2.1 General Principles for Interpreting Tarot Cards

2.1.1 Symbolism

One of the essential principles in interpreting Tarot cards lies in the rich symbolism each card carries. Every image, figure, color, and number holds its unique meaning and provides insights into the message of the card. Tarot is a visual language. It’s a combination of symbolic art and numerology, and understanding these symbols is the key to grasping the messages from the Tarot.

For instance, consider the color symbolism. Red often represents passion, action, and vitality, while blue might signify emotion, intuition, and healing. Similarly, white is commonly associated with purity, innocence, and new beginnings, and black often symbolizes the unknown, the unconscious, and endings.

Every object in the card carries a message too. For example, a mountain may symbolize challenges or obstacles, water could represent emotions and intuition, and flowers might symbolize growth and natural development.

Symbols also carry cultural and historical meanings. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck, one of the most popular Tarot decks, is steeped in Christian symbolism, alchemical symbolism, and other historical iconographies.

2.1.2 Intuition

Even with a firm understanding of symbolism, Tarot reading isn’t a mere logical process of decoding symbols; it heavily relies on the reader’s intuition. Each Tarot card serves as a tool to tap into our subconscious mind and intuition, often revealing truths that our conscious mind might overlook.

As a reader, you need to trust your instincts and gut feelings when interpreting the cards. With practice, you’ll develop a personal relationship with your deck and start to recognize when your intuition guides you beyond the traditional meanings. Remember, a Tarot reading is a dialogue, not a monologue. It’s an interaction between the reader, the cards, and the querent (the person receiving the reading).

2.1.3 Context

Context is king in Tarot readings. A card’s meaning can significantly change based on the question asked, its position in the spread, and its relationship with neighboring cards. A Tarot spread is a specific arrangement of cards, and each position within the spread has a particular meaning. For example, in a simple three-card spread representing “past-present-future,” the same card can have different implications depending on its placement.

The cards surrounding a particular card also influence its meaning. For instance, a typically positive card like The Sun might lose some of its positivity if it’s surrounded by negative cards like the Three of Swords or the Ten of Swords.

2.1.4 Card Combinations

Tarot cards don’t exist in isolation; they interact with each other within a spread. Some cards enhance each other, while others might challenge or neutralize each other. Learning how to read card combinations is an advanced skill that can add depth and nuance to your readings.

For instance, if the Three of Cups (celebration, friendship) is followed by the Four of Wands (community, home), it might suggest a forthcoming celebration or reunion at home or within your community. However, if the Three of Cups is followed by the Five of Cups (loss, grief), it might suggest a falling out with friends or a disappointment in social situations.

2.1.5 Reversed Cards

A Tarot card has a different meaning when it appears reversed (upside down). Some readers interpret reversals as the opposite of the card’s upright meaning, but it’s more nuanced than that. A reversed card can suggest a delay, resistance, or a need for introspection related to the card’s themes.

It can also indicate that the energy of the card is blocked or not fully manifested.

For example, the upright Eight of Wands suggests swift action and rapid progress. If it appears reversed, it might indicate delays, setbacks, or the need to slow down.

These principles provide a framework for interpreting Tarot cards. However, remember that each reader develops their unique style over time. Tarot reading is both an art and a science. It’s an interpretative art that uses the symbols on the cards as its language, yet it’s also a spiritual science, as it helps us understand the complexities of our inner psyche and the outer universe.

Let’s illustrate these principles with an example: The Fool card.

The Fool is the card numbered 0 (or sometimes XXII) in the Major Arcana. The symbolism of the card includes a young man (symbolizing youth and inexperience) stepping off a cliff (risk, leap of faith), holding a white rose (innocence, purity), with a small dog at his heels (loyalty, protection), and carrying a bag tied to a staff (wisdom gathered along the journey).

If you pulled The Fool during a reading, you would first examine these symbols and their traditional meanings. But then, you would use your intuition to delve deeper. What does The Fool mean to you personally? Does it trigger any gut feelings or memories? Next, consider the context. If The Fool showed up in a “future” position of a spread, it might suggest an upcoming adventure or a need to take a risk. If it’s surrounded by Pentacles cards, perhaps it’s hinting at taking a financial risk.

The reversed Fool could suggest recklessness, a risk not worth taking, or being blocked in one’s ability to take a necessary leap of faith.

Through this example, you can see how the principles guide the interpretation process. Tarot is a tool for self-discovery and personal growth, revealing the hidden currents that shape our lives. By mastering these principles, you can harness the wisdom of the Tarot to illuminate your path.