When learning the tarot it's really helpful to understand the core association with each of the cards. Once you know the basic meaning, the foundation of each card, you can then allow your own intuition to guide a reading.
As with a traditional deck of playing cards, each of the minor arcana suits features four royal or court cards. These "head" the suit and normally when they feature in a spread, they relate to a person rather than a situation or outcome.
Page - When a page appears in a spread it normally refers to a young person or someone with a youthful outlook and energy. It could also be asking the enquirer to remember what it's like to be young, to not take life too seriously. The page is associated with freshness and inspiration. New opportunities are being highlighted when the page appears. Take full advantage of this uplifting energy to start a new project, pursue and goal or to learn something new.
Knight - This card is associated with a person who is confident, passionate and highly attractive to others. When it appears in a spread the energy it brings is one of boldness and dynamism. This person is driven and wants to achieve. They are a good individual to have around when one is feeling stuck or uninspired. They will work with you to get the job done. Their motto is "act now, think later". However, in their pursuit of action, they may be impulsive and a little impatient. As long as you bear this in mind when drawing on this energy, and check in to see that no corners are being cut in the process of the task in hand, then this is a positive individual to have in your corner.
Queen - This court card represents a strong female energy. It could refer to a mother figure or a female mentor. The Queen is supportive and nurturing. When she appears, she is giving the enquirer permission to lean on her and to learn from her. She is here to make things run more smoothly, with her practical and resourceful approach to life. Her energy is one of love and compassion. This is someone who will not judge, who has patience and is fiercely protective of those around her. Draw on her energy to create an environment of calm and balance.
King - When the king appears in a spread it often refers to a father figure or counsellor or adviser. The king is authoritative and masterful. Draw upon this energy when you are faced with a dilemma. The king demands you look at a situation with total impartiality, place emotion to one side, and then come to a balanced decision. The king may sometime come across as detached and disinterested in your personal affairs. He is not. He simply sits back and weighs up a situation subjectively. He is impartial and will use his head, rather than his heart in any given situation. Use his counsel wisely.
Throughout centuries, in all cultures, numbers have carried hidden meanings. In China, the number eight is considered hugely lucky since in Mandarin it sounds like the word for "wealth", and in Cantonese it sounds like the word for "fortune". However, mention the number four to a Chinese person, and you'll get them running for cover as it's considered the unluckiest number due to sounding like the word for "death". In Judaism, three and seven are both considered perfect numbers while Muslims believe 786 is sacred because the Arabic letters of the opening phrase of the Quran add up to it.
If you are learning the Tarot or are studying cartomancy it is advisable to get familiar with the hidden meanings behind the deck numbers. Each suit in the minor arcana as well as in a traditional pack of cards has 10 numbered cards - one through to 10. To improve your readings it is essential that you understand what each of the number values means or represents.
Here's our guide to number meanings:
One: When this number appears in a spread it often is referring to an individual. This could be the person you are reading for or someone connected to them. It is also associated with creating and casting influence. This is an enabler, it gives permission to move on with a goal, ambition or simply to acknowledge that the ability and will is there.
Two: There are two sides to every story. This number asks you to question that which is before you. Whether it's a situation that needs to be viewed from another angle or a person who is saying one thing but, maybe, means another. Two says do not take anything in your current world at face value.
Three: A magic number that celebrates the collective. This number is about shared goals, working together to achieve. This number says you don't have to go it alone; there are others willing to support and help you move forward. It is also the number of expansion and fertility. This offers an opportunity to grow an idea, a business, a cause, and even an addition to the family.
Four: Although feared in Chinese culture the number four in Tarot and cartomancy is associated with integrity and stability. When this number appears it is asking you to look at the structure of your life. Do you need to be more organised or to follow a daily regime to make things run more smoothly. It is reminding you that from order comes power and stability.
Five: There is an air of mystery around the number five. When it appears it often means a shift in perspective is required. It invites you to be more curious about the world and gives you permission to be more adventurous. It is often associated with children and their playful energy and enthusiasm for life. Tap in to this number's spirit and the world will become a more joyful and magical place for you.
Six: Some numbers are considered more special than others (don't tell the others though) - and six is one of them. It is linked to love, harmony and peace. If this number appears positively in your reading it is saying that all is good in your world. You are loved, you are valued. If its is negatively aspected it is asking whether your good nature is being taken advantage of. Are you giving too much? Are you overlooking your own needs and requirements at the expense of giving to others?
Seven: One of the most mystical numbers in the deck seven is associated with completion and perfection. When seven appears in a spread it usually denotes a period of good fortune. It says all is good in the universe. You have worked hard and now you will be richly rewarded. This could be on a professional footing or an emotional one. This is a time to sit back and give thanks for all that you have.
Eight: The Universe is always testing us; it is part of our spiritual journey in this realm. If we pass, we are given permission to move on. If we fail, we will need to go back to the beginning, and start again. Eight is the number of infinity. If it appears in your cards it is often asking whether you have successfully completed your latest challenge. You will know because if you haven't you will be facing an old problem/ circumstance/situation in a new setting. The same but different. Until you learn your lesson, you will be repeating the same cycle.
Nine: Every nine years a new cycle begins so this number is associated with completion. Lessons should have been learned in order for you to start the next chapter in your life story, the next nine-year cycle. Any lessons not learned will be carried over and repeated in the next stage. But for now, nine says you are in a good place. It symbolises strength, confidence, success and good fortune. Step boldly into the next adventure.
Ten: This number reminds you of what has been and invites you to be positive about what is to come. It is a number of calm reflection. You are being given permission to enjoy this period, to explore new possibilities and to consider what it is you truly desire. When 10 appears it is saying that you have all you need to manifest the life you wish to live. There is no pressure at this time. Do you want to change anything in your current world? Is there something that you have always wanted to achieve? Ten says a journey starts with a single step, so begin today.
Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash
Are you intrigued about the Tarot? Is it something that you've always wanted to find out more about or even wanted to master? If you have any vague interest in these unique set of cards then this new series will help you navigate yourself around the deck and to learn how to read for yourself as well as for others.
It's always good to have a little background information in your arsenal. The tarot was first introduced in Italy in the mid 15th century to be used in the game Tarocchini. This colourful and complex card game is still played today in and around Bologna, and centres around winning tricks from opponents.
How the tarot became a divination tool is still a mystery. The earliest recorded evidence of the tarot deck being used for cartomancy (fortune telling with cards) comes from an anonymous (spooky) manuscript from around 1750 which documents basic divinatory meanings for the Tarocco, the deck used for the aforementioned Tarocchini.
The 78-card tarot deck is split into two sections:
Major Arcana: This contains 22 cards and is known as the greater secrets deck. Each card represents the life lessons and karmic influences that are influencing a person's life and their soul's journey to enlightenment. The cards are numbered in Roman numerals from one to 21. There is one unnumbered card: The Fool. He is placed at the beginning of the deck as it is his journey the cards follow, meeting new teachers, learning new lessons, and eventually reaching the completion of The World card. He aids our own journey as we navigate the trials and tribulations of this life.
Major Arcana in order of the journey: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, and finally The World.
Minor Arcana: This contains 56 cards and is known as the lesser secrets deck. As with a traditional deck of cards, the tarot is split into four suits.
Swords - this suit is associated with the element of air, and in a traditional pack of cards is aligned to spades. When all is well in the world it can be still or a force to be reckoned with when action is required. This is a masculine suit, linked to knowledge, power, and change. You've heard the expression "a double-edged sword" - something that has or can have both favourable and unfavourable consequences. Swords need to be balanced by surrounding cards to have the most positive effect.
Cups - this suit is associated with the element of water. It can be soft and gentle like the lapping waves on a shore or powerful and life changing like a Tsunami. It deals with emotions associated with love, feelings, relationships and connections. It is a feminine energy and draws on intuition and subtle power and strength. In a traditional pack of playing cards it is linked to the suit of hearts.
Pentacles - sometimes referred to as Coins this suit is linked to the element of earth. It is the suit of life foundations. One reaps what one sows. Put in the work, nurture and support, and a foundation will be strong. Neglect any aspect of this process and problems will arise. A feminine element, the suit of Pentacles guides us to create, transform and to live the life we visualise. It is associated with the suit of diamonds in a traditional pack of cards.
Wands - also known as Staves or Rods is associated with the element of fire. It is a masculine energy and draws on passion, energy, enthusiasm and sexuality. When one has a fire in one's belly it can be a force to change things that are wrong in the world. However, used unwisely and it can lead to getting burned. When wands appear it mirrors what is important to you at the core of your being. But don't be fooled, similarly to when Alice looked through looking glass, not everything is always what it seems. Wands are associated with the suit of clubs in a traditional pack of cards.
So there you have it - a brief introduction to the Tarot. When you start to use a deck try to keep in mind these basics but don't be limited by them. The tarot works with you and your own intuition and interpretation.
The Witch of the Wharf is a published writer and blogger. A favourite with celebrity clients for her uncannily accurate readings.