June 06, 2019
Someone wise once said, "you can't learn how to read the tarot in one lifetime." Tarot reading is a complex, personal and often misunderstood practice, so it makes sense that learning it isn't a straightforward pursuit.
Many of our customers at Dragonspace are new to the world of tarot and are interested in learning the basics. We've written some previous blog posts about tarot, such as Introduction to Tarot and Oracle and Five Misconceptions About Tarot. These will give you some insight into what tarot reading is all about, and also what it isn't all about.
Once you understand the basic concept of tarot reading and the structure of the traditional deck, you'll probably want to start experimenting with some popular spreads. Spreads are the arrangement of tarot cards into a particular sequence. Each card's positioning in the sequence will relate to an element of the situation you want insight into, leading to a likely outcome or answer.
Below, we've laid four common tarot spreads to help you get started.
This is the simplest 'spread' of all, and is a good way of familiarising yourself with the individual cards. Simply draw a single card intuitively from the deck, preferably at the beginning of your day. This card will help inform your action, direction and focus for the day. You might choose to place the card on your desk, in your pocket, or at your altar if you have one. You could even keep a running journal of the cards you pull recording their meanings and how they end up informing your day.
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
This three-card spread works when you or your querent (the person you're reading for) has a particular situation they want clarity or guidance on. Three cards are drawn from the deck and laid down in a straight line.
Card 1 - relates to the past events or actions that have led to your current situation.
Card 2 - relates to the present situation.
Card 3 - relates to the possible future outcomes of the situation.
The symbols and archetypes that crop up in the past and present cards may help you to better understand the situation and how you have arrived at it, which will inform your future direction. This is the practical way in which tarot can be used to influence your future, without getting into the murky realms of outright fortune-telling.
This 'simple cross' four-card spread can be used for a number of situations, but is effective when a specific decision needs to be made - e.g. a job offer or a big move.
Card 1 - relates to the opportunities and chances available to you at this moment - can also be seen as the "pros" card
Card 2 - relates to the question at hand.
Card 3 - relates to the potential challenges and obstacles that you might need to face - can also be seen as the "cons" card.
Card 4 - relates to the the answer to the question.
Like most tarot spreads, this isn't designed to give a definitive 'yes or no' answer, but will help you to dig deeper into the situation and examine all angles.
This spread might look complicated, but is a popular spread that you'll probably end up favouring once you get familiar with it. This is a spread to use when you're dealing with a complex challenge or decision in your (or the querent's) life, which you need to examine in depth.
Note: while the general layout of the Celtic Cross spread is universal, different tarot readers might favour a slightly different arrangement or approach. This one outlined here is one of the common arrangements, but is not the only one. You'll come to find the arrangement and interpretations you're comfortable with once you're more familiar with the spread.
Card 1 - relates to the querent herself or himself.
Card 2 - relates to the situation or challenge the querent is facing.
Card 3 - relates to the future possibilities and potential outcome based on the querent's innermost thoughts and feelings - note, this is different than the 'most likely outcome' signified by Card 10. Card 3 relates to what the querent believes might happen, which can be different to what will likely actually happen.
Card 4 - relates to the distant past and deep-rooted circumstances that have laid the foundation for the situation.
Card 5 - relates to the immediate future events that will take place very soon.
Card 6 - relates to the immediate past circumstances that have influenced the situation, which are starting to recede.
Card 7 - relates to internal influences - the emotions, thoughts and opinions inside the querent's mind that are affecting the situation.
Card 8 - relates to external influences and environment - this may be family, job, community or otherwise.
Card 9 - relates to the querent's overall hopes and fears in life - these are often larger and more universal than the present situation, but will be of influence.
Card 10 - represents the most likely outcome of the situation based on the current course of action.
Card number 3 and card number 10 should be considered together once the full reading has taken place. Card number 3 represents the outcome the querent is expecting and personally projecting onto the future - whether that's positive or negative. Card number 10 represents the most likely actual outcome based on the whole picture. Sometimes these two cards will be harmony, and sometimes they will be in conflict. This will determine whether the querent's expectations align with their current course of action, and whether they need to stick with their current path or deviate from it.
These are a few of the most common tarot spreads, though there are many others out there - you might even end up inventing your own spread that works best for you. Tarot is all about intuition and personal experience, and its an exciting path to be on. Let us know in the comments if you favour a particular spread, or if there are other tarot topics you'd like us to cover in the blog!
March 05, 2019 1 Comment
(Photo credit: Aquarian Insight)
The Rider-Waite-Smith is the most universally recognised of tarot decks. Also sometimes known as the Rider-Waite or the Waite-Smith deck, you've probably heard a version of this name before. If you're just getting started in the world of tarot, you'll likely begin with a Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Even if you're a seasoned tarot reader, you probably have one in your collection. So, what's the history behind this deck? Where did it come from and what does the symbolism mean?
The known history of tarot reading stretches back to the 15th century. However, the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck was first published as recently as 1910. Illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith as a collaboration with the mystic A.E. Waite, it was published by the Rider Company, a publishing company that had its origins in occult works. To understand more about this popular deck, it makes sense to begin with its creators.
(Image: Pamela Colman Smith, public domain)
About Pamela Colman Smith
Pamela Colman Smith - nickname Pixie - was an artist, author and occultist who lived during the turn of the 20th century. Smith spent much of her childhood between Jamaica and Britain, and went on to study art in New York as a young adult. Much of her early creative work, including illustrated books, was centered on Jamaican folklore. She would also go on to work in theatrical design and become involved in the suffragette movement.
Smith originally met A.E. Waite through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn occult organisation, which they were both members of. Together, they would create one of the world's most popular tarot decks. But if you hadn’t previously heard of Pamela Colman Smith, you’re not alone. Smith’s story sometimes gets missed out of tarot histories, and her name was left off of most editions of her tarot deck until recently. But she certainly was a fascinating figure – if you’re interested in learning more about her, see here.
About A.E. Waite
Arthur Edward Waite was an accomplished American-British scholar and mystic who wrote academically about esoteric and occult topics. Subjects he covered in his works include: divination, Freemasonry, Kabbalah, alchemy and ceremonial magic. Interestingly, Waite was actually 'enemies' with another notorious mystic of the time, Aleister Crowley, who we wrote about in a previous blog post here.
Upon meeting Colman Smith, A.E. Waite was drawn to her artistic talent and psychic abilities. When he decided he wanted to create a new illustrated version of the tarot, it only made sense to collaborate with Pixie.
The Rider-Waite-Smith and the Sola Busca
While the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was one of the first illustrated tarot decks to obtain worldwide popularity, it wasn't the first illustrated tarot deck. It's been said that Waite was likely influenced by the Sola Busca Tarot deck, a mysterious deck created by an unknown artist with origins stretching back to the late 15th century. The Sola Busca deck was donated to the British Museum by the Sola Busca family of Milan in 1907. If the stories are true, then Waite and Smith saw the Sola Busca deck in the Museum and used it as reference and inspiration for the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Upon observing the similarities between the two decks, the connection is undeniable. More information about this can be found here.
Rider-Waite-Smith Artwork & Symbolism
Graphic designer and artist Bill Wolf accurately described what makes the Rider tarot deck so special and different to those that had come before.
“The Rider-Waite deck was designed for divination and included a book written by Waite in which he explained much of the esoteric meaning behind the imagery. People say its revolutionary point of genius is that the pip cards are ‘illustrated,’ meaning that Colman Smith incorporated the number of suit signs into little scenes, and when taken together, they tell a story in pictures. This strong narrative element gives readers something to latch onto, in that it is relatively intuitive to look at a combination of cards and derive your own story from them.”
The structure of the deck - with 56 Minor Arcana/suit cards and 22 Major Arcana/trump cards - comes from the traditional Tarot of Marseilles tarot structure. However, Colman Smith's artwork is truly what sets this deck apart. Smith's artwork is quite traditional in nature, yet is rich with symbolism. While at first glance, many of the Rider-Waite-Smith cards depict a singular figure in a clear setting, symbolism is contained in every detail of the scene. The figure's clothing, accessories, facial expressions, background landscapes and more all tell a story. One could study a single card in the deck for days, and still be finding further details to unpack.
While previous tarot decks relied on Christian symbolism and imagery, this was watered down in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. For example, the 'Hierophant' card replaced the traditional 'Pope', and the 'High Priestess' replaced the traditional 'Papess'. The suit symbols of wands, cups, swords and pentacles are said to be influenced by the work of 19th century occultist and magician Éliphas Lévi. Other symbols appear influenced by nature, the elements and the cosmos.
An Example: The Magician
As an example of the richness of symbolism in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, take the Magician card (pictured) as an example. First impressions show a man, presumably the magician, in a strong triumphant stance at a table. He appears powerful and is in possession of a number of 'tools' (all four of the suit card symbols are on his table).
But why is he wearing a white robe with a red cloak? What does the infinity symbol above his head mean? Why is one hand pointing up to the heavens and the other to the ground? What do the flowers and foliage symbolise? And is that a snake around his waist?
None of these details are incidental. They all have meaning, based on Smith and Waite's psychic and academic understanding of the tarot. This is why studying the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot is so fascinating and has long been considered the standard for tarot readers around the world. If you can intimately understand the symbolism and storytelling of these cards, you're well on your path to understanding the vast world of tarot.
The Legacy of the Rider-Waite-Smith
Though well over a hundred years old now, the popularity of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck endures. It’s consistently our highest-selling tarot deck here at Dragonspace, and is the one that’s used most commonly in tarot education and training. There are also now revised variations on the traditional deck, such as the Radiant Rider-Waite (re-coloured by Virginijus Poshkus), the Universal Waite (re-coloured by Mary Hanson-Roberts) and the Albano-Waite (re-coloured by Frankie Albano).
The fact that the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot continues to resonate with tarot readers and modern audiences is surely a testament to the artistic and psychic skill of Pamela Colman Smith and mystic knowledge of A.E. Waite. While the duo conceived the deck, it now belongs to thousands of people all around the globe, and will likely continue to inform and inspire generations to come.
August 20, 2018 2 Comments
Have you ever tried talking about tarot with someone, only to have them scoff and tell you it’s all a bunch of nonsense? Chances are, that person probably thinks that tarot cards are magical objects that claim to tell your future. They likely connect tarot reading with the image of a witchy woman in a darkened tent, spreading her cards out next to a crystal ball.
While these aren't necessarily bad (or entirely false) assumptions, they don't paint the whole picture of tarot reading. The art of tarot is mysterious and complex, so it's no wonder it's become laden with myths and misconceptions.
But it’s important to know the truth about tarot. We get a lot of questions about this mystical practice here at Dragonspace, and we’ve written a few blog posts about it before like Introduction to Tarot & Oracle and 10 Unique Tarot Decks. But this week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the myths and misconceptions about tarot, and the truth behind them. We've also included some images of cards from our favourite decks along the way - just click on the images to find out more about each deck!
Tarot is about ‘predicting the future’
The art of reading tarot is certainly connected to the ‘future’. But it’s not as black-and-white as your future being laid out like a movie in the the cards. Rather, your individual tarot card reading should help you to make sense of your past and your present, to best inform your future pathway.
The tarot cards are ultimately symbols or archetypes. Your tarot card reader will explain these symbols to you and will suggest how they are connected to your life. In turn, you’ll make your own emotional, spiritual and mental connections to these symbols. From this, a picture will end up forming of your current situation and where it might lead - whether it’s related to romance, family, work, creativity, identity or otherwise. A tarot reading might illuminate a specific pathway for you, but it likely won’t predict your future in eerie detail. And that shouldn’t be the point.
You have to be psychic to read the tarot
People with psychic or highly intuitive abilities will definitely be naturals at reading the tarot. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be either of those things to learn. If you’re open and dedicated to the practice, you can learn how to read tarot by studying the history and meanings of the cards, as well as a variety of different theories by professional readers. All it takes is a keen mind and an eager spirit.
There are certainly amazing professional tarot readers out there, and it’s worth going to visit one if you’re interested in the practice. There’s always something new to learn, and as tarot reading is such an individual artform, it’s interesting to hear other people’s interpretations and perspectives on the cards.
You can’t buy your own tarot cards
There are a lot of opinions out there about buying tarot cards. Some people believe that you should never buy your own tarot cards, and that they have to instead be given to you. Other people believe that if you are buying your own tarot cards, you should be the first one to touch them as they come out of the case or the packaging.
This myth isn’t necessarily false. Rather, it’s up to the individual to decide - there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ belief when it comes to buying tarot decks. Many people believe it’s actually important that you do buy your own tarot cards, as there are so many different and diverse decks, only you will know which one is best for you. If you’re in the market for your first tarot deck, have a read of all the different beliefs out there, and then decide what’s ringing true to you. If there’s one thing tarot reading is, it’s that it’s a highly individual practice and you make your own rules.
Cards like ‘Death’ and the ‘Hanged Man’ are terrible omens
We might have the movies to blame for this one. How often have you seen a ‘Death’ or ‘Hanged Man’ tarot deck pulled in a film or TV show in order to foretell some dark or deadly plot line? While it definitely has dramatic effect, it’s given these tarot cards a bad name.
The Death tarot card is actually a signifier of endings, transformation and transitions. Sometimes in life, things have to die to make way for regeneration and revival. This can be the death of bad habits, the death of toxic relationships, or otherwise. So it can actually be a very positive card to pull!
The Hanged Man is a little more difficult to decipher. The Hanged Man has a multitude of interpretations, but most of them indicate surrender and sacrifice. If you pull the Hanged Man card, it might be a sign that you’re holding onto something that you need to let go of, or hesitating to make an important decision. Like the Death card, while the Hanged Man looks ominous, it’s actually an important and fascinating card to apply to your own life.
Reversed cards are the negative version of upright cards
Most of the time when you’re pulling your tarot cards from your deck, they'll emerge in an upright position. But every so often, you’ll pull a card that’s upside down. This is called a reversed card, and reversed cards have slightly different meanings to their upright versions. But contrary to popular belief, this meaning isn't always negative.
Reversed cards normally represent the same energy as their upright versions, but in a suppressed, inverse or incomplete state. For example, the Sun tarot card is all about energy, vitality and success. A reversed Sun could mean that that same energy is being internalised within yourself, rather than projected outwards. This is an important message in itself, and can teach you a lot.
Some tarot readers choose to dismiss reversed cards, so it's up to you if you decide to include them in your practice. But be mindful that they're not a necessarily negative addition to the deck, like some people think.
As you can see, there are quite a few myths and misconceptions about tarot. And that’s fair enough - it is a mysterious art, after all! But now that you know the reality behind these rumours, you’ll be able to enlighten the next person who scoffs at your interest in tarot reading. You’ll never win them all, of course, but you’ll be all the wiser for knowing the truth.