The origin of the tarot is a mystery. We do know for sure that the cards were used in Italy in the fifteenth century as
a popular card game. Wealthy patrons commissioned beautiful decks, some of which have survived. The Visconti-Sforza, created in 1450 or shortly thereafter, is one of the earliest and most complete.
Later in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the cards were discovered by a number of influential scholars of the
occult. These gentleman were fascinated by the tarot and recognized that the images on the cards were more powerful than a
simple game would suggest. They revealed the "true" history of the tarot by connecting the cards to Egyptian mysteries, Hermetic
philosophy, the Kabbalah, alchemy, and other mystical systems. These pursuits continued into the early part of the twentieth
century when the tarot was incorporated into the practices of several secret societies, including the Order of the Golden
Although the roots of the tarot are in the occult tradition, interest in the cards has expanded in the last few decades
to include many different perspectives. New decks have been created that reflect these interests. There are Native American, herbal, dragon and Japanese decks, among others.
The tarot is most commonly viewed as a tool for divination. A traditional tarot reading involves a seeker - someone who
is looking for answers to personal questions - and a reader - someone who knows how to interpret the cards. After the seeker
has shuffled and cut the deck, the reader lays out the chosen cards in a pattern called a spread. Each position in the spread
has a meaning, and each card has a meaning as well. The reader combines these two meanings to shed light on the seeker's question.
The Major Arcana
The standard tarot deck consists of 78 cards divided into two sections, the major and minor arcanas. The word arcana
is the plural of arcanum which means "profound secret." To the alchemists of the Middle Ages, the arcanum was the secret
of nature. The tarot cards are therefore a collection of the "secrets" that underlie and explain our universe.
The 22 cards of the major arcana are the heart of the deck. Each of these cards symbolizes some universal aspect of human
experience. They represent the archetypes - consistent, directing patterns of influence that are an inherent part of human
Each card in the major arcana has a name and number. Some names convey a card's meaning directly, such as Strength, Justice and Temperance. Other cards are individuals who personify a particular approach to life, such as the Magician or the Hermit. There are also cards with astronomical names, such as the Star, Sun and Moon. They represent the elusive forces associated with these heavenly bodies.
The major arcana cards are special because they draw out deep and complex reactions. The images on the Rider-Waite deck are evocative because they combine esoteric symbolism with recognizable figures and situations.
The symbolism is subtle, but effective.
A major arcana card is always given extra weight in a reading. When one of these cards appears, you know the issues at
stake are not mundane or temporary. They represent your most basic concerns - your major feelings and motivations.
In later lessons, I show in more detail how you can recognize and interpret the themes of the major arcana in a reading.
The major arcana is often considered as a unit. Different schemes have been developed to show how the cards form patterns
that cast light on the human condition. Numerology, astrology and other esoteric sciences often play a role in these schemes.
MAJOR ARCANA CARDS
entering a new phase
striking out on a new path
starting something new
beginning an adventure
on a journey
heading into the unknown
living in the moment
letting go of expectations
doing the unexpected
acting on impulse
trusting the flow
letting go of worry and fear
feeling protected and loved
living in joy
accepting your choices
taking the "foolish" path
pursuing a pipe dream
being true to yourself
taking a "crazy"
trusting your heart's desire
As Card 0, the Fool lies at the beginning of the major arcana, but also somewhat apart from the other cards. In medieval
courts, the court jester was someone who was not expected to follow the same rules as others. He could observe and then poke
fun. This makes the Fool unpredictable and full of surprises. He reminds us of the unlimited potential and spontaneity inherent
in every moment. There is a sense with this card that anything goes - nothing is certain or regular. The Fool adds the new
and unfamiliar to a situation.
The Fool also represents the complete faith that life is good and worthy of trust. Some might call the Fool too innocent,
but his innocence sustains him and brings him joy. In readings, the Fool can signal a new beginning or change of direction
- one that will guide you onto a path of adventure, wonder and personal growth. He also reminds you to keep your faith and
trust your natural responses. If you are facing a decision or moment of doubt, the Fool tells you to believe in yourself and
follow your heart no matter how crazy or foolish your impulses may seem.
doing what needs to be done
realizing your potential
making what's possible real
practicing what you preach
producing magical results
using your talents
knowing what you are doing and why
acknowledging your motivations
understanding your intentions
having singleness of purpose
being totally committed
applying the force of your will
focusing on a goal
making a strong impact
The Magician is the archetype of the active, masculine principle - the ultimate achiever. He symbolizes the power to tap
universal forces and use them for creative purposes. Note his stance in the picture. He acts as a lightening rod - one arm
extended up into the Divine for inspiration, the other pointing toward Earth to ground this potent energy. [note] His abilities appear magical at times because his will helps him achieve what seem to be miracles.
What makes the Magician so powerful? First, he is not afraid to act. He believes in himself and is willing to put that
belief on the line. He also knows what he intends to do and why. He doesn't hesitate because he understands his situation
exactly. The Magician can focus with single-minded determination. As long as he remembers the divine source of his power,
the Magician remains the perfect conduit for miracles.
In a reading, the Magician implies that the primal forces of creativity are yours if you can claim your power and act with
awareness and concentration. This card is a signal to act and act now, provided you understand exactly what you want and are
committed to getting it.
THE HIGH PRIESTESS
withdrawing from involvement
allowing events to proceed without intervention
being receptive to influence
accessing the unconscious
using your intuition
seeking guidance from within
trusting your inner voice
opening to dreams and the imagination
aware of a larger reality
seeing the potential
understanding the possibilities
opening to what could be
seeing your hidden talents
what is there flower
sensing the mystery
looking beyond the obvious
approaching a closed off area
opening to the unknown
remembering something important
the secret and hidden
seeking what is concealed
acknowledging the Shadow
The High Priestess is the guardian of the unconscious. She sits in front of the thin veil of unawareness which is all that
separates us from our inner landscape. She contains within herself the secrets of these realms and offers us the silent invitation,
"Be still and know that I am God."
The High Priestess is the feminine principle that balances the masculine force of the Magician. The feminine archetype
in the tarot is split between the High Priestess and the Empress. The High Priestess is the mysterious unknown that women
often represent, especially in cultures that focus on the tangible and known. The Empress represents woman's role as the crucible
In readings, the High Priestess poses a challenge to you to go deeper - to look beyond the obvious, surface situation to
what is hidden and obscure. She also asks you to recall the vastness of your potential and to remember the unlimited possibilities
you hold within yourself. The High Priestess can represent a time of waiting and allowing. It is not always necessary to act
to achieve your goals. Sometimes they can be realized through a stillness that gives desire a chance to flower within the
fullness of time.
nurturing and caring for others
cherishing the world
receiving lavish reward
luxuriating in plenty
having more than enough
experiencing the senses
giving and receiving pleasure
focusing on the body
feeling vibrantly healthy
responding to Nature
relating to plants and animals
embracing the natural
feeling connected to the Earth
with natural rhythms
The Empress and the High Priestess are the two halves of the female archetype in the major arcana. The Empress represents
the fertile, life-giving Mother who reigns over the bounty of nature and the rhythms of the Earth. From her comes all the
pleasures and joys of the senses and the abundance of new life in all its forms. The Empress encourages you to strengthen
your connections with the natural world which is the ground of our being. Too often false sophistications and pleasures take
us far from our roots. Let the Empress remind you to keep your feet firmly planted in the Earth.
In readings the Empress can refer to any aspect of Motherhood. She can be an individual mother, but as a major arcana card,
she also goes beyond the specifics of mothering to its essence - the creation of life and its sustenance through loving care
The Empress can also represent lavish abundance of all kinds. She offers a cornucopia of delights, especially those of
the senses - food, pleasure and beauty. She can suggest material reward, but only with the understanding that riches go with
a generous and open spirit. The Empress asks you to embrace the principle of life and enjoy its bountiful goodness.
establishing a family line
setting direction and tone
protecting and defending
creating order out of chaos
providing shape and form
sticking to a plan
taking a leadership role
representing the establishment
being in a position of
coming in contact with officials
establishing law and order
operating from sound principles
applying rules or guidelines
working within the legal
setting standards of behavior
following a regimen
The figure of the Emperor says much about the essential qualities of this card. We see a stern, commanding figure seated
on a stone-slab throne. His back is straight, and his eyes meet ours directly. He is confident of his complete authority to
The Emperor represents structure, order and regulation - forces to balance the free-flowing, lavish abundance of the Empress. He advocates a four-square world where trains are on time, games are played by rules, and commanding
officers are respected. In chaotic situations, the Emperor can indicate the need for organization. Loose ends should be tied
up, and wayward elements, harnessed. In situations that are already over-controlled, he suggests the confining effect of those
The Emperor can represent an encounter with authority or the assumption of power and control. As the regulator, he is often
associated with legal matters, disciplinary actions, and officialdom in all its forms. He can also stand for an individual
father or archetypal Father in his role as guide, protector and provider.
getting an education
studying and learning
seeking a deeper meaning
having a belief system
sharing a cultural heritage
learning a religious tradition
honoring ritual and ceremony
identifying a world view
knowing where to put your faith
following the rules
taking an orthodox approach
staying within conventional bounds
adapting to the system
going along with the program
doing what's expected
being part of the Establishment
identifying with a group
being committed to a cause
devoting energy to a group
joining an organization
working as part of a team
loyal to others
being in an institutionalized setting
Except in rare cases, every human grows and develops within a culture. We learn by living with others. The Hierophant represents
such official learning, especially in groups. A Hierophant is someone who interprets secret knowledge. On Card 5 we see a
religious figure in a formal church setting. He is wearing the elaborate vestments of his office. His task is to bring the
two initiates into the church so they can take up their appointed roles.
Besides churches, there are schools, clubs, teams, companies, and societies. The Hierophant represents all of these because
his realm is structured groups with rules and assigned roles. Such environments emphasize belief systems - facts, rules, procedures,
and ritual. Members are rewarded for following conventions. They develop a group identity. The Hierophant is one of three
cards that focuses on the group. (The 3 of Cups and the 3 of Pentacles are the others.)
In readings, the Hierophant often represents learning with experts or knowledgeable teachers. This card also stands for
institutions and their values. The Hierophant is a symbol of the need to conform to rules or fixed situations. His appearance
in a reading can show that you are struggling with a force that is not innovative, free-spirited or individual. Groups can
be enriching or stifling, depending on circumstances. Sometimes we need to follow a program or embrace tradition, other times,
we need to trust ourselves.
forming a union or marriage
sympathizing with another
making a connection
opening to another
responding with passion
feeling a physical
tapping inner energy
establishing personal beliefs
questioning received opinions
figuring out where you stand
staying true to yourself
setting your own philosophy
by your own standards
making up your own mind
struggling with temptation
choosing between right and wrong
facing an ethical or moral choice
refusing to let
ends justify means finding out what you care about
The Lovers is one card that is easy to remember. Love and sex are riveting subjects, and, as you'd expect, this card represents
both. The urge for union is powerful, and, in its highest form, takes us beyond ourselves. That is why an angel is blessing
the bond between the man and woman on this card.
In readings, Card 6 often refers to a relationship that is based on deep love - the strongest force of all. The relationship
may not be sexual, although it often is or could be. More generally, the Lovers can represent the attractive force that draws
any two entities together in a relationship - whether people, ideas, events, movements or groups.
Card 6 can also stand for tough value choices and the questioning that goes with them. In some decks, the Lovers shows
a man torn between two women - a virgin and a temptress. This rather old-fashioned triangle symbolizes the larger dilemmas
we face when we are tempted between right and wrong.
The Lovers can indicate a moral or ethical crossroads - a decision point where you must choose between the high road or
the low road. This card can also represent your personal beliefs because to make such a decision you must know where you stand.
Following your own path can mean going against those who are urging you in a direction that is wrong for you.
reaching your goal
coming out on top
beating the competition
using your will
being determined to succeed
focusing your intent
rising above temptation
letting nothing distract you
concentrating your energies
fixing on a goal
establishing an identify
knowing who you are
having faith in yourself
out for your interests
achieving hard control
holding in anger
getting your way
reins of power
Picture Julius Caesar riding his chariot triumphantly into Rome. He has defeated his enemies and conquered vast, new lands.
This is the spirit of the Chariot. Card 7 represents the victories that are possible through willpower and self-mastery. A
military image is appropriate for the Chariot because this card stands for the strengths associated with combat - discipline,
grit, determination and assertiveness.
The Chariot represents the positive aspects of the ego. A healthy ego is one that is strong and self-assured. It knows
what it wants and how to get it. We can get annoyed at someone whose ego is too healthy, but we often turn to that
person to lead us through difficult moments. We know he or she won't be wishy-washy.
In readings, the Chariot often appears when hard control is or could be in evidence. At its best, hard control is not brutal,
but firm and direct. It is backed up by a strong will and great confidence. The Chariot can mean self-control or control of
the environment. This card also represents victory. There are many types of wins; the Chariot's is of the win-lose type. Your
success comes from beating the competition to become number one. Such moments are glorious in the right circumstances.
knowing you can endure
having a gallant spirit
feeling an unshakable resolve
taking heart despite setbacks
being a rock
dealing calmly with frustration
refusing to get angry
giving others lots of space
understanding what others are feeling
achieving soft control
being able to influence
tempering force with benevolence
the strength of love
Usually we think of strength in physical terms - big arms, powerful legs - but there is also inner strength. Inner strength
comes from an exercise of the heart muscle. It is perseverance, courage, resolve and composure - qualities that help us endure
when times are tough. In the past, a person with inner strength was commonly said to have character; he or she could be counted
on in the darkest moments. Card 8 represents this energy of quiet determination. Strength is not a flashy card, but one that
is solid and reliable.
Card 8 also represents patience and compassion. Getting angry is easy when events turn sour, but dealing calmly with frustration
takes great strength. So does accepting others and forgiving mistakes. We need strength to mold situations softly. The Chariot
controls through mastery and authority. Card 8 is more subtle, even loving. Notice how the lion (itself a symbol of strength)
is being guided and tamed by the woman's gentle hands.
Card 8 will appear in a reading when its qualities are needed. It can be a reminder not to despair or give up. You have
the inner strength to endure and triumph. If you are pushing too hard, you need to withdraw for the moment and be patient.
If other people or circumstances are driving you crazy, remember the strength that comes with love and forbearance. These
will see you through the hardest moments.
thinking things over
concentrating less on the senses
for answers within
needing to understand
seeking greater understanding
looking for something
wanting the truth at all costs
going on a personal
desiring a new direction
going to/being a mentor
accepting/offering wise counsel
learning from/being a guru
a trusted teacher
needing to be alone
withdrawing from the world
retreating into a private world
The traditional hermit is a crusty, bearded character who has withdrawn from the company of men to live a life of seclusion
and hardship. Card 9 supports this understanding. The Hermit represents the desire to turn away from the getting and spending
of society to focus on the inner world. He seeks answers within and knows that they will come only with quiet and solitude.
There comes a point in life when we begin to question the obvious. We sense that there is a deeper reality and begin to
search for it. This is mainly a solitary quest because answers do not lie in the external world, but in ourselves. The hermit
on Card 9 reminds us of Diogenes, the Greek ascetic who is said to have gone out with a lantern in hand to search for an honest
man. Diogenes is a symbol of the search for truth that the Hermit hopes to uncover by stripping away all diversions.
In readings, the Hermit often suggests a need for time alone - a period of reflection when distractions are limited. In
times of action and high energy, he stands for the still center that must be created for balance. He can also indicate that
withdrawal or retreat is advised for the moment. In addition, the Hermit can represent seeking of all kinds, especially for
deeper understanding or the truth of a situation. "Seek, and ye shall find," we have been told, and so the Hermit stands for
guidance as well. We can receive help from wise teachers, and, in turn, help others as we progress.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
feeling a sense of destiny
using what chance offers
seeing life's threads weave together
finding opportunity in an accident
opening to luck
the action of fate
being at a turning point
moving in a different direction
turning things around
having a change in fortune
altering the present
being surprised at a turn of events
having the tempo of life speed up
being swept up in new developments
rejoining the world of
having a personal vision
seeing how everything connects
becoming more aware
uncovering patterns and cycles
expanding your outlook
discovering your role and purpose
In Greek mythology, there are three women known as the Fates. They are responsible for spinning the destiny of each person
at his or her birth. It is not surprising that the Fates are spinners because the wheel of fortune is an apt image for the
elusive turns of a man's fate. This is the theme of Card 10.
The Wheel of Fortune is one of the few cards in the major arcana that does not have a human figure as a focal point. This
is because its center is above the realm of man - in the higher levels (clouds) where the destinies of all are woven together
in the tapestry of life. The tarot recognizes that each person sets his own path in life, but is also subject to the larger
cycles that include him. We experience chance events that appear to be accidents although they are part of the great plan.
In readings, the Wheel of Fortune can indicate a vision or realization that strikes with great force. If you've been struggling
with a problem or tough situation, this card can signal that you will find the answer if you stand back and view everything
from a larger perspective.
The Wheel of Fortune also represents unexpected encounters and twists of fate. You can't predict surprises; you can only
be aware when one is circling around. Indeed, Card 10 often suggests wheel-like actions - changes in direction, repeating
cycles and rapid movement. When the energy of the Wheel arrives, you will feel life speed up. You are caught in a cyclone
that may deposit you anywhere. "Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows."
insisting on fairness
acting on ethical principles
being involved in legal concerns
committing to honesty
trying to do what is right
settling old accounts and debts
acknowledging the truth
doing what has to be done
preparing for a decision
weighing all sides of an issue
setting a course for the future
balancing all factors
determining right action
with full awareness
understanding cause and effect
accepting the results you created
seeing how you chose your situation
recognizing the action of karma
that what is makes sense
making connections between events
On Card 11 we see the familiar figure of Justice. She has the scales of equality and impartial judgment in one hand, and
the sword of decision in the other. In the tarot, Justice represents the understanding that life is ultimately fair and just.
Even though the vagaries of day-to-day life tend to make us doubt this fact, Justice reminds us that there is divine balance.
Notice the similarity between the Emperor and Justice. Both cards stand for universal order; the Emperor in its underlying
structure, Justice, in the action of karma - cause and effect.
There is a serious feel to Card 11 - the tone of the courtroom. This card refers to legal matters of all kinds, but is
not restricted to them. The courts are where judgments are made and decisions rendered. Our legal system is the official arena
in which we explore the principles of Justice - fairness, impartiality and the quest for truth.
In readings, Justice often appears when you are concerned with doing what is right or making sure you receive your due.
This card can also appear when you are feeling the impact of a past mistake or good deed. The cause you set in motion
at one time is now returning to you as an effect.
Sometimes Justice is a signal to do what needs to be done. A time comes when responsibilities must be accepted, and accounts
settled. The past will continue to haunt you if you do not recognize your mistakes and make amends for them. You will need
to weigh matters carefully and perhaps make important decisions about your future course.
THE HANGED MAN
having an emotional release
accepting what is
surrendering to experience
ending the struggle
giving up control
accepting God's will
turning the world around
changing your mind
overturning old priorities
seeing from a new angle
doing an about-face
pausing to reflect
feeling outside of time
taking time to just be
giving up urgency
living in the moment
for the best opportunity
being a martyr
renouncing a claim
putting self-interest aside
going one step back to go two steps forward
up for a higher cause
putting others first
The Hanged Man is one of the most mysterious cards in the tarot deck. It is simple, but complex. It attracts, but also
disturbs. It contradicts itself in countless ways. The Hanged Man is unsettling because it symbolizes the action of paradox
in our lives. A paradox is something that appears contradictory, and yet is true. The Hanged Man presents to us certain truths,
but they are hidden in their opposites.
The main lesson of the Hanged Man is that we "control" by letting go - we "win" by surrendering. The figure on Card 12
has made the ultimate surrender - to die on the cross of his own travails - yet he shines with the glory of divine understanding.
He has sacrificed himself, but he emerges the victor. The Hanged Man also tells us that we can "move forward" by standing
still. By suspending time, we can have all the time in the world.
In readings, the Hanged Man reminds us that the best approach to a problem is not always the most obvious. When we most
want to force our will on someone, that is when we should release. When we most want to have our own way, that is when we
should sacrifice. When we most want to act, that is when we should wait. The irony is that by making these contradictory moves,
we find what we are looking for.
completion of a phase
closing one door to open another
bringing something to a close
completing a chapter
concluding unfinished business
the past behind you
having a parting of the ways
going through transition
moving from the known to the unknown
being cast adrift
waiting in an in-between state
in the middle
cutting out what isn't necessary
shedding old attitudes
getting down to bare bones
concentrating on essentials
back to basics
experiencing inexorable forces
being in the path of sweeping change
being caught in the inescapable
going through what cannot be avoided
part of a powerful movement
riding your fate
accepting the inevitable
Death! A powerful energy indeed. Who can look at the dark, skeletal figure on Card 13 and not feel uneasy? Here we see
the face of our deepest fear - our greatest unknown. We recoil from Death because we think of it as annihilation. In the tarot
(and in life I would suggest) Death is not a permanent end, but a transition into a new state. Life is eternal in its essence,
if not in its form. To grow, to move, to live - we must "die" to the old to give birth to the new.
It is a truism in tarot work that Card 13 rarely has anything to do with physical death. A responsible card reader
never interprets Card 13 in this way because this view is too limiting. Death is not something that happens once to our bodies.
It happens continually, at many levels and not just in the physical. Each moment we die to the present so the future can unfold.
In readings, Death often represents an important ending that will initiate great change. It signals the end of an era;
a moment when a door is closing. At such times, there may be sadness and reluctance, but also relief and a sense of completion.
Death also suggests getting down to basics. Dying has a way of making you concentrate on what's important. This card reminds
you to cut out the unnecessary. Death can also mean you will experience an inexorable force. Death is inevitable, and sometimes
there are events that are inescapable as well. When these moments occur, the best approach is to ride your fate and see where
it takes you.
finding the middle ground
mitigating a harsh position
looking for the golden
reaching a compromise
offsetting an extreme
bringing together opposites
recognizing all sides
centered and secure
renewing energy and vigor
gathering together what is needed
joining with others
finding the right mix
it all together
There are certain people who exude a kind of quiet composure. They may not say much, but they go about their business with
an air of calm deliberation. Their presence is comforting because they are so centered. For me, this is the energy of Temperance.
To be temperate is to show moderation and self-restraint. In a world full of enticing indulgences, it is often necessary
to find the middle ground. Sensible, maybe, but also a bit boring? The energy of Temperance may seem unexciting on the surface,
but it is the calm of a hurricane's eye. All around are swirling winds, but in the center is a still point that brings everything
In readings, Temperance can represent a need for moderation, especially when extreme cards are present (such as the Knights).
This card can also indicate a need for balance. In conflict situations, Temperance suggests that compromise and cooperation
are vital. Look for any opportunity to bring opposing parties together. In fact, to temper can mean to modify by adding
a new component. By combining and recombining, we come up with the ideal mixture or solution. Temperance is the card of good
health in all areas - physical, mental and emotional. When illness or dis-ease is a concern, Temperance holds out the promise
of vitality and well-being.
accepting an unwanted situation
feeling tied down against your will
yourself to be controlled
being addicted and enslaved
submitting to another
focusing on the material
being caught up in appearances
believing only in the physical
forgetting the spiritual
getting and spending
staying in ignorance
operating within a narrow range
choosing to stay in the dark
being taken in by appearances
believing the worst
seeing a cold world
foreseeing a bleak
Lucifer. Mephistopheles. Satan. The Prince of Darkness. No matter what we call him, the Devil is our symbol for what is
bad and undesirable. From our human perspective, we see the world as a struggle between light and dark. We want to vanquish
the bad so the good can prevail. In fact, good and bad cannot be separated, just as you cannot separate a shadow from its
source. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and it is caused by errors that hide the truth. Card 15 shows us these errors.
First is ignorance - not knowing the truth and not realizing that we do not know. Second is materialism - the belief that
there is nothing but the physical. As spiritual beings, we long for the Divine, but we lose contact with this source of truth
if we trust only our senses. There is also hopelessness, which robs us of our joy and movement toward the light.
Traditionally the Devil stands for evil, but it does not have this rather frightening meaning in a reading. This card lets
you know that you are caught in an unhealthy, unproductive situation. You may be in the dark about something - ignorant of
the truth and its implications. You may be obsessed by a person, idea, substance or pattern that you know is bad for you (or
maybe you don't!). Sometimes this card reflects back the negativity that has made you doubt yourself and your future. We are
prone to many errors in life. Card 15 lets us know when they are serious enough to require attention. When you see the Devil,
examine your assumptions carefully. Make sure you are not working from a false picture of yourself and the situation. Hold
fast to the highest vision of who you are.
going through sudden change
having plans disrupted
undergoing a crisis
having routines shaken up
having an emotional outburst
erupting in anger
crashing through ego defenses
breaking through pretense
experiencing a crash
toppling from the heights
having a downturn in fortune
suffering a blow
to the ego
having a revelation
suddenly realizing the truth
exposing what was hidden
having a burst of insight
seeing through illusions
seeing everything in a flash
The Tower is an unsettling card. Fire, lightning, falling on jagged rocks - definitely looks like trouble! Card 16 will
not be welcomed by those who dislike change. It represents a sudden, dramatic upheaval or reversal in fortune. Usually change
is gradual, giving us time to adapt, but sometimes it is quick and explosive. This is the action of the Tower.
In films, the hero sometimes slaps someone who is groggy or babbling. Having tried everything else, he finally resorts
to a sharp sting to snap him out of it. Sudden crises are life's way of telling you to wake up. Something's wrong, and you're
not responding. Are you too full of pride? Expect a blow to your ego. Are you holding back your anger? Expect the dam to burst.
Are you stuck in a rut? Expect a surprise.
How you respond to the Tower's change makes all the difference in how uncomfortable the experience will be. Recognize that
the disruption occurred because it was needed. Perhaps embracing the change is too much to ask, but try to find the positive
in it. In fact, you may feel tremendous release that you have finally been forced in a new direction. You may have a burst
of insight about your situation and reach a new level of understanding about it.
having faith in the future
counting your blessings
seeing the light at the end
of the tunnel
feeling great expectation
looking forward to success
realizing an inner strength
seeing the way clear
being stimulated to a higher level
wanting to give or share
spreading the wealth
opening your heart
giving back what you have received
love flow freely
offering with no reservations
holding nothing back
experiencing peace of mind
finding your still center
savoring perfect calm
tranquil amid trouble
People have always looked to the stars as a source of inspiration and hope. There is something about their twinkling light
that draws us out of ourselves and up into a higher plane. When we turn our eyes heavenward, we no longer feel the distress
of earth. The Star reminds me of the clear, high voice of a soprano. There is something otherworldly about it. All the harshness
and density of everyday life has been refined away leaving only the purest essence. After being exposed to the Star, we feel
uplifted and blessed.
In readings, the Star is most welcome when grief and despair have overwhelmed us. In our darkest moments, we need to know
that there is hope,that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Star is the opposite of the Devil who strips us of our
faith in the future. Card 17 holds out the promise that we can eventually find peace of mind. The Star also reminds us to
open our heart and release our fears and doubt. If you have been holding back in any way, now is the time to give generously.
It is important to remember that the Star is inspiring, but it is not a card of practical solutions or final answers. Truly
without hope we can accomplish nothing, but hope is only a beginning. When you see Card 17, know that you are on the right
track. Your goals and your aspirations are blessed, but to realize them, you must take positive action. Use the light of the
Star to guide you in your efforts.
releasing inner demons
feeling a nameless apprehension
suffering from phobias
giving in to the shadow self
being overcome by anxieties
accepting a false picture
having unrealistic ideas
misapprehending the truth
chasing after a fantasy
stimulating the imagination
having vivid dreams or visions
opening to fantasy
plumbing the unconscious
entertaining unusual thoughts
outlandish and bizarre
losing direction and purpose
having trouble thinking clearly
being easily distracted
If you look around the room right now, you will (probably!) see people and objects that are comforting in their familiarity.
Everything is exactly as you expect it to be. You know that if you closed your eyes and opened them, the room would
be the same. But...have you ever lost the familiar to find, in its place, a world so extraordinary you can't even grasp it?
This is the experience of the Moon.
Most of the time we live in a tiny pocket of normality that we wrap around us like a security blanket. We turn our backs
on the mysterious universe that waits outside. From time to time we may sneak a peak with our imagination, or venture out
through fantasy or expanded awareness. We can be thrust out there unprepared through drugs, madness or intense experiences
such as battle.
The Moon is the light of this realm - the world of shadow and night. Although this place is awesome, it does not have to
be frightening. In the right circumstances, the Moon inspires and enchants. It holds out the promise that all you imagine
can be yours. The Moon guides you to the unknown so you can allow the unusual into your life.
THE SUNbecoming enlightened
finding the sense behind the chaos
attaining a new level of insight
having an intellectual breakthrough
to the heart of the matter
realizing the truth
being singled out for notice
having a personal moment of glory
setting an outstanding example
becoming the center of attention
becoming radiantly energized
bursting with enthusiasm
enjoying great health
feeling free and expansive
honoring your true self
knowing you can succeed
believing in your
trusting your abilities
Brilliant. Radiant. Sparkling. So many of our words reflect (!) the power and glory of light. When we turn on the light
in a room, we illuminate it so that all the dark corners are visible. When we turn on the light in our minds, we are
enlightened. We see clearly and understand the truth. Both within and without, the energy of light expands our limits
and makes us shine.
Throughout history, people have honored the Sun as the source of light and warmth. In the myths of many cultures, the Sun
is a prominent god - full of vigor and courage. He is the vital energy center that makes life on earth possible. In the tarot
the Sun also symbolizes vitality and splendor. The Sun is definitely not a meek and retiring card.
In readings, you will understand Card 19 if you imagine yourself to be a Sun God. How do you think and feel? You have total
confidence in yourself. You are not cocky, but profoundly sure of your power. You have unlimited energy and glow with health.
You have a greatness about you and stand out brilliantly. Finally, you see and understand all that is happening within your
sphere. When you see this card, know that you will be successful at all you undertake. Now is the time to let your light shine.
making a judgment
having a day of reckoning
separating the wheat from the chaff
making an honest appraisal
off the fence
using critical faculties
taking a stand
making hard choices
awakening to possibilities
enjoying renewed hope
making a fresh start
in a new light
hearing a call
recognizing your true vocation
feeling inner conviction
feeling an impulse to act
deciding to make
feeling drawn in a new direction
knowing what you must do
answering a need
feeling cleansed and refreshed
releasing guilts and sorrows
forgiving yourself and others
for past mistakes
feeling sins washed away
On Card 20, we see people rising up at the call of an angel.
Judgment comes in two forms. The hurtful kind says, "What you did is wrong, and you are bad and worthless for having done
it." This type of judgment separates and leaves no room for redemption. It is possible to judge without condemning. We assess
the matter, weigh all sides and try to discern the truth. We recognize the need to choose and hope for the courage to do so
wisely - but without blame.
In readings, Card 20 can be a reminder that judgments are necessary; sometimes you must decide. At such moments,
it is best to consider the matter carefully and then commit yourself without censure. If you are being judged yourself, learn
from the process. Take what is of value, correct what needs correcting, but never lose sight of your worth.
Card 20 also stands for the feelings that come with salvation. When the angel calls, you are reborn - cleansed of all guilts
and burdens. The past and its mistakes are behind you, and you are ready to begin anew. You may even feel a calling - a personal
conviction of what you are meant to do. If you are in a low period, in need of hope and absolution, Judgement can show you
that renewal is at hand.
bringing parts together
achieving dynamic balance
working in unison
realizing your goals
achieving your heart's desire
seeing dreams come true
a beautiful solution
rendering a service
using a gift or talent
sharing what you have
giving of yourself
savoring the present
taking pleasure in life
enjoying peace of mind
It's Thanksgiving Day. You've just finished a delicious meal, and there's a hot mug of coffee in your hand. Friends and
family are arguing about the latest fiasco, the baby's cooing at you from across the table, and your feet are rubbing the
belly of a devoted mutt. You're happy, fulfilled and truly thankful (at least until you have to start the dishes!). For this
moment, the World and everything in it is yours.
We all recognize this feeling. It can come at any time or place and is always welcome. We can feel it at home raking the
leaves or on the world stage accepting the Nobel Prize. It can seem quiet and simple, or wild and glorious. What is this feeling,
and where does it come from? Card 21 can help us find out.
A major element of happiness is wholeness - the sense that everything is working together in harmony. Not in a static way,
but with dynamic balance. Involvement is also important. To be happy, we must feel connected - engaged with what is around
us. There is also accomplishment - knowing that we have goals and are moving toward them successfully. When all these elements
come together, we feel fulfilled and blessed.
The World represents these moments and all that goes into them. In readings, it is a very positive sign that you are in
a position to realize your heart's desire. What that is for you depends on the situation, but it will always feel great. Remember,
though, that Card 21 is a symbol of active contribution and service. To hold the World in our hands, we must give of ourselves
to it. That is the source of true happiness.
THE MINOR ARCANA
The Wands are the suit of creativity, action and movement. They are associated with such qualities as enthusiasm,
adventure, risk-taking and confidence. This suit corresponds to the yang, or masculine principle, in Chinese philosophy and
is associated with the element Fire. A flickering flame is the perfect symbol of the Wands force. This energy flows outward
and generates passionate involvement.
The Cups are the suit of emotions and spiritual experience. They describe inner states, feelings and relationship
patterns. The energy of this suit flows inward. Cups correspond to the yin, or feminine principle, in Chinese philosophy and
are associated with the element Water. The ability of water to flow and fill up spaces, to sustain and to reflect changing
moods makes it the ideal symbol of the Cups suit.
The Swords are the suit of intellect, thought and reason. They are concerned with justice, truth and ethical
principles. Swords are associated with the element Air. A cloudless sky, open and light-filled, is a symbol of the mental
clarity that is the Swords ideal. This suit is also associated with states that lead to disharmony and unhappiness. Our intellect
is a valuable asset, but as an agent of ego, it can lead us astray if it is not infused with the wisdom of our Inner Guide.
The Pentacles are the suit of practicality, security and material concerns. They are associated with the
element Earth and the concrete requirements of working with matter. In Pentacles, we celebrate the beauty of nature, our interactions
with plants and animals and our physical experiences in the body. Pentacles also represent prosperity and wealth of all kinds.
Sometimes this suit is called the Coins, an obvious symbol of the exchange of goods and services in the physical world.
The suits are structured much as our everyday playing cards with ten numbered cards (Ace - Ten) and four court cards (King,
Queen, Knight and Page). Each card has a role to play in showing how its energy expresses in the world.
AcesAce of Cups stands for love, emotions, intuition, and intimacy - ideas that are explored in the other cards
of the Cups suit. An Ace always represents positive forces. It is the standard-bearer for the best its suit has to offer.
An Ace announces the themes of its suit. The
Middle Cardscard 2), leadership (card 3), excitement (card 4) and competition (card 5). A card may approach an idea from several angles. The Five of Pentacles shows the many faces of want - hard times (material want), ill health (physical want), and rejection
Each of the middle, numbered cards presents a different aspect of a suit. The Wands explore such themes
as personal power (
TensAce of Cups to their ultimate, you have the joy, peace and family love of the Ten of Cups.
A Ten takes the themes introduced by an Ace to their logical conclusion. If you take the love, intimacy and
emotions of the
The court cards are people with personalities that reflect the qualities of their suit and rank. The
court cards show us certain ways of being in the world so that we can use (or avoid!) those styles when appropriate.
A King is mature and masculine. He is a doer whose focus is outward on the events of life. He demonstrates authority,
control and mastery in some area associated with his suit. A King's style is strong, assertive and direct. He is concerned
with results and practical, how-to matters.
A Queen is mature and feminine. She embodies the qualities of her suit, rather than acting them out. Her focus is
inward, and her style, relaxed and natural. A Queen is less concerned with results than with the enjoyment of just being in
the world. She is associated with feelings, relationships and self-expression.
A Knight is an immature teenager. He cannot express himself with balance. He swings wildly from one extreme to another
as he tries to relate successfully to his world. A Knight is prone to excess, but he is also eager and sincere, and these
qualities redeem him in our eyes. We admire his spirit and energy.
A Page is a playful child. He acts out the qualities of his suit with pleasure and abandon. His approach may not
be deep, but it is easy, loose and spontaneous. He is a symbol of adventure and possibility.
MINOR ARCANA CARDS
Ace: A message of love, the start of a romance. Doing something for love.
Two: A happy relationship or partnership.
Three: Partying and celebrating.
Four: Boredom and apathy.
The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.
Five: Depression and regret.
Six: Simple joys, something
or someone from the past.
Seven: Confusion, too many choices, dreams and illusions.
Eight: Leaving something behind,
change of lifestyle.
Nine: The wish card. Dreams come true.
Ten: Good luck and happiness, satisfaction.
new friendship. News of something or someone dear to your heart.
Knight: A proposal or invitation. A good-natured, brown-haired
youth with light eyes.
Queen: An intuitive woman. A kindly brown-haired woman with light eyes.
King: A gentle man. A
healer. A good advisor. A good-natured, brown-haired man with light eyes.
WANDS or RODS
Ace: New starts. New business idea. Uprush of energy.
Planning for the future. Anxiety. Working partnership.
Three: Business success, leading a group.
Four: House move, success.
Trouble and strife, especially petty fighting.
Six: Public success, recognition.
Seven: Fighting for your vision, competing.
Communications, quick movement.
Nine: Last minute problems, self-protection.
Ten: Success which brings (too) many burdens.
News of work or business, new interests.
Knight: Travel and action. A red or fair-haired youth.
Queen: A business-like
or active woman. A red or fair-haired woman.
King: An active and influential man. A red or fair-haired man.
COINS or PENTACLES
Ace: Money and security, health.
Two: Juggling time and
Three: New job or work, success in work.
Four: Success but unwillingness to move forward or change.
Ill health, financial losses, loss of self-esteem.
Six: Receiving and giving help, financial and otherwise.
adjustments in your plans and being prepared to do the hard work.
Eight: New job, studies, working with a hobby.
Success from your own efforts, security.
Ten: Money and property, the countryside, inheritance.
Page: News abut money
or a job, study for a job.
Knight: Cautious, patient working towards a goal. A dark-haired youth with dark eyes.
An self-confident and practical woman. A dark-haired woman with dark eyes.
King: An honest and practical man. A dark-haired
man with dark eyes.
Ace: Crisis point, success through difficulties.
Two: Sitting on the
fence, balance, waiting.
Three: Anxiety, unhappiness, separation.
Four: Rest, hospital, withdrawal.
for the wrong things, arguments, being forced to recognise your limitations.
Six: Moving away from troubles.
Deception, theft, non-confrontation.
Eight: Feeling trapped, standstill, restrictions.
Nine: Anxiety, worries, mental
Ten: Misfortune and endings, failure.
Page: Spying, email or telephone call, brash new idea.
changes, arguments. A dark-haired youth with grey eyes.
Queen: A widow. An unscrupulous woman. A dark-haired woman with
King: An ambitious and authoritative man. A lawyer or doctor. A dark-haired man with grey eyes.
Interpreting a Single Card
When I interpret a reading, I go back and forth between sensing the cards as a whole and examining each one individually.
The two approaches reinforce each other. In this lesson, we will look at how to interpret one card in a reading on its own.
There are four sources of meaning:
The first is your unique response to the card based on your background, personality and state of mind. This element keeps
the meaning of the card personal and fresh.
The second is the set of meanings that have built up around the card over the years. These vary with different tarot writers
The third is the set of meanings associated with the position of a card. These are also based on convention and
The fourth is your question or life circumstances. This element provides a framework for your responses. It sets boundaries
and helps you relate a card to one area of your life.
To interpret a card, you need to combine these four sources of meaning into some composite that makes sense to you. This
is a fluid process. These areas seem separate, but in practice, they blend together, and your response just happens.
Some readers read reversed cards as well. The meanings
can be read as the opposite of the meanings listed above, or the reversed cards can simply be interpreted as above but with
delays, obstacles or a weakening in strength.
Experience will reveal additional personal meanings
to you along the way. Remember that the key to successful divination is to believe and to remain consistent.
MAJOR ARCANA TAROT KEYWORDS:
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Cause and Effect
NOTE: The deck I use is called Ancient Minchiate Etruria.
This deck, dating
from 1725, has 97 cards. The extra cards include the 12 signs of the zodiac and the 4 elements. Faith, Hope, Prudence and
Charity join Strength, Temperance and Justice. The Tower appears as the House of the Devil, the Empress, Papess (High Priestess)
and Pope (Hierophant), replaced by the Eastern Emperor, the Western Emperor and the Grand Duke.
Variant meanings include:
2 Clubs (Wands): Mishap, illness, block.
Chalices (Cups): Happy memories, illumination, premonitory dreams.
7 Swords: Project on the way, fruitful negotiations,
2 Pentacles: Recklessness, danger on the way, embarrassing news, difficulty, agitation.
BASIC TAROT SPREADS
Three Card Spread:
This spread gives a quick answer/overview to a single question/issue. Lay out three cards in a row
from left to right.
The cards represent past (card 1), present (card 2) and future (card 3).
This spread can also be extended to a Nine Card Spread using three cards for the past (top row), three cards for the present
(middle row) and three cards for the future (bottom row).
The Horseshoe Spread: This spread gives a more general overview of your life and uses 21 cards. Lay down seven groups
of three cards in the shape of a horseshoe (or arch). Each group covers a category.
The seven categories are:
2 The present situation.
3 Developments in the near future.
4 What you don't expect.
6 Obstacles and opposition.
7 The outcome.
The Celtic Cross: This spread gives a more general overview of your life and uses 10 cards.
1 Your present situation.
2 What crosses you, obstacles and opposition. (This card is placed across the first card)
The very near future (the next couple of weeks).
4 The basis of the situation, often unacknowledged.
5 The past situation.
The near future (the next couple of months).
7 Your state of mind.
8 People around you or the environment.
hopes and fears.
10 The outcome (6-8 months away).
The Gypsy Spread: From left to right, lay three rows of seven cards. The top row of seven cards represents the past.
The middle row the present and the bottom row of seven cards the future. This 21 card spread demands great skill and is not
to be attempted until you are very confident with the meanings of the cards and combining them into a meaningful narrative.