All About Tarot

What is Tarot?

by Isha Lerner

I was given my first Tarot deck when I was eighteen years old. It was a used deck found in a used book store. My aunt found it and thought I would enjoy the pictures. That deck with its elaborate and mysterious pictures was instrumental in changing my life.

The Tarot is a deck of seventy-eight cards that has stirred great historical and intellectual debate. We do not know its exact origin, the complete code, nor the mystery that ties its symbolic imagery together. We do know, however, that the Tarot deck is the ancestor to our modern playing cards and throughout history, this pictorial masterpiece has been described as a game, a fortune telling device, a work of art, a secret doctrine, and ultimately, a mirror of human unconsciousness.

The Tarot first surfaced in our modern culture during the 1960s when music and art struck a psychological chord within the inner fabric of social reform. Its imagery and symbolic implications appeared on rock star's album covers, in psychology books, and many artists, poets, and musicians were inspired by its intrigue and mysticism. Historians studied its artistic lineage and the spiritually-inclined used the Tarot as a medium to enhance self-reflection and personal inquiry. The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, introduced a new field of exploration, the study of alchemy, as a means to understand the transformation and metamorphosis of the human soul through what is today known as Jungian Psychology. With his interest and use of ancient symbolism, including tarot, Jung's work opened the door to new dimensions of thought and human growth.

Powerful Work Of Art And Script

The Tarot is a powerful work of art and script. We might compare it to an old growth tree, for its far reaching branches of diversity serve as a canopy, or motherly shelter, protecting the many influences it has incorporated throughout time. This ancient body of knowledge, when researched and understood, offers a sound perspective of the evolutionary path of human consciousness through the ages. It can be viewed as a sequence of images portraying the passage of the soul as it journeys through the cyclical stages of birth, death and rebirth. The seventy-eight card deck serves as one of humanity's sacred texts, as it is an anthology of alchemy, kabala, number magic, astrology, art, religion and mysticism. At its best, it stands as a school, a secret doctrine, or an open field of study, void of dogma and hypocrisy. The seventy-eight card Tarot deck is a balanced, non-dualistic representation of the school of life.

Landscape Of The Soul

Much like the mysterious and imaginative expression of our dream life, the Tarot is a panoramic view of the landscape of the soul. It can be studied as an intellectual pursuit, void of the hype and superstitions that cloud its integrity. Unfortunately, it can also remain misunderstood and feared by those who do not wish to explore its deeper implications, symbols and wisdom. If you feel inclined to study Tarot, I suggest you begin by researching the backstory of the Tarot through the ages. I also suggest you take seriously the study of alchemy, the laws of nature, numerology, the poets, astrological and planetary correlations, archetypes, psychology, art and other forms of symbolism and imagery found throughout different periods of religious, political, and social significance.

Everything goes, everything returns, eternally rolls the wheel of being ... Crooked is the path of eternity. Nietzsche

Structure of the Tarot

The Major Arcana

The Trumps or Major Arcana are twenty-two of the seventy-eight Tarot cards that represent a "missing" fifth suit that is not found in traditional playing cards. The archetypes and images relate to soul qualities that are mirrored by humanity. When studied and applied to our waking life, the powerful images help us to move along the royal road to wisdom, or our initiation path to higher consciousness. There is a progression of experience and symbolic movement an individual meets when working with the Major Arcana that opens one to new dimensions of awareness and life direction. The journey begins with the Trump 0, The Fool, and ends with Trump 21, The World, and then cycles back toward a new level of gestation and birth. Some people refer to these cards as Soul Cards, for they speak directly to the High Self, offering a mirror through which one can perceive oneself more clearly. They are also seen as helpers and guides.

Sixteen Court Cards

The sixteen court cards are represented by the four principal authorities governing our life. These authorities can be identified as: The Page (our inner muse); The Knight (our inner adventurer); The Queen (our inner wisdom); and The King (our true inner power). These four authorities represent the emotional, mental, spiritual and physical aspects living within the individual. In early decks, when the royal courts ruled the "common people," these cards were realistically depicted as the Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Over the centuries, and through the changing paradigms within cultures, these roles have shifted. We no longer have a royal court that presides over the "kingdom." One may choose to continue working with the royal courts and their traditional imagery. However, in our modern world, these historical images are archetypal in nature, and serve as symbolic food for the soul.

Modern decks may portray a King as a Shaman, a Statesman or a Guardian. We may find the Queen transformed into a Wise Woman, a Guide, a Teacher or a Goddess. In any event, it is entirely up to the individual, and to the creators of new and innovative decks, to discover within themselves the images most suitable to their own inner worlds. This is one example of the personal relationship and diversity one encounters when using the Tarot.

Forty Numerical Cards

The forty numerical cards, numbered ace to ten are historically called the "Pip" cards or the Minor Arcana. These are related to the mystery of numerology and the magical power of numbers. Each number carries a force that is supported and anchored within the universal codes of nature, the galaxies, music, language and human experiences. The Minor Arcana cards reveal the actions, suggestions and challenges we face each day. They support the body of the Major Arcana, or Greater Mysteries, by offering us practical guidelines, mirrors and solutions in life.

Archetypes

The archetypes depicted in the twenty-two Major Arcana cards portray imagery and symbolism that mirror the many faces and feelings of humanity. Images such as the Magician, The Empress, The Hermit or The Fool enable us to examine the forces that live deep within us and invoke a mood, a need, or a greater understanding of our personality or soul life. At periodic intervals, the same cards will appear over and over again for an individual. These cards serve as a persistent reminder that the changes and opportunities available at any given time are worth investigating. The cards mirror an individual's inner authority, power, freedom, strength and transformational cycles, offering clues and suggestions toward the mastery of life goals and ambitions. Through the wisdom of the Tarot, we illumine an aspect of our True Self, otherwise hidden by the external manifestations of our three-dimensional world. The Tarot offers insight and solutions to life's complex issues and serves as a tool, helping us to solve our personal problems and answer universal questions.

There are archetypal patterns which are universal, and patterns which are personally activated. Archetypes can be likened to blue prints. They are energies that are contained within the seed of the psyche. How the seed is cultivated determines the way in which it grows into its actual form. Several energies may be present or one major archetype may blossom at any given stage of one’s life. Stages of life determine new elements that may be forming within the psyche, and these new potentials give rise to different patterns and visions of one's True Self. Ways to identify one’s archetypal patterns as they arise are through dreams, visions, synchronicities, inspiration, songs, art, wishes, our envy, jealousy and passions. This is the work of the soul over many lifetimes.

Reading the Cards

Always, always, always share the beauty and grace of the Tarot with your clients or friends and help them to feel safe and at peace as they shuffle and handle the deck. Ease any concern or doubt that they may have and remain confident and loving in the process. As you demonstrate your own ease your client will mirror you. You are also a mirror, a key component of a person's experience with the Tarot. Never, never, never seem alarmed or frightened by a card. Remain calm and confident and your client will prosper.

Using the Tarot cards is an infinite exploration that can enchant you for the duration of your life. Once you have acquired a sense of ease and comfort with a chosen deck, it is then time to engage in divine play with the cards in a kind of sacred, liminal space. They will be your ally and your guide as they assist you toward deeper understanding of your inner and outer worlds. This process is like discovering a picture language that is stored in the memory cells of your body and can be mirrored back to you whenever you wish. Fall back on the traditional wisdom that has been passed down through the ages and imagine your way into new insights as each new moment arises.

I wish to share some of my little secrets with you regarding how to do a reading. When we are about to do a reading for ourselves or another person, it is important to take note of the archetype we hold within our self at that time, for that energy will be manifesting throughout the reading. I often invoke the energy of Temperance, along with her keynote "Grounding Cosmic Energy." I feel it is appropriate to GROUND before a session, and to align with one's guides. You may think of the Magician or the High Priestess, but whichever archetype you call up, be prepared to move with the energy.

Next, of course, you must clear your heart and open the channel so that you may receive clarity from the center of love. This is why I call upon the Mother\Father God. There is a gentle force when working through the heart center, and this opens visions and intuition.

You are now ready to handle, shuffle, and mix the cards putting your loving vibration into them, affirming love and light while you handle them. I do not voice this out loud, this is done within myself. When I feel I have cleared the deck, I hand them to my client, asking him or her to do the same as I have done. At this time, I openly invite the Tarot Oracle to join us and I acknowledge the power of love and light that streams in.

As you become more sure of your own intuition you will know when your client is finished. Some people are a bit self-conscious because they may think they are taking too long, and so rush their process. It is my job to see to it that the cards feel energized and if I feel they are not, I will ask my client to shuffle them more. I then ask the client to cut the deck three times and to put the cards back together in any way they wish. Finally, I decide whether they will choose their own cards, or if I will lay the cards out for them.

You are now ready to proceed with the reading of the cards.

The Benefits of Tarot

As we each journey toward our goals and aspirations, we seek to cultivate inner knowing. The Tarot is an ancient body of language and art that has preserved the wisdom of antiquity. It is likely to awaken an archetypal picture language within. This rich body of creative resource serves as a mirror into the various stages of our life’s unfolding and shapes the essence of our soul. When summoning the power and integrity of Tarot as a tool for guidance, we utilize both poetic and literal inspiration to aid our life's inquiries. Healing through the power of visualization is nothing new. It is a process of empowerment, of manifestation and embodiment. We honor the Tarot for the vessel of potent, revelatory imagery it truly is.


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