Reading Tarot cards - A beginner's guide.
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A Beginner's Guide to Reading Tarot Cards

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People are drawn to the tarot for many reasons. Some find the symbols and mystical meanings intriguing, others may be drawn to the intricate artwork and many are fascinated with the perceived power of the cards.

Whatever your reasons for choosing to study the tarot, you are entering into a centuries old practice. The origin of tarot cards can be traced back to a 15th century Italian card game called tarocchi. It wasn't long before the cards were used for divinatory purposes.

Choosing Your Tarot Card Deck

From those original tarocchi cards, there have evolved hundreds of tarot card decks representing different cultures, spiritual practices, art movements and hobbies. It is recommended that you go for the deck that speaks to you. Reading the tarot is an intuitive art and you need be able to communicate with the deck that you choose. The colours, images and overall design should be appealing to you. If you are purchasing a deck in a local store try to get to hold the cards in your hands. Look for a deck that you feel connected with, as if it was just there waiting for you.

Tarot Card Types

If you are familiar with a regular deck of playing cards then you can adapt that knowledge to the tarot deck. In card decks, there are the numbered suit cards and the court cards. Tarot cards have the same breakdown and have ten numbered cards plus four court cards per suit. These cards are called the 'Minor Arcana'. In tarot, the suits are generally 'Wands', 'Cups', 'Swords' and 'Pentacles'. There are some decks with minor variations such as 'Coins' instead of 'Pentacles' and 'Staves' instead of 'Wands'.

Tarot decks also include twenty-two 'Major Arcana' cards. These cards are numbered from 0 to 21 and depict different steps of growth and understanding in a person's life. The cards of the Major Arcana is sometimes referred to as 'trump' cards because they hold more weight in a tarot card spread than the other cards. If you are doing a tarot card reading and you draw all Major Arcana cards for a spread, then you know the person you are reading for is going through a significant period in their life.

Interpreting the Tarot Cards

The suits all have particular meanings that can help you learn the interpretations of the cards. Each card in a suit will be a variation on the suit's theme and will be related to the same area of life. The Wands suit denotes energy toward action and outward activities. It is also associated with the element of fire and masculinity. The Cups suit is representative of all things emotional and subjective. It is the suit of water and femininity. Cups are also associated with psychic energy, intuitive nature and love. Swords denote mental and masculine energy. All of the sword cards refer to thinking and ideas rather than outward action or emotions. Finally, the Pentacles (or Coins as they are referred to sometimes) are associated with the element of earth. Pentacle cards concern matters of finance, the material world and feminine energy.

The Major Arcana of the Tarot reflects some of the themes that are in the Minor Arcana but to a greater degree. To help you learn the Major Arcana, you need to look at the cards as if they are telling a story. These cards follow the path of the character in the first card, 'The Fool'. The Fool is normally numbered zero in the deck, which indicates he is ready to learn from the world around him. The Fool's path continues through each of the cards in the Major Arcana. He learns from the characters on the other cards and overcomes obstacles. The Fool's journey is representative of our own journey toward better understanding of the world around us.

Reading the Tarot Cards

As a new tarot card reader, you may find yourself referring back to the booklet or guide that came with your deck. While the booklet insert can give general meanings and keywords for the tarot cards, you should make an attempt to get to know the cards intimately. Using the cards with keywords exclusively provides a basic understanding of the interpretative meanings. If you study the cards consistently your understanding of them will have much more depth.

You can learn the meanings of the cards by studying your deck and working with it on a daily basis. For practice, you can lay out tarot card spreads for yourself and use the booklet to guide your interpretation. There should be a basic tarot card spread in the booklet that came with your deck. There are also are many web pages that feature tarot card spread variations.

A simple one-card spread done per day will help increase your understanding of the tarot significantly. Once a day at a specific time, draw a single card from the deck and think about its meaning. Search the illustration on the card for meaning and symbolism before you refer to the guidebook. Gleaning your own impression of the cards is very important to learning your deck. After you've decided what you feel is the meaning of the card, refer to the booklet. This is not to see if you were 'right' or 'wrong'. There is no such thing when reading the tarot. Rather, referring to the booklet after interpreting the card yourself will deepen your understanding of the card.

Over time, by practicing with your deck, you will discover your personal meaning for each card. The process of reading tarot cards will become natural to you with continued practice. The key in learning the tarot is combining the traditional meanings with the interpretations that resonate with you. Tarot is a tool for self-discovery and as you deepen your knowledge of card meanings, you will discover more about yourself.

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