A bit about Tarot

If you’re following along with #TarotTuesday this month, I promised a little primer on Tarot and how I perform my readings. Heavy caveat that I’ve really just started to dip in my toes, and much like yoga, Tarot has a VAST history and many different interpretations; the following is my own understanding from my research and my personal methodology for reading and using Tarot in my own life.

Use of Tarot cards dates back to the 15th century, when the decks were used to play games, much like we use a standard deck of cards today. (People also still play games with Tarot cards, too!) There are many variations in Tarot decks, based on region and purpose. The most common decks used for cartomancy, or card-reading, are the Rider-Waite deck, Tarot of Marseille, and Tarot of Thoth.

The Fountain Tarot deck that I use is based on the imagery and meanings of the Rider-Waite deck, so my interpretations coincide with that style.

Esoteric Tarot is what we call the divination practice of “reading the cards” to gain guidance, wisdom, or insight. In this type of Tarot, the deck has 78 cards split into two groups: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana.

The Major Arcana (greater secrets) consist of 22 cards depicting the Fool (card 0) following his journey to Enlightenment, represented by the World (card 21). (The Fountain Tarot deck that I use has a unique 23rd card, The Fountain.) This is where I feel a strong overlap between Tarot and yoga — much how ancient yogic texts, like the Yoga Sutras, are founded on the belief that each yogi (and being, for that matter) has everything they need inside already to connect to their Higher Self, Tarot also believes that the Fool (or the card reader) contains all of the potential from each of the 21 other cards already. The journey is not about obtaining or finding these 21 states, but in realizing his potential and limitless connection to the infinite Universe. Cards pulled from the Major Arcana during a reading are thought to represent something greater than yourself — a greater secret from the Universe — and are often a sign that a larger force is in charge or that major change/transformation is on the way.

Deep, right?

It’s why Tarot felt like such a natural thing to bring into my own yoga practice, which is a constant pathway to a Higher Self through 8 dimensions that we already possess and embody — the ashtanga path of yoga.

The other 56 cards in the deck, the Minor Arcana (lesser secrets), are broken into 4 suits, each containing 14 cards: numbered cards from ace to ten, and court cards of the Page, Knight, Queen, and King. Each suit and card type has a general theme, which combine to give each card a unique meaning. While considered the lesser secrets, these cards still hold value, potential, and guidance, but perhaps on a smaller scale or within a shorter time-frame.

When practicing esoteric Tarot, you can really pull cards in any way you want, but there are a few traditional protocols that many readers follow, where each card pulled corresponds to a particular aspect of one’s life or answers a specific question. I use Biddy Tarot for a lot of my interpretations, and her spread suggestions are some of my favorites. As she illustrates, pulling from a spread can provide additional insight into specific areas of your life, but the variety is pretty much up to the reader. YOU know what you need to ask, and if you don’t, just start there!

The 3-card spread can be used for a number of scenarios, such as a Mind-Body-Spirit or a Past-Present-Future reading. I really like these for connecting to something specific or with a slightly more significant timeframe, like a full/new moon, beginning of a month, or before a major transition.

As for connecting it to a yoga or meditation practice, I find the easiest thing to do is simply ask “What do I need to know today?” or “What should I be looking out for?” and then pull a single card — either from the top of a shuffled deck or by fanning out the cards and selecting at random/based on energy.

Some card readers also base their intrepretations on the direction that the card appeared, either with the image right-side up (upright) or “reversed.” Reversed tarot cards can have their own prescribed meanings, offer the opposite meaning of the upright card, change the energy of the upright card, or simply say “no,” as in, “this isn’t for you.” (In my home readings, I don’t pay much attention to upright or reversed, which is just my personal choice.)

The magic and beauty of Tarot lies in your own interpretation; while you can use the traditional meanings offered by your deck of choice as a guide, many readers also bring in their own analysis based on the imagery of the card, other divination modalities (like astrology or numerology), or even physical cues about the reading itself.

My interest in Tarot is one of offering insight and guidance, perhaps from a higher source, but also as a way to tap into my own intuition. Just like opening a book, selecting a sentence at random, and seeing how it applies, Tarot can be a powerful tool to examine, analyze, clarify, or sort out aspects of your own life. I consider it a type of inquiry, not unlike what I provide in coaching, that asks me to go a little deeper.

If you’re interested in getting into your own Tarot practice, check out the resources below — I used information from them in this post, but I also just find them helpful places to start. There are hundreds of decks available online. When choosing your own, I suggest that you find something about the deck to which you connect, be it the imagery, the designer itself, or even something you can’t quite explain. Often times, our sense of connection can’t — and doesn’t need — to be named, simply felt from within. So if a deck calls out to you in any way, it’s my belief that you can trust it.

If you’d like a little assistance, I offer monthly “Ask and Receive” Tarot coaching to help you shift your mindset and live with more integrity, intention, and purpose. Each week, you'll ask a question, and we'll channel that energy into a Tarot card pull, using the wisdom of the card as an analogy to help you uncover what it is you need to know. We'll then set an intention and complete a quick mindset goal each day to keep you connected and on track, with a reflection at the end of each week. This coaching will be primarily text-based through the Coach.me app, but will also include a kick-off phone call and follow-up video sessions every 2 weeks.

Let me know what deck you choose, what insights you’re gathering, or what other questions you have. Let’s go on this journey together!

and, of course, Wikipedia (which still feels a little weird to cite… but hey, this isn’t school!)