief aspects of our lives (Major Arcana), as well as the day-to-day import reflected in the suits and by each card within the suits (Minor Arcana).

The representative images, however, go much deeper than what they portray at first glance. These images address the part of the psyche beyond our ability to control. They touch our inner selves, our subconscious, that part of ourselves that encompasses our innermost core. And this core provides the basis for all the influences that affect our character, that send both positive and negative energy, that govern the directional path in which our lives proceed – or stall.

With the Seven of Cups, for example, the surface meaning implies material wealth. However, when the theme of the card, which includes delusional thoughts of acquiring wealth, becomes known to the reader, the Seven of Cups represents something else altogether. If the asker wants to know, for instance, when he or she will when the lottery, this card – by itself – shows the futility of such a pursuit. However, depending upon the position of the card in the spread, other cards surrounding that Seven of Cups, the events that have previously occurred in the questioner’s life, and the very deepest driving forces within that person, the card could very well imply tremendous riches on the horizon.

understanding tarot card imageThe mystical and symbolic meanings of Tarot cards become intertwined as the practitioner of this “secret and closed” art becomes more adept at his or her readings. With experience and the earnest searching for the deeper meanings found in the spread of a Tarot deck, the reader eventually comes to understand how and why this art has persevered over the centuries as an indicator of the human condition – past, present, and with skill and patience, the future.

Our psyches reach out to instruct, warn, comfort, and console us in many ways. Throughout the history of mankind, people have striven to understand their deeper selves, and Tarot remains, after hundreds of years, as one more tool to do so. So whether one is just beginning the journey toward understanding or has been a voyager on the path for many years, the Tarot persists because it calls to searchers of enlightenment. Tarot beckons like a siren’s song to teach the secret things of the universe. Will you be one who answers that call?

(c) All About Tarot

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