What are Tarot Cards and How to Read the Future
|Rider-Waite tarot deck and Vilma Bánky with cards Photo: Getty Images|
What are Tarot Cards?
Tarot doesn't tell you what will happen—it tells what might happen, and more importantly, how you should show up to it.
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards, each with its own imagery, symbolism and story. The 22 Major Arcana cards represent life's karmic and spiritual lessons, and the 56 Minor Arcana cards reflect the trials and tribulations that we experience on a daily basis.
Within the Minor Arcana cards, there are 16 Tarot Court Cards representing 16 different personality characteristics we may choose to express at any given time. The Minor Arcana also includes 40 numbered cards organised into 4 Suits, with 10 cards each, representing various situations that we encounter day-to-day.
What Can Tarot Cards Do?
Some may say that Tarot cards are simply ink on paper. However, what I have discovered from reading the Tarot cards daily for over twenty years is this:
Tarot is the storybook of our life, the mirror to our soul, and the key to our inner wisdom.
Every spiritual lesson we meet in our lives can be found in the seventy-eight Tarot cards. And when we consult the Tarot, we’ll get shown the exact lessons we need to learn and master to live an inspired life. It’s like holding up a mirror to yourself so that you can access your subconscious mind. Tarot allows us to tap into the wisdom and answers that live in us all.
How Can I Use Tarot Cards?
Tarot is perfect for self-development, making choices, manifesting goals, coaching others, planning a business, writing a book, meditating—you name it.
How Exactly Do Tarot Cards Work?
While many people believe that Tarot will tell you the future, making predictions are not really what Tarot cards are about.
When it comes to Tarot, fortune-telling is out, and intuition is in, especially if you want to create your ideal future and manifest your goals.
The most powerful way to read the Tarot is to use the cards to access your intuition and your inner wisdom. The imagery in the cards give you instant access to your subconscious mind and your intuition. And from this place of inner power and wisdom, you can discover how to make positive changes now so you can manifest your goals and your dreams in the future.
|The Sun, the House of God (the Tower), the Nine of Swords, the Magician and the Devil, French Tarot cards. France, 17th century Photo: Getty Images|
How Do Tarot Cards Work When Reading For Others?
By now, you know that the Tarot is a powerful tool for self-discovery and manifestation. But, that doesn’t quite explain what happens when you’re reading for someone else and pick up that they’re dating someone twenty years their junior and have told no one about it (true story!). What’s happening there?
Selecting a Deck
Tarot relies on symbols pulled from a wide range of human consciousness. There are many decks available, each with its own unique set of symbols and systems. You’ll have to create stories using the symbols of the deck in your reading, so choosing a deck whose artwork resonates with you is important. The most common deck and a great way to start is the Rider-Waite deck. There is however a myriad of options to choose from, but we’ve created a minimalist deck that makes reading somewhat simpler, according to Goldenthreadtarot.
Shuffle and Reset Your Cards
The World, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Sun are all Major Arcana cards - Photo: Petchjira/Getty Images
While you shuffle, think carefully about the area of your life in which you’d like more clarity. Shuffling and handling the cards is a great way to physically connect with the deck that you’re using. As intuition is an important aspect of reading, you’ll need to bring yourself into the cards. Try to shuffle at least once, but however many times you feel is necessary to get the cards “cleared”. You can also cut the deck into 3’s and reorder them. When you feel ready, keep the cards face down.
Try a 3 Card Tarot Spread
Tarot spreads give you a structure in which you can explore your questions. Each position in the spread reflects an aspect of your question to consider. You don’t have to use them for every reading, but it’s a nice way to get started while you learn about the cards. One of the simplest readings you can use to familiarize yourself with the cards is the past, present, future spread. Take the top card from your shuffled deck, and reveal them one by one, left to right.
Get a First Impression of your Reading
Before delving into the individual card meanings, scan your cards and absorb what your reactions to the images are. Start to consider things like emotions, feelings, objects and symbols, and color - if there are any. What is your immediate reaction to these things? Be aware of this as you continue through the spread, Goldenthreadtarot added.
End the Reading
Rituals are an important way we process events, and even if you’re skeptical, the act of following a ritual and treating your cards with respect and significance can be change how we perceive the world (and transform it). After you allow your reading to process, be grateful, clear your cards, and make sure to store them in a safe and secure location.
Why are some cards in suits, while others aren't?
If you've taken a good look at your cards, you will have noted that some have distinct names and are numbered zero to 21 (or one to 22, depending on the deck), while others appear numbered in the same way that you might see in a traditional card deck, complete with aces, kings, and queens. The cards without suits make up the major arcana. Those that are labeled as belonging to swords, wands, cups, and pentacles comprise the minor arcana. A standard deck has 78 cards: 22 in the major arcana and 56 in the minor.
What's the difference between the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana cards?
Let's talk about the structure of the deck and the meanings of its cards. Any magical practice — tarot, astrology, or spell work — is based on the Hermetic axiom "as above, so below." In other words, the macrocosm of the cosmos is reflected in the microcosm of individual experience. Accordingly, the entire universe exists within a tarot deck, with each card representing a person, place, or event. These symbols are depicted in both the Major Arcana cards, which speak to greater secrets, and the Minor Arcana cards, which speak to lesser secrets, Allure.com reported.
|The Swords card is among the Minor Arcana cards. Photo: Getty Images|
The Major Arcana cards represent monumental, groundbreaking influences. They punctuate our journeys and each stands alone as a powerful message, representing life-changing motions that define the beginnings or ends of cycles. These dynamic cards appear during major transitions, signaling distinctive moments of transformation. The cards are numbered to represent stations within our greater journey through life; their chronological order reveals the passing of time.
The Minor Arcana cards, on the other hand, reflect everyday matters. These cards showcase ordinary people engaging in mundane activities, such as dancing, drinking, sleeping, or quarreling. They suggest action that is triggered by human behaviors and appear during gentle transitions that may be temporary or have only minor influence.
|Neoclassical, hand-painted tarot cards: Le Stelle, Il Sole, and Il Bagattelliere etchings (Italy, 19th century). Photo: Getty Images|
The Minor Arcana cards are broken up into four suits, each containing ten numbered cards and four court cards. In the Minor Arcana, the card's number reveals the stage of an event: The ace card represents the beginning, while the 10 symbolizes the end. Similarly, the progression of the court cards demonstrates our understanding of circumstances on an individual level, representing either personality types or actual people. The Page (or Princess, in some decks), Knight, Queen, and King interpret circumstances with increasing levels of understanding and wisdom.
The suits (Wands, Pentacles, Swords, and Cups) correspond to their own unique areas of life and astrological elements. Wands symbolize passion and inspiration (corresponding with the fire element), Pentacles represent money and physical realities (corresponding with the earth element), Swords depict intellectual intrigues (corresponding with the air element), and Cups illustrate emotional matters (corresponding with the water element). These suits reveal which spheres of influence are being activated, offering guidance on how to best manage any circumstances at hand.
Where does Tarot come from?
Tarot is a relatively modern craft. Though tarot decks date back to the 1400s, pictorial cards were originally used for games rather than prediction. Cartomancy, or fortune-telling through the use of playing cards, actually wasn't developed until 1785, when French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette — known by his pseudonym, Etteilla, the inversion of his surname — created comprehensive links between illustrated cards, astrology, and ancient Egyptian lore.
Over the next century, mystics and philosophers continued to expand the role of tarot. In the late 1890s, several London-based occultists formed the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, one of the groups responsible for the modern magical revival. Two of the group's founders, husband and wife MacGregor and Moina Maters, wrote a manual that detailed tarot's symbolic power, entitled Book T.
In 1909, Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith designed and published a tarot deck loosely based on the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This timeless deck is commonly known as the Rider-Waite deck and is still the most popular tarot variant for both beginner and professional card readers. In 1943, occultist Aleister Crowley (the self-declared nemesis of Arthur Edward Waite) and Lady Frieda Harris published their own interpretation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn's tarot. Their Thoth deck, named after the Egyptian god of alphabets, incorporates specific astrological symbolism into each card, linking the divination practice to the cosmos.