- The Cards
Tarot is a system of divining the future and revealing occult
(hidden) truth. It is the Witch's most frequently used method
The exact origin of the Tarot is mysterious, shrouded in antiquity,
although conjectures abound. Some believe that Tarot cards have
their roots in an ancient Egyptian book, "The Book of Thoth". Thoth
was the moon god of ancient Egypt and was believed to have created
the world by the sound of his voice alone. Possessed of complete
wisdom and knowledge, Thoth was credited with giving birth to all
the arts and sciences and with inventing the hieroglyphs. He was
the first magician and was later called Hermes Trismegistus by the
ancient Greeks. Thoth worshippers claimed to have access to his
great books of infinitely powerful magic "these formulas which
commanded all the forces of nature and subdued the very gods
themselves", which they undertook to decipher and learn. Could the
Tarot have its roots in this work by the worshippers of Thoth? Quite
The Tarot was almost certainly introduced to the West by The
Gypsies (Romanies) who began a mass exodus of their homeland around
1000 AD. Gypsies, contrary to popular belief, originated in
Northern India rather than Egypt although they are known to have
travelled through Egypt on their way to Europe where they arrived
circa 1350 AD.
Their dark looks, mysterious air and colourful clothing led to the
mistaken belief that they were from Egypt, hence the name "gypsy",
an abbreviated form of Egyptian. Tarot reading and other occult
arts were a major part of gypsy culture and it is through these
nomads that the Tarot was dispersed through Europe. It is probably
no coincidence that the earliest extant Tarot cards, now residing
at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, have been dated to around
1400, just 50 years after Gypsies arrived in Europe.
During the Renaissance, there was increasing interest in the occult
arts such as Alchemy and the Cabbala of popularity. There were
some however who feared the Tarot, believing it to be the spawn of
the devil and that its use would endanger one's soul.
In 1781, Antoine Court de Gebelin wrote a treatise on the Tarot
which suggested that it originated in ancient Egypt and that the
major arcana were encoded keys through which it might be possible
to unlock the magical books of Thoth and his followers. Later in
the 1800's, Eliphas Levi, a renowned mystic suggested a connection
between Tarot and the Kabbala. Levi theorized that the Tarot was
Hebrew in origin and that all 78 cards were encoded with the
mystical knowledge of the Tree of Life.
Over the following years, many occult societies and religions took
a keen interest in the Tarot: The Rosicrucians, the Theosophists,
the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and his
followers, to name but a few.
Today, the Tarot is more popular than ever. With hundreds of
different decks available, offering variations of symbolism and
style, it is possible for the Tarot aficionado to find a deck that
speaks to him in a language of symbol and meaning that is personal
and endlessly rich.
The Tarot deck is composed of 78 cards which are divided into major
and minor arcana. The 22 cards of the major arcana (also referred
to as "trumps") are archetypal images, symbolizing potent events
and/or themes the individual encounters on The River of Life. The
56 minor arcana consist of 16 court cards (King, Queen, Knight,
Page) and 40 number cards also known as pips which are numbered
from Ace to Ten. The minor arcana are divided into four suits:
Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles. The modern deck of playing cards
descends from the minor arcana of medieval playing decks. The suit
of Wands becomes Clubs; Cups, Hearts; Pentacles, Diamonds and
Swords; Spades. These four suits correspond to four divisions of
activity and each also has a corresponding element.
||Swordsassociated with the masculine element of air and related to
mental activity, intellect and all forms of communication. Swords
can also indicate conflict (quarrels, law suits, confusion,
||Pentaclesassociated with the feminine element Earth and related
to the fruits of the earth ie. material concerns, worldly status,
tangible achievement, cold, hard cash and matters related to the
body. In a reading, Pentacles can suggest a realistic, sensible
approach to a problem or concern. They are often telling you that
in order to fulfill your dreams, you are going to have to log in
plenty of solid work. The suit of Pentacles can also indicate
people who are "earthy," common-sense types, who work with their
hands and/or offer solid support.
|Cupsassociated with the feminine element of water, they relate to
emotions, imagination, inspiration, creativity and intuition. In a
reading, Cups describe relationships of all kindsfriendship,
parenthood, love affairs etcand emotions, also of all kindsfrom
the heights of ecstatic joy to the depths of despair. On a more
worldly level, Cups can represent creative enterprises.
|Wandsassociated with masculine element of fire, Wands are related
to energy, creativity and action. In a reading, wands often signify
matters pertaining to career, social activity and passion and can
indicate increased activity and change.
A Tarot card reading, particularly an in-depth one, is a very
healing, consciousness expanding experience. The Tarot doesn't
merely divine the possibilities in your future, it helps you get in
touch with your own dreams, talents and potential. I have been
reading Tarot cards since I was 14 years old when my Manx
grandmother, herself a gifted reader, gave me my first deck. Over
the ensuing years, they have been enormously enlightening to me.
Not only have they alerted me to future events, but they have
helped me see more deeply into myself and others.
Treat yourself to an in-depth personal reading with Sheila O'Sullivan, The Electric Witch