Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Tarot basics

Someone pointed out to me that in this blog I sometimes take for granted my reader's understanding both of yoga and tarot.  So I decided to write a short post on the basics of each subject.

The first European tarot cards were created during the 15th Century in Italy.  They were probably only used for a trumping card game in the beginning.  The first decks were all hand-drawn, so good ones were very expensive and only for the wealthy.  They were illustrated with images of the rich and famous, and gifted amongst the nobility.  For example, the earliest extant deck, the Visconti-Sforza, was created for a marriage between those two powerful families, and included images of various nobles, kings, and high-up members of the clergy.

These days there are literally thousands of tarot decks to choose from, and many are very reasonably priced.  However, you do still find special edition or out-of-print decks selling for a lot of money.  More importantly, though, is the fact that you can find a deck to match almost any hobby or occasion, from Star Trek to anime, from Halloween to Christmas, from Gummy Bears to Goddesses there is a deck for almost every taste.

In terms of structure, a true tarot deck is divided into several subcategories: Majors or Trumps, of which there are traditionally twenty-two; pips or number cards, of which there are four suits of ten; and court cards, which generally number four per suit.  The names given to the Majors and the courts, in particular, may vary from deck to deck, but this is the basic structure of most tarot decks, and arguably is what defines a deck as a traditional tarot.  There are also variations around this basic structure - for example one deck has removed the court cards, several others have five suits, some have a few extra Majors - but what I've described is the traditional pattern.

As for how they are used, originally the cards were probably only for games.  However, from about the 18th Century various esoteric writers and practitioners started adopting them and assigning different astrological, kabbalistic and magickal associations to the cards.

Today, many people think of tarot cards as a way of predicting the future.  For me, though, using them is more about insight and intuition.  The images spark ideas that help clarify what is going on inside me, and around me.  When reading for others, I use the cards to guide me in trying to do the same for the person I'm reading for, in a way that I hope will empower them to move forward with their life.

There are loads of myths around tarot cards, but ultimately I think you should do whatever you feel comfortable with when using them.  And especially, have fun!  In that spirit, this blog will try to explore ways of using and understanding tarot cards, and mixing them with other aspects of life, and yoga because that's what I enjoy.

So, if you use tarot cards, what do you use them for? 

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