I engage with tarot cards once a month. I don’t see them as a prediction of my future or at all fixed in outcome. Instead, it’s more projection and guidance. I think its important to not use them too frequently or revolve your life around them. In order to understand how they can work for you, I’ll give some basics about them and ideas on how to use/read them. Tarot is a tool for you to connect more deeply with yourself.
Variations of tarot emerged from the 15th and 16th centuries. At first it was as a game, then it evolved as a guide for understanding the life journey. By its divination reputation of today, scholars see influence from astrologers from before AD 1000.
A standard tarot deck has 78 cards. They are divided into 2 main categories, minor arcana and major arcana. The minor arcana is familiar in that it has 4 suits like playing cards, but instead of hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, tarot uses pentacles, cups, swords, and wands.
To interpret minor arcana, symbolism behind the suit and the card’s number are key. I recognize pentacles as everything physical and material (body and money), cups as emotional and relationships, swords for mind, and wands as spiritual. I won’t go too far into numerology. Aces indicate new beginnings, 2 is balance, 3 is progress, and 4 is foundational. It extends to 10 then courts (Knight, Page, Queen, and King) in each of the suits.
Spreads. Simple spreads are 3 cards in a row: past/present/future, body/mind/spirit, etc. Or you can go bigger with 7 or 10 card spreads! The order you choose cards is important here.
Tarot decks usually come with books that identify the basic meanings of all the cards, and you might notice patterns. It can be a little overwhelming, but I always like to notice what I feel is most significant for me at the time to not rely so heavily on the book. The secret to reading Tarot is noticing your initial feelings and reactions from the images on the cards. Allow that to guide you.
Major arcana I find endlessly fascinating because of the infinite ways of interpreting them. For these cards, the images are especially significant and reveal the most. To a certain extent, image interpretation is subjective, so these cards grant the freedom for you to “make sense” of them however you see/feel fit. I usually keep in mind what I know to be symbolic, so for example, these two cards, The Star and Temperance both center on water.
Water is attributed to emotion, fluidity, etc. so as it shifts from cup to cup (Temperance), there’s a certain amount of caution needed to balance emotions or keep the water from spilling. Contrastingly, the figure of The Star purposely spills her cups. The figure in Temperance has one foot grounded on land and one dipping in water. Water is also the unconscious or the “buried” aspects of ourselves. I might see this as, again a balance between my waking reality and my dreams during sleep.
The Death card in tarot does not often predict an actual death, but usually suggests a figurative one. Since tarot is very symbolic, it could be the death of a relationship, mindset, etc. and means that something is changing or has to change. In the natural rhythms of life and in order for us to have new beginnings, there of course has to be an end/death.
Still, it’s a gloomy image, and many changes require a certain amount of effort that could appear dreadful and daunting. We do need balance, so when faced with the Death Card, we are guided to make room for new life to grow. Other cards about change include The Tower, a destructive devastation that is out of your control, and The Hanged Man, a mysterious card generally signifying a need to change perspective.
The Fool is usually the zero card of the majors. It’s about new beginnings and innocence, however, it does warn that as you embark on your new path to remain vigilant. He sees beauty, but dwells in oblivion. The last of the majors, numbered 21, is The World. The journey is complete. The circle is a continuum of endings morphing into beginnings. It is a landmark in your life, and it is birth. The World births a child who is the innocent Fool at zero to start again.
Reading without rules!
Okay one rule. Always shuffle! Shuffling is important because it’s an opportunity to connect with your cards. You can ask a question like “what do I need now?” or just let whatever comes up come. You pull cards “at random,” but is it really random?
Some people will pull one card, hang it up in plain sight and use it like a vision board for inspiration.
I learned to do a three-part story with tarot, which combines the image symbolism of the cards and free-writing. You get a powerful sense of what is going on in your life, literally or symbolically, through creation. Each card is a part of the story: beginning, middle, end. For example, you pull the three cards below.
Potential, example story: “Once upon a time there was a girl surrounded by life and love (first card). While seemingly perfect, she was faced challenges that made her question her relationship. It was up to her to fight for what she really wanted (second card). And so came a decision. Make a change and risk everything she has and knows, or settle? (third card).”
Want to go deeper? Replace your main character (i.e. “girl”) with first-person pronouns (I, me, my).
Tarot places you in the position of the Magician, resourceful and a creator. Play a hand, lay a spread! Want a custom reading by Live Fluently? Click here! If you like this page, please share it.
My tarot deck is by Liz Dean and illustrated by Emma Garner
Decker, R. (2013) The Esoteric Tarot Ancient Sources Rediscovered in Hermeticism and Cabala. Illinois: Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House, pp. 1-7.