What is Tarot?

Many people get confused over what is and what isn't tarot. A true tarot deck has 78 cards. These are divided into 22 Major Arcana cards, and 22 Minor Arcana cards. Arcana means 'secret' and the major arcana can show major secrets about our lives.

They are shuffled and then dealt in different layouts and spreads to form a reading which is then interpreted by the reader and can give answer questions, valuable guidance and insight into our lives.

Many people are wary of the tarot, and who can blame them when faced with cards that have names such as The Tower and The Devil and Death? Contrary to popular belief, these cards are not negative or evil. The Death card rarely means death but instead can show change and an end to something or time to move on. The Devil can show our deeper side, the part of us we keep hidden, and The Tower may indicate troubles and too much energy welling up that needs to be listened to.

Oracle decks usually have fewer cards than the tarot and quite often have message written on them with the meaning of that card and so are very easy to learn and use to give readings. Angel cards are very popular and can give a sunnier optimistic reading that is gentle and supportive. Crystal cards can help with which crystal to choose each day. Animal cards can help us to link into our animal guides and totems.

Choosing a deck.

Many people find it hard to choose their first tarot deck, so I wanted to write a bit about how to choose your first deck, which decks might be a better choice than others and give everyone a head start.

One of the most famous decks is called The 'Rider Waite' or to be more accurate the 'Rider Waite Smith'. The publisher is Rider, designer was Arthur Edward Waite, and the artist is Pamela Colman Smith. It was first published in 1910, and has been reprinted many times, and can now be found as the Universal Waite or the Radiant, or Golden Waite deck. The Rider Waite Smith deck was possibly the first tarot deck to change the tradition surrounding the minor arcana cards from being a plain card showing just 6 wands or 2 swords or 5 cups etc, to full blown colour pictures of scenes, thus making it much easier to interpret without specialist knowledge. The pictures have been updated and re-coloured in many decks and this coupled withthe easy to interpret pictures is one of the main reasons that it is still used today by so many tarot teachers and readers.

For our purposes the other main deck is The Book of Thoth or The Thoth Tarot, that was designed by Aleister Crowley using the artist Lady Frieda Harris to paint the cards. This deck was published posthumously in 1969 and some editions have 3 Magus (Magician) cards making a total of 80 cards.

Learning The Tarot

There are basically two main methods for learning to read the Tarot.

The 'Authoritarian method', which uses only traditional decks and meanings which have to be memorised by rote. This way is strict and very hard work, sometimes boring and tedious and has the drawback that if you forget or do not know the card meanings well enough you will stumble and falter in your interpretation and ultimately your readings will suffer because of this. However this method, once learnt, can be used on practically any deck with very little alteration, taking into account any unique cards or name changes other decks may have, and so is quite easily transferable.

Then we have the more modern 'Trigger Method' which relies on intuition and your own interpretations of the cards. Each card is studied using various methods and the 'meaning' of each card is 'learnt' instinctively according to the impression the picture has triggered within. This allows for individualism and is a much easier, faster and fun way to learn the Tarot. There is no stumbling over meanings, the cards act as an instant trigger to the memory. But it can mean that for every different deck there is a period of initial learning.

Both methods can come up with extremely accurate readings and both methods can use reversals, but I think its best to leave those for later on. Some people don't use reversals at all, but read the cards as if they are upright. Reversals usually emphasise an area, or card, or they can completely alter the meaning to be the opposite. If you hand-shuffle your cards carefully there is no reason to ever get any reversals, but if you do, then you know that card has a special message. The most common way to get lots of reversals and give the cards an opportunity to reverse, is when you flat-shuffle and lay all the cards face down on the table and then mix them. This method is very useful for over large cards and arthritic hands.

Both methods may also use 'significators', a card chosen to represent the querent and the deck is then used without that card which is usually laid in position 1 or the centre.

To learn to read tarot for yourselves and friends, for free, in a sympathetic and friendly atmosphere, apply to join on of my courses at:-