Understanding Tarot Symbolism and Meaning

Welcome, seekers of wisdom and understanding! You’re about to embark on a fascinating journey into the mystical world of tarot symbolism. Tarot cards are more than mere images; they are a rich tapestry of metaphors, allegories, and symbols that speak to us on a deep, intuitive level. Understanding tarot symbolism is akin to learning a new language that communicates directly to our subconscious. The adventure promises to reveal hidden truths and clarify life’s mysteries. Let’s begin this entrancing exploration together.

  • Tarot is a powerful tool for introspection and self-discovery, with the interpretation of cards varying based on individual perspectives. It serves as a mirror to our inner selves, offering insights into our thoughts, emotions, and motivations.
  • Common misconceptions about Tarot include its association with evil or satanic practices, its ability to definitively predict the future, and the notion that only psychics or special individuals can read them. In reality, anyone can learn to read Tarot, which cannot predict the future definitively and is not inherently evil.
  • The true power of Tarot lies in the personal connection the reader forms with the cards, fostering a deep understanding of oneself and enhancing one’s journey of self-discovery. It is a tool for empowerment, not fortune-telling, helping individuals tap into their inner wisdom and intuition.

Introduction to Tarot Symbols

man with light complexion, sitting in a dimly lit room, holding a tarot card with symbolic meaning

The origin and history of tarot dates back centuries to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, and India. The precise origins of tarot card symbolism are unknown, but it’s believed that the cards were originally created for divination purposes. However, over time they have evolved into a tool for self-discovery and personal growth.

Tarot cards consist of two main categories: the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana, often referred to as the ‘trump cards’, comprise 22 symbolic representations that embody universal concepts and pivotal life moments. These cards depict the journey of the Fool, a symbolic figure who represents our journey through life.

Conversely, the Minor Arcana is made up of 56 cards, segmented into four suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles. Each suit has 14 cards, including 10 numbered cards and four court cards (King, Queen, Knight, Page). These cards represent more everyday aspects of life and provide insight into specific situations or events.

Tarot Card Meanings and Symbolism

woman with dark complexion sitting at an antique wooden table, holding a tarot cards and laying out cards for a tarot reading

Tarot symbols are rich in meaning and carry profound messages.

The Major Arcana cards act as a guide for the journey of life, offering valuable insights into the important themes and events that shape our existence. With their own distinct symbolism and meaning, each card provides guidance and introspection on different aspects of our being.

Here are the symbols found in the Major Arcana:

  1. The Fool: New beginnings, innocence, and spontaneous actions.
  2. The Magician: Mastery over tools and resources, manifestation of desires.
  3. The High Priestess: Intuition, mystery, and the subconscious mind.
  4. The Empress: Fertility, nurturing, and abundance.
  5. The Emperor: Authority, structure, and control.
  6. The Hierophant: Tradition, spiritual guidance, and conformity.
  7. The Lovers: Choices in love, unity, and partnerships.
  8. The Chariot: Determination, willpower, and overcoming challenges.
  9. Strength: Courage, inner strength, and compassion.
  10. The Hermit: Introspection, solitude, and inner guidance.
  11. Wheel of Fortune: Cycles, fate, and unexpected changes.
  12. Justice: Fairness, truth, and balance.
  13. The Hanged Man: Sacrifice, letting go, and gaining a new perspective.
  14. Death: Endings, transformation, and new beginnings.
  15. Temperance: Balance, harmony, and moderation.
  16. The Devil: Temptation, bondage, and materialism.
  17. The Tower: Sudden upheaval, chaos, and revelation.
  18. The Star: Hope, inspiration, and spiritual guidance.
  19. The Moon: Illusion, intuition, and the subconscious.
  20. The Sun: Joy, success, and vitality.
  21. Judgment: Reflection, rebirth, and inner calling.
  22. The World: Completion, fulfillment, and celebration.

The Minor Arcana deck consists of four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles. Every suit contains cards numbered from Ace through Ten, along with the Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, and King.Here’s a brief description of each suit:

Wands:

  1. Ace of Wands: A spark of inspiration or a new creative opportunity.
  2. Two of Wands: Planning for the future and potential choices.
  3. Three of Wands: Expansion, foresight, and overseas opportunities.
  4. Four of Wands: Celebration, harmony, and a foundation for the future.
  5. Five of Wands: Conflict, competition, and disagreements.
  6. Six of Wands: Public recognition, success, and victory.
  7. Seven of Wands: Defense, standing your ground, and challenges.
  8. Eight of Wands: Rapid movement, swift changes, and communication.
  9. Nine of Wands: Resilience, persistence, and nearing completion.
  10. Ten of Wands: Burdens, responsibilities, and feeling overwhelmed.
  11. Page of Wands: Enthusiasm, exploration, and a free spirit.
  12. Knight of Wands: Energy, passion, and impulsiveness.
  13. Queen of Wands: Confidence, warmth, and determination.
  14. King of Wands: Leadership, vision, and entrepreneurship.

Cups cards:

  1. Ace of Cups: New emotional beginnings, love, or intuition.
  2. Two of Cups: Partnership, mutual attraction, and connection.
  3. Three of Cups: Celebration, friendship, and collaboration.
  4. Four of Cups: Contemplation, apathy, and missed opportunities.
  5. Five of Cups: Grief, disappointment, and focusing on the negative.
  6. Six of Cups: Nostalgia, happy memories, and reunions.
  7. Seven of Cups: Choices, illusions, and wishful thinking.
  8. Eight of Cups: Walking away, seeking deeper meaning, and disillusionment.
  9. Nine of Cups: Contentment, satisfaction, and wishes coming true.
  10. Ten of Cups: Harmonious relationships, happiness, and fulfillment.
  11. Page of Cups: Intuitive messages, creativity, and sensitivity.
  12. Knight of Cups: Romance, charm, and a dreamy nature.
  13. Queen of Cups: Compassion, emotional stability, and intuition.
  14. King of Cups: Emotional balance, diplomacy, and wisdom.

Swords:

  1. Ace of Swords: Clarity, breakthrough, and sharp intellect.
  2. Two of Swords: Indecision, choices, and a stalemate.
  3. Three of Swords: Heartbreak, sorrow, and grief.
  4. Four of Swords: Rest, recuperation, and contemplation.
  5. Five of Swords: Conflict, tension, and winning at a cost.
  6. Six of Swords: Transition, moving on, and leaving troubles behind.
  7. Seven of Swords: Deception, strategy, and sneaky behavior.
  8. Eight of Swords: Restriction, confusion, and feeling trapped.
  9. Nine of Swords: Anxiety, nightmares, and emotional turmoil.
  10. Ten of Swords: Painful endings, betrayal, and starting anew.
  11. Page of Swords: Curiosity, new ideas, and a thirst for knowledge.
  12. Knight of Swords: Action, impulsiveness, and defending beliefs.
  13. Queen of Swords: Independent thought, clear boundaries, and direct communication.
  14. King of Swords: Intellectual authority, truth, and clear thinking.

Pentacles:

  1. Ace of Pentacles: New financial or career opportunity and prosperity.
  2. Two of Pentacles: Balance, adaptability, and juggling multiple responsibilities.
  3. Three of Pentacles: Teamwork, collaboration, and initial fulfillment.
  4. Four of Pentacles: Security, control, and possessiveness.
  5. Five of Pentacles: Financial loss, isolation, and worry.
  6. Six of Pentacles: Generosity, charity, and giving or receiving.
  7. Seven of Pentacles: Patience, waiting for results, and a pause.
  8. Eight of Pentacles: Mastery, skill development, and dedication.
  9. Nine of Pentacles: Luxury, self-sufficiency, and financial independence.
  10. Ten of Pentacles: Legacy, inheritance, and culmination.
  11. Page of Pentacles: Opportunity, dreams, and a message about finances.
  12. Knight of Pentacles: Hard work, diligence, and routine.
  13. Queen of Pentacles: Practicality, nurturing, and financial security.
  14. King of Pentacles: Wealth, business acumen, and leadership.

The Evolution of Tarot

Photo of a meticulously crafted tarot card showcasing 'The Chariot'. The card's artwork depicts a warrior on a chariot, with intricate armor details, sphinxes leading the way, and a canopy of stars above.

The history of Tarot spans over centuries and has evolved from a simple game in the 15th century to a popular tool for divination, healing and self-discovery in modern times. Its origins can be traced back to Europe during the Renaissance period.

Tarot as a Game

Photo of an ornate tarot card illustrating 'The Strength'.

In the early days, Tarot was primarily played as a card game by wealthy families in Italy and France. The earliest known set of Tarot cards, the Visconti-Sforza deck, was created in Milan during the 15th century.

These decks were intricately designed with beautiful illustrations that depicted characters from everyday life such as merchants, nobles, and artisans.

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Tarot for Divination

It wasn’t until the 18th century that the Tarot was used for divination and fortune-telling. This shift in use is believed to have been influenced by French occultist Jean-Baptiste Alliette, also known as Etteilla.

He published the first guidebook on Tarot card reading in 1785, which popularized the idea of using the cards as a tool for divination.

Tarot in Modern Times

woman with medium complexion at a vintage table, closely examining tarot cards with the symbol of 'The Moon'

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Tarot experienced a surge in popularity with the rise of spiritualism and esoteric movements.

This led to creating new Tarot decks with different themes and interpretations. Today, there are hundreds of Tarot decks available, each with its own unique style and symbolism.

A Tool for Intuition and Guidance

In modern times, Tarot is widely used as a tool for self-discovery and spiritual guidance. The images on the cards are believed to tap into the subconscious mind and provide insights into one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Many people also use Tarot as a way to connect with their intuition and gain clarity on important decisions or life events. However, it’s important to approach Tarot with a balanced perspective and understand its limitations.

The Artistry and Attraction of Tarot

 beautifully designed tarot card depicting 'The Magician'

One of the key elements that have made the Tarot deck so popular throughout its evolution is its beautiful artwork.

From the Renaissance era to modern times, Tarot decks have always been known for their intricate and captivating illustrations. The images on the cards not only add to the aesthetic appeal but also hold rich symbolic meanings.

The diverse themes explored in different Tarot decks have also contributed to their allure. From mythical creatures and magic to traditional symbols and religious imagery, there is a Tarot deck for every individual’s unique interests and beliefs.

How to Read Tarot Cards

Photo of a hand-painted tarot card illustrating 'The High Priestess'.

While there is no one right way to read Tarot cards, there are a few key steps that can help you get started:

  1. Choose the Right Deck: With so many decks available, it’s important to choose one that resonates with you and your personal style.
  2. Learn the Meanings of Each Card: Spend time familiarizing yourself with the meanings of each card. While some decks may have different interpretations, some common themes and symbols can help guide your understanding.
  3. Understand the Basics of Tarot Spreads: Tarot spreads refer to the arrangement of cards on a reading table. Each spread has a specific purpose and can provide insights into different areas of one’s life.
  4. Trust Your Intuition: As you become more comfortable with reading Tarot, trust your intuition to guide you. The images on the cards may spark different thoughts and feelings for each individual, so it’s important to listen to your inner voice.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: Reading Tarot takes practice like any skill. The more readings you do, the more familiar you will become with the cards and their meanings.

The Role of Tarot Spreads

Photo of an artist's rendition of 'The Lovers' tarot card. The artwork is a blend of classic and contemporary styles, showcasing two figures intertwined under a radiant sun, with an angel watching over them.

Tarot spreads are the layout or arrangement of cards on a reading table. They are an essential part of Tarot readings as they provide structure for interpreting the cards and their meanings.

Each spread has a distinct purpose, whether it is to gain insight into one’s past, present, or future or to explore specific areas of life such as relationships, career, or personal spiritual growth.

Some common Tarot spreads include the Celtic Cross, Three-Card Spread, and Relationship Spread. However, countless variations and personalized spreads can be created based on individual needs and preferences.

The layout of the cards within a spread can also affect their meanings. For example, a card placed in a past position may represent past experiences, emotions or influences, while a card in a future position may represent potential outcomes or opportunities.

Photo of a detailed tarot card representing 'The Tower'.

It’s important to consider the placement of each card within a spread when interpreting their meanings.

Ultimately, Tarot spreads serve as a tool for organizing and understanding the messages and insights offered by the cards. They allow for deeper exploration and reflection on different aspects of one’s life, making the Tarot spread itself an invaluable resource for self-discovery and personal growth.

So, Tarot spreads provide a structure for readings and an opportunity to connect with oneself and gain clarity on life’s journey.

So, as you continue your Tarot journey, experiment with different spreads and see how they can enhance your understanding of the cards and yourself.

Common Misconceptions about Tarot

Photo of a tarot card featuring 'The Hermit'. The card's artistry emphasizes the lantern held by the hermit, casting a soft glow, with stars in the background and a mountainous terrain beneath him.

Myth: Tarot is Evil or Satanic

One of the most common misconceptions about Tarot is that it is associated with evil or satanic practices. This belief likely stems from its use as a tool for divination and fortune-telling, which has been deemed blasphemous in some religions.

However, no evidence suggests that Tarot is inherently evil or satanic. The cards simply serve as a tool for introspection and self-discovery.

Myth: Tarot Predicts the Future

Another misconception about Tarot is that it can predict the future completely. While some may believe that Tarot can provide definitive answers to life’s questions, the reality is that the future is not set in stone.

Tarot can offer insights and guidance, but ultimately, it is up to the individual to shape their own future through their thoughts, actions, and choices.

Myth: Only Psychics or Special People Can Read Tarot

Contrary to popular belief, anyone can learn how to read Tarot cards. It does not require any special abilities or psychic powers. With dedication, practice, and an open mind, anyone can read Tarot cards proficiently.

The Personal Connection to Tarot

Photo of a tarot card designed with 'The Hanged Man'.

Ultimately, the power and attraction of Tarot lies in its ability to establish a personal connection with each individual. The cards may hold the same symbols and universal meanings, but their interpretations and significance can vary greatly from person to person.

This personalized aspect of spirituality allows for a deep exploration of the self, helping individuals gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It also serves as a reminder that we are all interconnected and share similar experiences and struggles in life.

Furthermore, reading Tarot can provide a sense of empowerment as individuals better understand their own agency and ability to shape their lives.

It is not about predicting the future, but rather tapping into one higher self’s inner wisdom and intuition to make well-informed decisions and confidently navigate life’s journey.

So, whether you are just starting your Tarot journey or have been reading for years, remember that the power of reading Tarot cards lies within yourself and your personal connection to the cards. Keep an open mind, trust in your intuition, and allow Tarot to guide you on your path of self-discovery.

tarot meaning pin

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Tarot is far more than a tool of divination. It is a mirror held up to our inner selves, reflecting our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It acts as a guide, helping us navigate life’s complexities with clarity and understanding.

Whether you encounter or interpret the meaning of the Tarot with skepticism or belief, it prompts introspection and self-awareness. It encourages us to acknowledge our past, understand our present, and influence our future.

So, embrace the Tarot with an open mind and heart. You may be surprised by what you discover about yourself and how it can enhance your journey of self-discovery self love, and personal growth.

As you continue your Tarot journey, always remember to trust your intuition, stay open to the lessons the cards offer, and cherish the personal connection you form with them.

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Christina Johnson

About the Author

My name is Christina, and I am the founder of centerspirited. Being a physiotherapist for several years I have found that many people, including myself, don’t achieve well-being only from a physical point of view. I’ve always viewed a person’s body, soul, and emotions as a whole construct of beauty. Always being a yoga enthusiast, I finally became an instructor myself. On a secret mission to capture spirituality in all of her beautiful shapes, I found myself being guided on a way through ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. Through this platform, I will hopefully be able to help other beautiful souls out there find their inner peace and bond with their spiritual selves.

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