So you want to read the Tarot.
This is a very simple overview of Tarot and the way it is given ‘meanings’ written with the absolute beginner in mind.
Have you decided whether you want to read a certain applied system of Tarot or whether you want to read Tarot?
Let me explain:
Tarot has a built in structure, and this is true across the board. It is made up of Twenty two trump cards, sixteen court (or personality), cards – four for each suit, and forty numbered cards – ace to ten for each suit.
Esoteric societies and individuals with an interest in the esoteric have developed systems of correspondences that they believe work with the cards. Astrology, kabbala, colour, symbols and elements to name but a few. Examples of this are the Rider Waite Smith Tarot which fairly closely follows the associations ascribed by The Golden Dawn, an esoteric Society that was at its strongest in the UK in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Crowley Thoth Tarot deck also has its roots in the Golden Dawn’s teachings, but was modified and developed by Aleister Crowley based on his own esoteric explorations and discoveries.
Individuals such as Oswald Wirth and Etteilla also developed their own systems based upon their research and experimentation in esotericism.
Since these earlier decks, many deck creators have followed these systems but used their own images or indeed devised their own systems and given their own meanings to the cards that make up their decks.
Before this, with one noteable exception, Tarot cards appear to have been read according to the image or pattern of objects on each card. Meanings of cards being less important than the objects themselves, and the pattern they were arranged into e.g. In the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, the suit of cups has the element of water assigned to it, it is to do with emotions and relationships and flowing creativity. In an older Marseille type of Tarot deck, cups are vessels that are capable of holding things. Typically liquid, but also anything else you could place in them. If you look at the eight of cups in the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, you look at the image of someone leaving behind things that they were emotionally invested in, in search of something better. In the older Italian or Marseille type of Tarot cards, you will typically be looking at eight cups, often in two columns with foliage intertwined. A formal drinks party? Walking up an avenue of fountains? A myriad of other things?
The Notable exception I spoke of earlier is the Sola Busca Tarot which is the subject of much conjecture and may or may not have been some form of pictorial Grimoire used by the ruling classes in Italy in the early 1400s.
The point I’m making here, in this blog post, is that a quest to learn the Tarot may not be as clear-cut as it seems. It is important that, if you want to learn a certain system you are clear what this system is, and you find resources that teach this system. If on the other hand you want to read the Tarot – by image and deck structure, then you will have a lot more freedom in the type of cards you choose. But be prepared to be braver in your reading of those cards as you won’t have lists of key words or assigned meanings to rely upon. You need to be prepared to experiment and allow your mind freedom to ‘go with it’.
It is also worth noting that cards have been, and are to this day used for many purposes. Not just fortune telling. They have been used in conjuction with ritual magic, divination, psychic development, as part of a spiritual practice, self-development, shadow work and for many other perfectly valid reasons.
Have a think about your reasons for wanting to learn to read the Tarot, what your beliefs are concerning the systems applied to the cards, and ultimately, how you forsee yourself using them in the future. And remember, you can change your mind at any time and learn new systems and methods of reading. This becomes easier once you have found your own Tarot mojo.
Check out the blog posts linked below as a means to get started, or contact me via the contact form if you’d like to learn to read the Tarot.
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