Contents 2: Section Title + Excerpt
This version of the Contents gives the Section Number and Title, as well as an excerpt from the beginning of the article so you can have an idea of what it is about. By contrast, Contents 1 gives the Section Number and Title, as well as a list of the sub0headings in the various Sections.
01 – In the beginning – the problems we all face
In the beginning of any study or subject – it could be learning Photoshop, riding a bike, learning to ski, or whatever – we start off in the dark.
We don’t really know what to do, but we want to avoid making mistakes. We also want to learn what we should be doing and how to do it properly.
In the early stages, though, we can’t make even educated guesses about what to do because we don’t have the background.
02 – What might happen
The Tarot and its cards show us life as a whole and what happens.
A biographer of Johan Sebastian Bach pointed out that before Bach, music was composed a certain way. With a fugue, they would start with a melody or a bass line, and the other instruments would play notes that were related to the main theme. With Bach, though, there would be five or six instruments each with their own notes, and each one would be equally well-informed about the theme. We can relate this to a Tarot spread – each card is equally well-informed about the answer.
03 – The approach taken in the book
We want to be comfortable with the Tarot and its connected activities – shuffling, doing readings, figuring out what a card shows or means, different layouts, and so on.
Make your own version of this book
The Contents of the book will give you an idea of how the information has been arranged and how certain topics have been sorted together.
04 – The typical approach to the Tarot, and how it can be improved
Most Tarot books are the same or similar in that they begin with the major trumps, starting with The Fool and working through them in numerical order. They try to prove that cards with titles, the majors, are more important than the minors, or that major trumps deal with spiritual matters, while the minor trumps cover more mundane matters or daily life. Not that this is true.
05 – How this book is set up, and why it has been done that way
With the last point of Section 04 in mind – about a Tarot book being of practical use – here are some reasons for the manner of organization of the contents.
Our starting point is that the kinds of concerns we have in the beginning and when we are new to the Tarot are not the same as what we wonder about once we start doing readings.
06 – What the book is about and how it is set up
The English word “doubt” comes from a root that means two, the number two – so if you have a doubt, you are in two minds about something. This condition can stop you making progress; or maybe you move forward, but without confidence since you’re not sure what to do.
The plan for the book is to ask and answer every question anyone ever thought of about reading the Tarot, so you’re not held back by doubts.
07 – So what is the Tarot?
The Tarot is a pack of cards and people might think it’s limited because of that, but I want to say that it’s infinite – it has no limits – and the cards individually and in combination describe the ever-changing conditions of our lives.
We’ve probably all heard of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and there are a lot of other psychologists who teach their own systems. They’re not all the same, however, even though you might think they could be since they all purport to describe human behaviour and what makes us tick, so they ought to agree since we’re all human beings.
08 – The Tarot is not ridiculous because…
This chapter is called The Tarot is not ridiculous because… and I want to consider some general points to show that the Tarot is not the stupid, fanciful fortune teller’s con-man nonsense that some people think. Ideally, this will put you, the reader, in a stronger position to defend your use of the Tarot if people say you’re in league with the devil and you’re going to hell so you better stop right now to save your soul – or something along those lines.
At the same time, if you have an idea of what is going on with the Tarot and how it might work
09 – This book – what’s in it for you?
The idea is that you will be comfortable reading cards to answer questions – for other people, as well as for yourself. With this in mind, we consider lots of questions and their possible answers. You therefore have different amounts of understanding in different areas, but you can be working on them all at the same time. You can know that you will develop expertise in areas where you are currently in a beginner stage.
You don’t slow your progress because you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing.
11 – What it takes to read the Tarot well
You may already know that I’m not a big fan of what people call their intuition. This is partly because it’s not really clear what intuition is – as you’ll know if you’re ever tried to define it . At the same time, a lot of what is referred to as intuition in Tarot readings is just a guess. It’s the reader claiming that what they say is valid, but they cling to it even if the person being told doesn’t see it that way. It seems hard for intuitive or psychic types to accept that they might be wrong, and this isn’t good. Just because you’re psychic, it doesn’t mean you can see the future.
12 – How does the Tarot work?
We each of us have a certain amount of wisdom or common sense that we can draw on. If things go wrong or turn out badly, we have some intelligence that we can use to build something better, even if the immediate results are not perfect or exactly what we want. We can be patient while the situation develops.
Part of us knows what is the right thing to do, or what we are meant to learn, or what it would be useful to find out about, or whatever.
13 – Let’s not use or depend on jargon
The illustrations on the cards in the Rider deck are made up of different elements.
A child shows what?
There is a child, for instance, in The Sun card. If this card comes up in a reading, the child might be referring to an actual infant. Or it could be someone in the position of an infant who is just beginning a new stage of his or her life – a person just starting out in a particular position. Or it could show a child’s point of view where life is an adventure and the person, of whatever age, is adventurous or looking for excitement or gets bored easily and needs something new to stimulate him or her. If reversed, it could show someone who, like a child, is prone to temper tantrums.
14 – The problem with having only a little knowledge of astrology.
This section is about how the Tarot is fine and complete on its own. Reading the Tarot doesn’t need to be supplemented by, or translated into, other subjects apparently to make it better.
You don’t need to know astrology to be able to read the Tarot. Neither do you have to know numerology, or the Kaballah or any other occult system. People will tell you that some knowledge in these other areas will add to what you can do with cards. This is false and misleading.
15 – The Tarot doesn’t need other -ologies
Just about everyone gives the same advice – they say your knowledge of the Tarot is improved and increased when you include numerology and astrology – but they’re wrong and it’s bad advice.
Take as an example the 4 of Swords – that shows the interior of a church-like building, with a commemorative statue on a tomb. The swords have been put away, or retired, so things are quiet at the moment. It’s a time of rest and maybe renewal, and we can all see that from the picture.
16 – The beginning stage
Reading cards is like riding a bicycle – it’s easy, as they say, when you know how.
When you can ride a bike, you can enjoy the ease of movement, speed, and so on. In the beginning, though, or when you’re just learning, it can be frightening, and you can be fearful that’s you’ll fall off and damage yourself.
The idea with the book is to try to answer every question you might have so you can move comfortably beyond the beginner stage. You can then be less dependent on the manual, or the book with all the answers, and so develop your own ability.
17 – Fanciful ideas and myths about the Tarot
People have strange beliefs about the Tarot. There are all sorts of habits that you’re supposed to adopt and rules that you’re supposed to follow, even if they don’t make much sense. If we give some of these ideas the benefit of the doubt, then we can say that maybe, maybe, they made sense once upon a time, but not so much any longer.
Let us consider some practices to see if we should take them seriously.
18 – Which deck should you get or use?
With this question, it depends on who the audience is likely to be, and how you want to treat it.
Some decks are illustrated, while others are not.
If we consider the Marseilles or the Crowley decks, then the 8 of Coins, for instance, shows 8 Coins.
19 – A point or two about non-Rider decks that are popular and easy to get.
Some decks have accompanying books that outline what the designer of the deck meant in the illustration of the card. We probably ought to follow the intended meaning, rather than develop our own.
The Robin Wood deck
The Robin Wood deck is an example. It is quite a popular deck and people are very enthusiastic about the use of color and the pictures. It may be ideal for certain types of questions.
20 – Use the Rider-Waite deck
With the Rider deck, everyone can do a good reading from the start, no matter what your background is with the Tarot and other occult systems. We live in a visual world and are used to taking our lead from illustrations, so there is something natural about using this deck. At the same time, we can apply our normal way of thinking to the interpretation of cards.
21 – The structure of a Tarot deck
You all probably know this already, but there are 78 cards in a deck, and they can be classified in different ways.
There are 22 so-called Major Trumps. These are cards with titles like The Magician; Temperance; The Star, and so on. Most decks use the same names even if the design is different, though there are some variations that need not concern us here.
22 – What are the Major Trumps?
We probably already know that there are 22 so-called Major Trumps and they have names like Death, The Hanged Man, The Emperor and so on. They are “Major” so they would seem to be important, or more important than the Minor Trumps. Maybe they are, but maybe they’re not.
There are 22 of them
There happen to be 22 of them, and the number may be significant, so let’s consider it.
23 – What are the Minor Trumps?
There are four Suits in the Minor Trumps – Coins, Cups, Batons and Swords – with the Ace through to the 10, as well as a King, a Queen, a Knight and a Page. This gives 4 x 14 = 56 cards.
With regular playing cards, we have Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades, and they can have been translated into the four Suits in the Tarot. If you visit the Wikipedia page on Suit (cards), there is some background information on various European versions of the four Suits, and we read that playing cards were first developed a long time ago in China. The original motivation for cards may have been lost or forgotten, but the truth is always true, so let’s see what we can come up with, assuming that the Suits educate us about important things.
24 – What are the Court Cards?
People often get stuck with the Court Cards – the Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages of the four Suits.
The simple solution is to understand that a Court Card can represent a person (the questioner or someone in the questioner’s life now or in the future) or a situation or condition. The reader explains that if the card shows you, the questioner, then this is what to do; if it show someone else, then this is what they are like or what they will do; if it shows a situation, then it’s like this….
25 – What about reversed cards?
If we use a deck with pictures on all the cards, then when we turn them over, we can immediately see if they are upright or reversed from the point of view of the reader. You can ignore the orientation of the card, however, turn it upright and just give an interpretation.
So if The Sun card shows up, for instance, you might suggest that the questioner makes a plan or develops an idea of where he or she wants be in the future.
26 – Major and Minor Trumps understood
The deck is divided into Major and Minor Trumps and it’s easy to assume that Major Trumps are more important in some way. You might think that a spread with four or five Major Trumps is going to be more important than one that contains only Minor Trumps – but is it?
The spreads and the messages are probably different, but what are we to make of them?
27 – Doing Readings
It’s one thing to learn the Tarot; it’s something else to learn how to read cards.
Learning The Tarot
Learning the Tarot is reasonably straightforward because you can keep adding information. You read a bit of astrology, numerology, the kaballah and so on, widening your understanding. Going wide like this works well enough when it’s just for you. You don’t have to prove or justify anything; you don’t have to deal with objections; in many ways, you’re not accountable, and this is fine.
28 – There is no magic bullet
If someone is dealing with a problem, there usually isn’t just one step to a solution. It’s not like there is a magic bullet, and you fire it and everything falls into place. It may be somewhat like that if you’re right at the end of the process. When you’re at the beginning or in the middle, however, the rules and expectations are different and more complex if there are multiple choices that could be made. Part of the Tarot’s value is that a reading shows the steps to be taken or the way to reach the end.
29 – Three things beginners do that don’t work
You turn a card and the first thing you want to know is: What does it mean?
Books and blogs will give you paragraphs of meanings for each card, and learning them seems like the right approach in the beginning. You still have to choose the right meaning, though, or the most sensible one, and that can be hard. Books don’t give you much help to do this, however.
30 – Write out some typical questions
We want to practice readings by ourselves, so that when we have a real live person asking questions, we have some idea of what to do with a spread and how to answer their question or questions.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to make a list of some typical questions that people might ask. Then you can spend some time picking cards to answer those questions, and thinking about what you might say if someone were on the other side of the table, waiting to hear your suggestions.
31 – A recap – moving beyond the beginner stage
When it comes to reading the Tarot, we all start off as beginners, though some are more comfortable than others and maybe don’t act like they’re new to the subject.
It might be useful to get an idea of the kinds of steps we take in developing ability, and so we can consider the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. You can Google it for more information, but the authors propose five stages, with particular characteristics, through which a student will pass:
32 – What about when, or if, you’re thinking of learning the Tarot
What are we to do if we have doubts about the advisability of getting a Tarot deck and learning to use it?
If you have felt yourself drawn to the Tarot, for whatever reason, then we can say that you wouldn’t have thought of it if you weren’t meant to follow through with it, at least for a while.
33 – Buying a deck of cards
You need a deck of cards that you are going to read.
You could just write a key word or two on index cards and use them. This is the kind of approach taken with The Creative Whack Pack, for instance. The pack has cards with a bit of explanation and a phrase at the top . So you might wondering what to do and you pick a card and get the advice to: Do the Unexpected, or Ask “What if?”. This is the solution, or a useful action to take.
34 – Before opening the deck, get a cloth
Once the box is open, you will be laying the cards on a flat surface, probably. It’s good to put a cloth on the surface you will be using, just to keep the cards clean. If you get this before opening the box, it will be there when you need it. You can use this same cloth to wrap the cards in when not in use, instead of putting them back into the box (which would get worn and torn over time in any case).
35 – Opening the box, and first steps
You have a new deck , and now it’s time to open it, having the cloth to hand.
You open the box, remove the cellophane wrapper if there is one, put the cellophane in the box and wrap the deck in the cloth. You put the cardboard box somewhere. You could throw it out, but why not just keep it somewhere?
36 – Activities to get to know the cards
The starting point to remember is that it’s not what a card means that is important, but what sense it makes. That is what we’re looking for when we turn a card to get to an answer for a question.
The usual approach is to read about and come up with potential meanings for cards. We have probably all tried this and got stuck or frustrated when we can’t relate the meanings to the question, or when there are too many of them and we can’t choose the right one, or…
37 – How to shuffle Tarot cards
Most Tarot cards are a bit bigger than regular playing cards, and many people find it awkward to shuffle. The reader ought to practice from time to time, to get used to the size of the cards, as well as how to manipulate them during the shuffle.
If the cards are too big for you to handle comfortably, you might want to spread them face-down on the cloth and spread them around a few time to mix them up. Then gather all the cards up into a single deck, and place them face down on the table or the work-surface.
40 – Steps before the reading
We might consider the Tarot as a wise old lady who will be willing to pass on her wisdom, but we ought to set things up so she will be comfortable and happy to cooperate with our requests.
A quiet and peaceful area is better than a noisy kitchen table with drunk people wandering in and out. If you absolutely have to do a reading during a raucous party and you have no alternative, then that’s one thing and the Tarot will likely be forgiving and understanding. On the other hand,
41 – With the questioner and getting ready for the reading
The table is set, so to speak, the questioner is seated opposite, and it’s time to begin.
You are going to be answering questions, so it’s a good idea to know what those questions are. You can always add more later, or you might end up with different ones, but you should start with an idea of what the questioner wants to know.
42 – Picking the spread
At some point, you decide what spread or spreads you will use.
You might have a dozen questions and you decide to pick a single card for each one and give some kind of answer based on the card that comes up. You might use upright as a Yes or a Do This; while reversed can be a No, or a Don’t Do This or Stop Doing This.
43 – Get paid first
People may disagree with this next point, but you should get paid before you do the reading, and you should keep the money even if the questioner isn’t happy about what you said.
It’s easy to get drawn – or sucked – into other people’s lives and this might be ok, but you can become attached to someone who isn’t really your type of person. This can cause difficulties, that may be hard to get out of.
44 – Explain the Tarot to the questioner before the reading
You know the questions, they have been written down, and you have been paid. Now it’s time to start the reading.
A good way to begin is to give a mini Tarot lesson to the questioner. You take a couple of minutes to explain a bit about how the Tarot is set up and how it can be read. This puts the questioner in the picture, so to speak.
46 – The Yes-No spread
This can be a useful spread, though not just because you can give the questioner a Yes or a No answer.
Someone might want to know if a particular plan or course of action is a generally good idea or something worth doing. You can use a Yes-No spread, and you consider upright cards as showing what will work out well, or what is a good part of the plan, or a strength that can be increased. Reversed cards, by contrast,
47 – The Celtic Cross spread
This layout is outlined in most Tarot books, maybe because Waite showed it in his Pictorial Key To The Tarot book. Later writers repeated what Waite started.
This spread may be common, but it’s not that popular in the sense that many people use it a lot of the time. It may be too complicated, or too difficult to make sense of, so people turn to something easier. It also uses ten cards, and while this can mean it produces details, the reading can take a long time and it can be confusing as you try to blend different and maybe contradictory meanings for different cards.
48 – After the reading
After the reading is done, it makes sense to do a quick shuffle, place the cards on the cloth, and wrap it around them ready for the next questioner.
It can be useful to finish a reading with someone else’s take on the question or their answer to it, that will confirm what you said, or take the pressure off you and divert the questioner’s hostility if that is something that is required.