Interpreting Tarot Cards

Interpreting Tarot cards are, as you might expect, quite difficult and require much practice. So is there an easy way? A shortcut? yes – by focusing only on the Major Arcana cards. What are the major cards I hear you ask? The standard tarot deck, whatever imagery is used to depict the symbols, is 78 cards in 2 sections, namely the major and minor arcana. The major cards are by far the most important, and for quick readings, it is perfectly permissible simply to discard the minor cards and concentrate solely on the major arcana (‘secrets’ in Latin). To lay out the cards in a standard reading is beyond the scope of this article, consult if you need instructions on how to start a reading.

There are 22 major arcana cards, each one of which symbolizes an aspect of our existence. In our lives, we are constantly influenced in terms of our essential drives by forces that are depicted in the Tarot. Together, the Major Arcana represent the ‘Fools Journey’ – the trip we all make – our lives in other words. To become a fully rounded individual and complete the journey successfully, each quality represented by the cards must be experienced or in some cases mastered.

These ‘qualities’ we all must experience are universal, although of course the order they occur in our lives and the particular form the lesson takes is completely individual. From the ‘0’ card (representing our first awareness) to card 21 (fulfillment), each of these cards is a stage on the road to our final destination. When giving a reading, you must remember that although these universal experiences and lessons must be in everyone’s life, your client will not have experienced them in the same way as you (or even at all yet!) and so you must be careful not to superimpose your own life experiences on the cards as they fall.

Taking the cards in order, we start with the Fool. Based on the medieval ‘jester’, the Fool can watch, mimic and make fun of others. As the Fool is essentially unpredictable and full of surprises, this card is a reminder that life has unlimited potential. Simultaneously, the Fool stresses that fact that life is basically good. The very innocence of the Fool brings him joy. In readings, the Fool often signals a new start or change in direction. He also puts you on guard to keep your faith and trust your own instincts. Believe in yourself and follow your heart, your own convictions are right, and no one else can tell you otherwise, no matter how mad your course may seem on the outside.

Last time we looked at a simplified tarot card reading scheme based on the 22 major arcana cards and got as far as the Emperor. We will continue this week with the 5th card, the Hierophant.

A Hierophant is someone who interprets secret knowledge and represents learning, often in a religious context. In readings, the Hierophant represents learning from the experts or official institutions. This card can symbolize the fact that you face an internal struggle with reactionary drives or forces, and need to be more freethinking. It also puts you on warning that not all learning comes from dusty old textbooks.

Next tarot card is the Lovers. Obviously, this card represents both love and sex. In a reading, the Lovers can indicate a crossroads in your path, usually moral in nature. The choice between the high ground and your base desires is yours, of course. How you make that decision between the base and the lofty reflects what sort of a person you are, as the easy route quite often turns out to be not so easy after all.

The Chariot is the next Tarot card we shall look at. This means firm decisions, not brutal ones. Self-control is strongly marked with this card, as is the concept of victory. The Chariot, though, does not allow for win-win scenarios – there will be a loser in this episode. Your competition must be defeated in order for you to win, is the message of this card.

After the Chariot comes Strength, and this is not just physical strength, but the inner qualities of perseverance, courage, determination, and calmness in a crisis. These qualities are the ones that help you not to give up, and persistence is the message here. You must also note that too much strength can be counter-productive. Forbearance and patients can also be signs of inner strength.

Next up is the Hermit, an image familiar to most of us. The Hermit can mean you need space, or time by yourself away from the distractions of everyday life. If your life is manic right now, he can imply a need to ‘center’ yourself, and provide a solid core on which your life can revolve. In a more obvious sense, he can be a warning that you should pull back from whatever it is you are pushing it. On a higher level, the Hermit means searching for deeper truths, and the education of others in those truths.