Pocket Guide to the Tarot, Revised
How to Approach the Cards
To gain the most from the Tarot cards, you have to make them your own. This is done through three processes. The first is contemplation and meditation upon the pictures. Before looking at any of the explanations offered for the meanings of the cards and their symbols, examine all the images very carefully. If you already possess a Waite deck, open it and spread all the cards faceup before you. If not, just study the pictures in this book. Take your time. Feel the cards. Allow yourself as many hours as you need to let these symbolic portraits flow into and penetrate your mind. You do not have to memorize them. It is far better at first just to relax and appreciate and enjoy the cards. Your memory will work on its own as you continue to study and use your deck.
After being with the cards for as long as you wish, you may begin the second process. This involves learning as much as possible about the meanings of the cards. After reading the first three chapters of this book, begin to study the cards one at a time. Examine the responses that these images and symbols evoke within you. It is a good idea to keep a Tarot journal, writing down your impressions as they arise. In the end, you will have meanings for these cards that add to what you gather from others’ comments. After all, it is your deck and you are its reader.
The third phase has to do with actually using the cards. The best place to begin is with you. There are two basic applications for the cards. Choose one or both of these, depending on your needs and interests. The first is to use the cards as a tool for greater personal growth. This involves viewing the cards as a spiritual tool. The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana are especially significant in this respect. Each of the twenty-two speaks about a stage in our evolutionary growth. Some of the cards speak to us about the disciplines we need to encourage in ourselves in order to develop (Temperance, Justice, The Hermit). Some reveal the pitfalls along our journey (The Tower, The Moon, The Devil). Other cards describe qualities in our character we may acquire if we persist on the right path (The Magician, The High Priestess, The Emperor, The Empress) or tell us about the rewards of our efforts (The Sun, The World). Working with the cards in this first way requires a great deal of dedication, time, and study. But the rewards are incredible!
The second application for the cards is helpful in seeing our own and other people’s lives more objectively. This method is a more practical approach to the Tarot for the majority of people. The cards have been used this way for centuries and no doubt will continue to be of service to us for many generations to come. With the help and correct use of the cards (and a lot of practice!), you will begin to perceive the past and present circumstances of your life as well as the future directions available to you and those close to you. When using the deck for heightening your awareness of life’s circumstances (I like this phrase much better than “fortune-telling”), you may wish to consider working with the cards as outlined below.
I. Each of the cards has a “Primary Principle.” This is stated in my explication of the cards in the ensuing chapters and summarizes the meaning of each card in one or two words, giving your memory an easy device for absorbing a card’s fundamental significance.
II. The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana each has a “Correspondence.” This is indicated by its element (fire, earth, air, or water), planet, or zodiacal sign. Basic knowledge of astrology will help you in this respect, so you would be well advised to become familiar with any introductory text on the subject.
III. The cards of the Major Arcana are by far the most complicated (and interesting!) in the Tarot. In this respect, I give you a detailed “Description” of the symbols you will encounter in each of these cards. This description is followed by a section called “In The Reading.” This part of the text suggests certain fundamental interpretations for each of the cards. These indications will help you understand and communicate its meaning both to yourself and to any other interested person. The information under the category “Reversed” provides additional insights into the card should it appear upside down in the reading. The “Exoteric Meaning” of a card in the Major Arcana gives you another essential significance, one that applies more to a person’s ordinary life in our physical world. The “Esoteric Meaning” of a card speaks about either a spiritual principle or a metaphysical law. The esoteric meanings will prove especially helpful if the Tarot is being used as a tool for meditation and inner growth.
IV. The cards of the Minor Arcana are much easier to understand. Although these cards have less association with astrology than those of the Major Arcana, the number of the card is very important. In this respect, you will find a brief paragraph about the meanings of each of the numbers, One (Ace) through Ten, as well as other helpful information beginning on page 79.
V. The explanations for each of the cards in the Minor Arcana also begin with a “Primary Principle.” This is followed by the “Meaning” of the card under discussion. The next two sections, “In The Reading” and “Reversed,” tell you how to interpret the cards when they appear in their more positive, upright position, or when they appear upside down in the reading. These descriptions tend to be shorter than those provided for the Major cards, since the meanings of the Minor cards are simpler and much more direct. For the same reason, there is neither an “Esoteric” nor an “Exoteric” section. The more you use the cards, especially the ones in the Minor deck, the more the cards will speak for themselves. The Major Arcana will take a bit more time and effort to understand. You will find that each time you unfold another level of meaning to these cards, you will be simultaneously uncovering another level of understanding yourself.