What’s in the Cards?

by Haley Fritz

If the thought of tarot cards calls to mind purple-robed gypsies reading a crystal ball, then you’re not alone. But the stereotypes we once used to characterize tarot readers no longer apply, as fortune-telling emerges from the shadows of counterculture into the mainstream. These days, most tarot card readers are indistinguishable from your next-door neighbor. 

According to Sage Goddess, “Tarot reading is the practice of divining wisdom and guidance through a specific spread (or layout) of Tarot cards.” Some devotees describe tarot as more of a meditation tool than a supernatural encounter -- which, in an increasingly wellness-focused culture, may explain why tarot has become so popular.

Contrary to popular belief, the art of tarot requires no spiritual intervention or preternatural abilities. Rather than predicting the future, tarot cards uncover deep-seated truths about our higher selves: truths about which we are already subconsciously aware, but sometimes need a little nudge to see clearly.

With your very own deck of tarot cards, and a little bit of confidence, you can learn to divine your future from what’s in the cards, from buying the perfect deck to interpreting the meaning of your spread.

Choose your deck

The Rider-Waite deck is the most commonly used in tarot, though experienced tarot card readers may recommend starting with an Oracle deck, which requires the least complex spreads to grasp. The Starchild Tarot deck features beautifully hand-painted illustrations in alluring shades of violet and rose.

What you’ll need to know

As in any hobby, a little self-study can go a long way in ensuring a successful at-home tarot experience. Naturally, you’ll want to learn the basics of tarot before making your first attempt at a reading. 

Every tarot deck contains two categories of cards: the Major Arcana, representing major themes and life lessons, and the Minor Arcana, focusing on your present-day situation.

As with an ordinary deck of cards, every tarot card bears one of four suits: Cups (cards associated with emotions and creativity), Pentacles (cards describing career and finances), Swords (cards summarizing  thoughts, words and actions) and Wands (cards representing energy, motivation and passion). 

A full tarot deck contains 78 cards, including both the Major and Minor Arcana. Each card has its own unique meaning. Important cards include the Fool (a symbol of wisdom and enlightenment), the High Priestess (a mirror of one’s subconscious instincts and emotions) and Death (rarely a literal symbol of death, but rather, one of rebirth).

A basic tarot reading

To perform a simple reading at home, you’ll need a full tarot deck containing both the Major and Minor Arcana. Begin by separating the cards into their two respective categories. Shuffle each Arcana eight times -- a sacred number among the tarot community.

Take a moment to center yourself and breathe deeply, clearing your mind of all distractions. Then, open your eyes and, allowing your intuition to guide you, choose an Archetypal card from the Major Arcana. This card represents you, and the other cards you pull should be read in relation to this card. 

Next, shuffle the Minor Arcana eight times. Pull your first card from the Minor Arcana to represent the physical realm. Pull a second card, representing the mental realm. Finally, pull a third card to represent the spiritual realm. Lay these three cards beneath your Archetypal card, in a pyramid shape, for a basic three-card spread.

While you are still learning the meanings behind cards, feel free to use a search engine or guidebook to help you interpret your reading. The guidebook Neo Tarot: A Fresh Approach to Self-Care, Healing & Enlightenment offers a modern take on the ancient art of reading tarot cards in relation to your spiritual self-care.

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