Learning the Tarot Card meanings for Beginners

Using the taror card meanings to help your tarot readings is a skill that has to be learned. I started reading the tarot professionally long before I knew the meanings of the cards. Between readings I was avidly researching the books, trying to match up my insights and experiences with what was happening. In the end, I realised that parrot-like memorisation of the divinatory meanings of the cards was not very important. It is the insights you get when you look at the cards for the querent that counts. Although I provide lots of information on the cards, if you can learn the basics on this page you will be a long way to being an expert tarot reader.

Improving communication skills

It is said that over 90 percent of all communication problems are caused by differences in either semantics or perceptions. Semantics is about the way you define the meaning of a word or term. For example, 'a tidy bedroom' means something entirely different to parents and teenagers, and as you know, there can be huge family battles over this innocuous phrase. The divinatory meanings and definitions of tarot cards are by definition from the past, and meanings change. Just because you have comfortable meanings for the cards, it does not mean that these meanings will not be applicable to your clients. Some of your clients of course will know exactly what you mean, but what about the others?

Perception is about how we interpret data. I understand words and phrases concepts differently to you - we all do. The traditional idea of a tarot reading, where the client sits arms folded, giving nothing away, while the tarot reader talks at the client. Fortunately this old style of reading is gradually being replaced by something special, something profound, that truly opens the gates to understanding between tarot reader and client.

Listening - the great communication skill

How can we listen when giving a tarot reading? After all, are we not there to impart precious knowledge to the client gleaned from the Tarot? The latter sentence is seductive, but the ability to listen, to really listen, is something far more than mere cold readings.

How many people listen to what you have to say? How often do you really listen to what others are saying? Listening is easy - sounds go into our ears, and we hear the words - or do we? To truly listen to someone is to empower that person, who is elevated, as are we at the same time? Who listens to the vast majority of the population? Do you listen to your partner, your children, your family members, friends and work colleagues? Do they listen to you? Now, you may well be lucky enough to have great communication skills - you are a tarot reader after all, but what about other people? Could it be that many of our clients come for a reading precisely because they are not listened to? Once we realise this possibility, we are in a powerful position to create a truly magical tarot reading.

The listening skill I am talking about is called empathic listening. There is a balance needed, as so many caring people are empathic to point where they have completely forgotten their own voice. Assuming you are comfortable within yourself, and you have a strong frame of reference, you have the ability to go beyond yourself, your own frame of reference, and you can enter the world of the client.

Researchers report that there are five levels of listening:

Listening Styles
Ignoring Within your frame of reference
Pretend listening (patronising)
Selective listening
Attentive listening
Empathic listening Within your client's frame of reference

Responsibility to our clients

As tarot readers, we have a responsibility to accurately represent not only what the tarot cards are saying, but also to the client. When you read the tarot for a client, where are you listening from? I bet the client is used to the four listening styles. How do you feel when someone really listens to you? You feel good. Your client will too, and they will come back.

To listen empathically transcends another problem with reading the tarot - what the symbols on each card mean. When you really listen for understanding, you see words as symbols of meaning. When you understand meaning, you are not fighting over symbols. Meaning has value. What you or I think the meaning of a tarot card is has no value. The only true value is what the meaning has to your client, who will truly thank you for insights and sensitivity.

Mastering keywords

Once you have learned the basic meanings of each card, which can be one or two keywords, and you can easily recognise each card, your confidence will grow, and you will not feel the need to refer to a book when performing a reading. Despite what you may be told elsewhere, you do not need to slavishly learn or memorise the meanings of each card in order to do powerful readings. In fact, memorising 'facts' on each card is counterproductive, since if you sit there desperately trying to remember the Divinatory Meaning (DM) of a card, you are not using the opportunity to see the greater picture. Remember learning to drive? You had problems trying to remember the brakes, the accelerator, the clutch, indicators, mirrors, signalling... after a time, it all becomes automatic, and there are times when you get home without remembering the journey!

Tarot is great fun and much easier to learn when you realise that you do not have to memorises loads of 'facts' about each card. Supertarot Lessons make it even easier - all you have to know is the element each card is associated with - the good news is that there are only four!

If you can only remember one or two things about each card, you will do even better than someone who has memorised a lot about each card. Supertarot combines the simple rules of the elements with basic tarot meanings to create powerful, insightful, intelligent, articulate and meaningful readings that will inspire you as well as the people you read for.

Learning the Tarot using Elemental Dignities means that you do not have to memorise loads of 'facts' about each card. Lesson One gives the basic minimum information needed.

The combinations of the element of each card can be combined to bring about new meanings in a reading.

Names of the Cards

The tables below summarise the basic characteristics of the 78 Tarot Cards. These tables can be used to build up your own knowledge and understanding of the Tarot. Most decent Tarot decks will have this information on the cards themselves.

Major Cards

The primary attributions of the Major Cards are derived from astrology. I bet you know something about your own sun sign, and the sun signs of people close to you, so you already have a start on learning the tarot.

Major Air Cards

Fool
Air or Uranus
Lovers
Gemini
Justice/Adjustment
Libra
Star
Aquarius

Major Fire Cards

Emperor
Aries
Strength/Lust
Leo
Art/Temperance
Sagittarius
Aeon or Judgment
Fire or Pluto

Major Water Cards

Hanged Man
Water or Neptune
Death
Scorpio
Chariot
Cancer
Moon
Pisces

Earth Major Cards

Hierophant
Taurus
Hermit
Virgo
Devil
Capricorn

Planetary Major Cards

Empress
Venus - Earth
Magician
Mercury - Air or the element surrounding it.
High Priestess
Moon - Water
Fortune
Jupiter - Air
Tower
Mars - Fire
Sun
Sun - Fire
Universe/World
Saturn or Earth

Major Cards represent events that are out of the control of the individual - they are universal principles.

Minor Cards

Minor Cards represent events within the control of the individual. These cards show how you do something.

Court Cards

Knight of Wands
Aries, older, aggressive man
Queen of Wands
Sagittarius, fiery woman
Prince of Wands
Leo, passionate idealistic young man
Princess of Wands
Earth of Fire, passionate young woman
Knight of Cups
Cancer, secretive emotional man
Queen of Cups
Pisces, placid reflective woman
Prince of Cups
Scorpio, secretive, passionate, scheming young man
Princess of Cups
Earth of Water, imaginative, emotional young woman
Knight of Swords
Libra, professional, legal, articulate man
Queen of Swords
Gemini, artistic, graceful, vengeful woman
Prince of Swords
Aquarius, analytical thoughtful young man
Princess of Swords
Earth of Air, scheming young woman
Knight Disks
Capricorn, business man
Queen of Pentacles
Virgo, practical homely woman
Prince of Pentacles
Taurus, hard working young man
Princess of Disks
Earth of Earth, young woman on the brink of transformation

The Tarot Court cards are either another person, the Querent, or a message. The inability to distinguish between these modes cause Tarot readers more problems than any other type of card. The King/Knight and Queen can be considered to be older people, and the Prince/Knight and Page/Princess are younger people.

Exercise 1: Card Recognition

Work with another student sitting opposite. One shuffles the cards and then holds one card up facing the other student. The other student has just a few seconds to say what the card is; 'Knight of Swords.... Ace of Swords ... etc. After several goes, reverse the roles.

Exercise 2: Divinatory Meanings

Repeat Exercise 1, but this time the other student has to say something about the card, the simple divinatory meaning, without saying the name of the card, and the student holding the card has to guess what it is. After several goes, reverse the roles.

By the end of this lesson you should be familiar with the cards and comfortable recognising them.