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An Introduction to the Tarot

Choosing the Right Tarot Card Reader

Hydromancy or Water Scrying

Not an Exact Science

Developing a Code of Ethics

An Introduction To The Tarot

The Tarot is a deck of seventy-eight cards, split into two sections. The first section, known as The Major Arcana consists of twenty-two archetypal cards, each bearing a number, a name, and a picture, rich in symbolism. These cards are sometimes called 'trump' cards. The remaining fifty-six cards, called the Minor Arcana, are divided into four suits of fourteen cards each - Ace to ten plus four court cards, Page, Knight, Queen and King. The suits are Swords, Cups, Wands (also known as Staves, Rods or Batons), and Pentacles (also called Coins or Discs). "Arcana " means "secrets ".

The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana represent a person's journey through life (sometimes called the 'Fool's Journey'), and the major steps and challenges that they will face. They steps are laid out so clearly that, in the hands of an experienced reader, the cards can often show where a person is on their path, or if they are lost, or stuck. The trump cards predict major events in life and show us the spiritual lessons we have come here to learn. The more Major Arcana cards there are in a reading, the less likely the person is to be able to control events.

The Minor Arcana, the remaining fifty-six cards, show more mundane, day to day events and the way we have chosen to learn our life lessons. They are similar to a set of modern deck of playing cards, having four suits of numbered cards and Court cards. The Page corresponds to the 'Jack' or 'Knave' and the Knight of the Tarot has no corresponding court card in a regular deck of playing cards. Each of the suits in the Minor Arcana correspond to a suit in regular playing cards, and is also associated with an element:

Wands correspond to Clubs and is associated with the element of Fire (ideas creativity and will).
Cups correspond to Hearts and is associated with the element of Water (plans, emotions or love).
Swords correspond to Spades and the element of Air (action, intellect, reason and the mind).
Pentacles correspond to Diamonds and are associated with Earth (fruition, the body and material possessions).

For a pack of cards, the Tarot certainly seems to stir up feelings in people. They love it or hate it, revere it or fear it. Strong reactions for a deck of cards to provoke! But the Tarot is not is evil or magic. The cards themselves have no power. They can be used to reveal information that may not otherwise be discovered, but they cannot create conditions or make things happen. Some of the cards especially in the Major Arcana - Death, the Devil and The Tower for instance - depict some frightening images, but even these often give a message of hope, a clearing away so that something new and fresh can occur.

It is fair to say though, that everything about the Tarot is shrouded in mystery - its origins, its name, its history and the meaning of the symbolism. No one is sure of the origin and history of the Tarot. At a surface glance, it looks quite straightforward. The Christian church banned playing cards in 1367, so we know that they appeared some time before that date. The oldest surviving tarot deck was made for the Italian Visconti family around 1455. These dates have led many to believe that the Tarot originated in the Middle Ages, but when we start digging a little deeper, we can find tantalising glimpses and references dating from much earlier - some from Celtic sources and some from as far back as Ancient Egypt. The Tarot is linked to the teachings of the Kabala, and bears some kinship to the practices of Tibetan monks. There are 52 cards in a modern deck of playing cards, but earlier texts describe decks as having 56 cards with 14 cards in each suit. It is most likely that the Tarot deck was formed by combining the early deck of fifty-six cards, which became the Minor Arcana with the (much older) twenty-two trump cards of the Major Arcana. The truth is that we don't know when the Major Arcana first appeared. There is also some mystery surrounding the origin of the name "Tarot ". Some say that it came from an Arabic word turuq meaning "four pathways ", others that it derives from the Italian tarocco, (from Tara - the act of deducting)

Tarot decks come in many different designs, to suit all tastes. They all contain the same cards but the illustrations are different depending on the myths and archetypes of different cultures. No design is any better or worse than any other. Just choose one that you can identify with, and it will probably work very well for you. Tradition says that a reader should not buy their own deck, but that they should be gifted with it. When not in use, Tarot cards should be stored in a silk bag (or a silk lined velvet bag). There are several theories as to exactly how the cards work, but that will be covered in a future article. For now it is enough to know that the Tarot does work.

In some European countries, the Tarot deck is used for certain card games, but by far it's most widespread use is for divination. Sometimes called "The Mirror of the Soul ", the Tarot can be used as a tool to reveal past and present situations, and to project a probable future. When a reading is performed, the cards are shuffled and laid out on the table in a pattern, or spread. There are many different spreads - for example, The Celtic Cross Spread, The Horseshoe Spread, The Tree of Life Spread, and many more. The position of a card in a spread determines what that card refers to - challenges, hopes, obstacles etc. The reader will then interpret the meanings of the cards and convey the message they hold. Traditionally, if a card falls upside down (or reversed), its meaning is negated or reversed, but some readers do not change the meaning no matter which way a card falls.

Being able to interpret the cards is, of course, the most important part of performing a reading. Though this task may sound difficult - even magical to some - it's easier than you might think to find meaning in the rich symbolism of the Tarot. There are many books on the Tarot which give a meaning for each card, and a reading given using these definitions will usually be quite acceptable. However, if the reader can interpret the cards intuitively, the reading can often be quite amazing. Every Tarot reader has his or her own way and 'style' of reading. Learning the meanings given in books is just a beginning. The true meanings come from a combination of the pictures on the cards, the reader's personal experience, and a card's relationship to other cards in the spread. One card can have many different meanings. The reader must learn to have confidence and trust their intuition. The reading should be a very personal experience, and the seeker should leave feeling that he or she has willingly shared on a deep level.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the Tarot is that any contact you have with it is highly personal and almost sure to enhance your own spiritual growth as well as that of others around you. It seems to have a wonderful ability to open people both spiritually and emotionally. To learn how to read the cards is to learn how to understand life on an archetypal level.

By Sylvia Richards 11th July 2009

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About the Author: Sylvia Richards is a well known natural psychic who can provide you with a psychic reading using Tarot cards by email. To know more about Sylvia and how to book an email reading, please visit