The Tarot

The tarot's origins are shrouded in mystery. No one knows exactly when or where the oracle came into being. Evidence suggests that tarot decks much like the ones used today, such as the beautiful fifteenth-century Visconti-Sforza deck, may have existed in Italy and France during the Renaissance. Some researchers believe that gypsies brought the cards to Europe from the Middle East, where they may have been hidden during the medieval period to protect them and their owners from persecution.

Most contemporary tarot decks contain seventy-eight cards. Twenty-two of these make up what's known as the major arcana, which researchers believe comprised the original tarot. The other fifty-six cards are called the minor arcana. These were probably added at a later date and may have been inspired by an early Italian card game called tarrochi. As you examine a tarot deck, you'll undoubtedly notice that the minor arcana cards look much like today's poker decks, with four suits of ten numbered cards each. The main difference is the tarot's minor arcana features four court cards per suit — king, queen, knight, and page — whereas a poker deck only has three. One card from the major arcana, The Fool, also appears in modern playing card decks, renamed the Joker.

You can tell fortunes with a regular deck of playing cards. When doing so, it's usually best to confine your questions to everyday matters and mundane concerns. Because poker decks lack the major arcana, the spiritual dimension won't be covered in your readings.

Tarot readers generally consider the major arcana to represent divine wisdom, spiritual forces, or fate. These are the most powerful cards in the deck; they indicate situations and events that affect your life in dynamic ways. Taken together, the twenty-two “majors” also describe the steps in a course in spiritual development.

The minor arcana cards depict everyday events, mundane activities, and areas in life over which you have control. The court cards often describe the people around you. For instance, kings may refer to mature men, while pages represent children or young people. The numbers on the cards have special meanings, too. Fours, for instance, signify stability, and sixes represent give and take.

When you consult the tarot, you usually start by shuffling the cards while contemplating a question or situation you want to know more about. Then you lay out a certain number of cards in a prescribed pattern known as a spread. The meanings of the individual cards in conjunction with the meanings of their positions in the spread provide an answer and/or guidance.

All oracles operate on the principle that symbols and imagery enable you to connect with your own higher knowledge and receive guidance from it. The idea is that you already know the answer to your problem; you just need to be able to see it from a different perspective. Oracles provide that perspective.

The most popular tarot deck today is known as the Rider-Waite deck, created in 1909 by Pamela Colman Smith in collaboration with Arthur Edward Waite and published by William Rider and Son. Recently, innovative artists and tarot enthusiasts have begun interpreting the cards in myriad and exciting ways. Some decks incorporate cultural, philosophical, or spiritual themes into their designs. Others base their images on a specific motif, such as angels, dragons, or crystals. A number of decks combine tarot with other divination systems: astrology, the I Ching, or runes. U.S. Games Systems, the largest distributor of tarot decks, publishes a series of tarot encyclopedias that catalog more than 1,500 different decks dating back to the Renaissance. With so many options available, the hardest decision for many people is which deck to choose.

Tarot and the Four Elements

The four suits of the tarot symbolize the four elements discussed in Chapter 1: fire, earth, air, and water. If you look at a regular deck of playing cards, you'll see that its four suits resemble those of the tarot and correspond to the four elements as well. Chapter 9 discusses the relationship between the elements and the four principal tools used by magicians — the wand, pentacle, athame, and chalice — which appear as the four suits in tarot cards.

<tgroup cols="4"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="25" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="25" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col3" colnum="3" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="25" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col4" colnum="4" colsep="0" rowsep="0" colwidth="25" align="left"/> <thead> <tr> <td><p>Tarot Suit</p></td> <td><p>Poker Deck Suit</p></td> <td><p>Element</p></td> <td><p>Magic Tool</p></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>Wands</p></td> <td><p>Clubs</p></td> <td><p>Fire</p></td> <td><p>Wand</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Pentacles</p></td> <td><p>Diamonds</p></td> <td><p>Earth</p></td> <td><p>Pentagram</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Swords</p></td> <td><p>Spades</p></td> <td><p>Air</p></td> <td><p>Athame</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Cups</p></td> <td><p>Hearts</p></td> <td><p>Water</p></td> <td><p>Chalice</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>These connections are intentional, not coincidental. The four elements comprise the energetic building blocks from which the world is structured. The tarot, therefore, is designed to take these energies into account when responding to a question or concern. The suits that appear in a reading are an important factor. They reveal the qualities or dynamics inherent in the question and suggest the modus operandi necessary to bring about a resolution.</p> <p>A reading that includes many pentacles, for instance, indicates a situation that involves money, material concerns, and/or practical matters. It also may advise you to address the issue in a slow, steady, organized, or pragmatic way. If many cups appear in a reading, it's likely that you want to know about a relationship or an emotional situation. The tarot may suggest that you follow your bliss or listen to your heart.</p> <h2>Sample Reading</h2> <p>The following five-card spread can be used to gain insight into virtually any concern or situation.</p> <ul> <li><p>The present or general theme of the reading</p></li> <li><p>Past influences still having effect</p></li> <li><p>The potential within the situation</p></li> <li><p>The reason behind the question</p></li> <li><p>The future</p></li> </ul> <div class="npmo"> <img src="http://0.tqn.com/d/np/spells-charms/p54-001.jpg"> <div class="npcp"><p>Five-card Spread</p></div> </div> <p>Here's an example. Maria sought advice about a potentially stressful family gathering. After shuffling and cutting the cards, she first drew the three of cups. This card represented a celebration, which clearly described the upcoming holiday get-together that Maria was worried about. The second card Maria selected was the two of swords, which showed that her relatives didn't always communicate clearly and honestly with one another. The five of wands, Maria's third card, indicated that Maria feared ego battles between family members would mar the occasion. The fourth card in Maria's spread was the Magician. This meant she should take control, using her personal power to govern the situation. It also suggested she could do a magic spell to keep peace in the family. Maria's fifth and final card, the ten of cups, told her everything would go smoothly.</p> <h2>Using Tarot Cards in Spells</h2> <p>The vivid imagery on tarot cards makes them ideal for doing magic spells. Although most people only consider the tarot as a tool for divination, you can choose individual cards from the deck to enhance spells. The prevalence of magical symbols on the cards suggests that the tarot's creators intended the oracle to be used for magic purposes, too.</p> <p>You may want to select a card that represents something you desire and place it on your altar to help you focus on your intention. Say, for example, you wish to attract prosperity. Display the nine or ten of pentacles, both of which signify wealth, on your altar or in a place where you'll see the card often. If you know feng shui, put the card in your wealth gua to boost your finances.</p> <p>You can also combine candles with tarot cards to work magic. Choose a card that symbolizes your intention and place it in front of a candle. Then light the candle and gaze at the card to impress the card's meaning on your subconscious. To streamline the process, some candle manufacturers produce candles with tarot card images already printed on them. Tarot cards can be incorporated into magic charms, too. Select a card from a deck you don't ordinarily use for readings and slip it into a talisman pouch, along with other magical ingredients. If you're making a love charm, for instance, choose the Lovers or the two of cups.</p> <p>Some of the spells in Chapters 11 through 19 use tarot cards. These are just suggestions, however. The possibilities are virtually infinite, limited only by your imagination. Once you become familiar with the tarot, feel free to design your own spells.</p> <!--/gc--> <div id="pagination"><ul><li class="prev"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/spells-charms/oracles-and-divination/the-i-ching.htm" title="The I Ching">The I Ching</a></li><li class="next"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/spells-charms/oracles-and-divination/the-runes.htm" title="The Runes">The Runes</a> </li></ul></div></div> <div id="coda"> <div id="rel"><div class="n5">Related Articles</div><ul> <li><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/spells-charms/oracles-and-divination/the-tarot.htm" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> The Tarot - Spells and Charms </a></li> <li><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/wicca-witchcraft/divination-and-oracles/the-tarot.htm" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> The Tarot - Wicca and Witchcraft </a></li> <li><a href="http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/tarot/tp/LearnTarotCards.htm" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Learn the Tarot Cards </a></li> <li><a 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