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It is not known exactly where and when the Tarot came into existence, but some believe that it originated in ancient Egypt and was brought to Europe by the Rom, or 'Gypsies', as they travelled to Europe from India. Other histories give the cards an Arabian origin, and still others attribute the cards to the Orient.
The oracle's first reference in Europe was in 1480 by an Italian writer who referred to them as having been brought from North Africa, when they arrived in Europe in the late 14th century. The Tarot appears to have been initially used as a card game that was named after the Italian town of Taro. Originally, some feel, there were only 22 cards, now known as the Major Arcana, and believed to be based on the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 pathways in the Cabala. Later that century the Minor Arcana of 56 more cards was added, its four suits – swords, cups, disks and clubs – said to represent the nobility, clergy, merchants and peasants. Each suit is composed of ten numbered cards, which are believed to relate to the ten sephiram in the Cabala, and four additional cards, which are used to represent actual people.
The Tarot was not intended to be used as a card game, or even for fortune telling for that matter, but as a unique pictorial analogy of the different phases and aspects of human life as depicted through pictorial symbology. If one studies the cards earnestly and with pureness in his heart, he will be made aware of the universal secrets that are part of the never-ending past, present, future, and parallel existences, as transcribed in the Akashic records. In essence, the Tarot was designed and meant to be used as an aide in our spiritual development, but over time, people began using them as an aide to foretelling future events. If one consults the Tarot with clarity of mind and a genuine desire to know the truth, the cards will reveal to the querent the answers that he seeks on a mundane or universal level.
Because Tarot, or Book of Toth, is believed to have been of ancient Egyptian origin, it would be helpful to understand the mythology of the ancient Egyptians, which to them, was considered to be their religion.
The Creator Re (or Ra), the Sun god, was the most important god of the New Kingdom (1560 – 1070 bc) in ancient Egypt. Sometimes he was identified with Amun-Re, known as the ‘hidden’ god because of his mysterious nature. Re was also believed to be the creator of the universe.
The Egyptian creation myth is related as follows:-
At the dawn of time, Re gave birth to himself. Feeling that he was alone, Re spat, and from his spittle were born Shu, the light, and Tefnut, moisture. From the union of Shu and Tefnut came Get, the earth god, and Nut, the sky goddess.
From Re’s tears came the first human beings. He knitted together the mountains, he made mankind and beasts, heavens and the earth.
Each morning he rises and sails in his boat, Sektet, across the sky. At night, Nut swallows him, and in the morning he gives birth to him once more.
The serpent Apep is his foe, born from the spittle of the Great Mother, Neith. Re spends each night in combat with Apep, the chaos serpent.
Some believe that one day, Apep may succeed in the devouring Re, and then the world will end. Others say that Re will grow old and tired, and that he will forget who it is. All that he has created will come to nothing. And then, perhaps, Re will give birth to himself again.
Osiris, god of the Underworld, was tall, handsome and dark-skinned. His followers looked forward to a life of eternal bliss. He was also the god of creation and the fertile earth.
According to myth, Set had pale skin and red hair – which indicated an evil character to the Egyptians. Set is the eternal enemy of the life-affirming Osiris.
Anubis, the Egyptian god with the head of a jackal presided over funerals and was known as ‘Lord of Mummy Wrappings’.
God of the sky, Horus, is depicted with a falcon’s head. Many Egyptians believed the sky was a vast falcon; its two eyes were the sun and the moon.
Fertility and cultivation were very important components of the Egyptian civilisation. Their corresponding myth is as follows:-
The sky goddess Nut and her husband, the earth god Geb, were so close that nothing could exist between them; nor could Nut’s children be born. So Shu, their father, separated them, holding Nut’s body aloft so that living things could exist on the earth. Nut brought forth two sets of twins: Osiris and Isis, and Set and Nepthys. Isis and Osiris loved each other, but Nepthys hated Set because she too loved Osiris.
At the birth of Osiris a voice was heard all over the world, saying ‘The Lord of all the earth is born!’ Osiris became King of Egypt and ruled wisely with Isis as his queen. He established the laws, taught the people how to grow food and how to worship the gods.
Osiris had only one enemy: his jealous brother Set. Set secretly measured Osiris’s body and made a painted coffin to fit him exactly. Then he gave a feast, to which he invited his brother. He showed of the magnificent coffin to his guests and said that he would give it as a present to whoever fit inside it.
All the guests took turns to lie down in the coffin, but they were all too small. At last Osiris himself lay down; his body fit perfectly. Set and his friends then nailed down the lid, pouring boiling lead over it to seal it, and set the coffin adrift on the River Nile.
When Isis heard what had happened to her husband, she was stricken with grief. She cut off her long hair, dressed in mourning, and set off in search of his coffin. No one she asked could tell her what had become of it; but at last some children playing by the river told her where it lay.
Isis brought the coffin back to her palace and summoned the jackal-headed god Anubis to embalm Osiris’s body. First she turned herself into a sparrow-hawk and, hovering over Osiris, fanned breath into his body with her wings. She revived him for long enough to conceive a son, Horus. Then she hid the child from the wrath of Set.
Set, hunting in the moonlight, came upon the opened coffin and, in his rage, tore the body of Osiris into pieces, which he scattered all over the country. Thirteen cities received a piece of his body.
Isis travelled all over Egypt in a boat of papyrus reeds, gathering up the corpse of Osiris and burying each piece where she found it.
Osiris went to rule the other land, where he judges the souls of the newly dead. But when his son Horus grew to adulthood, Osiris momentarily returned to ask him to avenge his death. So Horus and Set began their eternal struggle of good and evil. Sometimes one seems to win and sometimes the other, but neither can be vanquished. It is said that when Horus finally overcomes Set, Osiris will return to the land of the living to rule as king once again.
Cats were very important to the ancient Egyptians, so much so that they even developed a myth, The Cat Goddess, which is related as follows:-
In ancient Egypt, all cats were sacred. If a house was on fire, the owners would save the household cat before anything else. It was death to kill a cat.
The cat deity, who each night saved Re the Sun god, from Apep, serpent of chaos, came to be called Bastet. She was a love goddess, full of the Sun’s warmth.
The centre of her worship was the city of Bubastis, which boasted a fine temple in her honour. Each spring, the citizens would go out of the city and sail back in ships, playing drums and pipes, singing and clapping. The merrymaking would go on all night. Cats going about their business would add their voices in praise of Bastet.
The ancient Egyptians focused heavily on the four elements, which are a part of almost every esoteric thought system in the present and past. The four elements are fire (light), earth, air (gas, sky), and water (moisture).
Their primary gods were representative of the four universal elements: Shu ruled fire or light, Tefnut ruled water or moisture, Geb ruled earth or firmament, and Nut ruled sky or air. So transcendental is the concept of the elemental forces, our earth even corresponds quite dramatically to them on a seasonal basis.
In astrology, the ecliptic is the apparent great circle annual path of the Sun in the celestial sphere, as seen from the Earth. It is so named because eclipses occur only when the Moon is on or near this path. The plane of this path, called the plane of the ecliptic, intersects the celestial equator at an angle of 23 degrees 27 minutes. This angle is known as the obliquity of the ecliptic and is approximately constant over a period of millions of years.
The two points at which the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator are called equinoxes. The Sun is at the vernal equinox at about 21st March and at the autumnal equinox at about 23rd September. Halfway on the ecliptic between the equinoxes are the summer and winter solstices. The Sun arrives at these points at about 21st June and 22nd December respectively. The names of the four points correspond to the seasons beginning in the northern hemisphere on these dates. The equinoxes do not occur at the same points on the ecliptic every year, for the plane of the ecliptic and the plane of the equator revolve in opposite directions. The two planes make a complete revolution with respect to each other once every 25,868 years, which is referred to as the great year. During the great year, the movement or precision of the equinoxes, traverses all twelve of the zodiacal signs, visiting each individual sign for little more than 2.000 years.
The four major astronomical events that occur on the Earth each year are the spring and autumnal equinox, and the summer and winter solstice.
During the spring equinox, the Sun enters into the sign of Aries. It then moves into Taurus and finally into Gemini. During the spring, the days become longer and the frozen earth begins to thaw and flower, refreshed after a long period of dormancy. It is also during this time that people plant their crops for the coming year. The spring period is most appropriately associated with the element of Earth and Pentacles in Tarot. Pentacles is slow moving and represents a month when referring to time.
During the summer solstice the Sun enters into the sign of Cancer. It then moves into Leo, and finally into Virgo. It is during this time that the climate is at it best and people cannot help but to enjoy themselves, regardless of their position in life. The summer period of Cancer, Leo and Virgo is most appropriately associated with the element of Fire and is associated with Wands in Tarot. Wands is quick and represents a day when referring to a period of time.
During the autumnal equinox, the Sun enters into the sign of Libra. It then moves into Scorpio and finally Sagittarius. During the autumn, the days become shorter and people begin preparing for the death of the earth, which is soon to come. The autumn period of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius is most associated with the element of Air. The element of Air is associated with the suit of Swords in Tarot. With regard to time, Swords represents a fortnight.
During the winter solstice, the Sun moves into the sign of Capricorn. It then moves into Aquarius and finally into Pisces. During the winter months people stay indoors more because they want to shield themselves from the cold, windy precipitation that is so much a part of this season. It is also a time of festivities, which is a way for people to forget about the dismal weather that they must endure. The winter period of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces is most closely associated with the element of Water and corresponds with the suit of Cups in Tarot. In matters of time, Cups constitutes approximately a week.
It is important to keep in mind the ancient Egyptian thought processes that formed their mythology when considering elemental compatabilities. Shu, ruler of fire or light, mated with Tefnut, ruler of water or moisture. Geb, ruler of earth, mated with Nut, ruler of Air. This indicates that Earth is compatible with Air, and that Fire is compatible with Water.
By now, the student of modern Western Astrology may be in a state of shock horror, revelling in the fact that ancient Egyptian elemental analogies bear little resemblance to the what has been traditionally considered by the modern western astrological system that so much of us have been taught. The reason for this is because the ancient Egyptians were concerned primarily with seasonal changes, as they affected their farming methods, and designed their astrology to work around it. The astrology of the ancients was much more simplistic because they had not yet incorporated mathematical accuracy into their calendars and interpretations.
Modern western astrologers, although well meaning, designed their astrological reasoning to add symmetry and harmony to the horoscope, and it is for that reason that newer souls working on modern themes may very well benefit from the newer astrological and elemental principles that have been put into place. Older souls who are working on ancient themes, however, may very well benefit from using the ancient Egyptian symbologies. They will receive greater clarity of mind that will help them to successfully manoeuvre though their karmic obligations and receive their dharmic gifts, as they gain a greater understanding of their place in the universal web that we are all a part of.
The symbols used in Tarot are also an apt indicator of the elemental forces that have been employed in its design. The Pentacle consists of a circle that contains magical signs, the chief of which is the interlaced triangle; though other signs were added for some particular purpose. A piece of fine linen or parchment was sometimes folded with five corners, and then suitably inscribed with characters. Worn mostly suspended by a chain or cord from the neck, and against the bare skin, as a cross is now by those of the Greek Church, the Pentacle was supposed to protect from various ills and to bring luck to its owner. Pentacles were variously devised for different ends, some being employed by the magician to control the spirits, which he evoked at will during some of his magical exercises.
If we study carefully the secret sign of the Star of David it will become immediately evident that this symbol expresses the synthesis of Fire and Water. Split up, the Star of David consists of the following parts:-
Fire is opposite Water, Air opposite Earth. The creatures at the four corners of Card XXI (the World) likewise symbolise the four Elements.
Elphas Levi gives the Eagle as Azoth (Air), the Man as Mercury (Water), the Lion as Sulphur (Fire) and the Bull as Salt (Earth).
According to the Vedanta, the elements are Light or Fire, Air, Water, and Earth; these being respectively, the World of Brahma, Casual World, Subtle World, and Gross World. Aristotle’s elements were in the same order. The elements play a very important part in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibet, China and Japan little devices are put above graves on the anniversary of a person’s death. At the base of these devices is a cube, representing Earth, above this is a sphere for Water, next is a triangle standing for Fire; and a crescent betokens the element of Air.
Among the symbols that expressed the deepest knowledge of man, is a winged creature comprised of four forms: a bull, a lion, an eagle and an angelic human figure. This symbol is also found in the Bible, both in the Old Testament as Ezekiel’s vision, which Raphael depicted in his famous painting, as well as in the Revelation to St John where these four creaturs bear the throne. Traditionally, as seen in early paintings, these four represent the four writers of the gospels: John as the eagle, Mark as the lion, Luke as the bull, and Matthew as man.
Lucrectius postulated the theory that was based upon the earlier conclusions of Anaximander, that in the process of creation the origin of the other elements was Fire; which gave birth to gases, and these to Air. Heat breathing forth into Air produced Water; this slowly coagulated, thur forming all solid matter along with the Earth.
To examine Card XXI of the Major Arcana in the light of Lucretius’s hypothesis, the Lion stands for Fire and is the true starting point in the sequence of symbols. The Eagle is the next archetype, and represents Air; this is followed by the Man, for water; and lastly the Ox, for Earth. It therefore becomes clear that those who make the Man correspond to Air are in error, this element being rightly related to the Eagle. If it be argued that the latter properly belongs to Scorpio, it may be remarked that the Scales and Scorpio formed on sign with the Latins before Augustus; the Scales being then the claws of the Scorpion; the Scales is an airy sign.
To persist, as some do, that Aquarius does not symbolise Water is to ignore the fact that the root of Aquarius is Aqua, the Latin word for water. Minerva, or Pallas Athena, was the clear, transparent ether, whose purity is always breaking forth in unveiled brilliancy through the clouds that surround it. The birds mostly associated with her are the owl, because of her wisdom, and the cock, owing to her warlike propensities. She is said to have been born from the brain of Jupiter, and it reasons that the Eagle (symbol of the Divine Breath, perpetual motion) also belongs to her.
It is important to keep in mind that the astrological signs of the zodiac have no actual agreement with the astronomical constellations. The latter are always gradually shifting their position with regard to the earth, so that in the stage before the rise of Babylong (5000-=2800bc) the Sun stood in the zodiacal signed called the Twins, or Gemini. The names of the months were originally indicated by their meteoroligical conditions; thus the rain season was symbolised by Capricornus, Aquarius and Pisces.
The Babylonian Ninib, which corresponds with Saturn, preserved Water attributes; the fierst-born of Ea, he was known as ‘lord of wells’. Ea, the Babylonian water god, was represented as carrying a vase of water and standing upon a capricorn, which was not originally a goat, the the sea-monster Hippocampus guttalaus. As Aquarius follows Capricorn, and is governed by Saturn, Ea was evidently the first-named; there was at that time no idea, in the minds of most people, as to Aquarius, or Ea, having any relation to Air. Aquarius was so called because at that time of the year the Nile was overflowed its banks, and was thus the promise of an abundant harvest and fresh life.
In the Biblical interpretation of the Great Flood, the rain falling from heaven relates to Aquarius; the waters upon the face of the earth to Pisces; and the subsiding of the water, with the appoearance of dry land, to Aries. This sequence of events also refers to the descent of Spirit into Matter, the consequent clash of opposites, and thus disharmony; then the commencement fo the return journey from Matter, of Spirit to its source. As the rain comes from above, it is obvious that Air must take precedence of Water.
It should be noted that the Eagle has always been associated with Jupiter; who, the sun gold of Heliopolis, dwelt upon Olympus in the region of the upper Air. The Man, on the other hands, fits in with Hermes; the cupbearer of the gods, who was continually travelling to and from earth and heaven, and formed the link between the gods and mankind; just as Christ does between God and humanity. Hermes is the same as Thoth of the Egyptians, and his name was associated with Logos, or ‘the Word’. The man who is located on card XXI of the Major Arcana is also given wings, which again is a connection to Mercury, or Hermes to the Greeks.
In the western world we identify with the four basic elements, which help us relate to concepts, people, places and things. Elements were used as the principle building blocks when Tarot, astrology and other esoteric sciences were initially designed. The four elements the western world currently identify with are Fire, Earth, Air and Water, with each element corresponding to a suit in the Minor Arcana. The element of Spirit, which is not included in the traditional grouping, corresponds with the Major Arcana.
Fire is considered to be a life force, which gives zest to our lives. Fire is active, adventurous and aggressive, as well as playful, creative and loving. Fire wants to be first and it should therefore come as no surprise to discover that many people with a preponderance of fire in their birth horoscopes tend to think primarily of their own wants, needs and desires. In matters of love, fire is conquesting, exciting and romantic. Fire is associated with the season of Summer, and therefore corresponds with the astrological signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo. The suit of Wands identifies most closely with this element. Because Fire is so swift, in terms of time, it relates to days. Therefore, each numbered card in the suit of Wands will equate to the number on the card multiplied by one day.
Earth is the stabilising force in our lives, which reminds us of our duties, responsibilities and obligations, and thus helps us to achieve our worldly ambitions. Earth helps us to work, earn money and advance in our careers. Because of this emphasis on materialism, Earth can at times appear boring or greedy, but it can also be very sensual and enjoys good food, drink and pleasurable entertainment. In matters of love, earth tends to be more analytical, practical and sensual, and will choose a partner based upon what he or she can bring into the family unit rather than allow infatuation to get in the way of making a logical decision. Earth is associated with the season of Spring, and corresponds with the astrological signs of Aries, Taurus and Gemini. The suit of Pentacles identifies most closely with this element. Because Earth is somewhat slower than the other elements, in terms of time, each numbered card in the suit of Pentacles will equate to the number on the card multiplied by one month.
Air is intellectual and wants to think, communicate and socialise. Air is responsible for the development of acquaintanceships, close relationships and marriages. Air likes to be surrounded by friends and needs a wide variety of intellectual stimulation or it will soon become bored. In matters of love, Air tends to prefer any commitments to be cemented with a legal contract because it knows all too well that verbal arrangements can easily be misunderstood. Air is associated with the season of Autumn and corresponds with the astrological signs of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. The suit of Swords identifies most closely with this element. In terms of time, this element relates to the fortnight. Therefore, each numbered card in the suit of swords will equate to the number on the card multiplied by one fortnight, or two weeks.
Water gives us feelings that can range from pure, to intense, to spiritual in nature. Without Water, we cannot feel, as this element is often highly intuitive and can easily escape into a fantasy world of addiction if other stabilising forces are not present. Water is an elusive element and is often responsible for delusion in our lives. In matters of love, Water seeks soul-mate relationships, which are intense and spiritual. Water is associated with the season of winter and corresponds to the astrological signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The suit of Cups most closely identifies with this element. In terms of time, this element relates to the week. Therefore, each numbered card in the suit of Cups will equate to the number on the card multiplied by one week.
The element of spirit is associated with the higher, more karmic realms of our daily lives. Spirit cannot adequately be portrayed within the confines of the four elements of fire, earth, air or water because it transcends day-to-day activities. The element of spirit normally indicates that we are going into deeper, more meaningful levels of reality. This element most closely identifies with the Major Arcana. Because matters of the spirit as a general rule tend to transcend time and space, they affect our lives in such a transformative way that in terms of time it equates to one year. Therefore, the duration of each card in the Major Arcana will equate to the number on the card multiplied by one year.
When one element is combined with another, these two elements form a reaction, which can result in either a positive, negative or neutral effect.
Fire Combined with Fire
Fire coupled with Fire has somewhat of a neutral effect on most occasions. When the elements of Fire are combined, this indicates that much energy is put forth into business matters. Although Fire, when combined with itself, is said to be beneficial, too much Fire can become explosive. For this reason it is essential to properly focus the vast amount of energy inherent in the suit of Wands or the element of fire so that it is directed into positive endeavours.
Fire Combined with Air
The element of Air tends to strengthen Fire. The creative energy of Fire coupled with the mental agility of Air brings much mental creation in the form of visions and ideas. When a touch of air is blown onto a burning ember, the flame will intensify and strengthen. However, if a huge gust of Air overpowers that same ember, it will extinguish the flame. Therefore, it is always necessary to temper Air and Fire so that these two elements can enhance each other.
Fire Combined with Earth
When Fire is coupled with Earth, these two elements have the effect of complimenting each other. The energy inherent in Fire mingled with the practicality of Earth helps us to achieve our materialistic goals through diligently applied work. As with the other elements, Fire's energy needs to be properly directed so that it doesn't scorch the more stabilising potential of Earth.
Fire Combined with Water
When fire is mixed with Water, much care needs to be taken to ensure that these elements do not weaken one another. When emotions are mixed with energy, a melodramatic emotional outburst can occur if a proper balance is not maintained. The activators inherent in Fire can generate much creativity when combined with the sensitivity of water.
Earth Combined with Earth
When Earth is combined with itself, it has somewhat of a neutral effect. The two Earthy elements have a tendency to reinforce each other's practical qualities so money, property and other basal concerns predominate. Although Earth coupled with it is usually neutral, too much Earth can lead to excessive materialism, possessiveness, greed or lust.
Earth Combined with Water
The element of Earth combined with Eater has somewhat of a neutral impact when coupled together. The practicality of Earth generally has the effect of stabilising Water's deeply flowing emotions. Earth helps Water to keep its deep emotions in check. Although the astrological sign of Capricorn is considered in the traditional sense to be of the Earthy element, the fact that the symbol is half fish and half goat indicates this sign, at least on an esoteric level, has deeply buried emotions that have somehow been transcended to form more highly rationalised thought processes. Excavations from ancient oriental drawings also suggest that the Earthly sign of Capricorn was at one time a Water element. Additionally, our modern zodiac was not in its present form until about 2,000 years ago, when it is said that Julius Caesar carved Libra and Virgo out of the former great snake-like constellation of Scorpio in an effort to make the calendar more accurate. With this in mind, Capricorn may well have been considered more emotive than present day astrologers give it credit for and these ancient influences may still lie dormant in our zodiac's most serious sign. When Earth is combined with water the creativity channelled through is more useful. These two elements combined together tend to focus on realistic emotions and feelings toward family and possessions.
Earth Combined with Air
When Earth is coupled with Air, the influence of these two elements can be weakened. The intellectual influences of Air combined with the solid practicality of Earth can produce a conflict of material versus mental concerns, or analytical thought processes versus reality.
Air Combined with Air
The suit of Swords is symbolic of Air, and unfortunately many of the cards in this suit depict strife and discord. This relates to the fact that the honing of communication skills is of paramount importance to prevent misunderstandings. Most wars, arguments and other such conflicts occur simply because people are not able to communicate their needs effectively. When Air is coupled with itself it generally has somewhat of a neutral effect. Because Air is mentally agile, the combination of these two elements stimulates a great deal of cerebral activity. This mental activity can take the form of correspondence, writing and decision making. Since air generally dictates verbal activity, misunderstandings and discord can sometimes occur.
Air Combined with Water
When air is coupled with water, these two elements have a tendency to strengthen one another. The intellectual characteristics of air mingled with the emotional sensitivity of water tend to produce many new creative ideas. A touch of Water mixed with Air can form a fine mist, which creates a sense of refreshing coolness on a warm, sunny day. However, if that same Water becomes too heavy, the mist will give way to heavy humidity or showers. For this reason, it is essential that just the right amount of Water should be mingled with air to ensure a positive outcome.
Water Combined with Water
When water is coupled with itself, it tends to have somewhat of a neutral effect. Water mixed with itself highlights intense emotional sensitivity. If this emotional sensitivity is positive, much joy, love, fun and creativity can come from the combination. However, if the emotions are low, then excessive fantasy or depression can result.
The Tarot utilises pictorial symbology to get messages across to our conscious selves. While we in the modern world take the written word for granted, supposing that it is the primary means of communicating to others thoughts and ideas, this is not necessarily the case. This is evidenced by the fact that common man has only been reading and writing for the last couple of hundred years or so, as this skill was reserved for clerics, who spent their time transcribing ancient texts.
Prior to that time that reading and writing became standard practice, common man relied heavily word of mouth and visual perceptions. Prior to that time, orators had superb memories, and used the technique of mind mapping to help to remember important points while giving a speech. In addition, pre-literate societies relied quite heavily on rote memorisation, completely memorising their tales and myths so that they could tell them over and over again throughout the ages. Storytellers were valued members of society, as avid listeners made themselves comfortable in front of the warm fire, whilst the skilled orator took them to another world in their minds, instilling in them the pleasure that only comes from completely losing oneself in an exciting fictional story. Unfortunately, when man became literate, he allowed that part of his mind that is responsible for extensive memory processes to sleep dormantly, waiting for the time when it once again will be called upon for service.
The first language to be written was Sumerian, which began as simple cuneiform pictures and can be traced as far back as 3100 BC. In the Roman occupation, about a hundred years after Julian Caesar’s reign, the Roman alphabet was introduced into Britain. For a few centuries writing was practised only by monks and other scholars, being chiefly reserved for ecclesiastical and legal documents and in Latin.
Because many of us read so much today, we often take literacy for granted, but for centuries people passed their time in other ways; perhaps conversing much more than they do today. Stories would be told by travelling storytellers and bards. Illiteracy was so widespread that even kings and other leaders had to employ scribes. Monks busied themselves writing original works or copying others in beautiful manuscripts, but ‘ordinary’ people did not need to read them, even if they could.
It was not until the printing press was invented in the middle 15th century that people were encouraged to write, and then eventually to read. Before that time, however, man was forced to receive information by other means, quite often using their intuition as well as logic to get through life.
Cognitive psychology emphasises the mental processes that take place inside the mind. It focuses on the mental processing of information, especially the processing involved in perception, memory, language and problem solving. It is a new science, developed in the early 20th century and evolved from the work of a group of scientists in Germany known as the Gestalt psychologists. Gestalt is translated from its German origin as ‘configuration’ and means ‘form or pattern’. It involves studying how the human mind receives information and interprets it. Perception was one of their favourite topics and they demonstrated how pieces of visual input, such as the Tarot, are organised into meaningful wholes. The approach showed that the whole is more than the sum of the parts; a visual perception cannot be explained on the basis of sensory stimulus alone. While cognitive psychology has been criticised for being too materialistic and under-rating the importance of emotions in behaviour, it is one of the dominant approaches in contemporary psychology. The gestalt approach has been extended to research in areas as diverse as thinking, memory and the nature of aesthetics.
Gestalt therapy takes life situations and views them as pictures that tell us stories about ourselves, or reveals to us the stories we are telling ourselves. Long before literacy was common, there may have been a primeval science of gestalt psychology based on the conditions of human faculties in an earlier, more childlike stage when pictorial thinking was the norm. It is quite possible that the shamans and sages of old used a type of gestalt therapy to assist people who came to them for advice and healing.
The old saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, is an apt reflection of what we can learn from Tarot. While each card in the deck focuses around a central theme, each individual will tend to see each picture differently, focusing holistically on issues that are pertinent to their particular lives at the time of the reading.
While our civilisation takes the written and spoken word for granted, who are we to say that these methods of communication are the only ways to relate to others. The oriental languages are much more graphic than our own, with each glyph being assigned to a complete word, as opposed to the western method of assigning a glyph to a specific sound. In fact, there is much speculation that since the oriental race’s written languages require a greater visual vocabulary and are more graphic than our own, it is believed that they learn, perceive and solve problems differently than we in the west do, utilising different parts of their brain to process information. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why each race tends to excel in one particular area separate from the others.
The widespread popularity of television and cinema proves without a shadow of a doubt that as a species, we desire visual stimulation in order to receive information. Even those in the publishing industry are well aware of these facts, thereby including illustrations in many of their works. It is for that reason that we are so drawn to Tarot, which has an extremely high pictorial content.
Prior to literacy becoming the norm, rather than the exception, man was much more vociferous than he is now, relying on story-tellers to pass the time and thereby relay traditions down from generation to generation. To an orally oriented person, the Tarot would merely be a natural extension of his ability to tell stories, as he would only need to look at the drawing and describe an entire scene for his audience, a talent that many of us today have lost through disuse.
The ancient civilisation of Lemuria was said to have had a written language entirely different from our own, relying on vast pictures and sounds that conveyed information in a holistic way to the perceiver. In addition, the Atlantean priests are said to have used a type of cuneiform, or hieroglyphic, type of writing that was then passed on to the Sumerians and Babylonians about 6,000 years ago, which is the first evidence that we have of recorded history.
The use of Tarot is based on synchronicity, a term coined by physician Carl Gustave Jung in collaboration with Wolfgang Paul, which refers to a meaningful coincidence that occurs without any apparent cause. It is considered to be an acausal connecting principle between events that occur at the same time and express a shared value or meaning, but are not evidently linked by mechanical cause-and-effect. Jung poses a cross-shaped model (quarternio) in which synchronicity figures as one of the main principles of the universe, opposed to ‘causality’ on the horizontal arms of the cross, with ‘indestructible energy’ at the apex, and ‘space-time continuum’ at the base.
Any experience that can be attributed to 'luck', 'chance', or 'being at the right place at the right time' is an example of synchronicity. Jung, a doctor who asked religious, esoteric and spiritual questions while conducting his psychological research, felt nothing happened just by 'chance’ and believed that there is an underlying principle of the universe relating to this logical reality.
When we consult the Tarot, we are taking a 'chance' that the resulting spread will reveal some meaningful information that we believe can help us in some way. On a physical level, the act of shuffling and drawing the cards is a random act that has no relevant meaning to the situation, but on a spiritual or esoteric level, our higher consciousness will intuitively know the positions of the cards within the spread and thus guide the shuffling process so relevant cards are drawn and laid out in the proper sequence giving meaning to the reading.
The Tarot is a valuable tool that enhances our creativity and problem solving capabilities. Too often we are not able to see viable alternatives or solutions to problems because we are so enmeshed in the situation we are enquiring about. The simple act of laying a spread forces us to separate ourselves from distractions and concentrate solely on the object of our enquiry. The Tarot allows us to explore alternatives we may not have originally thought of and shows the circumstances in a way that can reveal aspects of the problem we may have previously overlooked. The Tarot can show hidden agendas and solutions we may not have previously considered. Sometimes, when we have become so deeply involved in the problem that we are seeking answers to, we are not able to see the forest for the trees. The Tarot helps us to direct our energy so that we can find positive solutions to any problems that we may have.
Before using the Tarot, you should prepare to give an insightful reading by first centring yourself, using meditation techniques that will help to intensify the mood of the reading and focus your mind, concentrating on the object of your enquiry. Find a quiet, serene place where you can perform the reading undisturbed.
After centring, you should hold the Tarot deck in your hands for a few moments to transfer the energy of the question into the cards. While holding the deck in your hands, envision yourself enveloped in a protective white light. This white light will protect you from any negative or mischievous energy forms that may try to interfere with the card layout or interpretation. While you are imagining yourself and the Tarot inside the aura of white light, say a short prayer to your God, spirit guide or higher self to help gain insight into the circumstances that prompted the reading, thus helping you to fully interpret the spread. The entire process of preparing yourself for the Tarot reading can take up to 15 minutes.
If, after attempting to centre yourself, you are still unsettled or preoccupied with outside events, you should put the Tarot away and try later when you feel more at settled and able to focus on the reading. Additionally, if you are depressed or sense negativity around yourself, the reading is likely to reflect such ambivalent emotions. It is therefore best to try to maintain a positive attitude during the reading, as well as about life in general, to ensure a productive interpretation of the cards.
If you feel too emotionally involved in the situation that prompted the reading, it may be a good idea to ask someone to perform a reading for you. So often, when we desire a situation to resolve itself in a certain way, we read into the cards what we want them to say instead of what they are really trying to tell us. It is at times such as these that a neutral person is needed to balance out and clarify the reading so that it will yield an honest reflection of the situation.
When embarking upon any activities that help us to tap into our higher consciousness to gain enlightenment, it is essential that our bodies are as clean as our minds. It is all the more difficult to gain enlightenment when our bodies are polluted with chemicals in the form of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and even food. Alcohol is a depressant that dulls our senses and loosens our inhibitions. When we smoke cigarettes, our etheric vision is dulled, causing us to perceive situations and events incorrectly. Even food can be used as a mind-altering drug when necessary, as certain foods, such as sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, and wheat produce certain biochemical reactions in the body. It should be noted that when a person eats more food than his body needs, he will become lulled into a sleepy state. It is for that reason that even the act of overeating is harmful to the body, which will therefore adversely affect any readings that you may give. When a person is addicted to anything, which includes food, a lack of food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, gambling, or sex, just to name a few vices, his entire being will be so focused in feeding his addiction that it will be virtually impossible to give a meaningful reading for himself, or anyone else, for that matter.
Refined sugar has almost exactly same molecular structure as Ethel alcohol, and there is very strong evidence to suggest that it is not alcohol, but sugar, that alcoholics actually crave. It is also believed that alcoholics are hypoglycaemic, the reason being is that they often trade in their desire for alcohol for sugar, and therefore consume large quantities of sugary foods as a substitute for alcohol. It is also believe that alcoholics are also hypoglycaemic, which further exacerbates their craving for sugar are alcohol.
It is quite common for alcoholic men to have daughters with eating disorders, thus strengthening the link between sugar and alcohol. Research has shown that people who have eating disorders have bodies that are not able to properly metabolise carbohydrates, a food that they often crave. In addition, people who are depressed tend to crave carbohydrates because these foods act like endorphins, which are the body’s own natural narcotics.
People who binge eat are often in an altered state of consciousness, as the huge quantities of food ingested act as a sort of drug to induce a trance state. Binge eaters quite often have little recollection of what they ate during a binge, and often have as little control over their actions as the alcoholic, chain smoker, drug addict, or relationship addict. To make matters worse, because food is something that we need for our survival, it is not as if we can just quit ‘cold turkey’, as in the case of abstaining from cigarettes or alcohol. Because we must eat for our survival, eating disorders can be quite difficult to overcome. The key, as in all avenues in this life, is achieving a balance. Therefore, much control needs to be exercised over what we ingest to ensure that our bodies are as clean as our souls.
There are several ways to shuffle and lay the cards because the methods of laying a spread vary with each individual. As you become more experienced, you will no doubt develop your own personal technique that is 'right' for you. After you have successfully prepared yourself for the reading, you can begin laying the cards out into the spread that you and the querent have decided upon. Start by shuffling the deck to mingle the energy of the question into the cards. After shuffling, cut the deck into three even piles using your left hand. The left side of the body is considered the subconscious or intuitive side, so your subconscious will be helping you as you cut the deck. After three equal piles have been formed, select the one that you feel has the answer to your question. Using the left hand, which symbolises your subconscious self, you can begin laying the cards.
An alternate method of laying the cards is to shuffle the deck in the manner described above and spread the entire deck face down across a table or flat surface in a fashion where each individual card can be seen and selected. With the left hand, intuitively pull each card that will be used in the reading.
Generally speaking, when a card falls out while shuffling, it carries information relevant to the question being asked. The card may either answer the question or provide relevance to the reading. It can add flavour to the question being asked or refer to a different situation entirely. If it is a court card, it means that a person represented by the card will hold the answer that you seek.
When a card falls out during the shuffling process you have two options to choose from. If you feel that the card is the answer to your question, you can study and interpret it, and then discontinue the reading. If, on the other hand, you feel the card simply adds extra insight into the situation you can lay the card to the side and proceed with the reading. When you have finished with the reading you should interpret the card that 'fell out’, as it will provide clues to the overall theme of the reading, or add extra information that was not included in the spread.
The Major Arcana is thought to have originally been a set of cards separate from the Minor Arcana, which was eventually combined with the 56-card deck to make up our present deck of 78 cards.
The Major Arcana is composed of 22 cards numbered from 0 to 21. It has direct relevance to the Hebrew Cabala because not only does the number of cards correspond to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but many of the cards suggest symbolism from the Tree of Life that forms the basis of much of the Cabalistic wisdom. The number of cards in the Major Arcana, 22, is also considered to be a master number in the science of numerology.
The Major Arcana depicts the different stages of life that we must go through until our soul journey is complete. The journey begins with 0 - The Fool, and ends with 21 - World. We all, at one time or another, must go through each stage of the Major Arcana, but not necessarily encounter them in sequential order as portrayed by the cards. Through the nature of our existence, we will encounter several beginnings and endings, which are represented by the archetypes portrayed on the cards.
When performing a reading, the Major Arcana depicts matters relating to the soul, spirit or destiny of our lives that often indicate karmic themes that we must experience. They point out issues that are occurring within our psyche rather than external everyday events that are depicted in the Minor Arcana. Whenever a card of the Major Arcana appears in a spread, special note should be taken because it represents events that will tend to have a profound and lasting impact on you.
Even within the Tarot, a distinction is made between the first eleven cards and the second eleven. The Major Arcana is actually divided into two sets of eleven cards, which relate to the two departments of our physical existence. The first eleven cards, which span from 0 – The Fool to 10 – Wheel of Fortune, relate to the physicalities of our life, those areas that we cannot avoid and most of us encounter from one time to another as we go about our day to day activities. The second eleven cards, which are numbered from 11 – Justice to 21 – World, reveal themes of a more psychological nature, themes that we must consciously explore so that we can allow ourselves to ask probing questions about the meaning of our existence on this earth plane. Unless we consciously open up our mind and allow the universe to impart to us alternate ways of existing in a causative world, it will be very difficult to interpret the second half of the Major Arcana in a meaningful way. More appropriately, the first eleven cards depict that which is exoteric, while the second eleven cards reflect the esoteric.
The Minor Arcana is believed to have originally been a separate deck of 56 cards that depict the more ordinary details of our life, which form a meaningful pattern around our existence. While the Major Arcana tends to portray profound, life changing events affecting our souls, most of the cards in the Minor Arcana, on the whole, seem to be less dramatic and portray day-to-day events.
The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards divided into four suits of 14 cards. Each suit contains 10 numbered cards and four court cards. These suits correlate to the four basic elements of life, which are Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
The suit of wands represents the element of Fire. It corresponds with the astrological signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo, and the 4th, 5th, and 6th houses of the horoscope. Fire brings life, love, romance and creativity into our lives. Cards in the suit of Wands tend to represent enterprise and distinction. There is generally a lot of activity and excitement in this suit by the very nature of its element. Traditionally, Wands represent energy, growth, animation, enterprise and glory. Wands is also associated with psychic and spiritual connotations because one must tap into a higher level of consciousness any time he attempts to produce anything creative.
The suit of Pentacles represents the element of Earth. It corresponds with the astrological signs of Aries, Taurus and Gemini, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd houses in the horoscope. Earth brings practicality, materialism and a sense of service to our lives. Cards in the suit of Pentacles represent work, accomplishment, and the acquirement of wealth, materials and possessions. It governs sensuous pleasures, such as good food, drink and other indulgences that we enjoy in this life. Traditionally, Pentacles represents money, material gain and industry. While some will invariably disagree, this suit is totally necessary for an expansive and fulfilling spiritual life. Many assert that we must sacrifice our possessions in order to obtain an awareness of other-world but it should be understood that if our physical necessities are not taken care of, we will direct our attentions to satisfying those needs before we can even begin to ponder the more meaningful questions that centre around our spiritual existence.
The suit of Swords represents the element of Air. It corresponds with the astrological signs of Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius, and the 7th, 8th and 9th houses of the horoscope. Air brings mental activity and intellect into our lives. Cards in the suit of Swords tend to depict thinking, communications, messages and short journeys. Because air is a communicative element, it can often lead to arguments, gossip and strife: and because of its propensity for conflict, the suit of Swords is generally regarded as being unsettled. Therefore, in this suit there subsequently seems to be latent struggles and animosity present in many of the cards. Traditionally, Swords represent aggression, force, ambition, courage, strife and misfortune, but the negative aspects of the cards can be lessened by maintaining a positive mental attitude and seeking resolutions to problems in a mature and sensible way.
The suit of Cups represents the element of Water. It corresponds with the astrological signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, and the 10th, 11th and 12th houses of the horoscope. Water brings pure love, sensitivity and intuition into our lives. Cards in the suit of Cups tend to depict love, happiness, family, celebration, partnerships and commitment. This suit also represents intuition, emotion, fantasy and surrealism. Traditionally, Cups represent love, happiness, emotion, fertility and beauty.
Although court cards in a reading can indicate abstract concepts, they normally represent real people who we will encounter during our day-to-day lives. As previously discussed, if the card in the outcome position of the reading is a court card, it very likely is an indication that the person associated with that card either has the solution, or plays in integral part in the successful outcome of the situation that prompted the reading.
When a court card appears in the outcome position, it may be necessary to perform another reading concentrating specifically on that card. The new reading should reflect how this person will affect the outcome and what role he or she will play.
If we perform a Celtic Cross spread with regard to a specific question, and a King of Cups falls in the outcome position, a new spread can be performed to find out more about the King of Cups. This will be accomplished by retaining the King of Cups, re-shuffling and re-laying the Celtic Cross, placing the King of Cups in the Question position. The resulting spread will reveal more information specific to the King of Cups.