A few years ago, I bought a deck of Tarot cards. (At Barnes & Noble, the most mystical of places.) I’ve been interested in the occult since I was a kid, consuming books and websites dedicated to spell casting and all things mystical. (*Disclaimer, I know Tarot and the occult are not the same thing.) I’ve visited two psychics in my life: once, on a beach boardwalk in Maryland, where she told me I was destined to meet the love of my life in my travels (technically, I did, but didn’t know until 7 years later); the second was here in NYC at Namaste Bookshop by Union Square. This woman predicted that I had a lot of hard work ahead of me and that big career moves would happen for me (I started a new job! I worked insane hours!) and that I would have a great love with someone I’ve known for a long time and would be unsure at first about starting something (It happened! We co-habitate! We’re nauseating together!)
So, yes. I am a believer in psychics and magic and tarot and ghosts (and probably aliens, but that’s a whole other story). I have done a few Tarot readings for friends, and they’ve mostly been accurate, but I’ve always wanted to delve a little deeper and maybe use cards that are not from B&N.
Here are the basics:
Famously referred to as “The Devil’s Picture Book”, Tarot started in the mid-15th century starting in Northern Italy. There is an occult version and a non-occult version of Tarot. Apparently there is no singular correct method to read Tarot; and while each reader follows similar steps, each will be a bit different.
The Major Arcana: In a deck of 78 cards, these are the first 22. These 22 cards are probably the ones you’ve seen the most often and are also hold the heaviest meanings of the Tarot cards. If you get the Major Arcana cards in a reading, these refer to a deeper look into the long-term picture of your life, as opposed to the every-day of the Minor Arcana.
The Major Arcana cards are:
1. The Fool: Represents vulnerability and openness (maybe naivety). If you get this card, you should embrace what lies ahead happily. Start something new!
2. The Magician: Represents your uniqueness and superior skills and gifts. If you get this card, it implies that you have everything you need to accomplish your goals. You can succeed in what you set your mind to.
3. The High Priestess: Represents your awareness and intuition. If you get this card, it suggests that you should follow your instincts and spend a little time being introspective. Trust your gut.
4. The Empress: Represents femininity, compassion, beauty, and love. If you get this card, it’s either advice to be more generous and caring, or affirmation that you are already this way. It can also mean blessings and protection. Embrace your lady power!
5. The Emperor: Represents structure, permanence, logic. If you get this card, it is a call for strength and stability and a reminder that you are powerful. (#slay) Let your rational brain lead.
6. The Hierophant: Represents spirituality. If you get this card, it is encouragement to learn and embrace knowledge. Apparently, in olden days, only the priests had access to books and time for learning, so this means you should be like a monk and learn some stuff.
7. The Lovers: Represents romantic relationships and choices at crossroads. If you get this card, it can be advice to make choices based on what is in your heart. It may also indicate commitment. Lurve may be on the horizon, so you should start writing your phone number in bathroom stalls.
8. The Chariot: Represents triumph, freedom, and determination. If you get this card, it may suggest to jump into future changes. Or possibly, you’re about to star in the Gladiator reboot.
9. Strength: Represents…strength. Creative name. If you get this card, it may mean that you need to develop self-discipline and display strength. Be cool, soda pop.
10. The Hermit: Represents solitude. If you get this card, it may be telling you to take some time for yourself and listen within. Get into that reflection time! Find the inner you!
11. Wheel of Fortune: Represents the lack of permanence in life. If you get this card, it may mean that things may change and you should live in the moment. It may also mean that, while things may suck at the moment, they won’t always. What goes up, must come down.
12. Justice: Represents karma. If you get this card, it may mean that the mean sh*t you did in the past is about to come back and bite you in the ass. It may also mean that there is a big decision coming that will impact your future.
13. The Hanged Man: Represents limbo. If you get this card, it may mean that you’re between two decisions and something has got to give.
14. Death: Represents endings. Most people incorrectly assume that this literally means you’re going to die. If you get this card, it may mean that it’s time to stop hanging on to that job you hate or that person you dated that won’t return your calls.
15. Temperance: Represents…temperance (or moderation). If you get this card, it may mean that you need to relax and go with the flow. It may also mean that you need to find balance.
16. The Devil: Represents powerlessness or feelings of restraint. If you get this card, you’re probably feeling stuck or like things are beyond your control. Most readers will remind you at that point that you have the keys to your own freedom. This may also refer to unhealthy attachments or addictions.
17. The Tower: Represents destruction. This is the scariest card to get in the deck, no matter how ugly they drew the Devil. If you get this card, you’re probably feeling like everything is collapsing around you. This card is telling you to just let it fall down and you can start fresh. This may also mean that a sudden shock is coming.
18. The Star: Represents hope, healing, optimism, and renewal. If you get this card, good things are coming your way. Let it happen.
19. The Moon: Represents confusion. If you get this card, you’re probably feeling anxious about something. This is telling you to deal with that anxiety and stop shoving it down.
20. The Sun: Represents happiness and vitality. If you get this card, you’re doing great! Things are moving in the right direction.
21. Judgement: Represents…judgement. If you get this card, you should probably take a good, hard look at your decisions. It can also mean moving on to a new phase in life, and choosing what lessons from your past to take with you.
22. The World: Represents success, completion, fulfillment. If you get this card, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Great job, friend!
The Minor Arcana: The other 56 cards belong to the Minor Arcana (or Lesser Arcana, but that feels mean somehow). If you are doing a reading and getting mostly Minor Arcana, this means that you’re mostly examining day-to-day stuff, not big overarching themes in your life. The Minor Arcana are broken up into four suits, each one representing a different part of your life that might need attention. Minor Arcana cards are Ace through King (similar to a regular playing cards deck!) If you find that you get a lot of cards from the same suits, take notice of the theme!
The Minor Arcana Suits are:
Wands: This suit generally refers to a need to DO something, an action that needs to be taken, or a creative endeavor. Often times, this relates to risk-taking and adventure.
Cups: Cups refers to emotions and how you’re feeling.
Swords: Swords refers to reason. Usually this means a decision needs to be made.
Pentacles: Pentacles usually refers to your finances and material concerns. This is more focused on the physical world.
Aces = Beginnings,
Two = Balance/Dichotomy,
Three = Communication,
Four = Break/Rest,
Five = Conflict,
Six = Growth,
Seven = Faith in Yourself,
Eight = Work and Change,
Nine = Fruition,
Ten = Rewards/Consequences,
Page = Beginnings,
Knight = Movement,
Queen = Feminine Power,
King = Authority and Power
If you get a Person card in the Minor Arcana, it might also refer to an actual person in (or about to enter) your life.
Spreads: There are tons of different ways to lay out the cards, and the way that you spread the cards varies on what kind of answers you’re looking for. Psychic Library has a really useful list here! My favorite is the Astrological Spread, which really covers all the bases: from career, to health, to relationships, to the future.
Reversed Cards: When you flip the cards during a reading, some of the cards will be upside-down, or reversed. This can be interpreted to mean that the “reversed card” actually has the opposite meaning.
Helpful Tips for Readings:
1. When starting a reading, quiet your mind and focus on the cards.
2. Shuffle the cards. Any way you want. Mix ’em up.
3. Cut the cards with your left hand. Your left hand is your supernatural hand. (Go Lefties!)
4. Layout the cards in the order that you’re thinking about the questions. You don’t want to be reading the career card for the love card, if your career is great but your love life is terrible…
5. Turn it into a story! It’s not just “You got Pentacles, this means your life is going to be terrible.” The cards flow together to show a greater pattern.
This video is a little bit dry, but useful!
Phew! This was a long one, friends. Whether you believe in Tarot and the occult or not, it can be a lot of fun and a good party trick. It’s also a fun way to compartmentalize and examine different aspects of your life and inform your decisions. If you don’t want to commit to buying a Tarot deck, you can play with a regular deck of cards!
Am I crazy? Probably. Let me know if you’re a Tarot enthusiast or a skeptic!