Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2010 TrueGhostTales.com
There are many myths about how Tarot Cards came to be and where they originated from. The most recorded history comes from Italy in the early fifteenth century, although the origin of the word itself is French. It is thought that the Italian word "tarocco" (plural "tarocchi") was used initially, and that the terminology came about nearly a century after the cards came to be. One of the earliest Tarot decks was the Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi Deck. There are similar versions of it still around today. Tarocchi was actually a game that had little to do with fortune telling. When the major arcana cards were added, a game known as Triumphs (Trumps) was often played, which is much like the game of bridge today. It is not exactly known when this card game became synonymous with fortune telling, however the major arcana cards have always held a great deal of symbolism. It has been said that the first Tarot deck was created as an amusement for Charles VI of France. There is a Tarot deck on display at the Biblioteque Nationale de France, however the hand painted cards appear to be Italian in origin and from the fifteenth century rather than the fourteenth as previously thought. Jacquemin Gringonneur was commissioned to paint three decks of cards for Charles VI in 1392, but they were most likely regular playing cards. Tarot decks consist of 78 cards, 22 being major arcana (Latin for "big secret") and 56 minor arcana. The major arcana are the ones that have come to represent a person's travels through life and periods of time that are significant in their personal journey. They are often called the "heart" of the tarot deck itself. The minor arcana includes four suites (wands, coins, cups, and swords) with fourteen cards in each suite. These are as follows: Ace, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, and then the Court cards (Page, knight, King, and Queen). The minor arcana resembles the standard 52 card deck, with the pages being the only difference. It has been speculated that the modern playing card deck was originated from the Tarot, with the Joker being the only representative of the major arcana. The arcana does include a "Fool" card, but the Joker card originated in the United States during the middle 1800's as a wild card for poker. Aside from that, the standard card deck did originate from the Arabic regions several years before the Tarocchi game was conceived and is similar to the Islamic Mamluk cards. The Tarot in Divination One All forms of playing cards were condemned by the Church, especially in the Middle Ages. As early as the fifteenth century, they were thought to be tools of the "devil" by the Church's leaders. There was of course, the association with gambling and personal gain from playing these cards as well as the time spent being idle while playing them. However, even before the popularity of using the Tarot as a way to tell the tale of a person's journey in life, cartomancy, or the use of playing cards as a divination tool, had been done by occultists in secret due to the Church's stronghold at the time. So certainly the correlation between cards and fortune telling did not originate with the Tarot itself. Jean-Baptiste Alliette The Tarot was however, the inspiration for many Italian Renaissance writings and poems. The major arcana cards especially inspired poetry that would chronicle a person's life and fate. It is possible that these writings inspired the French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette (pseudonym "Etteilla") to design the first Tarot deck specifically used for fortune telling in the late 1700's. Much of his first work was in response the myths about the Tarot that had been written about by a clergyman named Antoine Court. Court maintained that the Tarot was inspired by the Egyptian book of knowledge. There is very little evidence to corroborate this, but it certainly created quite a stir. Etteilla then wrote his own book which was in response to this that in essence said it was merely a way to tell a story of a person's life and be entertaining. The cards he designed were with the intent of being used as a method of telling the story of someone who has touched or focused on the cards. The Rider-Waite Deck It has been in the last century that the Tarot has been marketed successfully as a tool of divination. A mystic by the name of A.E. Waite gave instruction to Pamela Colman Smith for a deck that has become one of the most popular in the United States today. The deck was published by the Rider company and became known as the Rider-Waite deck. It is very simple in its design, yet in its simplicity there is much symbolism. Church inspired cards such as the Pope and the Pappess became the Heirophant and the High Priestess. The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck (Minor Arcana) Meaning and Symbolism of the Major Arcana All of the cards are used in reading a person, but the ones that offer the most insight are the 22 Major Arcana. These are as follows (from the Rider-Waite deck):
The Fool: indicates young and inexperienced The Magician: relating to a person's talents The High Priestess: wisdom, vision, and serenity The Empress: mothering, fertility, and desire The Emperor: authority and power The Heirophant: knowledge and experience The Lovers: bonding and union The Chariot: victory over tribulation Strength: self-discipline The Hermit: introspective and reflective Wheel of Fortune: a turning point in the journey Justice: objectivity and analysis The Hanged Man: state of surrender or passivity Death: an ending or conclusion to something, or a change Temperance: harmony and balance The Devil: anger or self captivity The Tower: chaos or difficulties The Star: peace and tranquility The Moon: doubt and confusion, relating to the imagination The Sun: radiant and positive influences Judgment: acceptance of past mistakes The World: accomplishment
The minor arcana has its place as well in readings, as they are thought to represent the four elements. Wands are fire (ambition and passion), cups are water (emotions), swords are most often air (purity of mind), and coins or pentacles represent earth (things that are solid such as tasks completed). The court cards generally represent the person or others in the person's life. Keep in mind, these meanings are subjective, as the cards will mean different things for different people. These are simply some basic descriptions of the meanings and symbolism. One important note about tarot reading is when a card shows up in reverse. This indicates that the original meaning of the card is the opposite. If a card reading is done and for example, the Tower comes up in reverse, instead of meaning chaos, it would mean order. The card that probably has the most misconceptions is the Death card. The card itself, when it comes up in a reading rarely means the literal sense of death. It is more that it is an end of something or a time of great change. Methods For Reading the Cards There are different ways that the cards can be laid out for a reading. The important thing to remember if you are receiving a reading is to hold the cards and focus on your life up to that point. Focus on dreams, ambitions, and goals. When you are finished, the cards are handed back to the one doing the reading. The layouts are varied and usually dependent upon what the reader is most comfortable with. A popular one is the Celtic Cross simple ten card spread. Celtic Cross Ten Card Spread The card representing where the person is at in the present is laid down first. The second is laid over this card, indicating what is the greatest opposition. Then one card is placed on each side of the two in the middle. The one to the right represents events well into the past, with the one below representing the events that have most recently happened. The card to the left indicates the near future, with the card at the top being the most positive outcome. The remaining four cards are placed in a row, one above the other, to the right of the cross. The one at the bottom indicates what will affect your present and near future situations. The one above that represents the outside influences you will face, with the one directly above being your wishes and the things you are afraid of. The final card indicates the final end result, which of course is not set in stone. There is also the Zodiac, which is usually only done a few times a year. This is a much more complex layout, involving nearly all of the cards laid out in a Zodiac pattern. The simplest reading to do is one you can do yourself. Simply shuffle the cards as you contemplate, then lay the first three out side by side. This can be done every day if desired, to give guidance and answers for the day ahead. However you decide to do a reading, it is important to note that many of the interpretations are specific to the individual. None of it is meant to be a hard and fast rule as far as definitive answers. It can however be a guide to show someone the path their life is taking and the direction it will go. As in all things, it is up to you.
The Tarot Deck
There are many varieties of Tarot decks, and there is no standard number of cards across all decks. While the types of cards, the suits and their meanings are the same, the illustrations vary greatly. Decks are based on various themes such as nature, animals, fantasy, dragons, etc. The most common deck in the United States is the Rider-Waite deck, which was created in 1909 by A.E. Waite, a prominent member of the occult group the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and published by Rider & Company. The artist was Pamela Colman Smith. This 78-card deck was the only readily available deck in the United States for many years, which is why it is considered the "definitive" tarot deck in the United States. According to The Hermitage: A Tarot History Site, however, there is no "definitive" tarot deck.
The Tarot deck is made up of the Minor Arcana and the Major Arcana. Like regular playing cards, the Minor Arcana of the Tarot deck includes four suits. Rather than spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, however, the suits are:
•circles or pentacles
Each suit has meaning regarding a specific approach to life. The cards within these suits are numbered one through 10 and also include the court cards -- the king, queen, knight and page. The Minor Arcana cards represent the more minor, practical daily ups and downs in life.
The Major Arcana are not associated with the suits. They include the picture cards that represent principles, concepts and ideals. They are numbered one through 21, with the 22nd card (the "Fool") marked as zero. The Major Arcana cards represent strong, long-term energy or big events in some area of life.
Seeing a Major Arcana card about a particular subject in one reading and then getting a Minor Arcana card about the same subject in the next reading would mean that this subject is becoming less important in your life. To check out various explanations of specific card meanings,
How Tarot Cards Work
by Lee Ann Obringer
Types of Readings
There are actually two different types of Tarot readings: question readings and open readings.
In question readings, you are addressing a specific question. Tarot is not intended to answer specific yes or no questions. Most say it also shouldn't be used to make decisions, but instead should be used as a guide to help you make the decision yourself. For this reason, the way a question is stated is very important. According to Joan Bunning, a Tarot reader and teacher, questions should:
•Keep your options open: If you have the answer before the reading, then you're not allowing the cards to guide your overall decision. Bunning gives this example: Asking how you could encourage your mother-in-law to move out, as opposed to asking how you can get along better with her, is narrowing the scope of the true question by answering it before you even get started.
•Find the best level of detail: Your question should be focused, but not overly detailed. Rather than looking at one particular aspect of a problem, find a way to look more broadly at it. For example, rather than asking how you can make your home life less chaotic, ask how you can better balance kid schedules and adult schedules. That is a focused question. But do not go so far as to ask how you can coordinate baseball, soccer and Cub Scout schedules and still have family time -- that's too detailed. Only include the minimum level of detail needed in order to express what you want to learn from the cards.
•Focus on yourself: If the reading is for yourself, make sure your question focuses on you rather than on someone else who you think may be the root of your problem. For example, asking why your son is experimenting with drugs is focusing on him, not you. Asking what role you play in your son's decision to experiment with drugs brings the focus of the question back to you.
•Stay neutral: In order to stay open to other points of view, your question has to be neutral and not convey a preconceived notion that your view is necessarily the right one. The cards can give you guidance if you ask for it. For example, asking why you're doing more work around the house than your spouse isn't neutral; asking how you can get more cooperation from your spouse when it comes to housework is neutral.
•Be positive: Make sure your question is stated in a positive rather than negative way. Instead of asking why a specific event hasn't happened, ask what you can do to help make that event happen.
Open readings address the larger aspects of your life rather than a specific problem area or question. They're usually done when you're entering a new phase of life, such as getting married, graduating from college or starting a family. You can somewhat direct the reading if you have a general area you want to cover, such as your career or health, but that's as specific as the direction gets.
21 Card Romany Spread
Past Life Tarot Spread-
Most of us are constantly in the process of remaking ourselves. We want to shed unhealthy habits and unproductive beliefs, and replace them with wholesome thoughts and behaviors.
The process of transformation and release, however, always comes with a price. Sometimes it seems unbearably high: in order to change, we have to relinquish the comfort and control of our old selves, and venture into new, unknown territory.
For deep insight into your personal transformation, you can use the cards to explore a past life. This spread can refer to the life you lived as a child or young adult, or it can describe another incarnation completely.
Lay the cards in a figure-8 shaped lemniscate, which is a symbol of infinity.
1.Past life physical description: What did you look like during your past life?
2.Past life location: Where did you live?
3.Past life personality: What kind of person were you?
4.Past-life/present-life relationship: Which relationship have you carried over from a past life to your present? (If you’d like to see more than one relationship, add another card.)
5.Past life purpose: What was your soul’s purpose in a past life?
6.Past life passion: What did you love about your old life?
7.Past life death: How did your old life pass away?
8.Life lesson: What did you learn from your old life?
9.An unresolved issue from your past life: What fear, worry, or concern did you carry from your old life into your present?
10.Present life purpose: What do you need to accomplish in your current life?
11.Advice: What message does your past self have for your present self?