card meanings & reading

By Stefan Stenudd
Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction.
About me
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

Tarot Online Reading
Free Celtic Cross card reading.

Major Arcana
The 22 Tarot trump cards and their meanings.

Minor Arcana
The 56 suited Tarot cards and their meanings.

The Celtic Cross
The most famous and used Tarot card divination spread explained.

Tarot Card Decks
Some of the Tarot designs through the centuries.

The Rider-Waite Tarot
The most famous Tarot card deck.

Tarot vs. Playing Cards
The same ancestry but evolving for different purposes.

What to Make of It
Is Tarot divination accurate, and if so - how?

Tarot Archetypes
The symbolic ingredients in the cards.

Tarot Speaks to You
The cards mean what they mean to you.

Tarot Copyright
The Tarot in the public domain.

Tarot Unfolded
My book on the Tarot and its symbolic imagery.

How to get in touch with me.

Major Arcana
Click the image to get the card reading.

The Fool Tarot Card The Magician Tarot Card The High Priestess Tarot Card The Empress Tarot Card The Emperor Tarot Card The Hierophant Tarot Card The Lovers Tarot Card The Chariot Tarot Card Strength Tarot Card The Hermit Tarot Card Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card Justice Tarot Card The Hanged Man Tarot Card Death Tarot Card Temperance Tarot Card The Devil Tarot Card The Tower Tarot Card The Star Tarot Card The Moon Tarot Card The Sun Tarot Card Judgement Tarot Card The World Tarot Card

Complete Horoscope
How predictions are done by classical astrology and the full horoscope chart, with many examples.

I Ching Online
The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.

Taoism, the old Chinese philosophy of life, based on Tao, the Way. Also, the complete Tao Te Ching translated and explained.

Book by Stefan Stenudd:

Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Your Health in Your Horoscope
What your horoscope says about your health, according to the old tradition of medical astrology. You learn what the planets, the Zodiac signs and the other ingredients of the horoscope reveal about many health issues. Click the image to see the book (and Kindle ebook) at Amazon.

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Life Energy Encyclopedia
Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Tarot Speaks to You

Saint Francis in Ecstasy, by Caravaggio 1594-95.

The Tarot Cards Mean What They Mean to You

To some extent it can be said about most methods of divination, but itís particularly true about the Tarot: It speaks directly to the one making the reading. The cards seemingly picked by chance are those that the reader will interpret in the proper way.

     This may seem like stating the obvious, but it has important implications. Since the Tarot speaks through images, the interpretation of them is done differently depending on what eyes are watching and the mind behind them processing those images.

     Each of us is equipped with what can be called a context of our own. Talents, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, experiences and conclusions made by them Ė all of those things make up our mentality and influence how we perceive the world around us. When we see the Tarot cards, we will see them differently, maybe just slightly so, but in some cases the difference can be as big as between two languages.

     This uncertainty between how individuals see images can be compared to what the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his later work called language-games, where he stated that there is little to tell us that we ever mean the same thing when using the same word. That is even truer when it comes to pictures, which are virtually impossible to define in an objective way.

The Devil Tarot card.      Letís take one example. The 15th card of the Tarotís Major Arcana is The Devil, showing him like a demon crouching on a pedestal to which man and woman are chained, completely naked.

     The image is full of Judeo-Christian symbols, such as the Devil of the Bible as well as Adam and Eve, the horns on their heads suggesting their fall into sin.

     A conservative Christian would find the card one of horror, warning about how easily man falls for temptation and the eternal slavery it leads to. To such a mind the card seems like the symbol of pure evil.

     Somebody with an occultist background, on the other hand, may see it as encouragement to challenge obsolete values and free oneself from the chains they put on us. Like Lou Reed expressed it: ďTake a walk on the wild side.Ē Many artists would probably think along somewhat the same line, convinced that without defiance there is no art and no progress.

     Someone versed in psychoanalytical terminology would think of libido and the way we humans tend to mix lust with guilt. If so, the card seems to show how fear and inhibition stops us from pursuing our path and realizing our potential. Those who are raised strictly and stick to Victorian morals would instead see the image as one of carnal desire and its dreadful consequences to oneís character.

Sacred versus profane love, by Baglione 1603.
Sacred versus profane love, by Giovanni Baglione 1603.

     A lawyer might see it as a reminder of the necessity of law, or all hell breaks loose. An atheist might find it hard to relate to the card in any other way than as a joke. And those billions of people with an upbringing outside the Judeo-Christian cultures would need a manual to relate at all to the picture. They might guess that it shows man and woman as children of the beast Ė or food for him, chained like cattle before the slaughter.

     What we see in images depends on what images we already have in our heads.

     So, to use the Tarot properly it must be understood that the one doing the reading is the one the images of the cards speak to. Thatís true also if the reading is done for somebody else. The reader is the interpreter, so the images have to relate correctly to that personís internal imagery. And they do, in a mysterious way.

     Therefore, when you make a reading, donít worry about what the ďtrueĒ meaning of a card might be. No manual can compete with your intuition, since you are the one making the spread and reading it. If you have one impression of a card and a manual suggest another Ė trust yourself more. Thatís so to speak what the Tarot is doing, and serving you the cards accordingly.

     Of course, this is also true about the meanings I suggest for the 78 Tarot cards. They are mere suggestions, really only intended to trigger your own imagination into doing all the work. You have to take the images in and extract their messages from the turmoil that is your mentality, experience, and acquired life wisdom. Thatís a reading worth contemplating.

     From the above follows that each reader of a Tarot spread will get different cards for the same question (as chance would have it). Thatís because they read them differently, but also because their reading is done from their perspective and the answers will be restricted to it. Life is so complex that there is more than one answer to any question Ė each dealing with different aspects of the question and with separate facets of the answer.

     You can experiment with this by trying one and the same question with a friend who is also familiar with the Tarot. Each of you makes a spread and reads it. Then you compare. So as not to make one reading influence the next, you should do them without the other person present and compare them only when thatís done. Youíll find that both readings have their merits.

     Maybe thatís the very core of any divination technique: itís nourished by the wisdom and experience of the reader.

The Book

Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Tarot Unfolded

This book by Stefan Stenudd presents an imaginative reading of the divination cards, i.e. focusing on what impressions the images and their symbols give. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. Also, it gives many examples of symbolic and allegorical imagery within and beyond the Tarot. This book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.