Tarot 101

Posted January 3rd, 2012 by denwagh

As pagans we are often exposed to many types of divination. In my experiences, the only type of divination that ever called to me had been Tarot. The history of Tarot is complicated with many opinions being voiced and argued. If you are looking for a history, I highly recommend visiting http://www.tarothistory.com/

This entry will be extremely basic and is for those who have never seen or touched a Tarot deck but are interested in this type of Divination.

The Decks:

Most Tarot decks consist of 78 cards: 22 Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana consist of four “suits”, just like a deck of regular playing cards.


The four suits are:

Pentacles (or Disks or Coins). These tend toward material world things, money, work, success, etc and is ruled by Earth.

Wands (or Staffs) tend to be based in more spiritual realms and is ruled by Fire.

Cups, deal with emotional issues, or issues of the mind and is ruled by Water.

Swords, tend toward self-image, ego, perception, observation and is ruled the realm of Air. 

An easy way I’ve found to remember these is:

  • Pentacles: I think of these as coins. Coins = Material Things = Man Made = Earth
  • Wands: I think of these as “sticks” like kindling . Sticks = Fire = Smoke which rises to the spirit.
  • Cups: Cups is pretty easy, Cups hold Water, tears are Water, emotions can cause tears.
  • Swords: Swords are used by knights who are perceptive and observant and they slash through Air.

This may make sense to you or it may make none at all, use what works for you to remember the basics about the suits.

When starting out, I highly recommend making your life easy, and getting the person to ask you a question out loud. Both parties should focus on the question while you shuffle the cards. As you get more experienced or confident with the cards, you won’t care if they ask a question, but repeating the questioner’s question out loud yourself does seem to assist the divination process.

This worked fine for me the first year I read Tarot but as I continued to get more comfortable with the cards I no longer needed to ask a question. I am also an extremely aware empath which makes reading come more naturally to me and probably why Tarot called to me above all other forms of Divination. Again, use what makes you comfortable.

At the end of the day, Tarot is a system that allows you to get a good feeling or direction of the answer to a question or a situation. It is not a magic answer system but more of a suggestion system. The better aquainted you become with your deck, the easier it will be to understand meanings that come about during a reading.

As you progress you will also come to identify with a card or several cards that seem to represent yourself. Other Tarot readers might be able to peg “your card” as well. I’ve had this happen on several occasions when I’ve met other readers and gotten to know them. My card for example is the King of Swords and I relate to a few other cards as well, mostly in the Swords deck.

This covers the Minor Arcana. In future postings I will cover the Major Arcana, Protecting your deck both physically and spiritually and give some simple example spreads to use as you learn Tarot.


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