|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Born in London, Steven Bright has over twenty-three years of experience as a full-time tarot reader. Steven reads for clients around the world and has mentored countless students. A keen tarot blogger and tarot deck reviewer, his first published tarot deck and book was Spirit within Tarot. His website is tifarettarot.com.
Read an Excerpt
What Is Tarot?
The tarot that we recognize today is a set of seventy-eight illustrated cards. Whether you have used tarot before or not, you're probably aware of a few of its main players. Most people will call to mind the enigmatic Death card whenever the tarot is mentioned. If not Death, then it might be The Lovers, since both cards have been used many times in fiction and popular culture. There are, however, seventy-six additional cards, probably less recognizable, that make up a standard tarot pack. You might be surprised to know that Death and The Lovers are less frequent visitors to a reader's table than they appear in the pages of novels or in television dramas!
Tarot has a shady history, and for that reason, we will not look into it too deeply here. There have been many conflicting theories as to how and when it originated, but most modern tarot commentators settle on Renaissance Italy as being the time and place that tarot made its public debut. The oldest and most complete deck in existence is the Visconti-Sforza, dating back to the fifteenth century, the cards of which now rest in museums and with collectors around the world.
What is known about tarot is that it has ducked in and out of fashion throughout history, being damned by the church in the second half of the fourteenth century, resurrected by the occultists in the late nineteenth century, and adopted by the New Age community not long after. Tarot's traditional meanings have evolved, as has its style and use. These days, tarot cards are used for far more than they ever were previously, and they provide counsel and comfort for people the world over. Tarot's use as an aid for reflection, healing, and psychological analysis is popular, as is its use within magical work and for fortune telling.
Tarot can help us unlock our deepest feelings, confront our fears, and successfully guide us through the darker aspects of life. Whether used for daily affirmations or to gauge the next best step, most would agree that the real power of the tarot is not within the cards themselves — since they are no more than paper and ink — but within the intention of the users and how they interpret these symbols for the best good. Tarot must not rob us of our personal power and capabilities but, instead, should empower and help us to live a richer life. The cards can do this by showing readers how to tap in to potential opportunities, providing them with ways we can effectively swerve around or confront the obstacles on our path.
What Tarot Is Not
While tarot can help us to decipher problems and unlock obstacles, it is most effectively used when concentrating on the present time. While it can locate issues that have played an important part in our past or that will have a significant bearing on the future, it is worth remembering that our future is not set in stone. The tarot cards are best used as a tool to help provoke changes, rather than seal our future with uncompromising fate. Not everyone realizes this when they receive a reading. A common misconception of tarot is that it predicts an unyielding future that we have no control over.
While the cards will accurately pinpoint relevant situations, they are not a replacement for medical advice. When in a state of ill health, many will consult a reader, hoping that they'll receive the "all clear" in the cards. Although the tarot can often detect when something is wrong, it cannot advise a solution for a medical problem. While this might seem obvious, you'd be surprised how many seek answers around health in a tarot reading. Someone seeking medical guidance should speak to a doctor before consulting a tarot reader. The tarot may help you deal with a health-related problem emotionally, but it cannot diagnose what is wrong or suggest the best treatment.
Many people believe that tarot is part of the practice of witchcraft or is a replacement for religion. These are also false beliefs. While many practicing witches use tarot, it is not synonymous with either witchcraft or Wicca. Tarot is used by people of all religions and by those with no religious affinity. For most, it is a tool to help them enhance their spiritual beliefs, rather than acting as a replacement for it.
Is Tarot Dangerous?
It is important to acknowledge, right at the beginning of this book, that tarot is not dangerous. This is something that some believe, but it is far from the truth. Religion and popular media have instilled fear within the minds and hearts of many, muddying the good work and reputation of many skilled readers.
Think for a second, if you would, of the humble knife. Most of us pick one up every day, whether to butter our bread or to cut food. However, you'd probably not be surprised to hear that the most common knives used in assaults are ones taken from the kitchen. Should we brand all knives as murder weapons? Of course we shouldn't. A knife is only a weapon if determined so by the person using it.
It would be fair to say that not everyone uses the tarot cards with positive intention. While the cards may have less potential to physically harm than a knife, some are fearful of the tarot and think that using it could be dangerous. As with the example of the kitchen knife, this can only be determined by the user. There will always be people who choose to use their tools to appear powerful or as a way of controlling others. But when used with sensitivity, compassion, and responsibility, the wealth of the tarot images and their meanings can be sought to find peace and direction. As we will discover, the seemingly darker images within the seventy-eight-card deck — like those of Death and The Devil — are simply reflections of our own motivations and aspects of our life journey. In many cases, these symbols needn't be feared but embraced. Life is not entirely positive or entirely negative. The tarot deck reflects this and seeks to establish a sense of balance.
Some tarot designers have sought to provide decks with overtly positive depictions on the cards. It would be true to say that no card in the tarot deck is entirely light or entirely dark, but sweeping anything that is seemingly worrying under the spiritual carpet is not a reflection of the human experience. We all face difficulties and obstacles. It is a fact of life. It is the way in which we respond to these events that is important. Do we confront them, or do we try to hide from them?
Who Can Use Tarot?
The short answer to this is: anyone.
Contrary to common belief, you do not need to have psychic skills to read the cards, nor need you be part of a certain group, or hold a specific set of spiritual beliefs. If we have a positive intention and an open mind, the tarot cards are an effective tool for delving deeper into our intuition and unconscious motivations. Working like a mirror, the cards reflect not only what is happening, but also those things of which we might not be consciously aware at the present time.
How Can You Get the Most Out of This Book?
We all learn differently, so how you gain the most from this book will be individual to you. That said, the book has been set up with both the beginner and intermediate reader in mind. For the tarot newcomer, it can be read from cover to cover, but it is likely that most tarot students will wish to use it as a resource that they can dip in and out of.
Within chapters two and three, each card from the tarot deck is explained on five different levels:
To begin, the card is introduced with its general meaning. This section describes the flavor of the card and how it is traditionally viewed.
The Card as a Situation
One of the hardest things for a reader to do is translate the antique ideas of the tarot deck into the modern age. This section suggests ways in which each card could be viewed within a current, everyday situation.
The Card as a Person
Learning to be flexible with card meanings can be difficult. In this section, I describe how each tarot card might describe a person. There will be times when a card is used as a significator (more about that on page 189) or to describe someone in your life. Understanding how the card can be perceived in this way shows how each card can be determined in a multitude of different tarot spreads or positions.
The Card and You
Even though we might have learned the essence of a card's meaning, it doesn't stop us from experiencing blocks from time to time. This section lists prompts that can help kick-start your intuition or help you relate to a card's message on a personal level.
The keywords are a source of quick and handy meanings. I have included those that I feel help to provide a well-rounded interpretation of each card. If you want to refresh your memory quickly, you can read just the keywords.
Enclosed Tarot Card Wall Chart
Included in this book is a wall chart of the Major Arcana tarot cards to inspire and guide you each day collated from the information in this book.
After covering all the cards, I will concentrate on the art of reading and will include tips and tricks to help you become a proficient tarot reader. These can be found in chapter four, Becoming Adept & Spreads.
The Universal Waite Tarot
The New Age era of the 1970s ushered in a massive interest in the tarot, and those who wanted to use these mysterious cards started to look around for suitable decks. There were very few in existence at that time, and while most had some kind of illustrations on the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana cards looked no better than playing cards.
Right from the start, however, one deck stood out: the Rider-Waite Tarot. This deck contained clear illustrations of each of the seventy-eight cards, and so it became the deck of choice for many tarot readers. The only downside was that the colors were considered somewhat garish, so eventually, the Universal Waite Tarot came into being. This is an adaptation of Rider-Waite with slightly softer colors than the original that is still a very popular deck among both amateur and professional tarot readers.
Getting Familiar with Tarot
Choosing your tarot deck should be an enjoyable and magical experience. I can still remember how excited I felt when I bought my second set, the Röhrig Tarot, many moons ago. Back in those days, stores would display an album of samples, showing two or three cards from each of the decks that they could order. I was mesmerized, flipping through the album of images and eventually choosing the set to which I felt most connected.
These days, there are far more tarots on the market than when I started twenty years ago. They literally come in all shapes and sizes, in different themes, and on occasion, with different structures. While picking a tarot that you are drawn to is an important consideration, it does pay to ask a few questions or do a little research beforehand. I learned the hard way that not every deck has the same setup or core meanings.
A good New Age shop will be able to answer your questions, and with the internet at our fingertips, you'll find many reviewers and experts online who are happy to lend a helping hand.
At the end of the day, it really is important that you find a set of images that speaks to you. Using a deck of cards that you do not like will not assist your learning, and working with it could become a chore.
Making the Tarot Your Own
Within the tarot deck, you will find many different characters. You'll likely come up against a figure hanging upside down, a mystical priestess, several winged beings, and even the Grim Reaper himself. While many of these archetypes will seem obvious in meaning, there will be some that are more difficult for the modern reader to relate to than others. For example, what can a medieval chariot tell you about your life today?
Now that we are all immersed within modern technology, the concepts within the tarot cards may at first seem a little outdated; however, this could not be further from the truth. The age-old ideas and experiences displayed within the tarot card archetypes are potentially more important now than ever before, fulfilling the modern need for balance and reflection.
In this book, I have endeavored to bridge the gap between the antique imagery within the tarot cards and your personal day-to-day situations. How can a common fool spice up your love life or an elderly man with a lamp take you on a much-needed journey of self-discovery? I'm a great believer that the trick to understanding the tarot images is in using the cards as a reflection. When we look at an image and its generally accepted meanings, we can allow for it to mirror our own life situations — from our past, to our present, to even our potential future. Layering a card with your own experiences will help you to understand each of the tarot cards on a far deeper level.
How Is a Tarot Deck Structured?
It is generally accepted that a traditional tarot deck has seventy-eight cards. When you are shopping for your own set, there is a chance you'll find decks that come with either more or less. While there is the odd exception to every rule, most of these are not traditional tarot decks (even if it says so on the box). This is why it pays to do a little research beforehand. A badly researched deck can result in a lot of confusion and difficulty in the long run.
Within the seventy-eight cards, the tarot deck is broken down into two sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The word arcana (from Latin arcanus) translates as "secrets" or "mysteries." Therefore, the Major Arcana, comprising twenty-two cards, represents major shifts within our life path, and the Minor Arcana is connected to the mundane and "everyday" situations we might face.
The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits. The names of the suits will vary from deck to deck but the most widely used are those of Wands (also sometimes called Rods or Batons), Cups (or Chalices), Swords (or Knives), and Pentacles (or Coins or Stones). Each has an elemental association. Deck designers and illustrators assign these elements according to their own beliefs but the most widely recognized is Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, respectively.
Each of the four suits contains fourteen cards. The first ten cards are sometimes referred to as Pips. The final four cards of each suit are known as Court cards. The Courts signify different personality types within a reading. Many tarot designers have changed the names they've given to the "people cards" in their decks, in accordance with the deck's theme, but the most popular titling is Page (followed by Daughter, Knave, or Princess), Knight (then Son, Cavalier, or Prince), Queen (or Mother), and King (or Father).
The tarot system described in this book stems from the Rider-Waite tradition and appears as follows:
The Major Arcana: 22 cards
The Minor Arcana: 56 cards, comprising 4 suits of 14 cards
The cards in the Major Arcana relate to the corresponding number cards in each of the Minor Arcana suits, especially cards 1 through 10. For example, a 9 card in any of the suits relates in some way to the Major Arcana's ninth card, The Hermit.
The Meanings of the Suits
Each suit within the Minor Arcana has its own significance. While the cards from each will provide information in all manner of readings, their elements describe the suit's general characteristics.
The suit of Wands is connected to Fire. This element refers to our drive and enthusiasm. It is what motivates us to get things moving. In a reading, a succession of cards from this suit can determine an exciting situation or a boost of creativity.
The suit of Cups is connected to Water. The element of Water concerns our emotional life. It can often describe how we feel about something. Many cards from this suit in a reading can highlight romance or important personal relationships.
The suit of Swords is connected to Air. Air is associated with thoughts and communication. In a reading, many cards from this suit can suggest a need to approach things logically. In some cases, a string of cards from the suit of Swords can be problematic in a reading.
The suit of Pentacles is connected to Earth. This element is grounded and concerns our material life. If many cards from this suit fall into a reading, we may be encouraged to be pragmatic or keep a closer eye on our finances.
Reading Court Cards
Interpreting Court cards is often deemed the most difficult aspect of tarot reading. Courts represent people who might be part of your current circumstances or your past, or they may have the potential to enter your future. Age can play a part in their interpretation. A Page could describe a child, and a King may signify a wise gentleman. When reading the cards, however, it is worth letting your intuition guide your response. While someone may be in their twilight years, it doesn't mean that their naivete can't be highlighted by a younger member of the Court. Just because we are worldly within business (like the King of Pentacles), we may be less than astute within our personal affairs (like the Page of Cups).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "In Focus Tarot"
Copyright © 2018 Zambezi Publishing Ltd..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE Getting Started, 4,
CHAPTER TWO The Major Arcana, 16,
CHAPTER THREE The Minor Arcana, 62,
CHAPTER FOUR Becoming Adept & Spreads, 176,