Tarot 101—Take a Glimpse Into the Future

Cards of the Major Arcana represent the supernatural, whereas the Minor Arcana, recognizable to any poker player, represent earthly, human pursuits. SHUTTERSTOCK

This article along with others on mastering your mind, body and soul connection are featured in Newsweek Special Edition: Spiritual Living.

Consisting of 77 cards, the tarot deck has been called many things since its introduction in mid-15th century Italy. To priests, it was the work of the devil—in fact, a superstition persists in Italy that the first deck was created by Satan himself. To others, the tarot was simply the means to play a game, what our modern playing cards have become since their evolution from tarot's Minor Arcana. But to Jean-Baptiste Etteilla, the first to publish the divinatory meanings of each of the deck's cards, tarot held much deeper possibilities. His experiments with the deck led to a system known as cartomancy, through which the heirs to Etteilla claim to be able to gain an impression of the future. Largely unchanged for 600 years, the tarot deck consists of two disparate parts, the Major and Minor Arcana, which together make up a spiritual guide as powerful for some as the I-Ching or numerology.

Minor Arcana

Divided into four suits consisting of 14 cards each, the Minor Arcana serves as the basis for the modern poker and pinochle playing card deck. It's spiritual purpose in cartomancy is to represent the mundane aspects of everyday life, with each card from ace through 10, page, knight, queen and king having an emotional and spiritual value based on the suit and where it appears in the reading. The ace of cups, for example, represents an overflow of emotions (my cup runneth over), while the ace of wands represents force of will. Generally speaking, the Minor Arcana deals with questions of human nature, grouping outcomes by assigning an element to each suit of the tarot. Cups represent water, wands correspond to fire, swords are air and pentacles are Earth.

Major Arcana

Where the Minor Arcana deals with human nature, the Major Arcana—the 21 "trump" cards in the tarot deck—deal with forces beyond the control of humankind. The Fool represents divinity, more specifically the trickster aspect of the gods. The Magician represents the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. The High Priestess is indicative of a spiritual awakening. Love is the realm of The Empress, while The Emperor shows vitality and ambition. Organization, particularly of religion, manifests through The Hierophant. The Lovers traverse the three realms of the mind. The Chariot promises victory over extremes. Strength represents introspection and the unconscious mind. Guidance from above comes in the form of The Hermit. The Wheel of Fortune announces a major turning point. Justice draws attention to the power of the past over the present. The Hanged Man has gained greater understanding through letting go—indicating you might benefit from doing the same. Death is simply indicative of a major change. Moderation and poise make an appearance in the form of Temperance. The Devil warns against the perils of materialism and superficial gain. The Tower shows a state of turmoil. Hopes and dreams are bound to The Star. What is seen in the light of The Moon, representative of illusion, may not always be as it seems. The Sun depicts a rebirth. If the right path has been found, Judgment may show its face. Finally, The World speaks of the unlimited potential of the universe.

This article was excerpted from Newsweek Special Edition: Spiritual Living. For the ultimate guide to all things metaphysical and to discover the secret to peace and happiness pick up a copy today.

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