What Tarot Cards Are
If you want to know the tarot the way a person who’s experienced with them does, you have to throw all your preconceptions out the window and “meet” them for the first time. Because no matter how much you read about where they came from or what they can do, do you know what tarot is, basically?
Tarot Cards Meaning List
These cards represent what are called the “Greater Mysteries”; they represent significantly important people or events that happen in people’s lives, so much so that their concepts have become legends, icons or archetypes.
When you start reading the tarot, it’s not uncommon to start reading with only these 22 cards. But as you learn to read with the Minor Arcana as well, these 22 cards let you know when you should sit up and pay attention, because something important is happening.
These are called the “Lesser Mysteries”, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they are less important. They represent the other people or events that happen in between the significantly important ones, the supporting characters and moments that help you on your journey.
The Wands suit represents the ancient element of fire, and so is associated with creativity, passion and drive. Frequently, it is also associated with careers, vocations, or a person’s calling in life. Think of these cards as saying things related to what keeps a person truly alive.
So what can you, personally, do with a deck of picture cards? You can look at all the pictures, you can guess at what they mean. See, that’s where tarot begins to have meaning – when you put meaning into it yourself. Everything else is just other people’s opinions that you can accept or ignore as you will.
Since our brains are so wired to putting meaning in something as simple as a deck of picture cards, the tarot eventually starts acting like a mirror to the hidden sides of your consciousness. It really is true that what we are what we think, and that starts with the deck of tarot cards in your hands.
The Cups suit represents the ancient element of water, and so is predominantly related to emotions. Think of the concepts of fluidity and what keeps people going with the flow.
The Swords suit represents the ancient element of air, and so predominantly represents the different facets of thought. Think of the power of the mind when working with cards from this suit.
The Pentacles suit represents the ancient element of earth, and so is related to things like material security and wealth.
From the meanings you’ve started to associate with the cards’ images, you can start making stories. They don’t have to be real, they don’t have to follow any rules outside of your own – but do you know what you are making, then? Your own stories. About your life, the way you think, the way you live, the way you see the world.
You may not really want to acknowledge that it’s all coming from you; you may start censoring yourself, start thinking about how you “should” be making stories, how you “should” be thinking this or that way. Don’t. The tarot is meant for you to just sit down, relax, and let the stories unfold. No matter where they came from, without judgment.
And that’s how your own brand of magic begins.
The Purpose of Tarot
Now, did you know that your life is all about you telling your own story? Yes, there are things apparently outside your control, but you may not realize you can control more than you think, just by telling your life’s story to yourself in a different way. The tarot cards can help you do that. Yes, to a degree it can help you know about the future, but that’s really coming from what you didn’t know you knew about the past and present.
The tarot is better used as a tool for reflection; specifically, learning what you didn’t know you didn’t know, what you need to face in yourself, what possibilities you see in the future from your current point in time, and what you can do today so the future will be brighter. The future is always changing; and you know who changes it? You.
Of course, an experienced tarot reader can help guide you through the process, and reading books can help you gain new skills and work better with the cards, but the best, if not the only, foundation of your relationship with the tarot cards starts with your own journey of getting to know them better, on your own terms.
Learning the Tarot
These days there’s a specialized tarot card deck for almost every theme and flight of fancy you could think of, and choosing one to your liking can help you connect with the cards better. We also have a list of tarot card meanings below, but we are writing them in terms of how they make sense in a story – from the tarot’s own, to yours, to the people you may end up reading for.
Bullet lists of meanings may also help, but we figure you can add your own as you gain more experience; the important thing is that you get the gist – the essence of each card’s meaning as generations of readers have associated these with them, so you understand where they are coming from and are free to be creative from there.
We’re glad to have you with us in humanity’s journey to retell their stories with the tarot, from the ancient past to the modern age! Here’s a list of all 78 cards that you can explore consecutively or according to your whim.
Even if you’ve finished reading every page, the journey into tarot is never done! Check out our regular blog posts to learn more about how tarot can help improve your daily life. At every end of the journey where we find the World, the spirit of the Fool sets you off onto a brand new journey once more!