It is not surprising that many newcomers to the tarot give up in frustration.
Seventy eight cards to memorise and learn a multitude of meanings for each card. Add to that the reverse meanings (if you want to use them). And the never ending questions about the court cards. And there is a potential recipe for disaster.
Now, I’m not saying I can overcome all beginners’ problems in one short post; as it takes years to become comfortable with yourself and the tarot.
However, I do believe that learning a list of meanings for each card is less than helpful. In truth, for the minor arcana, one meaning for each card will be enough to start you off. The quicker you start reading, whether for yourself or family and friends, the better. And you will gain more knowledge in a shorter time.
But here is what I believe to be a better way.
First of all learn the Suits. Each one has its own unique meaning.
Major Arcana…Primary Causes or Influences.
Wands: Creativity. Drive, potential, action, impulse, passion, progress, ingenuity, enterprise, pioneering, enthusiasm, momentum, inspiration.
Wands are about bringing action to all those ideas. For good or bad.
Cups: Emotions illusion, intuition, inclusion, obsession, sensuality, temptation, elusiveness, completeness, impermanence.
Swords: The mind, thinking, perception, observation, ego, control,
being decisive, analysing, intelligence, confidence, uncertainty, muddled thinking, over analysing.
Disks: Money, the home, nature, equality, generosity, appreciation, dedication, being grounded, taking responsibility, determination.
Once you are familiar with each suit, you can look at the minor arcana and the court cards with a fresh unbiased mind. Buy yourself a large notepad or book; foolscap is ideal. And of course a few pens or pencils….I love pencils, especially new ones with rubbers on top. Write down everything you see.
Look up the symbols on the cards as you go along. Or write a list you can refer to.
Take each card and study it. What do YOU SEE? This might not be the same as meanings in books, or on here. It doesn’t matter. If all your cards have different meanings than is generally accepted; you will have a unique deck of tarot cards that are personal to you. And your deck will read as accurately as anyone else’s. Don’t forget, write everything down, even if you think it is stupid or not correct. Remember, this is your interpretation, not anyone else’s.
Here is an example.
I have randomly drawn the Prince of Swords from the Thoth deck. This is what I see.
The Prince of Swords
A card of chaos. Look at all those lines, coming from background to foreground. They give the impression of chaotic speed.
It looks like the chariot is out of control.
Is the Prince trying to cut his ties with the figures pulling his chariot? He has a sword and a scythe.
We know from our study of the suit that this is about the mind, and how we put into practice what we think.
In the Princes’ case, it seems he has a very erratic mind. And by the figures and circles on the card, it seems he moves from one idea to the next; without much thought.
Is he trying to cut ties with this sort of behaviour? Will he succeed as he gets older?….Look at his older self; The Knight.
Summing up our observations, we could say. Here is a young Royal always rushing about. Thinking up a number of ideas, which have no basis and therefore won’t come to fruition. His mental world is chaotic.
Your views about the Prince of Swords might be different than mine. But it really doesn’t matter; there is no right or wrong way to read the tarot. What is important is the way we learn and understand our cards. By writing down our own thoughts about each card, we will reach a better understanding of the whole.