by Estelle Daniels
Tarot cards are wonderful for telling fortunes, but are also an important esoteric tool. Many occultists use meditation as a way of discovering information about themself and the world. One meditation technique is to use a focus for the meditation. Tarot cards make good focuses.
A traditional Tarot deck has 78 cards and is divided into two parts: the Major Arcana or Trumps, 22 cards with names and pictures; and the Minor Arcana, 56 cards in four suits from Ace to King (with a 14th card, the Page in between the Ten and Knight). The Minor Arcana correspond to the cards in a regular deck.
The Major Arcana of a Tarot deck are also known as the keys. They are considered more influential than the Minor Arcana. Each has a specific name and meaning. They also have esoteric meanings and can indicate spiritual matters. Of the Minor Arcana, the court cards represent people, but also events or conditions. Each suit corresponds to an element, Wands-fire, cups-water, swords-air, pentacles-earth. However, apart from any divinatory meaning, each card of the Tarot depicts a story in itself. These symbols and pictures have evolved over time and have acquired a life of their own.
When you choose a tarot deck for meditation, it is best to choose a deck where each of the cards has a separate picture. Some decks have merely a number of symbols (like three cups for the Three of Cups) for the Minor Arcana, but others have a distinct picture for each card. All have distinct pictures for the Major Arcana. Using non-traditional Tarot decks can bring good results, but for the beginner, a standard tarot deck (78 cards: 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana in four suits) is best.
The most popular Tarot deck is the Rider-Waite deck, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. This was drawn shortly after 1900 under the auspices of the Golden Dawn. For many years this was the only Tarot deck readily available. The Robin Wood Tarot is a more recent deck, drawn in the 1980's, which is very beautiful. It is a deck which borrows some symbology from the Rider Waite, but is more Celtic in flavor.
There are many other decks available, many of which use the word "Tarot" yet are not traditional Tarot decks. Some add extra cards to the Major Arcana. Some add extra cards to each suit. Some add extra suits. Try to see the cards in a deck before buying it. At least see a few cards so you get an idea of the flavor of the deck. There are dozens of decks to choose from, and many people have several decks, for different purposes.
There are many ways to use Tarot cards as meditation tools. The Major Arcana have pictures. They all form a progression, from 1 the Magician to 21 the World and then 0 (unnumbered or 22) the Fool and back to 1 again. Meditate on the progression, what a soul has to work through before attaining mastery, and then descent back into another cycle of learning and mastery. This is called 'The Fool's Journey.' Meditate on each individual card, what it means, what the symbols and colors in the card mean and how each symbol or color adds to the totality of meaning for the card.
Tying the Tarot to the Kabbalah, each of the Major Arcana corresponds to a pathway between the sephiroth. Keep in mind the Tree of Life as a whole, and the meaning of each of the sephiroth, look at each card and try to understand how it can be a bridge between those two sephiroth. See how the nature of the card corresponds with and is a blend of their natures.
Using the Minor Arcana, meditate on each suit as a whole. How does each card fit into the progression of the suit, from Ace to King? Work backwards from King to Ace. Are there similarities in symbols, colors, themes used in the cards? The Rider-Waite deck has a story for each suit of the Minor Arcana. Lay out each suit and work it out for yourself.
Look at each card individually. Look at the symbols and colors used in the card. What do they mean to you? How do they fit with the message of the card? Place yourself within the scene depicted in the card. Look around, and see if you can discover things which are "hidden" from view. Talk to the people in the card. What do they have to tell you?
Look at all four Aces, Twos etc. together. How do they differ, how are they similar? What themes are duplicated in each Five? How does each "family" of court cards fit together? Are they compatible? Is there symbology repeated in each?
Groups can use the Tarot as a basis for long-term study. Take a different card each week, look at it, discuss its' meaning, symbols, where it occurs in the deck, how it fits into the progression. Use the picture on the card as a basis for a guided meditation, with one member of the group guiding everyone into the card to explore further. Let each member report back what they discovered while on their journey.
Comparing and contrasting different Tarot decks can also be enlightening. Check out the similarities and differences. Which decks appeal to you, and why? Get together with several people and look at different decks. It's fun and a good way to get to know each other. It's a good way to see what different decks are available without having to buy each deck.
Tarot is more than just for "fortune telling". The cards are universal symbols and can bring new insight and spiritual knowledge.
© 1997, 2002 Estelle Daniels, all rights reserved.