“The tarot is one of the most wonderful of human inventions. Despite all the outcries of philosophers, this pack of pictures, in which destiny is reflected as in a mirror with multiple facets, remains so vital and exercises so irresistible an attraction on imaginative minds that it is hardly possible that austere critics who speak in the name of an exact but uninteresting logic should ever succeed in abolishing its employment.” Grillot de Givry (1971):
Part 1 of my Sometime Series on the Mysteries of the Unknown!
Warning Seekers! Those who wish to find fresh pastures and fields new, who wish to think outside their the tiny truck gardens of their minds and invest time, effort, money and wisdom in something outside the ‘norm’, those who may be pummeled by thick louts who cannot see beyond the cracked sidewalk of their ‘knowledge’ and ‘reason’ are most welcome here. Those people who demand things like 'proof' and 'evidence' who refuse to believe the truth of the painted pictures on hunks of cardboard, randomly shuffled, dealt and interpreted by those with the gift and a online course on Tarot are thus warned! I pity those weak, fact-based fools.
Mock the cards, at your own risk. You have been soooo warned.
The Tarot is a tool for guidance and advice, for solving problems and for finding out how the future will affect us, in the future, where we will live the rest of our lives. Each of the cards has meaning, sometimes changing between readers, but always with a high portent all its own. This is why you should find a reader you are comfortable with, as that can be a big part of the earth connection between you. It also helps to give the reader a lot of information about yourself, which they can then reveal back to you. Like magic.
The history of the tarot is pretty much known, we don’t even have to consult the cards to divine it. But we so could, if we wanted to. Picture-card packs are first mentioned by Martiano da Tortona probably between 1418 and 1425. He describes a deck with 16 picture cards with images of the Greek gods and suits depicting four kinds of birds, not the common suits, and no naked people (which were probably the second cards ever mad. Everyone likes naked people). However the 16 cards were regarded as "trumps" as, about 25 years later, Jacopo Antonio Marcello called them a ludus triumphorum, or "game of trumps". And he should know. Of course, these were all rookie cards, and the Beckett guide prices them way high.
Three mid-15th century sets were made for members of the Visconti family, because they weren't so hot at the sharing. The first deck, is called the Cary-Yale Tarot (created between 1442 and 1447) by an anonymous painter for Filippo Maria Visconti. The cards (only 66) are today in the Cary collection of the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, in the U.S. state of Connecticut, where you cannot touch them without gloves and one heck of an excuse. I tried, they got really mad. Called guards and everything. The most famous deck was painted in the mid-15th century, to celebrate Francesco Sforza and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti, daughter of the duke Filippo Maria. These cards were probably painted by Bonifacio Bembo or Francesco Zavattari between 1451 and 1453. This was considered a good wedding present. Yes, back then you could get away with giving only cards to someone. Don't try it today, stick to the Macy's registery. Of the original cards, 35 are in The Morgan Library & Museum, 26 are at the Accademia Carrara, 13 are at the Casa Colleoni and two, 'The Devil' and 'The Tower', are lost or else never made. But come on, if you could paint a card of the devil, and everyone was cool with it, you would. It is thought that if all these cards are reunited, then there will be several of them in one place.
Because the earliest tarot cards were hand-painted, the number of the decks produced is thought to have been rather small, and it was only after the invention of the printing press that mass production of cards became possible, also the prices went down, almost killing the ‘hand-painted’ card market. The Beckett Guides for this period list a Devil rookie going for several gold pieces. It is believed that dealers were hoarding all the good ones, you know, in ‘the back’. Decks survive from this era from various cities in France, and the most popular pattern of these early printed decks comes from the southern city of Marseilles, after which it is named the Tarot de Marseilles. And why not?
Learning the Tarot
As you learn the cards and they get to know you better, you'll become a more effective reader. Anyone can learn to read Tarot cards, tis’ true, and anyone can just pull nonsense out of thin air to make a reading, but it does take some practice to learn how to be true to the cards and to yourself, and still be able to make a buck. It’s a highly intuitive process, one that relies on your feelings toward each card, which of their various meanings you wish to follow, and the history you might have with each. Like that one card, with the motorcycle, the one that broke your heart. It knows who it is… Books and charts come in handy, (I find the laminated chart I have taped to my side of the table, just out of view, comes in handy) the best way to actually learn what your cards mean is to handle them, hold them, fondle and caresses them, to feel what they are really telling you. Bending the corners of some of them for easy re-finding helps as well at times.
Let us look at the Major Arcana, and the four different suits of Tarot cards found in every deck. These are the definitions for the tarot that I use, but you should feel free to expand on them as needed:
The Major Arcana
There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana, each showing some aspect of the human experience. The cards of the Major Arcana are focused on three themes: the realm of the material world, the realm of the intuitive mind, and the realm of change. There used to be a whole ‘realm of death’ thing, but that didn’t go over so well. Depending on which deck you're using, you may find that your cards may not be in the order presented. Don't panic about that. Just go by the meaning of the card, how you feel about it at that moment, not by the numeric order. Yeah, screw that nonsense. You can put them in order later. Or not.
The Suit of Cups
The suit of Cups is associated with matters of relationships and emotions, because, cups are like that. As you may expect, it's also connected to the element of water, and subsequently, the direction of West, as West is the direction of Water, of course. In some Tarot decks, you may find the Cups referred to as Goblets, Chalices, Cauldrons, Grails, dippers, scoops, mugs, brandy snifters or something else, but this is wrong. I know, I’m writing this article. This is where you'll find cards that relate to love and heartbreak, choices and decisions related to emotion, family situations, neighbors, STD’s and anything else that connects to how we interact with the people in our lives. Like that brother in law that is always showing up at dinnertime. Jerk.
The Suit of Swords
The Suit of Swords is associated with matters of conflict, both physical and moral, which can be a lot of fun.. to watch. It's also connected to the element of air (yeah, don't get that either), and subsequently, the direction of East, as this is direction of all airflow. Even when it really seems to be coming from somewhere else, it isn’t. Trust me. Hopefully the airflow is not impeded by movement of the sun or stars, but then, why would it? This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to conflict and discord, moral choices, physical or emotional tawdry affairs and ethical quandaries. Like I said, the fun stuff.
The Suit of Pentacles or Coins
In the Tarot, the suit of Pentacles (usually portrayed as coins) is associated with matters of security, stability and wealth. It's also connected to the element of earth, and subsequently, the direction of North, as this is the direction most wealth flows, also known as downhill. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to job security, educational growth, investments, home, money, wealth, hookers and blow.
The Suit of Wands
In the Tarot, the suit of Wands is associated with matters of intuition, wit, smart alecs and thought processes. It's also connected to the element of fire, and subsequently, the direction of South, as this is the direction of fire, heat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Southern Heritage (slavery, just accept it and walk away) and secession. This suit is where you'll find cards that relate to creativity, communication with others, and physical activity, like sexual relations, sports, gambling, sexual relations, and Summer grilling. Hmmm, maybe this is the fun one…
Once you have mastered the art of the tarot, you may start reading for yourself and your friends and loved ones, but be careful! The secrets of the tarot are not for everyone, and skeptics love to point out things like ‘why should I believe a set of mass produced, would-be playing cards can control and predict my life and future?’ Ignore these fools for they will not see, and forgive them if you can, or just look at them smugly and nod with the ancient knowledge that you possess. Fools.