The Origins of Tarot
Tarot was invented sometime in the mid-15th Century in Italy. It is thought it originated when mystics and astrologers started using ordinary playing cards to tell fortunes.
During the 15th century, special cards were added to the playing cards. Later, these became known as the Major Arcana. They are considered to be the ‘leaders’ of the tarot deck.
The remaining cards are referred to as the Minor Arcana. Usually, these cards are split into four suits: cups, wands, swords and coins (or pentacles), although decks vary greatly.
Tarot has evolved many times over since its original form, becoming more complex and rich in symbolism. The cards themselves have gained meaning over the years from the cultures that adopted their use.
Some cards have come and gone, like The Pope, The Juggler, The Arrow, etc. Many famous alchemists and prophets have used tarot, including Nostradamus and Aristotle.
It was around the 17th Century, tarot evolved into the form we know it as today.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana are considered the heart of the tarot deck. These 22 cards are known as the Trump Cards and represent life and its cycles from birth to death. They symbolize the physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects of humankind and its relationship to the universe.
In the Major Arcana, the 22 cards represent different archetypes, including a nurturing mother, a strong commanding authoritative type, a traditional religious figure, a mystic spiritual figure, and so on. These archetypes represent either real or spiritual figures in one’s life.
If you look at the artwork on a Major Arcana card, you will see a scene that has symbolic elements. Also on many decks, the cards feature a title and number, in Roman Numerals from 0 to 22. There are some decks, however, where the Major Arcana only have pictures (as they were originally). The speculation is that numbers and words weren’t on those decks because the majority of people were illiterate.
If you look closely at the pictures on the Major Arcana, you will find the pictures are indeed steeped with symbolism. The Major Arcana also relate to those things regarding one’s higher purpose. It tells of one’s journey in life especially in relation to their personal character development.
The numbers on the card, ranging from 0 to 22, depict the fool’s journey from birth to death and from innocence to wisdom to (hopefully) enlightenment. In addition to focusing on our spiritual selves, the Major Arcana also give us answers in relation to major life events. They address such things as family, social relationships, jobs and other major milestones.
The Major Arcana represents aspects of the human experience that we all go through in our lives. It looks at our spiritual selves, our hopes, our fears, our joys and sadness.
The Minor Arcana
Most of the cards in the tarot deck are Minor Arcana cards. These cards fill out the deck, making it more balanced and complete. The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana are split into four suits. Each suit represents a different aspect of life.
Numerology can be used in conjunction with the Minor Arcana as the cards are numbered from 1 to 10, or Ace through 10. There are four nobles cards in each suit, as well: Page, Knight, Queen, and King. This makes 14 cards in each suit.
The Suits of the Minor Arcana
Wands (Staves or Spears) encompass growth, ideas and creativity. They are associated with the element of fire and the season of spring and ACTION.
Cups represent emotional desire and encompass affairs of the heart, desires and the inner self. They are associated with the element of water and the season of summer.
Pentacles (Shields or Coins) represent material possessions and encompass money, wealth, health, prosperity and property. They are associated with the element of earth and the season of autumn.
Swords (Knives or Daggers) is the suit of all things with sharp edges. They represent the intellectual self, as well as ideas, thoughts, morality and strife. They are associated with the elements of air and the season of winter.
The Noble Cards of the Minor Arcana
The Page is a bearer of messages and the harbinger of communication. This card represents youth and the beginnings of maturity.
The Knight is a traveler, who brings change and good deeds into the world. This card represents new relationships, friendship, courage and stability.
The Queen is a strong female. She has the ability to lead, listen and guide. She represents the completion of relationships, jobs and projects, also a strong emotional person who knows where they are going and what they want.
The King is a strong male figure. He is the leader of the suit, the end of it, and the highest mark. He represents a mature and wise person who knows what he can and cannot accomplish.
The Numbers of the Minor Arcana
One/Ace: Represents beginnings, action, will, new ideas, creative power, potential, first causes, primary impulses, and positive activities.
Two: Represents partnerships, relationships, polarities, balancing, duality, choices, patience, stillness, and positive and negative.
Three: Represents synthesis, growth, creativity, abundance, collaboration, friendship, artistic expression, refining plans, and preparing to take action.
Four: Represents foundations, discipline, work, order stability, solidity, tangible achievement, and practical attainment.
Five: Represents new cycles, change, progress, shifts, adjustment, fine tuning, instability, challenge, versatility, freedom, and courage.
Six: Represents balance, health, beauty, harmony, contentment, relaxation, satisfaction, equilibrium, marriage, family, and sympathy.
Seven: Represents spirituality, wisdom, perfect order, the macrocosm, religion, luck, magic, and multiple options.
Eight: Represents victory, will, success, regeneration, rebirth, reevaluating, putting things in order, and setting priorities.
Nine: Represents compassion, integration, movement, flexibility, fulfillment, attainment and benevolence.
Ten: Represents transition, renewal to a new cycle, completion, wholeness, mastery, excess, and overabundance.
How We Use Tarot Today
Many believe Tarot cards serve only to tell the future, but this is not true. When used traditionally, Tarot cards speak of the past and present, and are supposed to give clues and ideas about the future you are potentially heading into.
Tarot cards align with the energies projected onto them. As you shuffle the deck, you and your energies place the cards where they will be most beneficial for you. Some shuffle the deck until the cards feel right. Some people shuffle the cards three times, then cut. But it’s up to you.
For centuries, people have been using symbols as a type of divination. Tarot is no different. Each of the 78 cards has an individual meaning. Tarot is an interactive Divination Art. The cards interact with each other, giving them new and more complex meaning. A card representing the past will influence a card representing the present and the future and so on.
Intuition plays a big part in reading Tarot. Each card has a standard meaning, but the difference between a good card reader and an ordinary one is how well their intuition is developed.
An intuitive card reader will use their senses and intuition, as well as the literal interpretation of a card, to get the full essence of the card’s meaning. Like everything else, the more we use our intuition the sharper it becomes.
The stronger our intuition develops, the more accurate our readings become. Tarot cards are tools that help focus the intuition for those with intuitive skills.
Those who are not open to the idea of the Tarot and intuition dismiss the idea of the cards as a cheap parlor trick. The truth is most people have a misconception of what a reading is. It’s the intuitive gifts the reader has and how he or she applies them to the cards that makes a reading effective.
Many people who read cards are already intuitive from a very early state in in their lives, which is what made them gravitate to tarot in the first place. The cards are not magic. It’s the person’s energy that is used to create a powerful interaction. The reader’s connection to the cards, intuition and interpretation make the magic happen during a reading.
When done traditionally, a Tarot reading can put everything into perspective in a clear and understandable way. Every reading is prefaced by a question.
Oftentimes, each card will then come up in the past, present, or future position and will shed some light on the topic of your question.
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