card meanings & reading
By Stefan Stenudd
I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. My personal website: stenudd.com
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How predictions are done by classical astrology and the full horoscope chart, with many examples.
I Ching Online
The Symbolic Ingredients in the Tarot Cards
In divination, the idea of archetypes is instrumental, and used in abundance. Thatís true also for what can be described as the mother of all divination: astrology. The twelve signs of the Zodiac, with their distinct characteristics, are archetypes. So are the planets, having the names of deities. Itís just as true for the Tarot.
In a Tarot reading, as well as in readings with ordinary playing cards, itís common to understand a character image on the card as someone significant that you will meet. That can happen, but itís not necessarily the case.
What the card is really showing is that the archetype in question will be relevant in your life, either in the form of a certain person appearing or in some other way that has the characteristics of the archetype.
For example, the Fool might mean that you meet somebody who is hard to take seriously, but generally speaking it suggests that something will happen or appear that you do best to treat in a casual manner. Depending on the position of the card in the spread, it can also mean that you are not taken seriously, although you feel you should be. Or the turn of events is such that you can do little more than shrug your shoulders and say: ďThatís life.Ē
A king or a queen in the spread doesnít necessarily mean that you will have to deal with a certain person of power, but it does imply that you need to tread carefully, because there are powers superior to yours involved. On the other hand, in another position, the card can suggest that you need to act like a king or a queen.
If you take the habit of treating each card as sort of an archetype, carrying a certain trait that needs to be considered, your reading will be much clearer than if you immediately search for specifics.
Life is complicated. We need to generalize aspects of it to be able to make decisions, choose between our options, and move on. The archetypes of the Tarot are excellent generalizations of common ingredients in life. Those cards that appear in a spread show what ingredients are particularly relevant and important in regard to the question on which your reading is based.
Another illuminating method is to regard the cards as principles: the principle of the Knight of Swords, who bravely hurries to battle against any foe, the principle of the Lovers, who forget everything else when facing each other, the principle of the Hermit, who seeks solitude whatever others might root for, et cetera. The principle is simply the core of an archetype, the meaning it carries.
Also the structure of myth is applicable to Tarot readings. The myth is a story involving a number of archetypes interacting. The Tarot spread is also a story, told by several cards in a certain order. So, you have to find how this story makes sense, how one thing leads to another in a way that almost seems unavoidable.
The past leads through the present into the future. Looking at the past, you should understand why the present is as it is. That also means you can get a good idea of what comes next. The cards help you through this mental process and give you the clues to make it more accurate than you would have done without them, simply because life is so complicated, every moment so confusing. Without a systematic approach, itís chaos.
If you can make the Tarot reading like telling a story, from the beginning to the end, with characters and events making some kind of sense all through, then you manage fine and need no further study, only practice. Practice makes perfect.
The perspective of the myth, and the archetypes populating it, also reminds us of the basic fact that nothing is really new under the sun. The important and fundamental parts of what happens to us have happened to countless people before, and to a surprisingly high extent in much the same way.
Not that it solves every problem and dissolves any worry. Itís new when it happens to us.
But itís far from unique. There is previous experience to learn from. Divination by the Tarot or any other method connects us to the source and essence of all that previous experience Ė if we open up and trust the only means by which this source becomes available to us. Thatís our imagination.