So... What's Tarot? A Mystic's Guide to Tarot & Oracle Cards

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I discovered my first tarot deck on a snowy Saturday afternoon back in 2007...

I was at home, bored and babysitting my 7-year-old brother when we decided to take the car (my my *fresh* drivers license woo!) downtown to explore. We wandered into a popular used bookstore and as per usual I gravitated to the new age / occult section. 

A cherry red and purple Tarot deck caught my eye. It was called The Sacred Rose Tarot. It was old, tattered and printed wayyyy back in the 1970s. I was drawn to it. Really drawn to it. So I bought it. 

I started giving tarot readings to my friends and family for fun starting that afternoon! We'd talk about their situation for a few minutes then I'd lay out the cards using my intuitive insight and the deck's small guide book to interpret the meaning.It was a fun way for me to connect with my higher self and help those I loved on their path.

In the beginning, I didn't take Tarot very seriously at all! But as I began using it more and more to gain insight into my own life, I quickly realized the cards were a powerful divination tool and portal into intuitive depths. Personally, my readings for myself have foreshadowed a break-up, massive careers moves, world travel and even my recent engagement... no joke. 

Today Tarot is a big part of my world. I use the cards regularly to connect to my intuition and gain insights into everything from my relationships, to my health and to planning my business quarters! Seriously. 

I've just recently began offering readings to the public and to clients. If you're interested in learning more you can check out my services here and here. 

 

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History of Tarot 

Tarot is a divination tool with roots in many ancient cultures.  The tarot deck as we know it today was first used as an Italian card game back in the 1700s. But the images, suits and esoteric meanings can be traced back to the Roma Gypsies, ancient Egyptians and the Hebrew Kabbalah. 

There is no doubt that the images found on the tarot cards are universally symbolic and linked to many ancient beliefs, mythologies and mystic cultures. 

It's numbering system is thought to be tied to the Greek mathematician Pythagorus who taught that letters and numbers contain divine essence and extraordinary powers. It's colours evoke links to the human chakra system. And the Major Arcana represents the Hero's Journey in a profound way.

Tarot was first used for divination in the late 1700s, but it wasn't long before the Church condemned the cards as heretical and knowledge of the cards was forced underground.

Did you know "occult" simply means "hidden"?

Tarot cards began to make a comeback during the Renaissance and made their way into our modern culture during the spiritual revolution of the 1960s. 

Today, Tarot cards are more popular than ever before. There are literally hundreds of decks, each with a wide range of imagery, symbolism and meaning. Even big name brands like Anthropologie have been known to carry Tarot decks!  

 

Art of Tarot

Many magical and esoteric groups recognize the tarot as a timeless body of knowledge that has significance on every mystical path. 

Tarot readers and intuitives blend their interpretations of each cards symbology and where it lies in the spread with the psychic impressions they receive about the cards connection to querent's life. Each card tells a story. A deep story. And when you blend cards together, they can reveal quite a lot about a person's inner world, hidden motives and encouraged next steps. 

 

How to Interpret the Cards

Traditional Tarot decks have two major components: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. 

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards that symbolize the hero's journey, an ancient narrative that represents a journey into adventure for the souls' growth. Each card represents an archetypal energy from the collective unconscious. The Empress for example represents the energy of the earth mother, while The Hierophant embodies the energy of the high priest.

The Major Arcana tells the story of the journey into enlightenment. Every card is like a different step on the spiritual staircase -- to ascend to the next step you must first learn the lesson the card is guiding you to learn. 

The Major Arcana cards represent deeper aspects of our soul's growth. They symbolize the karmic lessons we're destined to learn in this lifetime. So, when they show up in a reading pay close to attention!

Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana cards have less to do with the forces of destiny and more to do with our everyday problems and concerns. They represent our free will choices and their potential outcomes. 

The Minor Arcana cards are divided into 4 suits: cups, wands, pentacles & swords, and have a series of numbered and court cards within each suit. They're pretty much like a modern deck of playing cards only with more imagery! 

Each suit carries a meaning... 

Cups are associated with the water element and symbolize emotions, relationships, creativity, intuition and receptivity.

Wands correspond to the fire element and represent action, growth, energy, expansion and personal power.

Pentacles relate to the earth element and are connected to practical matters like money, the physical body and material goods.

Swords are linked to the air element and represent change, letting go, action, oppression, ambition and intellect. 

Every number also carries a different meaning, as do each of the court cards in the Minor Arcana, which in combination with the suit and imagery give comprehensive insight into a person's daily life and challenges. 

Spreads

There are literally hundreds of Tarot spreads.

The way you lay out the cards and their placement in the spread brings an additional layers of insight to a reading. A simple 3 card spread is common and can represent past, present and future or mind, body and spirit depending on the intention of the reading. While a 12-card astrological spread uses the energy of the planets to weave in more layers of knowledge and interpretation. 

But you don't always need a fancy spread to gain insights from the Tarot. Sometimes a simple one card pull can give you the insight you need to move forward!

 

Tarot Cards vs Oracle Cards 

Like Tarot Cards, Oracle Cards are also used for divination, but they don't follow the same structure has traditional Tarot. With Oracle Cards, there are no rules! 

You can use them in spreads. Draw one card at at time. Use them as journal prompts or meditation visuals... the sky is the limit! 

Doreen Virtue is famous for her Angel Oracle Card decks, while Danielle LaPorte is well-known for her simple black and white Truth Bomb deck. 

 

Discovering a Deck 

When it comes to choosing your own Tarot or Oracle Card deck gravitate to the ones who's imagery connects with you the most. There is no right or wrong way to purchasing your first deck! 

Many new age and occult shops carry Tarot and Oracle decks, as do most mainstream bookstores like Indigo. There are also many Tarot and Oracle decks created by independent artists that you can find online. Browse Etsy or check out a few of my personal favourites here. 

Once you've found your deck, make sure to cleanse it before using it. You can do this by smudging the cards using sage, palo santo or incense, placing them under the moonlight or sunlight, or cupping your hands over the cards and calling down a white light. It's the intention, not the method, that matters the most here. 

Ready to begin your Tarot journey? Here are some awesome resources: 

Just love, 

Alex 

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