When you think of tarot cards, you might think of someone sitting in front of a crystal ball. But despite the mystique that movies and social media may put around readings, just about anyone can learn to interpret the cards.
Tarot cards illustrate symbols and myths based on one’s life experiences and situations. By reading a personal experience in the cards, one can become a part of the collective whole of human experience. This is what is referred to as the akashic record, the astral record of all that has ever been and ever will be in existence according to San Francisco-based astrologer and tarot card reader Susan Levitt in her book “Introduction to Tarot.”
It’s challenging to pinpoint the exact origin of tarot cards—there are several theories. Some teachers of metaphysics refer to the ancient Egyptians and the Hermetic School as the originators, but according to Levitt’s book, tarot cards came about in Italy during the early 15th century. Initially used for playing card games, tarot later gained a more occult usage in 18th century France.
According to Laurie Alvarez Sylvia, a tarot card reader based in Fort Lauderdale, it’s actually quite simple to learn tarot card reading. The first step is to find a deck that resonates with you. From Game of Thrones-themed decks to Rider-Waite (considered the most traditional deck), there are plenty to choose from. What most decks have in common are their card components. The tarot card format is a 78-card deck with 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards based on the elements fire, water, air and earth and 16 court cards that are divided into each of the four elements. Many tarot decks come with a book that explains the meaning of each card.
Sylvia said that for her, tarot cards have a powerful introspective component. “Tarot card reading can be very uplifting and inspiring,” she said. “For the most part, it’s a way for you to get in touch with certain messages you just need to hear.”
Emma Lam, a University of Miami alumna who often gives tarot card readings, agrees. Lam, who earned a degree in psychology in 2020, said that tarot card readings don’t necessarily just predict the future. “I like to see it as a way to look at a situation from different angles, and a way to guide either yourself or another person to think more deeply and introspectively.”
The Suit of Swords, ruled by air, is the suit of the mind. This suit deals with decision-making and mentality, often appearing in times of conflict.
The Suit of Coins (or Pentacles), ruled by earth, is the suit of the body. This suit covers the material aspects of our lives, including career and possessions.
The Suit of Wands, ruled by fire, is the suit of the spirit. This suit governs our core selves and driving forces and is associated with passion and creativity.
The Suit of Cups, ruled by water, is the suit of the heart. This suit is associated with emotions and relationships, both romantic and platonic.
The minor arcana appear as numbered or court cards in any of the four suits. They often refer to the daily aspects of a subject’s life, giving insight on present situations as opposed to long-term karmic influences.
As opposed to minor arcana, major arcana represent larger thematic shifts occurring in the subject’s life. These cards depict various archetypes telling a story known as “the Fool’s Journey.” The Fool (card 0) follows a path through the other 21 major arcana, each representing a life lesson. The major arcana have complex and powerful meanings—you should listen when they appear.
Court cards often signify the subject or people in the subject’s life. They each carry the energy of their suit, but express that energy differently depending on their role at court.
Each number of the minor arcana has its own theme and meaning, while the suit represents the manner it appears in. For example, aces often represent new beginnings, while tens represent completion.
words_camila munera. design_lauren maingot.
This article was published in Distraction’s spring 2021 print issue.