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Magic 101, part 7 - Tarot basics



Tarot cards have been around for centuries. They seem to have started off as playing cards, but were later developed into the divinatory tool we know and love today.


There are 78 cards in a tarot deck split up into five suits. The suits are the Major Arcana and four Minor Arcana, which are Swords, Wands, Cups, and Pentacles (sometimes called Coins). Each of the Minor Arcana correspond to one of the four classical elements, while the Major Arcana's elements vary by specific card.

Swords

Air

Intellect, communication

Masculine/intense/positive

Wands

Fire

Willpower, action

Masculine/intense/positive

Cups

Water

Emotions, relationships

Feminine/gentle/negative

Pentacles

Earth

Money, creature comforts

Feminine/gentle/negative

The Major Arcana are numbered from 0 to 21 and have their own meanings. These can vary a bit from deck to deck, but generally it's something like this.

The Fool

0

Air

​Innocence, new journey

The Magician

1

Air

Creation, working

The High Priestess

2

Water

Intuition, spirituality

The Empress

3

Earth

Love, fertility

The Emporer

4

Fire

Structure, power

The Hierophant

5

Earth

Tradition

The Lovers

6

Air

Balance, duality

The Chariot

7

Water

Moving forward, control

Strength

8

Fire

Strength, compassion

The Hermit

9

Earth

Solitude, self-reflection

The Wheel

10

Fire

Cycles, repetition

Justice

11

Air

Justice, truth

The Hanged Man

12

Water

Sacrifice

Death

13

Water

Change, transformation

Temperance

14

Fire

Balance, patience

The Devil

15

Earth

Materialism, sex, food, drugs

The Tower

16

Fire

Disaster, fall from pride

The Star

17

Air

Rejuvenation, faith

The Moon

18

Water

Intuition, illusions

The Sun

19

Fire

Happiness, celebration

Judgement

20

Fire

Judgement, reflection

The World

21

Earth

Completion, harmony

That's a lot to remember! And look, that's just 22 of the 78 cards. AND there are reversals!?!?!?!?!


Luckily, there are a few ways to "cheat." Of course, there's good old-fashioned reading and memorization. Labyrinthos is a great resource for learning about the cards, and they have an app that lets you learn keywords as a flash card game. Another resource, if you want to get really in-depth information about each individual card, is Biddy Tarot.


Buuuuut if you would rather have a few simple tricks up your sleeve... You really just need numerology and elements, at least for the Minor Arcana. Just remember which suits are which elements and what the numbers/characters mean and you'll generally have a pretty good idea. Here's a chart to illustrate this for you.

Fire (Willpower)

Water (Emotions)

Air (Intellect)

Earth (Money)

Ace

New passion

New love

New info

New money

2

Planning

Partnership

Indecision

Priorities

3

Expansion

Friendship

Grief

Teamwork

4

Home

Apathy

Rest

Frugality

5

Conflict

Loss

Ambition

Poverty

6

Victory

Healing

Moving on

Generosity

7

Perserverence

Daydreaming

Strategy

Hard work

8

Quick decision

Walking away

Trapped

Diligence

9

Resilience

Emotional stability

Anxiety

Rewards

10

Accomplishment

Fulfillment

​Collapse

Legacy

Page

Excitement

Sensitivity

​Curiosity

Ambition

Knight

Fearless

Romantic

Impulsive

Responsible

Queen

Courage

​Compassion

Clear mind

Practicality

King

Winning

Control

Truth

Prosperity

There are some common themes we can make out if we look at these the right way.


Aces are about something new, the beginning, individuality.

Twos are about important decisions.

Threes are about groups.

Fours are foundations.

Fives are competition.

Sixes are perfecting an area of your life.

Sevens are wise.

Eights are about control.

Nines are experienced.

Tens are complete.

The Pages are young and energetic.

The Knights are dedicated.

The Queens the gentle rulers.

The Kings are the intense rulers.


There's also, obviously, a ton of symbolism in the art for the cards. When doing a reading, take note of anything that catches your eye, even if it doesn't fit the typical card meaning. There's a reason you're noticing it. Different decks will have different art and different details, which is why they'll "speak" to you differently. Find a deck that resonates with you (I love my Golden Thread deck) and learn its "personality."


Now, reversals... can be tricky. A good rule of thumb is that a reversal (when the card is turned upside-down) is either the opposite meaning or the same meaning in a different way.


Let's take the 4 of Wands. Upright, this card symbolizes home and stability, a supportive family. Reversed, this card would be a lack of support, homelessness, fighting with your family, etc.


I just gave a few simple keywords to give you a basic idea of the meanings, but there are multiple meanings to each card. Sometimes you won't know which meaning is "right." You can usually figure it out from the context of your question or from your first thought when you see it. Trust your instincts, right?


Tarot cards take a while to really master, and I don't really even consider myself an expert. (I think I just have a good relationship with my deck.) If you're interested in learning about tarot, check out the links I've talked about here.


Stay safe!

- me

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