Learning Tarot

If you are trying to learn the Tarot, it’s easy to get flummoxed at the beginning by the sheer volume of cards. Seventy-eight of them – and then there are the reversals and combinations as well. I remember when I was thinking about growing vegetables: I bought a book on how to do so, and found their information on the number of bugs and diseases so off-putting I never planted any!

But the Tarot is has a major advantage over vegetables. The images speak to us without any need for book-learning: we can often understand them clearly just by quieting the left brain down, and allowing ourselves to go into a little reverie. We then are opening up our intuition, and it will respond. Often the messages are quite off-the-wall: the more unexpected, the better!

As I’ve said before, the Tarot images are archetypal – they are the language of human unconscious, and as such we ‘get’ them without trying. Indeed, if we do try, we often lose the sense of them – it’s our left brain that’s trying, and the right brain gets overwhelmed by the left’s voice. The right brain sees in patterns, in wholeness, in feelings and shapes. It’s subjective and wordless (or mostly wordless – it can apparently swear). It’s probably the part of the brain that dreams, creates, and heals. The left brain is the cortex – some say it’s more evolved than the right brain, but that’s highly debatable. Firstly because both hemispheres must have evolved in tandem, but more importantly, our society’s emphasis on reason and logic has left us spiritually poverty-stricken. What we have gained in lucidity and logic, we have lost in connection and wisdom. Anyway, the left brain thinks mathematically, logically, sequentially. It categorises, rationalises, reduces.

So to learn the Tarot, begin by turning down the volume of the left brain. It can learn the traditional meanings and the Spreads if it wants to, and categorise the suits. That’s fine. The right brain, however, is the one you’ll really need to work the tarot.

Some info for the left brain:there are twenty-two Major Arcana, usually numbered in Roman numerals, though the Fool is either unnumbered or 0. So the Magician is number I, and the World, the highest card of the deck, is XXI. There are also four suits, which are similar to traditional playing cards: Cups, which are linked to feelings and water (Hearts); Staves / Wands / Rods (Clubs), linked to creativity and intuition, and are either associated with air (or fire in the Rider Waite); Pentacles / Discs / Coins (Diamonds), linked to money, physical energy, and earth; and finally Swords (Spades), linked to the intellect and fire (air in the Rider Waite).

Then there are four face or court cards in each suit – Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings. Pages are usually young people and are often depicted as feminine; Knights are male and youthful or immature; Queens are feminine though they can often be the feminine side of a person; and Kings are masculine – though again, they may be referring to the masculine side of a person. The character of each face card relates to its suit – thus the Queen of Cups will be emotional, generous, usually flexible and open-minded. The Page of Swords will be clever, passionate although she keeps that passion under tight control, usually focusing it on her passion for truth and justice.