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Most people who buy books on the Tarot want to learn how to use the cards as quickly as possible - not to read a long and detailed history of the Tarot. Because of this, I’ve developed what I believe is a faster way to cover some of the major points, which I include here as “The Top 5 Myths of The Tarot.”

If you are interested in learning more about the origins and development of the Tarot, you’ll find a fairly comprehensive history in Stuart Kaplan’s “Tarot Classic” (US Games, 1972). Just beware of the tendency Kaplan seems to share with just about every other writer on the subject, and that is to first state that there is no proof as to where the Tarot originated, and then offer many exotic and fanciful theories for your consideration as if they were fact.

Here, then, is a very abbreviated look at some of the myths concerning the Tarot.

The History of the Tarot

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MYTH #1: The mystical Tarot is older than dirt.

One writer on the Tarot claims that the earliest records of the Tarot are over 35,000 years old and that the Tarot was used to pass representations of the Universal Law down through the ages. It has been suggested by Tarot scholar Eden Gray that the Tarot was derived from the pages of the oldest book in the world, originated by Hermes Trismegistus, the councilor to Osiris, King of Egypt during a period when magic, astrology and mystic sciences flourished.

Another interesting legend of the Tarot’s origin is that after the libraries of Alexandria were destroyed during the Roman sack of that city, the city of Fez in Morocco became the intellectual capital of the world. In an attempt to create a universal language for the multicultural community of wise men that gathered in Fez, a book of pictures containing mystic symbols was developed, which was then converted to a seemingly simple pack of cards. These innocent-appearing cards would escape the notice of conquering armies and the public alike, preserving ancient knowledge for future generations.

Other stories attempt to trace the Tarot’s origin to Atlantis, King Arthur, the Crusaders or any one of a number of other ancient cultures or secret societies. Alas, if there is any basis in truth for any of these stories, there is no evidence.

Part of the problem is the very material nature of the cards themselves. Since paper doesn’t hold up well over time, it is difficult to establish when the first Tarot deck was created. The best we can do is to narrow it down to sometime around the 15th century, when the Duke of Milan commissioned the creation of a deck which has come to be known as the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. Even with the proof of this deck’s existence, we still can’t say for sure that it was the mystical Tarot we know today, and it’s far more likely that its use was limited to relatively simple card games for the aristocratic family it was created for.

The first reference to the Tarot as a mystical tool is in a 1781 book by the French occultist Antoine Court de Gebelin. It is in de Gebelin’s book that the Tarot was first linked to ancient Egyptian esoteric wisdom. Other 19th Century occultists, including Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley, followed de Gebelin’s lead and attempted to shroud the cards in legend and mysticism, and the practice continues to this day.

The lack of any literature about the mystical use of the Tarot prior to the 19th century is significant, considering that other esoteric sciences like astrology, numerology, alchemy and palmistry were widely written about throughout the Renaissance and subsequent centuries. One is left with the conclusion that it was either a very well-kept secret, or the Tarot was used for other purposes than divination and mystic exploration.

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So it would appear that we are left with the understanding that the Tarot’s use as a vehicle to explore psychic realms probably didn’t begin until about two hundred years ago. As we shall see in a moment, this doesn’t really have much of an impact on the sincere seeker.

MYTH #2: Gypsies invented the Tarot (right after Love Potion #9).

Well, if it wasn’t the Egyptians, it must have been the mysterious Gypsies, right? Sorry, but this piece of misinformation was based on the commonly-held misconception that the Gypsies were originally residents of the ever-popular esoteric center, Egypt, before migrating to Europe in the 15th century. In fact, both historical evidence and Gypsy tradition indicates that their point of origin was somewhere in India.

As we’ve already seen, Tarot cards were already in use in Italy when the Gypsies arrived on the scene. The fact is that the Gypsies didn’t start using cards in their fortune telling practice until it became abundantly clear that the public expected it of them.

MYTH #3: Church banned Tarot cards because they contained secret heresies and

occult magical techniques.

It’s true that the Catholic Church banned Tarot cards, along with playing cards (known as the “Devil’s Picturebook”), dice and board games. All of these activities were considered to be a frivolous waste of time - time that could be better spent in pious activity with the Church of Rome. Some recent writers have suggested that the Church didn’t approve of the Tarot because it teaches that truth and salvation can be found within each of us, an idea that wasn’t exactly endearing to an organization that wanted to be the sole dispenser of Truth and Salvation. As attractive as this might be to some, it’s doubtful simply because the notion of the Tarot as a self- development tool is a relatively recent one, having sprung from the New Age movement of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

MYTH #4: You must be psychic to be a Tarot reader.

This is simply not true, although it doesn’t hurt. Although many Tarot readers may augment their understanding and interpretation of the Tarot by accessing their intuitive abilities, the inherent divinatory quality of the Tarot cards makes it easy for anyone to give a meaningful and accurate reading based solely on the standard meanings of the cards.

MYTH #5: You are doomed by what the Tarot cards say.

Seriously, I think the only source that would disagree with this is the Hollywood film industry, which has conditioned the general public to cringe at the very sight of the Death card through its appearance in numerous cinematic murder mysteries.

While we’re on the subject, we should probably clear up one particular myth right now. Although some ethically-challenged psychic consultants may interpret the Death card as proof positive of the impending demise of someone, the vast majority of reputable Tarot readers prefer to interpret this card as an indication of a ‘transition’ of some sort, either a situation, attitude or way of life. Make no mistake about it - any of these transitions can be frightening in their own right, but there’s no reason to compound someone’s uneasiness by foretelling their death or the death of someone close to them.

Granted, there are a number of disturbing images in the Tarot (aside from the Death card, others like The Devil, The Hanged Man and the Ten of Swords spring to mind), but it is important to realize that the images of the Tarot are intended to act as allegories, not a literal representation of what is depicted in the cards.

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The beginning student of the Tarot is often overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer number of things you need to know and remember about the 78 cards that make up the Major and Minor Arcana.

What follows is the system that is designed to bring the new student up to speed as quickly as possible.

So, the question remains - is there any validity to the predictive nature of the Tarot? Are we doomed by the appearance of a particular sequence of cards?

Putting aside for the moment the validity of the Tarot itself, let’s bear in mind that, as noted author Mary K. Greer once said, “Tarot cards are 4 color pictures printed on cardboard.” They have no power other than the power you give them, and have no supernatural hold over you.

In the final analysis, you are the ultimate force that determines your destiny. The idea of Tarot cards forcing us to do something that goes against our basic nature is just not credible.

Why the myths don’t matter

In the long run, removing the dramatic historical myths doesn’t weaken the true power of the Tarot. On the contrary, the Tarot actually emerges from such an examination in a far better state of health. In fact, the only thing the easily debunked myths (such as Egyptian or Atlantean origins) do is make it easy for skeptics and reasonable people to dismiss the Tarot as a load of rubbish. If, they argue, the history of the Tarot is so obviously a fabrication, why would anything else about it be valid?

While Victorian occultists may have felt that something needed to be ancient to be respectable, there are plenty of modern-day examples of things that have been invented or discovered in just the last 200 years - cars, space travel, medicine, and advances in psychological understanding are just a few examples that spring to mind.

Quite simply, the Tarot’s validity is based on its’ effectiveness. And that’s what we’ll address in the next section.

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STEP ONE: Keep A Journal

This is probably one of the most important things you can do to build a strong foundation for your understanding of the Tarot. It is highly recommended that you use a 3-ring binder to make adding pages a simple task. Ideally, your journal will be personalized in ways that make it meaningful for you, but you should seriously consider including at least the following sections:

Philosophy Section

This section is for writing down ideas and inspirations that will come to you as you develop your understanding. This section can also be used to file any interesting articles that you come across that illustrate the various principles of the Tarot.

Interpretation Section

You may want to start with 2 pages per Tarot card, and expand as time goes on. This section is where you will keep notes on the meanings and interpretations of the various cards. It’s especially interesting to look back after a few years, and notice the path your thinking has taken on any given card.

Diary/Log

This section is for readings, dreams and reflections. Whenever possible, you should transcribe the cards that come up in a reading, and try to reconstruct what is said for each card. The interesting thing about this technique is that often you will often come up with additional insights that may have missed during the actual reading. While it’s not always possible to share this information with the client for whom the reading was done (especially in the context of a psychic expo or party), you will find that this exercise to be very useful in future readings.

Custom-colored Tarot Deck

During the 19th century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn required its initiates to color in black-and-white reproductions of their Tarot decks. In our day, it’s a very simple matter to photocopy your favorite deck and include it in your journal. Regardless of whether you follow the deck’s original color scheme or use a different combination of colors, this is an excellent way to become familiar with the details of your cards.

STEP TWO: Learn A System

The system described here is made up of learning four b asic components:

The 4 suits of the Minor Arcana

The Numerological Significance within each suit The Court Cards

The Major Arcana

The interesting thing about this system is that knowing the first three components allows you to do readings with an ordinary pack of cards. This is especially useful when you find yourself at a friend’s house without your Tarot deck. The only adjustment you will need to make will be to interpret the Jacks as a combination of the Tarot’s Pages and Knights.

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The 4 Suits of the Minor Arcana

For each of the four suits, there are a number of correspondences to remember, including Meaning, Element, Season, Psychological Aspect and Playing Card Suit.

Wands

Meaning: Creative power in your external world Element: Fire Season: Spring

Psychological Aspect: Intuition Playing Card Suit: Clubs

Cautionary Key: Fire by itself cannot thrive

The suit of Wands is associated with opportunities and events in your external world, including social (family and friends) and business (job, career) spheres.

The visual cues found in the Rider-Waite deck’s depiction of the Wands can help you remember the Element and Season. If you look closely at the wands, you’ll notice small leaves sprouting from them, which can help you to remember the Season as Spring. When trying to remember the Element, try to picture these leaves as little flames.

To remember the Psychological Aspect, think of how the Wands’ fire can be seen as the spark of intuition and creativity that inspires you to make the most of the opportunities you encounter. It’s important to remember that in the context of a Tarot spread, it is essential to have a good balance of elements, and this is especially true of Fire, since it needs the fuel provided by the other elements if it is to thrive.

Cups

Meaning: Love and Emotion Element: Water Season: Summer

Psychological Aspect: Feeling

Playing Card Suit: Hearts Cautionary Key: Too much water can drown

It may be helpful to remember the Meaning of the Cups (Love and Emotion) by remembering the corresponding Playing Card Suit (Hearts). The Element is easy to remember, since not only do the Cups hold water, but there is water in just about every Cups card in the Rider-Waite deck. You can remember the Season by thinking of which season is best suited for swimming.

The Psychological Aspect is easy to remember, as it is the aspect most associated with the heart. When interpreting the number of Cups in a spread, keep in mind that too much water is rarely a good thing and can lead to the drowning of other aspects of your life.

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Swords

Meaning: Intellect and Challenges Element: Air Season: Fall

Psychological Aspect: Thinking Playing Card Suit: Spades

Cautionary Key: Thought without action is nothing more than dreaming.

The secondary Meaning of the Swords (Challenges) is easy to remember, since so many of the images have a grim (and therefore ‘challenging’) feeling about them. To remember that the Swords also represent the Intellect, think of what one of your most effective tools is for working your way through a challenge.

You may want to remember the Element by picturing a sword whistling through the air. You can remember the Season by imagining the Swords being used to chop firewood for the coming Winter months.

The Psychological Aspect is easy to remember if you are able to recall the primary Meaning of the suit (Thinking).

When looking at a spread predominated by Swords, it’s important to remind the person that too much thought and too little action will do little to resolve a challenge.

Pentacles

Meaning: Prosperity and Physical Needs Element: Earth

Season: Winter Psychological Aspect: Sensation Playing Card Suit: Diamonds Cautionary Key:

There’s more to life than wealth

The primary Meaning of Pentacles is easy to remember - there are coins on every card! The key to truly understanding the suit of Pentacles, however, is remembering that prosperity comes in many different forms besides money. All the money in the world will comfort you little if you don’t have physical health and security.

You can remember the Element of Earth by thinking about the source of all material things, and sometimes visualize the individual Pentacles as seeds that are planted in the ground (Earth). You can remember the Season by thinking of what you need to get through the Winter, especially if you live in the northern climates where you wouldn’t last long if you didn’t have the money to buy heating fuel.

The Psychological Aspect is relatively easy to remember if you think about the different forms of wealth, such as gold coins (i.e., the golden Pentacles) and diamonds, and what a sensation it would be to have your life filled with them

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Numerological Significance within Each Suit

By combining the meanings of the numbers one through ten with the meanings of the four suits, you will be able to understand the basic qualities of 40 of the 78 Tarot cards. Once you’ve done this, you will have mastered over half of the cards of the Tarot.

The meaning of the individual numbers is easier to remember if you picture them as qualities of a natural progression of something from beginning to completion. In this way, Wands progress towards constructive energy, Cups progress towards emotional fulfillment, and Pentacles progress towards prosperity. Because of their dual nature, Swords can represent either a progression

towards increased intellectual abilities or the path a challenge can take on its way to resolution. It is also helpful to visualize odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, and 9) as being active and dynamic, while even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) are inherently passive and stable.

One

Is the number of New Beginnings and Originality, usually experienced as an Upsurge of Energy. Think of the enthusiasm and energy that accompanies a new project. You can also think of ONE as the number of New Ideas, an example being the idea a couple may have to start a family.

Two

Is the number that witnesses the Bringing Together of Forces in the form of people, resources and ideas necessary to bring the idea of the ONE into being. These forces must embody the characteristic of Cooperation if the idea is to progress past this stage. One of the strongest

examples of the TWO nature is the coming together of the couple we saw in the explanation of the number ONE.

Three

Is the number of Creativity, Manifestation and Growth, which is the result of the ONE and TWO being combined. Carrying forward the example provided for the TWO nature, you can visualize the THREE as the child that results from the union of the TWO.

Four

Is the number of Stability and Solid Foundations, and is the result of the first three numbers. The developing child is able to get around quite well by crawling on their 2 hands and 2 knees.

Five

Is the number of Change, Variety and Adventure. You must be flexible to change, and realize that adventure also implies risk. When the child first stands and learns to walk, they can be seen as the 5-pointed star (2 legs + 2 arms + 1 head). Their new-found freedom is a definite Change from their previous FOUR nature (and maybe just a little wobbly at first), bringing both Variety and Adventure into their life.

Six

Is the number of Harmony and Balance, which is necessary after the unpredictability of the FIVE. You must cultivate the practice of Responsibility to realize the qualities of harmony and balance.

Seven

Is the number of Introspection and Wisdom (that often comes from asking ‘Why?’), which usually come after going through the previous six numbers. There is a feeling of Completion within the context of a larger cycle, and the temptation to experiment with what’s already been established.

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Eight

Is the number of Success that results from going through the previous seven numbers and applying the lessons learned. Eight often represents a desire to regroup and reorganize before moving on to the next level.

Nine

Is the number of Universality and the understanding that every action has a global implication. There is a feeling of forward motion and momentum in the Nine that carries it on into the Ten.

Ten

Is the number of Completion and the Transition that comes with it. The transition may be seen as going deeper or further with an established direction or starting something new. Because the basic numbers only include 1 - 9, TEN must resolve to ONE.

Court Cards

The Court Cards often present the biggest challenge for some people, especially considering that most books provide multiple meanings for each of the Court Cards. The common categories of meanings include People, Aspects of the questioner, and Situations. Let’s see, that’s 3 potential meanings, 4 Suits and 4 Court Cards per suit, giving us a total of 48 meanings to memorize. That’s almost like an entire deck in itself! No wonder people are intimidated by the Tarot.

When you’re first starting out, it’s probably best to focus on the idea that each of the Court Cards represents a particular type of person, since you can easily extend this to mean that the questioner possesses the characteristics and qualities of the personality type represented by the individual card. Since you already know the qualities of each of the 4 suits, it’s a natural and easy step to apply these to each of the Court Cards, meaning that you only have to remember what kind of person the particular Court card represents.

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Pages

Pages represent a young person, so ...

The Page of Wands is an Energetic young person possessing Creativity and Intuition who is

comfortable in the external world.

The Page of Cups is a Sensitive young person who possesses Natural Warmth and Strong

Feelings.

The Page of Swords is a Quick-thinking young person who must deal with challenges.

The Page of Pentacles is a Practical young person who Focuses on Prosperity in the form of

either material possessions or physical wellbeing.

Knights

Knights represent young adults, so...

The Knight of Wands is a young adult possessing the qualities described for the Page of Wands.

The Knight of Cups is a young adult possessing the qualities described for the Page of Cups.

The Knight of Swords is a young adult possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Swords.

The Knight of Pentacles is a young adult possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Pentacles.

Queens

Queens represent a mature woman, so...

The Queen of Wands is a mature woman possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Wands.

The Queen of Cups is a mature woman possessing the qualities described for the Page of Cups.

The Queen of Swords is a mature woman possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Cups.

The Queen of Pentacles is a mature woman possessing the qualities described for the Page of

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Kings

Kings represent a mature man, so...

The King of Wands represents a mature man possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Wands.

The King of Cups represents a mature man possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Cups.

The King of Swords represents a mature man possessing the qualities described for the Page of

Swords.

The King of Pentacles represents a mature man possessing the qualities described for the Page

of Pentacles.

Finally - the Major Arcana!

Often referred to as The Fool’s Journey, the Major Arcana is usually thought of as consisting of 22 cards that contain the images that most people associate with the Tarot. It’s interesting to note that The Fool is the only card of the Tarot that is not numbered (unless you consider ‘zero’ to be a number). Although there are many layers of understanding associated with The Fool, this card can be seen initially as an innocent person as they leave the comfort of their home to discover what the world has to offer. Although The Fool may appear to be naive to outside observers, he is in reality an optimist with no fear as he approaches the edge of the cliff. He is fully prepared to make “the leap of faith.”

An easy way to remember what the other 21 cards of the Major Arcana represent is to think of them as lessons that must be learned in order to achieve enlightenment and success in all its forms in this world. Some writers represent the characters on the subsequent cards as mentors that instruct The Fool, and others propose that the characters are actually The Fool himself as he moves through life.

The story of The Fool is one that most of us can identify with, because it is the story of our own lives. The Fool is often seen in mythical terms, and his birth is seen as the birth of The Hero, having both mortal and divine parents.

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The story begins with the childhood and education of The Fool by The Magician. The other big influences at this point in The Fool’s life are his mortal and divine parents (The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor and The Hierophant), from which he learns the value of intuition, creativity, rationality and spiritual tradition.

The Fool is next confronted by the choices that must be made in the arena of love (The Lovers) and learns that any victories and triumphs are the result of achieving a balance (The Chariot). The Fool’s education continues with the lessons of adulthood, in which he learns the importance of Justice, Temperance, Strength and Introspection (The Hermit). These are difficult lessons, especially since they are usually learned as a result of life experiences that require basic and profound changes (Wheel of Fortune, The Hanged Man, and Death). These experiences require The Fool to travel to the underworld of his internal world to learn what is at the root of this

upheaval (The Devil, The Tower).

Upon his return, The Fool learns the lessons taught by the heavenly bodies (The Star, The Moon and The Sun), which result in the rebirth of The Fool (Judgement) and final triumph (The World). It should probably be noted here that there are two kinds of meaning for each Tarot card - the symbolic meaning, and the intuitive interpretation. The symbolic meaning is closely tied to the archetypal image in the card, and may have some bearing on the question being asked, but this is not always the case.

The intuitive interpretation, however, is in most cases directly related to the question being asked. This meaning is exactly what the name implies - it is an interpretation of the card that comes directly out of your intuitive mind. It may be a literal interpretation, or it may be presented to your conscious mind wrapped in symbolic imagery.

If you are reading for someone else, describe what you are sensing even if it doesn’t make sense to you, because the other person may recognize elements of your description and how it relates to them. This recognition may be immediate, or may occur later upon reflection.

The next section presents the order in which The Fool learns about life. These descriptions are based primarily on the symbolic meaning of the cards.

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THE MAJOR ARCANA: The Fool’s Journey

The Magician stands for Mastery and hidden skills that allow him to produce results that often

appear to be ‘magical’ to others. In the Rider-Waite card, The Magician’s pose signifies, “As above, so below,” and the ability to draw on Universal power to bring about results on the material plane. This card speaks of the inner strengths and skills that allow you to transform your thoughts into reality.

The High Priestess teaches us that by accessing your intuition, wise decisions can be made.

The two pillars and the book (sometime considered to be the Akashic record of the collective unconscious) represent wisdom that comes from within, and teaches that you must search within yourself for the answers to your questions.

The Empress is the archetypal Mother. Placed in an outdoor setting, the Empress represents

fertility, creativity and the abundance of Nature. Her influence will stimulate your own creativity and allow you to express yourself more effectively. The creative aspect of the universe is especially strong in The Empress.

The Emperor is the archetypal Father and in control of his life. He draws his power from the

rational mind, and is courageous enough to recognize the reality of a situation, rather than see only what he wants to see. Always remember that each card carries a little of the previous card. In this case, The Emperor, to be effective, must have a heart and not be totally cold and analytical. The Hierophant represents Spiritual and Traditional Thinking. He is able to make wise

decisions on the basis of tangible evidence and logic, as opposed to the High Priestess whose wise decisions are based solely on intuition. It is interesting to note that both the Empress and the Emperor have their own individual advisor sitting next to them (The High Priestess and The Hierophant), ready to help them rule wisely.

The Lovers represents a choice between two different paths in life. Because of the card’s name, it

is often interpreted as a choice between two possible partners. Choices must be made before true love on the human level will be realized, and this is necessary for a full understanding of Universal Love. The angel represents the power of a mature relationship.

The Chariot represents Balance. He must summon the strength of his will to maintain balance

and control both the light and dark forces of his nature, and will be able to win the hard race through his continued effort.

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Strength shows that the jaws of raw emotion are closed with love, not force. We all have a reserve of Self-Confidence and inner strength for challenging times, especially if we remember that the

spiritual (as represented by the symbol over Strength’s head) will always triumph over the material and physical world.

The Hermit teaches us that Inner Guidance and wisdom is often gained through introspection

and allows you to light the way for others. This card often represents someone who prefers solitude to work out their problems.

The Wheel of Fortune helps us to realize the eternal truth that Nature operates in cycles, and

that “what goes around comes around.” The Wheel is the vision seen by The Hermit after he has reflected on the meaning of Strength. It is important that we remember that while we can’t control The Wheel, we can always control our responses to the events it brings.

The scales of Justice (also known as Karma) will tip in one’s favor according to their intent and

effort put forth. Justice is balanced, not blind. This card often represents a decision being made which demonstrates how Cosmic Justice operates. The lesson may not be obvious at first, but the passage of time and careful thought will show the inevitable fairness of Karma.

The Hanged Man shows us that the experience of sacrifice, suffering and surrender, brings us

a New Perspective and a deeper understanding of the Universe. A situation may take longer

than expected before it resolves itself, especially if you are “hung up” on something. A reversal of attitude may be required before you can move on.

Having absorbed the lesson taught by Justice, The Fool is now ready for some serious change, as seen in the next card.

Death represents Change, and comes in many forms. It is important to realize that we each

experience an infinite number of real and symbolic deaths throughout our life. This is the process of regeneration (as symbolized by the coming dawn). Even if this card doesn’t refer directly to physical death (Thank you, Hollywood!), it speaks of dramatic and often painful changes in attitudes, habits and situations. The degree of difficulty experienced during this period is directly related to how you respond to it.

Temperance advises us to practice Moderation. The lesson here is the importance of finding a

balance between the spiritual and the material. Only by finding a balance between the spiritual - that which is eternally true - and the physical world, will you be able to develop the ability to rise above the day-to-day concerns that enslave and rule most people. A perfect example of this slavery is seen in the next card.

The Devil represents the trap brought about by Temptation. Although our entrapment is both

voluntary and an illusion, there is still an underlying feeling of guilt. This may be due to the demons that lie within each of us, and we must confront them before we can attain enlightenment.

The Tower collapses and disrupts our routine way of looking at life. The lightning of spiritual Truth

dislodges the crown of materialistic life, making ways for new ways of thinking. Like the Tower of Babel, if one builds too high, one must be prepared for the consequences. Sudden revelation, as represented by the lightning, may be seen as the source of chaos and upheaval, but is really an agent of freedom, setting us free from self-imposed restrictions.

The Star sends out rays of Hope to us. The maiden has one foot in the water and one foot on

solid ground, teaching that good fortune will be yours if you can achieve and maintain a balance between the inner, subconscious world and the outer, material world. By nourishing both your physical and spiritual requirements, you will be able to realize dreams that you have cultivated for a long time.

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The Moon represents both illusion and self-delusion. It represents the dark side of the personality,

and the dangers of focusing too much energy on this realm. It is not wise to trust the appearance something may take in the light of the moon, and it is best to wait for the light of day before making a rash decision.

The Sun comes brings a new day and allows us to see everything clearly. All things prosper

under the Sun’s influence. With the light of day comes Truth and enlightenment, which must be understood clearly before lasting prosperity, abundance and happiness can be enjoyed.

Judgement. After being in a position of being judged, a New Freedom comes from an

understanding of a higher Universal principle,signaling Rebirth and Rejuvenation. This

understanding allows us to make an informed decision before undertaking the necessary action. The World teaches us that Enlightenment is obtained through the merging of the subconscious, the ego and the Universal consciousness. This card represents The Fool’s final victory. The

enlightenment of The Sun brings the attainment of all things, both spiritual and material. The World is truly your Oyster.

Once you have created your journal and learned the system of meanings for the Major and Minor Arcanas, there’s only one way you will develop and grow as a Tarot reader, and that is to put your knowledge into practice.

If you explain to your friends and family that you are developing your skills at reading the Tarot, you will find that you have a ready supply of clients to practice your new-found knowledge. Be sure to keep a record of the readings in your journal!

The next section describes the best way to present your Tarot readings.

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There are three basic ways to read the Tarot. They are:

Straight interpretation based on traditional meanings Intuitive readings

Combination of straight interpretation and intuition

When you first start out, you will probably want to stick to the Straight yesInterpretation approach. If you are reading for friends and family, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about checking the meanings of the cards in your journal, especially if you’ve designed it to look like a natural extension of your Tarot deck.

Later, as you become more familiar with the individual meanings of the cards, you will find that intuitive ‘flashes’ will come to you as you present readings. If you sense that an intuitive flash deals with the person’s future, you may want to explain to the other person exactly what these flashes are, and that unlike the symbolism and imagery found in the Tarot, there is no way to verify these intuitive flashes until the event actually takes place. Indeed, some of the events may never take place, depending on the actions and attitudes the other person carries forward with them from the reading.

It is helpful to think of the Tarot reading as a temporary partnership between you and the person you are reading for. Unless you are presenting yourself as some all-knowing psychic (and WHY would you want to do that?), it is entirely natural to involve the other person by asking them to participate in the process. Ask them if they feel drawn to any particular card in the spread. Does any aspect of that card stand out for them? The answers you get may surprise you, and will ultimately help you get a better feel for both the Tarot and the process of the reading.

Set & Setting

“Set and setting” is a psychological expression that simply says that a person’s experience is defined by their set of preconceptions and expectations, and the setting the experience takes place in.

You can’t necessarily influence someone’s preconceptions and expectations, at least not directly, but you can make your Tarot reading special by putting a little thought into the setting it takes place in. Lighting is an easy way to set a mood, and a somewhat subdued atmosphere can be very conducive to a meaningful reading.

At the very least, overhead lights should be avoided. Wherever appropriate, candles can be very effective in establishing the proper mood. Just make sure it’s not so dim that the cards are hard to make out.

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The use of incense was at one time an integral part of Tarot readings, but it’s difficult finding a fragrance that everyone can appreciate. A friend of mine keeps his Tarot cards in a wooden box with a bag of potpourri, which infuses the cards with the fragrance of the potpourri. When the cards are laid out for a reading, the subtle fragrance is enough to signal that something special is taking place.

Some people like to play music during a reading, and there’s no reason not to, as long as it’s not a distracting piece of music or played too loud.

Seven Simple Spreads for Different Occasions

But first, a word about shuffling and other rituals. Some books will tell you that you must face a certain direction, recite a prayer and follow a particular shuffling ritual before proceeding with your reading. The subject of shuffling itself can be a topic of debate: should you let someone else touch your cards and risk disturbing your intuitive link with them, or does the act of shuffling fill the cards with the vibrations of the question in the person’s mind?

Realistically, there is no right or wrong way to conduct this portion of the reading - whatever feels right to you is the right way to do it. The only exception I would make to this is that both you and the other person must take the entire process seriously. To treat a Tarot reading with disrespect can often be a recipe for disaster. Not unlike the Ouija board, the answers you get from the Tarot depend entirely on the questions - and intent - you approach it with.

One procedure I follow - and you are, of course, free to disregard this altogether - is the manner in which I turn the cards over. I always turn the cards over in a way that prevents the other person’s attention from wandering. In other words, in the example of the Five-Card Horseshoe Spread below, I won’t turn over all five cards because I’ve found that the other person can often be

distracted by what they consider to be an ominous card in the future (like The Hanged Man or Ten of Swords).

With the spreads that are laid out in rows that represent a specific period of time (the Pyramid and Square, for example), I will turn over an entire row at a time in order to get a better overall perspective, but I won’t turn over any of the other rows before we’re ready to interpret them. Just as in life, I believe that bridges are best crossed when you get to them, not before.

One-Card Spread

One-card readings are rarely used in a public reading, but they are an excellent way to learn a new deck. The best way to introduce yourself to a new deck (aside from going away for the weekend with it) is to select a different card each day, and to carry that card with you throughout the day. Take it out whenever you have a free moment and reflect on the different aspects of the card. Not only is it an effective way to get to know the deck, it also beats a cigarette break, any day of the week!

Many people use the One-Card reading as a way to gain insight into what they will be facing over the next 24 hours. This approach usually involves selecting a card in the morning, but it could work equally well if you selected the card before going to sleep at night. Be sure to log any dreams in your journal that result from this practice.

Two-Card Spread

Two-card spreads are helpful when you want to look at options presented by two choices, such as offers of employment, different lovers, and travel plans. In a two-card spread, deal the cards face-down onto the table and identify which card belongs to each option before turning them over. Once you have turned them over, interpret the cards to see what aspects each of the choices may hold for you.

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Three-Card Spread

The Three-Card spread is useful when you want to give a quick reading. The most common application of the Three-Card spread is to select three cards and designate each of them as Past, Present, and Future. The Past card indicates an experience or attitude that helped to create the present situation, the Present card illustrates current aspects, and the Future card provides insight into a possible outcome.

Another approach to the Three-Card spread is to designate each of the three cards as Mind, Body, and Spirit. In this type of spread, the Mind card indicates the attitude of the person you are reading for, the Body card represents actions being taken, and the Spirit card shows what lessons might be learned from the experience.

Five-Card Horseshoe Spread

In this spread five cards are arranged in a modified horseshoe pattern. Moving from left to right, the cards represent the present situation, present expectations, what is not expected, the immediate future, and the long-term future.

Nine-Card Spreads

There are two very basic ways to lay out a Nine-Card

Spread. The first is known as the Pyramid Spread, and is laid out in the following pattern:

The first row of five cards represents the time period starting with the present and going forward two months, the second row of three cards represents the two- to four-month time period, and the final card represents the four- to six-month time period. I like this one because the shape of the spread can be imagined as a road heading off to the horizon.

The other easy Nine-Card spread is called the Nine-Card Square, and is simply three rows of three cards each:

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Unlike the Pyramid Spread, this spread represents a twelve-month period of time divided into four-month segments. The middle row represents the present time as well as two four-months back and two months forward, the first row (1 2 3) represents the past (up to six months ago), and the top row (7 8 9) represents up to six months in the future.

A variation on the Nine-Card Square Spread is the Fifteen-Card Square Spread, and as you might imagine, it consists of three rows of five cards each. The timing is the same as the Nine-Card Square Spread.

Twelve-Card Clock Spread

In the Twelve-Card Clock Spread, twelve cards are laid out like the numbers on a clock, starting at 1 o’clock. Each card represents a month of the year that begins with the current month, making this a nice spread to do on a birthday or New Year’s Eve. Although each card can be interpreted individually, you may be able to detect trends if you see multiples of a particular suit showing up in a consecutive manner.

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