The What of Tarot

In the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Tarot series, we’ll be diving in to different areas of the cards. To kick the series off, we’re starting with The What of Tarot? A look at what Tarot is, and what it means.

So, what is Tarot?

Tarot is a deck of cards; pictures on paper or card stock. It’s 78 cards, divided into 22 Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana. To some it’s a game, to others, a tool.

Tarot can be used in a variety of ways: to learn, to dig deeper, to make choices, to see potential paths and outcomes, to connect with spirit guides or those no longer in this world, or to make predictions. Not all Tarot Readers will use the cards for the same purposes.

Lumina Tarot ©2015 Inner Hue

I view Tarot as a set of cards used for discovery, insight, and empowerment. It’s a way for us to connect to hidden truths, to see possibilities, and to gain advice on what to do next. It’s a journey through our experiences, both the spectacular and the mundane.

Tarot gives us the information we need to make the next move. It’s like a map in the sense that it gives you options, but doesn’t necessarily tell you which route to take.

To illustrate how Tarot can be viewed in many different ways, I went on Instagram and asked, What is Tarot? Here are some of the answers that came up:

Just like a pencil is used differently by an artist, a writer, a doctor, or an architect, the Tarot is used differently by each reader that picks up a deck.

The Major Arcana

The Fool from the Radiant Rider-Waite
The Fool from the Radiant Rider-Waite

The Major Arcana starts (or ends) with 0, and consists of 22 cards that illustrate the Fool’s Journey. The Fool represents us all at different times in our lives. We encounter different life lessons and obstacles along our path, each giving us an opportunity to learn and grow.

When the Fool reaches completion (the World, card 21), he starts again. This is the same cycle that we go through in life, over and over.

When a card from the Major Arcana appears, it usually indicates life lesson to which we need to pay attention. It’s something that we need to master at this point in time before continuing to our next stop.


The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana is made of 56 cards, which are further broken up into four suits. Each suit represents an element, and areas of life. The suits consist of cards Ace through 10, plus four Court Cards that show a progression of maturity.

Prisma Visions Tarot ©2014 James R. Eads

Not all Tarot decks (or Tarot Readers) attribute the suits and elements in the same way, but the following is what I would consider standard practice.

Wands, represented by fire: creativity, ideas, passion, energy, action, power, desire, strength

Cups, represented by water: emotions, intuition, relationships, feelings, healing, connections

Swords, represented by air: intellect, communication, thought process, logic, awareness, choices

Pentacles, represented by earth: material world (finances/wealth), health, career, experience, responsibilities, home

Within the Minor Arcana we get messages, lessons, and advice for daily living. It looks at the details and the mundane, where the Major Arcana examines the big picture.

The Court Cards, usually classified as the Page, Knight, Queen, and King, show a person growing and learning to harness the qualities of the suit. While the Court Cards can represent other people in our lives, they can also stand for facets of ourselves, and give general advice about the circumstances.

What is a Tarot Reader?

A Tarot Reader is someone who interprets messages in Tarot cards – plain and simple. Tarot Readers come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own set of beliefs on what Tarot is and how it works.

There’s often a belief that Tarot Readers are psychics. While some readers are psychic, anyone who wishes to dedicate time and understanding towards mastering the cards can do so. We all have the ability to read Tarot, and use it as a tool to help ourselves and others.

I always say, for every type of person, there’s the right kind of reader. As a reader, it’s okay if you don’t click with all clients. As a seeker, it’s okay if you don’t click with all readers. What’s important is finding someone you connect and feel comfortable with.

What can Tarot do for me?

Tarot can open your eyes. It can help you choose which path to take, and describe the pros and cons of your options. It can help you shed demons from the past, to release anxiety, and to work through obstacles that are preventing you from succeeding.

It’s encouraging, empowering, uncomfortable, and eye-opening. Tarot can confirm what you believe, or aid you in seeing an alternative. It allows you to connect on a deeper level, to examine what you want to know, and shine a light on what you need to see.

You can learn a lot about not only yourself, but your relationships: how to strengthen and nourish them, and when to let go. It can help with your goals and career, as you can see where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and then use that to your advantage.

With Tarot, the possibilities are endless!


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