• Jess

What the Cards Said: an Intro to Tarot

Tarot cards originated in the mid 15th century in Europe. Initially, they were used for playing card games, however in the late 18th century, they came to be used for divination ( a way of gaining insight into a situation).

There are 22 major arcana cards, and 56 minor arcana cards, which are divided into four separate suits with their own meaning and symbolism.

The minor arcana’s suits are:

  • Pentacles (the earth element, associated with our physical home, money, family and our manifested reality)

  • Swords ( the air element, our imagination, thought patterns, ability to problem solve, what we think of as possible)

  • Wands ( the fire element, our willpower, creative energy, passion and vital life force)

  • Cups ( the water element, our intuition, emotions, dreams and our subconscious)

I like to think of the major arcana as all of the experiences we need to go through and learn from to become a healthy and empowered person: leaving home, falling in love, creating friendships, experiencing loss, discovering our strength. We may not always be in a space where we can receive a lesson gifted to us by the cards, but in infinite love and wisdom, the lesson will be presented to us again so we can heal and grow.

Tarot is a tool with many layers: the colours, numbers, animals, the direction a person is facing, all help us to understand the meaning of a card. There are many ways to work with the Tarot, from pulling a single card to using a spread where the position of each card helps us get a clearer perspective on the information we’re receiving.

One of the most popular and oldest decks (a great one to use if you’re new to Tarot and it’s symbolism) is the Colman Smith deck (often referred to as the Rider Waite deck) published in 1909 by A.E. Waite. Illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, the style, colouring and imagery she used can be seen in subsequent decks to this day.

What I love about working with the Tarot is that it shows us a wider picture of our own circumstances. It helps us to see how our past experiences, relationships and emotions may be influencing our present. It can also show us challenges and opportunities we may not be aware of and support that we may not be tuned into.

There are no “bad” cards. There’s a blessing and a teaching in each one. It’s important to remember not to take the cards literally. Pulling the Death card doesn’t mean that you or a loved one are going to die-- instead, it usually symbolizes the end of a part of our life, whether that’s a job, a relationship or a home that we’ve outgrown.

What I love about reading Tarot for clients is that so often, the messages they receive were things they had already intuited on their own, but weren't quite sure they trusted their intuition or knew how to put the information together or make their next move. The cards are a sacred tool which should be approached with respect, but they aren't the source of wisdom. They just help us provide context for our inner wisdom.

Tarot shows us options, not a predestined outcome. In my 10+ years of work with the Tarot, I use the framework that we have free will and that we have the personal power (and the support of the universe/Source/Creator) to change our life at any time and make choices that help us feel liberated, in alignment and connected to creativity and compassion.

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