There are many myths surrounding the origin of the Tarot, and theories that the cards were invented in ancient
The earliest known cards still in existence date from 1392, and of these only 17 remain. It is believed that they were painted for Charles VI of
The standard modern deck consists of 78 cards split into two sections: the 22 cards of the Major Arcana (the archetypal Tarot cards, such as the Lovers, Death and Judgment), and the 56 cards of the Minor Arcana (four suits of fourteen cards, each comprised of cards numbered from one to ten and four "court" cards). This structure is a derivation of the Venetian or Piedmontese Tarot, but early decks were of several types with varying numbers of cards. Examples of early European decks related to the Tarot include:
Minchiate of Florence, a 98-card deck consisting of the standard 78 cards augmented by twenty additional major cards representing the twelve signs of the zodiac, the four elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) and four cardinal virtues (Hope, Prudence, Faith and Charity; though these are often considered to be Wisdom/Prudence, Temperance, Courage/Fortitude and Justice).
While there is little actual evidence for the existence of the Tarot before the 14th century, many of the ideas symbolically depicted on the cards are much older. While cards like the Juggler (Magus), the Pope (Hierophant), the Devil and the Last Judgment seem fully at home in the context of medieval
Initially, the Tarot may have been used for playing games, and our contemporary playing cards are effectively a subset of the Tarot deck. In modern
During the 15th century, dissemination of the cards was limited as they had to be hand-painted or drawn, but as new printing techniques became available, Tarot became more accessible. By the 16th century, a deck called the Marseilles Tarot was widely used. Below are some examples of cards from this deck. From left to right, these are the Juggler, Death and the Moon from the Major Arcana, and the Ace of Wands, the Six of Cups and the King of Swords from the Minor Arcana.
The cards, particularly the 22 trumps of the Major Arcana, have strong esoteric associations, and these began to be postulated and explored from the 18th century onwards, with the Tarot being linked to many areas of mystical study, such as the Kabbalah, alchemy, ritual magic and divination. Whether these associations were a guiding force in the creation of the Tarot or whether they were added to the lore by later mystics is, again, debatable.
The 19th century French occultist, Eliphas Levi, explored the link between the Tarot and the Kabbalah. Though others before him had suggested such a link, his was the work that cemented the association in occult study, and the Kabbalah-Tarot system became the main model for the development and interpretation of the Tarot, and of its use in the Western Mystery Tradition. Levi himself felt that the Tarot was born from Kabbalistic teachings, though there is no hard historical evidence for this belief.
The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a revival in the study and application of occult teachings, and many of the associations between the Tarot and other mystical systems were developed or refined at this time. Predominant was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an English Rosicrucian society founded in 1888. Members of the Order separately produced two of the most popular and influential modern Tarot decks: the Rider-Waite and the Thoth.
Arthur Edward Waite was a prominent member of the Golden Dawn. In 1910, he published The Key to the Tarot in which he wrote: "the true tarot is symbolism, it speaks no other language and offers no other signs." He directed a fellow member, Pamela Colman Smith, in the design of the deck now known as the Rider-Waite (Rider was Waite's publisher).
Another member, Aleister Crowley, designed the Thoth deck, which was painted by Lady Frieda Harris. The deck was developed between 1938 and 1943 (considerably longer than the anticipated three months). Though
Both the Rider-Waite and Thoth decks are replete with esoteric symbolism, combining important symbolic aspects of earlier decks with Kabbalistic, astrological and alchemical references.
These days there is a plethora of decks to choose from, but in some ways more is less. It sometimes seems that we have lost judgment and discrimination where the Tarot is concerned: there are many decks that are simply gimmicks with scant regard for the history or symbolism of the Tarot.
Some are merely nice to look at, which is not a bad thing if the deck is used for its aesthetic value alone, but offers nothing more. Decks have become a kind of preternatural pasta, arriving in all shapes, sizes and structures: with cards that are round, square, triangular... it wouldn't be at all surprising to find some shaped like bowties. The number of cards in a deck can also vary wildly, and sometimes these changes can be justified: for example, the Enochian Tarot is expanded to include 30 cards in the Major Arcana to accommodate the underlying system of Enochian Magic on which it is based (though whether such a deck is really a Tarot deck is a moot point).
There are now decks based around myriad spiritual traditions, from Paganism, Druidry, Native American Spirituality and Zen Buddhism, to Greek, Norse and Arthurian mythology. But whatever the virtues and vices of these disparate decks, they confirm the vibrancy of the Tarot and its application to many times and many cultures. The best of these new developments, those that grow from rather than ignore established Tarot tradition and symbology, show that we too can deepen and evolve our use and understanding of the Tarot, just as our forebears did theirs.
Basic Tarot Symbols
The fool in colourful motley clothes, pack tied to a staff, a small dog, a cliff.
Basic Tarot Story
With all his worldly possessions in one small pack, the Fool travels he knows not where. So filled with visions and daydreams is he, that he doesn't see the cliff he is likely to fall over. At his heel, a small dog harries him (or tries to warn him of a possible mis-step).
Basic Tarot Meaning
At #0, the Fool is the card of infinite possibilities. The bag on the staff indicates that he has all he need to do or be anything he wants, he has only to stop and unpack. He is on his way to a brand new beginning. But the card carries a little bark of warning as well. Stop daydreaming and fantasising and watch your step, lest you fall and end up looking the fool.
In the Tarot, cards like The Magician or The Hermit can often stand for the Querent or for someone in the Querent's life. The Fool, however, almost always stands for the Querent alone, no one else. In standing for the Querent, the Fool represents a time of newness, a time when life has been "re-started" as it were. The person feels that they are back at Zero, whether that be in romantic affairs, or career, at their job or intellectual persuits. Far from being sad or frustrating, the Querent feels remarkably *free*, light hearted and refreshed, as if being given a second chance. They feel young and energized.
In addition, they likely have no idea where they're going or what they're going to do. But that doesn't matter. For the Fool, the most important thing is to just go out and enjoy the world. To see what there is to see and delight in all of it.
Unfortunately, in this childlike state the person is likely to be overly optimistic or naive. A Fool can be a Fool. This is the card likely to turn up when a Querent is thinking of investing his money in a new, "sure fire" business. Or when the Querent is sure that it's "love this time!" Like the Fool, they're so busy daydreaming of what might be that they're ignoring what is. They're about to fall right off a cliff. Time for them to listen to that watchful little dog, which might be a concerned friend, a wise tarot reader, or just their instincts.
As a card, the Fool ultimately stands for a new start. When it turns up the Querent might be about to make a move, not just to a new home, but new job, new life. There's more than just change, renewal, and a brand new beginning in the Fool, there's also movement, a fresh, exciting new time.
Basic Card Symbols
Red & White coloring, the lemniscate (infinity symbol), a small wand, a table displaying a chalice, a pentacle, a staff (wand) and a sword.
Basic Tarot Story
Traveling on his way, the Fool first encounters a Magician. Skillful, self-confident, a powerful magus with the infinite as a halo floating above his head, the Magician mesmerizes the Fool. When asked, the Fool gives over his bundled pack and stick to the Magician. Raising his wand to heaven, pointing his finger to Earth, the Magician calls on all powers; magically, the cloth of the pack unfolds upon the table, revealing its contents. And to the Fool's eyes it is as if the Magician has created the future with a word. There are all the possibilities laid out, all the directions he can take. The cool, airy Sword of intellect and communication, the fiery Wand of spirituality and ambition, the overflowing Chalice of Love and emotions, the solid Pentacle of work, possessions and body. With these tools, the Fool can create anything, make anything of his life. But here's the question, did the Magician create the tools, or were they already in the pack? Only the Magician knows - and on this mystery, our eloquent mage refuses to say a word.
Basic Tarot Meaning
At #1, the Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud ("And God said 'Let there be Light!' and there was Light"). Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand (Mercury *was* the god of thieves!) and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil. The 4 suits laid out before him remind us of the 4 aces, which in the Tarot symbolize the raw, undeveloped, undirected power of each suit. When the Magician appears, he reveals these to you. The reader might well interpet this card as telling the querent that they will be given a vision, an idea, a magical, mental image of whatever it is they most want: the solution to a problem, an ambitious career, a love life, a job.
If any card in the Tarot is the Tarot, it is the Magician. He's one of the most recognizable cards, always a favorite. He's also the only card in the Majors that refers to the minors with the "trumps" displayed upon his table. If the reader believes the Magician stands for the Querent, then the Querent either is, or is currently finding himself eleoquent and charismatic at this time. Both verbally and in writing, he is clever, witty, inventive and persuasive. People listen and agree with him. He also has an interest in science. He might be, in fact, a doctor or scientist or inventor.
Standing for someone other than the querent, the Magician could be a skillful doctor, scientist, inventor lecturer, salesman, or con-man. It's important to remember that the Magician can as easily be clever as skilful, a trickster as well as a magician. This is someone with a magnetic personality, someone who can convince people of almost anything. For better or worse, his words are magic.
Most importantly, the Magician card stands for the "reveal" - as in a magic trick. The handkerchief is draped over an empty box, the Magician waves his wand, *presto!*--now there is a dove in the box. The Magician card does the same for the Querent--only what it reveals is not birds or rabbits but NEW ideas. Emphasis on NEW. When the Magician card appears, the Querent is likely to say: "Now there's an idea! Why didn't I think of that before?" Truth is, the Querent had that idea in his head all along. The Magician merely revealed it to him. But what will the Querent do with this idea? That's a question for the next card....
Basic Card Symbols
Blue, white and black colors, pomegranates, Isis moon crown, veil, solar cross, crescent moon. Black & white lotus, pillars (B stands for Boaz, signifying negation, J stands for Jachin, meaning beginning). Scroll with the word Tora on it (either the Jewish Torah or an anagram of Tarot, where the final letter is left unseen).
Basic Tarot Story
Continuing his journey, the Fool comes upon a beautiful and mysterious veiled lady enthroned between two pillars and illuminated by the moon. She is the opposite of the Magician, quiet where he was loquacious, still where he was in motion, sitting while he stood, shrouded in the night where he was out in the bright of day. She is the High Priestess and she astonishes the Fool by knowing everything about him. "Since you know me so well, perhaps you can help me," says the Fool, laying out his sword, chalice, staff and pentacle. "The Magician showed me these tools, but now I'm in a quandry. There's so many things I could do with them. I can't decide." In answer, the High Priestess hands over to him a pair of ancient scrolls. "These will teach you how to decide." Seating himself at her feet, the Fool reads by the light of her crescent moon. Finally, the Fool knows enough that he can now decide what he wants, where he will go, and what he will do. Though he suspects that the High Priestess has even more secrets she could teach him--like what lies behind the pomegranate curtain--he is focused and ready to be on his way. Thanking the High Priestess, he heads off. But as he leaves he hears her whisper, quiet as the waters which bubble up from beneath her throne, "We'll meet again...when you're ready to travel the most secret path of all."
Basic Tarot Meaning
The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know in order to make a decision about a problem or a job, an investment, love, career, family, etc.
And, finally, there is, behind her throne, the curtain that leads to the deepest, most esoteric and secret knowledge; the pomegranates that decorate it remind us of Persephone, who was taken down into the land of the dead, ate its fruit, and became the only goddess allowed to travel to and from that strange land. Which indicates that when you get the High Priestess, you're going to be learning some very odd things. Very odd.
If there is a card that symbolizes the tarot reader is it the High Priestess. A woman (or man!) of psychic powers, intuition and secret knowledge. Where the Magician is about revealing, the High Priestess is about keeping things hidden behind the curtain. Things you know, but don't tell.
If the reader feels the High Priestess stands for the Querent, then this is a time of solitary investagation and the passing on of secret knowledge. The Querent might find themselves spending time in old libraries, reading through dusty documents and letters, or studying old religious texts. Things kept secret will be revealed to them. Likewise, these secrets might come to them psychically by way of visions or powerful instincts. Insights may be found in crystal balls, tea leaves, dreams or conversations with spirits.
Standing for someone other than the Querent, the High Priestess is usually read as a spiritual woman, a nun or astrologer, a teacher of archaic knowledge, or just a reclusive relative who knows a lot of family secrets. She is a repository of obscure knowledge, a walking library with uncanny instincts and insights. She may, as well, come across as cold, unpredictable, even scary.
As a card, the High Priestess is about knowledge. "I've a new idea," says the querent--thanks to the Magician. Maybe they've realized they want to be an painter or run for office or open their own business. But how do they decide what they want to paint? How do they decide which public office to run for? How do they find out where to start their new business? Knowledge. Insider knowledge from some old expert being the best. The more secrets the querent knows, the easier it is to know what to do with the idea. This is the job of the High Priestess, to offer secret knowledge, like the moon on a dark night, so that the querent can find their path. She sits between the pillars of dark and light, existance and negation, wax and wane. All secret knowledge is hers.
Basic Tarot Symbols
A gown decorated with pomegranates, a crown of stars, a rod, a heart-shaped shield with the symbol for Venus, a field of ripe wheat.
Basic Tarot Story
Having decided what shape his future will take, the Fool strides forward. But he is impatient to make his future a full-grown reality. This is when he comes upon the Empress. Hair gold as wheat, a crown of stars, a white gown dotted with pomegranates. She rests back on her throne surrounded by an abundance of grain and a lush garden. It is possible that she is pregnant.*
Kneeling, the Fool relates to her his story. And she, in turn, smiles a motherly smile and gently gives him this advice: "Like newly planted grain or a child in the womb, a new life, a new love, a new creation is fragile. It requires fertile soil, patience and nurturing, it needs love and attention. Only this will bring it to fruition." Understanding at last that his future will take time to build and create, the Fool thanks the Empress and continues on his way.
* Pregnant. Well, not in the Rider-Waite deck she isn't. But she is in early decks, and it is an apt symbol for this card.
Basic Tarot Meaning
The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.
The Empress card is one of the easier trumps to read. She's Mother. Generally, Mother in a good sense. Patient, loving, giving, generous. If defining her as the Querent, you can say that they are currently feeling like a mother hen, worried about their children, new business, new creation, new romance. Male or female, they want to dote and hover and fret over every little sneeze and problem. If defining the Empress as someone related to the Querent, well, it might well be the Querent's Mom, or a woman who's very motherly toward them.
Of course, the Empress can also be the worst aspects of an attentive Mom; she can smother, not know when to let go, be possessive and jealous of those who would take away her "baby." It is important for the Querent to realize that plants can die from over-watering as easily as neglect.
This card tells the Querent that if they want their new romance, new career, new business, new creation to grow into all it can be they have to pay attention to it, baby it and be willing to let it take those first steps when it is ready. Most of all, like any pregnant mother or good gardener, they have to be patient. All things need time to gestate and sprout.
Basic Tarot Symbols
Throne, ram's heads, orb and sceptre. Sometimes an Eagle.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool was given options by the Magician, and decided on one with help from the High Priestess. He learned how to develop it, thanks to the Empress. Now he must manage it. How to do this? He approaches a great Emperor seated on a stone throne. The Fool is amazed by the way the Emperor is instantly, eagerly obeyed in every particular, at how well his Empire is run. Respectfully, he asks the Emperor how it is he does this. And the Emperor answers: "Strong will and a solid foundation. It's all very well," he explains to the Fool, "to be dreamy, creative, instinctual, patient; but to control one must be alert, brave and aggressive."
Ready now to lead rather than be led, the Fool heads out with new purpose and direction.
Basic Tarot Meaning
As Aries, the Ram, the Emperor naturally follows the pregnant Empress. Aries is the infant, the first sign of the Zodiac. Like an infant, he is filled with enthuiasm, energy, aggression. He is direct, guileless and all too often irresistible. Unfortunately, like a baby he can also be a tyrant. Impatient, demanding, controlling. In the best of circumstances, he signifies the leader that everyone wants to follow, sitting on a throne that indicates the solid foundation of an Empire he created, loves and rules with intelligence and enthusiasm. But that throne can also be a trap, a responsibility that has the Emperor feeling restless, bored and discontent.
The Emperor card is the "Who's the boss?" card. It is an important question. The meaning of the card includes being in control over your environment, your body, your temper, your instincts, your love life. This is not the time to give into the unconscious, not the time to let yourself be controlled by others wants and needs. It is a card that gives the Querent permission to be aggressive, brave, bold and in command. The Emperor could be a father or father figure, leader or employer, either a demanding tyrant or a charismatic king. If the card stands for the Querent, he/she should think about whether their Empire has become an unwelcome chore and if it has, are they now a bad leader, demanding, unreasonable, unhappy. It might be time to abdicate the throne.
Basic Card Symbols
Twin pillars, staff, throne, hand raised in blessing, two acolytes.
Basic Tarot Story
Having created a solid foundation on which to build his future, the Fool is struck with a sudden fear. What if everything he's worked for is taken away? Is stolen, or lost, or destroyed or vanishes? Or what if it is just not good enough? In a panic, he heads into a holy place where he finds the Hierophant, a wise teacher and holy man. Acolytes kneel before the man, ready to hear and pass on his teachings. The Fool tells the Hierophant his fears, and asks how he can be free of them.
"There are only two ways," says the Hierophant sagely, "Either give up that which you fear to lose so it no longer holds any power over you, or consider what you will still have if your fear comes to pass. After all," the Hierophant continues, "if you did lose all you'd built, you would still keep the experience and knowledge that you've gained up to this point, wouldn't you?"
This surprisingly pragmatic advise releases the Fool from his fear, and he is able exit out of the sanctuary and face the world's challenges once again.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Taurus the Earthly bull may seem an odd sign for a holy man, but it makes sense if you understand that the Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because, like all Taureans, he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that, like the Bull, he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.
The Hierophant card has so many Popish trappings that it is sometimes hard for readers to like him, or interpret him as positive rather than seeing his potential for being unreasonable, hide-bound, literal and stodgy. I like to point out the decks where the Hierophant is the Oracle at Delphi or some other less loaded image.
When the Hierophant appears as a person, he's likely an old, favored teacher, therapist, counsellor, advisor, sponsor. That young Priest with progressive ideas, or the old Rabbi who was always so down to Earth and fun, or maybe an uncle who always offered such common sense advise. Unfortunately, he can also represent that nasty teacher the Querent is dealing with, the one who refuses to deviate from the text book, or a sour-faced elder who wants to keep the church old fashioned and in the dark ages.
Standing for the Querent himself, the Hierophant might well warn against being too stubborn, especially in matters of theology or ethics. It can remind the Querent what it means to be a good, and beloved teacher. In this, the Hierophant can be very positive. When things are going very wrong in the world, the Hierophant is the one who wades in, quiets the panic, and offers good, practical advise. He symbolizes a connection to the divine, which answers with a very human voice, never oblique or mysterious. You know how to solve your problem, this card says; it is not easy, not a quick fix, but it is do-able. The solution is there, you've only to bring it down to Earth.
Basic Card Symbols
An angel or cupid, a man and a woman, two trees (in Waite, it is Adam & Eve with one tree having a serpent and apples) - in some decks one tree is flowering, but the other has fruit. Also in some decks there is a man standing between two women.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool comes to a cross-roads, filled with energy, confidence and purpose, knowing exactly where he wants to go and what he wants to do. And comes to a dead stop. A flowering tree marks the path he wants to take, the one he's been planning on taking. But standing before a fruit tree marking the other path is a woman. He's met and had relationships with women before, some far more beautiful and alluring. But she is different. Seeing her, he feels as though he's just been shot in the heart with cupid's arrow, so shocking, so painful is his "recognition" of her. As he speaks with her, the feeling intensifies; like finding a missing part of himself, a part he's been searching for his life long. It is clear that she feels the same about him. They finish each others sentences, think the same thoughts. It is as if an Angel above had introduced their souls to each other. Though it was his plan to follow the path of the flowering tree, and though it will cause some trouble for him to bring this woman with him, to go somewhere else entirely, the Fool knows he dare not leave her behind. Like the fruit tree, she will fulfill him. No matter how divergent from his original intent, she is his future. He chooses her, and together they head down a whole new road.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Originally, this card was called just LOVE. And that's actually more apt than "Lovers." Love follows in this sequence of growth and maturity. And, coming after the Emperor, who is about control, it is a radical change in perspective. LOVE is a force that makes you choose and decide for reasons you often can't understand; it makes you surrender control to a higher power. And that is what this card is all about. Finding something or someone who is so much a part of yourself, so perfectly attuned to you and you to them, that you cannot, dare not resist. In interpetation, the card indicates that the querent has come across, or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing that they will fall in love with. They will know instinctively that they must have this, even if it means diverging from their chosen path. No matter the difficulties, without it they will never be complete.
The Lovers is a confusing card as it is ruled not by an emotional water sign but by airy Gemini. The original trump featured a man and a woman with a cupid above them about to shoot his dart. Later this became three figures, the interpetation being a man choosing between two women, or a man meeting his true love with the help of a matchmaker. Still later, with Waite, we have an Angel above Adam and Eve. The Angel stands for Raphael, who is emblematic of Mercury and Air, planet and element of Gemini. Gemini is the communications sign. It's all about messages and making contact; also, as it is the twins, about finding your other self. In this regard, you can see that the Lovers begins to make sense. Especially if you change it back to "LOVE." Here is a card about perfect communication, about finding something your soul requires. In this regard, its most common interpetation about being "A Choice" makes sense. When this card appears, you are being told to trust you instincts, to choose this career, challenge, person or thing you're so strongly drawn to, no matter how scary, how difficult, irrational or troublesome. Because without it, you will never be wholly you. It's sudden and unexpected, and it means a compete change in plans; but this is LOVE. True love. Go for it!
Basic Card Symbols
Triumphal "car" (chariot), armored warrior, sun/moon symbols, lingam & yoni symbol (the encircled rod on the winged shield), black and white sphinxes/lions/horses, sometimes at rest. A canopy of stars and sometimes a throne inside the car.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool is close to completing what he set out to create long ago, back when the Magician revealed those tools to him. But enemies are now standing in his way, devious human enemies, bad circumstances, even confusion in his own mind. There's no more forward momentum; he feels he is fighting just to stay where he is. Walking along the shore, watching the waves come in, he puzzles over how to defeat these enemies and get things moving forward once again.
It is here that he comes across a charioteer, standing in his gold and silver chariot, his black and white steeds at rest. "You seem a victorious warrior," the Fool remarks. "Tell me, what is the best way to defeat an enemy?" The Charioteer nods out at the ocean. "Have you ever been swimming in the water and been trapped in that tide which pulls you out to sea? If you try to swim forward, head-on, you go nowhere. You swim forward, the tide pulls you back and, if you tire yourself out, you drown. The only way to win without sapping all your energy is to swim parallel to shore, and come in slowly, diagonally. So, too, when fighting in a chariot. You win by coming up alongside that which you wish to defeat." The warrior nods to his beasts. "Your steeds keep the wheels turning, but it is your control and direction that brings victory. Dark and light, they must be made to draw in harmony, under your guidance."
The Fool is impressed and inspired. He thinks he now knows how to win his own war. He thanks the warrior, but before he leaves, the warrior stays the Fool, "One thing more," he says, "no victory can be won unless you have unwavering confidence in your cause. And remember this above all, victory is not the end, it is the beginning."
Basic Tarot Meaning
The chariot is one of the most complex cards to define. On its most basic level, it implies war, a struggle, and an eventual, hard-won victory. Either over enemies, obstacles, nature, the beasts inside you, or to just get what you want. But there is a great deal more to it. The charioteer wears emblems of the sun, yet the sign behind this card is Cancer, the moon. The chariot is all about motion, and yet it is often shown as stationary.
What does this all mean? It means a union of opposites, like the black and white steeds. They pull in different directions, but must be (and can be!) made to go together in one direction. Control is required over opposing emotions, wants, needs, people, circumstances; bring them together and give them a single direction, your direction. Confidence is also needed and, most especially, motivation. The card can, in fact, indicate new motivation or inspiration, which gets a stagnant situation moving again. It can also imply, on a more pragmatic level, a trip (usually by car), a vehicle - in the shop for repairs if the card comes up reversed - or a message.
The Chariot is a fascinating card, but also frustrating. Like the crab, it is armored, but also cut off - a charioteer fights alone. It moves from one plane to the next (water to land and back again) - conscious and unconscious, Earthly and spiritual. It succeeds by attacking from the side, rather than straight on.
On the one hand, the Chariot indicates loyalty and faith and motivation; a conviction that will lead to victory no matter the odds. But the chariot can also signal a ruthless, diehard desire to win at any cost. The Querent should be reminded to save his energy for what comes after. Victory is just the start of things.
Basic Card Symbols
A woman with a lemniscate hovering over her head, a lion.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool, victorious over his enemies, is feeling arrogant, powerful, even vengeful. There is a hot passion in him that he can barely control. It is in this state that he comes across a maiden struggling with a lion. Running to help, he arrives in time to see her gently but firmly shut the lion's mouth! In fact, the beast, which seemed so wild and fierce a moment ago, is now completely at her command.
Amazed, the Fool asks her, "How did you do that?" One hand on the lion's mane, she answers, "Will power. Any beast, no matter how wild, will back down before a superior will." At that moment, the Maiden meets the Fool's eyes; though saintly and young, her look is knowing and filled with great power. "Likewise," she says to him, "there are many unworthy impulses inside us. It is not wrong to have them. But it is wrong to let them control us. We are human, not beast, and we can command such energy, use them for higher purposes." His rage quieted, the Fool nods, enlightened, and walks away knowing that it wasn't only the lion who was tamed this day by a Maiden's pure and innocent strength.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Like its ruling sign Leo, this is a card of courage and energy. It represents both the Lion's hot, roaring energy, and the Maiden's steadfast will. The innocent Maiden is unafraid, undaunted, and indomitable. In some cards she opens the lion's mouth, in others she shuts it. Either way, she proves that inner strength is more powerful than raw physical strength. That forces can be controlled and used to score a victory is very close to the message of the Chariot, which might be why, in some decks, it is Justice that is card 8 instead of Strength. This card assures the Querent that they can control not only the situation, but themselves. It is a card about anger and impulse management, about creative answers, leadership and maintaining one's personal honor. It can also stand for a steadfast friend.
Wang in the 'Qabbalistic Tarot' likens to the Strength card, at one point, to a Vestal Virgin tending a sacred flame. And this, I think, is one of the best interpretations. Fire is a fearful thing, hot, burning, all too easily able to spark out of control. But somewhere along the way, we lost our fear - but not our respect - for fire. And with will and intelligence, we made it our tool. And I think it worth understanding and saying to the Querent, that as with fire or taming a lion, you might get burned or scratched a few time by that which you're trying to control, be it a situation, a person or your own unworthy impulses. The important message of the strength card is not to give up. To have the courage to keep at it till you succeed and to have the faith and optimism that you will succeed.
Basic Card Symbols
A robed man or monk carrying a lantern. A barren landscape.
Basic Tarot Story
After a long and busy lifetime, building, creating, loving, hating, fighting, compromising, failing, succeeding, the Fool feels a profound need to retreat. In a small, rustic home deep in the woods, he hides, reading, cleaning, organizing, resting or just thinking. But every night at dusk he head out, traveling across the bare, autumnal landscape. He carries only a staff and a lantern.
It is during these restless walks from dusk till dawn, peering at and examining whatever takes his fancy, that he sees and realizes things he's missed, about himself and the world. It is as if the secret corners in his head were being slowly illuminated, corners he never knew existed. In a way, he has become the Fool again; as in the beginning, he goes wherever inspiration leads him. But as the Fool, his staff rested on his shoulder, carrying unseen his pack. The Fool was like the pack, whatever it was he could be was wrapped up, unknown. The Hermit's staff leans out before him, not behind. And it carries a lantern, not a pack. The Hermit is like the lantern, illuminated from within by all he is.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Represented by Virgo, the Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. This is not a time for socializing; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. Nor is it a time for action, discussion or decisions. It is a time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent during this time of withdrawal. But such times lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.
In regards to people, the Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist, someone the Querent usually sees alone, someone the rest of the Querent's friends and family may not know about. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing. They will help the Querent find what it is they are seeking.
One of the important things about this card is that the Hermit is always shown on the move. He's never locked away in his reclusive cell, he's always out wandering, searching. That, to me, is a Virgo. I'm married to one, I know. The Hermit is the restless mind of the Virgo, always gathering information, analyzing, making connections. Virgos are skeptics, and if anyone is going to stick a lantern into a dark place and take a good look at what's going on, it is a Virgo.
The Hermit is a card of connections and enlightenment. Combined with a desire to just "be alone," the Querent who gets this card is probably feeling impatient with people who disturb their peace or who can't see what they're seeing ("Are you blind?" might be their refrain, or, more typically, "You just don't get it, and I can't explain it to you."). In typical Virgo fashion, they're likely to be grumpy and anti-social. But for the Querent (if no one else!) this is a special time. Like an artist who hides for days then emerges to paint a masterpiece, this quiet time allows all the pieces to fall into place. So go ahead and encourage them to go on late night drives, long walks, hide in their room or go on retreat for a month. When they come back, they'll see everything in a brand new light. It'll be the best thing for them, and for everyone else in their lives.
Basic Card Symbols
A wheel turning clockwise with rising/falling figures or beasts on it. Waite also includes a good many hebrew letters and alchemical symbols. Often there is a sphinx perched atop the wheel.
Basic Tarot Story
From out of hiding comes the Fool, into the sunlight, as if being pulled up from some low, dark point on a wheel. It is time for a change. Staff in hand, he heads back out into the world, expecting nothing. But, strangely, things seem to happen to him as the hours go by, good things. Wandering by water wheel a woman offers him a drink in a golden chalice, and then urges him to keep the cup, just because she likes him; as he wanders by a windmill, he stops to watch a young man swinging a sword; when he expresses his admiration of the weapon, the young man presses it into his hand, insisting that he take it.
And finally, when he comes upon a rich merchant sitting in a wagon, right over one of the wheels, the man hands him a bag of money. "I like giving away money," explains the Merchant, "and I decided, just randomly, that the tenth person who walked past me today would get this money. You're the tenth." The Fool hardly thought he could still be surprised, but he is. It is as if everything good that he ever did in his life is being paid back to him, three-fold. All luck this day is his.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Jupiter as its ruling planet, the Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. Almost every definition of this card indicates abundance, happiness, elevation, luck. A change that just happens, and brings with it great joy.
As much as the Tarot is about what a Querent can do to change their life or self, there are cards that admit that sometimes you just get lucky. This card can mean movement, change and evolution, but its primary meaning always seems to say that such changes will seem to come out of the blue, a stroke of good, unexpected fortune. The person you're reading for is going to get that money, that job, that promotion, that special person, that break they've been waiting for. Call it Karmic payback for all the good things they've done in life, destiny or just luck, but whatever lotteries are out there, large or small, they've just won one.
The Justice figure seated or standing, scales in one hand (usually left), upraised sword in the other hand. Sometimes blindfolded.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool is looking for a new path, a new aspiration and inspiration for his life. Sitting uncertain at a cross-roads, he notices a blind wise woman listening to two brothers argue over an inheritance. They have come to her for judgement. One brother has the whole inheritance, the other has nothing. "I ask that all of it be given to me," the poor brother demands, "Not only because I have a better right to it, but because I will not be wasteful with it, as he is!" But the rich brother protests, "It is rightfully mine and that's all that should matter, not what I do with it!" The woman listens, then awards half of the rich brother's inheritance to the poor brother. The Fool thinks this only fair, but neither brother is happy. The rich one hates losing half his wealth, and the poor one feels he ought to have gotten all.
"You were fair," he remarks to the woman after they have left. "Yes, I was," she answers plainly. "With only half the inheritance, the rich one will stop being so wasteful. And the poor one will have as much as he needs. Even though they cannot see it, this decision was good for both."
The Fool thinks on this, and new insight on his own life comes to mind. He realizes that he has spent his life achieving worldly ambitions, physical goods, while leaving his spiritual self to starve, primarily because he didn't want to make the sacrifices necessary to feed his spiritual self. Now, he sees that this is necessary, the only path he has not walked, one he must walk to regain his equilibrium. Thanking the woman, he heads out with new purpose. It is time to balance his own inner scales.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Libra as its ruling sign, Justice is about cold, objective balance through reason or natural force. This is the card that tells the Querent that they can't keep smoking and drinking without consequences to their health. It is the card that advises cutting out waste and insists that the Querent make adjustments, do whatever is necessary to bring things back into balance, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. In a more mundane sense, this card may signal a court case, legal documents, adjustments in a marriage or partnership. The outcome of all of these may not be exactly what the Querent wants, but it will be a scrupulously fair outcome. If the card is reversed, it can indicate bias, obstruction of the law, or legal complications.
I think Justice is a good card (as compared to Strength) to stand as the first of the next ten cards of the Major Arcana. The reason I think it right is because with it we move from the physical world (first ten cards) into the metaphysical world (next ten). When I look at Justice, I always see the two worlds balanced on her scales. "You've spent all your time in one," she seems to be saying, time to move into the other and balance things out."
One thing to remember about the Justice card is that it is not about punishment, good, bad, right or wrong. It i's about adjustment. The sword suggests that sometimes this won't be pleasant. Justice pares things down with that sword so that the scales end up equal. The message is to do what's necessary, no matter how hard, how disagreeable, in order to gain, or re-gain equilibrium. It is not a nice card, but in its way, it is a very wise card.
Basic Card Symbols
A man hanging by one foot from a Tau cross - sometimes from a bar or tree. His free leg is always bent to form a "4," his face is always peaceful, never suffering. Sometimes his hands are bound, sometimes they dangle. Sometimes coins fall out of his pockets or hands.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool settles beneath a tree, intent on finding his spiritual self. There he stays for nine days, without eating, barely moving. People pass by him, animals, clouds, the wind, the rain, the stars, sun and moon. On the ninth day, with no conscious thought of why, he climbs a branch and dangles upside down like a child, giving up for a moment, all that he is, wants, knows or cares about. Coins fall from his pockets and as he gazes down on them - seeing them not as money but only as round bits of metal - everything suddenly changes perspective. It is as if he's hanging between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. It is a dazzling moment, dreamlike yet crystal clear. Connections he never understood before are made, mysteries are revealed.
But timeless as this moment of clarity seems, he realizes that it will not last. Very soon, he must right himself, and when he does, things will be different. He will have to act on what he's learned. For now, however, he just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Neptune (or Water) as its planet, the Hanged Man is perhaps the most fascinating card in the deck. It reflects the story of Odin who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. Hanging from the world tree, wounded by a spear, given no bread or mead, he hung for nine days. On the last day, he saw on the ground runes that had fallen from the tree, understood their meaning, and, coming down, scooped them up for his own. All knowledge is to be found in these runes.
The Hanged Man, in similar fashion, is a card about suspension, not life or death. This is a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. The Querent stops resisting; instead he makes himself vulnerable, sacrifices his position or opposition, and in doing so, gains illumination. Answers that eluded him come clear, solutions to problems are found. He sees the world differently, has almost mystical insights. This card can also imply a time when everything just stands still, a time of rest and reflection before moving on. Things will continue on in a moment, but for now, they float, timeless.
Neptune is spirituality, dreams, psychic abilities, and the Hanged Man is afloat in these. He is also 12, the opposite of the World card, 21. With the World card you go infinitely out. With the Hanged Man, you go infinitely in.
This card signifies a time of insight so deep that, for a moment, nothing but that insight exists. All Tarot readers have such moments when we see, with absolute clarity, the whole picture, the entire message offered by a spread. The Hanged Man symbolizes such moments of suspension between physical and mystical worlds. Such moments don't last, and they usually require some kind of sacrifice. Sacrifice of a belief or perspective, a wish, dream, hope, money, time or even selfhood. In order to gain, you must give. Sometimes you need to sacrifice cherished positions, open yourself to other truths, other perspectives in order to find solutions, in order to bring about change. One thing is certain, whether the insight is great or small, spiritual or mundane, once you have been the Hanged Man you never see things quite the same.
Basic Card Symbols
Skeletal Death, black robes or armor, sometimes with a scythe or a flag featuring a white rose on a desolate black field. There is often a rising sun. Sometimes there are other figures in the field. The most common, reoccurring figure on Death cards is a child.
Basic Tarot Story
Having left the tree from where he hung, the Fool moves carefully through an fallow field, head still clearing from visions. The air is cold and wintery, the trees bare. Before him, he sees, rising with the sun, a skeleton in black armor mounted on a white horse. He recognizes it as Death. As it stops before him, he humbly asks, "Have I died?" He feels, in fact, rather empty and desolate. And the Skeleton answers, "Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead." The Fool reflects on that, "How sad." Death acknowledges this with a nod. "Yes, but it is the only way to be reborn. A new Sun is rising, and it is, for you, a time of great transformation." As Death rides away, the Fool can feel the truth in those words. He, too, feels like a skeleton, all that he was stripped away. This, he understands, is how all great transformations start, by stripping things to the bone, and building fresh upon the bare foundations.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Yes, the Death card can signal a death in the right circumstances (a question about a very sick or old relative, for example), but unlike its dramatic presentation in the movies, the Death card is far more likely to signal transformation, passage, change. Scorpio, the sign of this card, has three forms: scorpion, serpent, eagle. The Death card indicates this transition from lower to higher to highest. This is a card of humility, and it may indicate the Querent as being brought low, but only so that they can then go higher than they ever have before. Wang notes that Death "humbles" all, but it also "exults." Always keep in mind that on this card of darkness there is featured a sunrise as well .
The connection of sex and death in Scorpio (the sign stands for both) is a strong indication of what this card is all about. We westerners see "Death" as a frightening card because we often see Death as an end, and we hate for things to come to an end. However, in other traditions, Death is just a natural and important, if sad part of an on-going cycle. In a karmic sense, you die so that you may be reborn. Winter comes so that there can be a spring, and we can only appreciate what we have when we know that there is loss. The Death card signals such things. This is a time of change. Time for something to end; but time also for something new to begin. The Querent may honestly be told that they may feel sad or empty, low, but that this will give him a way to rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes. Death is not the end. It is only the precursor to resurrection.
Basic Card Symbols
An angel (often female or genderless), a pool or river of water. Two cups or beakers, a fluid flowing between them.
Basic Tarot Story
Continuing on his spiritual path, the Fool begins to wonder how to reconcile the opposites that he's been facing: material and spiritual (which he hung between as the Hanged man), death and birth (the one leading into the other in the Death card). It is at this point that he comes upon a winged figure standing with one foot in a brook, the other on a rock. The radiant creature pours something from one flask into another. Drawing closer, the Fool sees that what is being poured from one flask is fire, while water flows from the other. The two are being blended together!
"How can you mix fire and water?" the Fool finally whispers. Never pausing the Angel answers, "You must have the right vessels and the right proportions." The Fool watches with wonder. "Can this be done with all opposites?" he asks. "Indeed," the Angel replies, "Any oppositions, fire and water, man and woman, thesis and anti-thesis, can be made to harmonize. It is only a lack of will, a disbelief in the possibility of unity, that keeps opposites, opposite." And that is when the Fool begins to understand that he is the one who is keeping his universe in twain, holding life/death, material world and spiritual world separate. In him, the two could merge, as in the vessels that the Angel uses to pour the elements, one to the other. All it takes, the Fool realizes, is the right proportions....and the right vessel.
Basic Tarot Meaning
It is hard, at first, to see where Sagittarius, the ruling sign of this card, fits in. Sagittarius is an expansive sign and Temperance is, on a surface level, about "tempering." Butler points out that the original pouring from cup to cup might have been about cutting wine with water. So this is a card about moderation. There is, however, another angle to the card, that of merging seemingly impossible opposites. Sagittarius, the centaur, merges beast and man into a unique creature. And then there is the bow and arrow, one moving, one stationary, working together to point the way. Temperance may be, at first glance, a warning to the Querent to "temper" their behavior, to cut their wine with water. But it may also be a reminder to the Querent that seemingly irreconcilable opposites may not be irreconcilable at all. Belief that fiery red and watery blue cannot be merged may be the only thing standing in the way of blending the two. Change the belief, measure out each with care, and you can create otherworldly violet.
This is one of the hardest cards to interpret. I think, perhaps, Crowley is most helpful in understanding it, as he calls the card: "alchemy." It sometimes works best for me to imagine the Angel wearing a lab coat and very carefully pouring measured amounts of colored liquids into beakers rather than cups.
This card really does seem to be less about moderation then about the Sagittarian desire to find a unified field theory, a way of blending opposites, achieving synthesis. In a reading, this card can mean that the Querent sees two opposite camps (choices, belief systems, families, friends) and no way to unite them. But sometimes the only reason the two won't blend is that we're not taking the time, not measuring out the right amounts (the Querent might, for example, be trying to merge two full families when blending has to occur bit by bit with individuals). It is also a reminder that a bow and arrow are useless apart, but together a formidable weapon. This card tells the Querent that they CAN and should put thesis and anti-thesis together to get the even more useful synthesis. But it will take time, care, patience and experimentation. And also, yes, moderation.
Basic Card Symbols
A winged, horned devil, a black pedestal, a naked male and female figure, chains, inverted pentagram.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool comes to the foot of an enormous black mountain where reigns a creature half goat, half god. At his hooves, naked people linked to the god's throne by chains, engage in every indulgence imaginable: sex, drugs, food, gold, drink. The closer the Fool gets, the more he feels his own earthly desires rising in him. Lust, passion, obsession, greed. "I refuse to give into you!" he roars at the Goat god, resisting with all his might. The creature returns a curious look. "All I am doing is bringing out what is already in you," the beast responds. "Such feelings are nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of, or even to avoid." The Fool gestures angrily at the chained men and women, "You say that even though they enslaved?" The Goat-god mimics the Fool's gesture. "Take another look."
The Fool does so, and realizes that the chained collars the men and women wear are wide enough for them to easily slip off over their heads. "They can be free if they wish to be," the Goat-god says, "Though you are right. I am the god of your strongest desires. But you see here only those who have allowed their base, bestial desires to control them." At this the Goat-god gestures upward, toward the peak of the mountain. "You do not see those who have allowed their impulses and aspirations to take them up to the top of that mountain. Inhibitions can enslave as easily as excesses. They can keep you from following your passion to the highest heights." The Fool realizes the truth in this, and that he has mistaken the Goat-god. Here he understands now, it is not a creature of evil, but of great power, the lowest and the highest, both of beast and god. Like all power it is frightening, and dangerous...but it is also the key to freedom and transcendence if understood and well used.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. With Capricorn as its ruling sign, this is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remind the Querent that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.
This card explores some very frightening things, things we are taught to view as evil or shameful. Like earthy materialism, sexual desire, valuables, food, drugs. Lack of control, excess, obsession and raw ambition. At its absolute worst, this is either the addict or the stalker, totally obsessed, enslaved. At its best, this is a card about giving into impulse, cutting lose, going for the gold, climbing every mountain. Among all the cards, this is one of the most complex. Interestingly because no other card is so one-sided. Most cards urge balance, unity, restraint, yin-yang. Not this card. Completely tilted toward the masculine, it is a card that revels in extremity. There is a convincing argument that this is the most powerful and dangerous card in the deck. Magically speaking, it is the one card in the deck that holds the secret of how to escape the material and temporal bonds of Earth. It is a very potent and fascinating card.
Basic Card Symbols
A tower on a rocky outcropping, a powerful bolt of lightning, one or two figures falling from the tower, sometimes waves crashing below.
Basic Tarot Story
As the Fool leaves the throne of the Goat God, he comes upon a Tower, fantastic, magnificent, and familiar. In fact, The Fool, himself, helped build this Tower back when the most important thing to him was making his mark on the world and proving himself better than other men. Inside the Tower, at the top, arrogant men still live, convinced of their rightness. Seeing the Tower again, the Fool feels as if lightning has just flashed across his mind; he thought he'd left that old self behind when he started on this spiritual journey. But he realizes now that he hasn't. He's been seeing himself, like the Tower, like the men inside, as alone and singular and superior, when in fact, he is no such thing. So captured is he by the shock of this insight, that he opens his mouth and releases a SHOUT! And to his astonishment and terror, as if the shout has taken form, a bolt of actual lightning slashes down from the heavens, striking the Tower and sending its residents leaping out into the waters below.
In a moment, it is over. The Tower is rubble, only rocks remaining. Stunned and shaken to the core, the Fool experiences grief, profound fear and disbelief. But also, a strange clarity of vision, as if his inner eye has finally opened. He tore down his resistance to change and sacrifice (Hanged man), then broke free of his fear and preconceptions of death (Death); he dissolved his belief that opposites cannot be merged (Temperance) and shattered the chains of ambition and desire (The Devil). But here and now, he has done what was hardest: destroyed the lies he held about himself. What's left is the bare, absolute truth. On this he can rebuild his soul.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Mars as its ruling planet, the Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. The Tower, as Wang points out, stands for "false concepts and institutions that we take for real." When the Querent gets this card, they can expect to be shaken up, to be blinded by a shocking revelation. It sometimes takes that to see a truth that one refuses to see. Or to bring down beliefs that are so well constructed. What's most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, makes room for something new to be built.
No card scares a Tarot reader like the Tower - or the person they're reading for if that person knows anything about Tarot cards. It is however one of the clearest cards when it comes to meaning. False structures, false institutions, false beliefs are going to come tumbling down, suddenly, violently and all at once. What's important to remember as a tarot reader is that the one you're reading for likely does not know that something is false. Not yet. To the contrary, they probably believe that their lover is being faithful, that their religious beliefs are true and right, that there are no problems in their family structure, that everything is fine at work...oh, and that they're fine. Just fine, really.
Alas, they're about to get a very rude awakening. Shaken up, torn down, blown asunder. And all a reader can really do to soften the blow is assure the Querent that it is for the best. Nothing built on a lie, on falsehoods, can remain standing for long. Better to tear it all down and rebuild on the truth. It is not going to be pleasant or painless or easy, but it will be for the best.
Basic Card Symbols
Seven or eight stars, a kneeling woman, a pool of water, two urns.
Basic Tarot Story
On the bleak landscape where the Tower stood, the Fool sits, empty, despairing. He hoped to find himself on this spiritual journey, but now he feels he's lost everything, even himself. Sitting on the cold stones, he gazes up at the night sky wondering what's left. And that is when he notices, nearby, a beautiful girl with two water urns. As he watches, she kneels by a pool of water illuminated with reflected starlight. She empties the urns, one into the pool, one onto the thirsty ground.
"What are you doing," he asks her. She looks up at him, her eyes twinkling like stars. "I am refilling this pool, so that those who are thirsty may drink, and I am also watering the earth so that, come spring, the seeds will grow," she tells him. And then she adds, "Come. Drink." The Fool comes to kneel with her by the pool and drink. The water tastes wonderful, like liquid starlight. "I can see you are sad," the girl continues, "and I know why. But you must remember that you have not lost all. Knowledge, possibilities, hope, you still have all of these. Like stars, they can lead you to a new future." Even as she says this, she began to fade away, like dew, vanishing. All that remains is a gleam that was at the center of her forehead. This rises up and up, until it settles in the night sky as a shining star. "Follow your star," the woman's voice seems to sing from that light, "and have hope." The Fool takes in a breath and rises. It is a dark night, a desolate land. But for the first time, he has a guiding light to show him the way. Distant as it is, it heals his heart, and restores his faith.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Aquarius as its ruling sign, The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench the Querent's thirst, with a guiding light to the future.
The Star is one of those cards everyone loves. In every deck, it is usually the most beautiful. It suggests the peace and harmony of its meaning. There is nothing negative about this card, but I think there is a trick to it. Whatever hope, healing, future it offers, the reader must remember that it might not be immediate. This is a soft card, and like Aquarius, its vision is for tomorrow, not today. That's not to say that it offers no concrete benefits; it is a card the predicts unexpected help, but that help is only the first step. The star only reveals the future. It is up to the Querent to find his way to that future.
Basic Card Symbols
A full moon (with a crescent within), twin pillars, two dogs/wolves howling, a stream that runs to the ocean, a crayfish emerging out of the water.
Basic Tarot Story
Following the star the Fool travels through the night. The full Moon rises, illuminating for him a watery path. And he begins to feel disoriented, as if walking in his sleep. He passes under the moon, between two pillars ancient and strange. Suddenly, he looks around to find himself in another land entirely. When he was in the presence of the High Priestess, he saw hints of this dark land though the sheer veil draped behind her throne. And later, when he hung from the tree, he felt himself between the physical world and this one. Now, he has at last passed behind the veil. Here are the mysteries he sought, at least, here are the dark mysteries, ones that have to do with the most primal and ancient powers, powers of nature, not of civilization. It is a land poets, artists, musicians and madmen know well, a terrifying, alluring place, with very different rules. Wolves, howling in homage to the moon, run wild across this land, hunting along side maidens with bow and arrows; and creatures from childhood nightmares and fantasies peer from shadows, eyes glowing.
The path the Fool was walking is now a river, and he stands hip-deep in the powerful pull of its salty, moonlit waters. There is, on the nearby shore, a small boat, but it has no rutter, no oar. The Fool realizes he has only two choices. He can lose himself in this desolate, primal land of madness and illusion, howl with the wolves, be hunted down, or he can get into the boat, and trust himself to the river. The moon will be in control either way, but in the boat, his surrender to the powers of the unconscious and the natural world will at least take him somewhere. As the artists and poets and magicians know, inspiration, visions, genius, Moon magic, are the rewards of such surrender. The Fool gets into the boat, and shoves off. As the waters sweep him away, moon beams light his "path" and he feels the Mistress of this dark land gazing down at him with the High Priestess's approving eyes.
With Pisces as its ruling sign, the Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. The Querent who gets this card should be warned that they may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if they have any past mental problems, they must be vigilant in taking their medication. They should avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. They can and should trust their intuition.
This is the card of that scary, dreamy, secret otherworld where lies the most powerful and dark magics. Primal magics. It is the card that you'd get for Jackson Pollack types, switching between being wild, mean, crazy drunks and creative geniuses. They have wicked mood swings, dark, dark, dark depressions, charming manic modes. They have no inhibitions, don't even try to behave themselves in polite society, their crazy behavior sometimes inspired, sometimes horribly embarrassing, even unbelievable, even dangerous. But the art, poetry, music they produce....it's magic. When I get this card, I let the Querent know they're in for an emotional and mental rollercoaster ride. They can do two things, either wander through this crazy, lunatic landscape howling at the moon (get drunk, wallow in depression, alienate friends and family with wild, antisocial behavior), or get in a boat and go through it purposefully (paint something!).
Basic Card Symbols
The Sun, one or two naked children (a naked little boy, sometimes riding a white pony or a boy & a girl), sunflowers, often a wall, sometimes a banner.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool wakes at dawn from his long, restless night to find that the wild river has, at last, come to an end, quietly floating him into a serene pool. There is a walled garden around this pond dominated by roses, lilies and splendid, nodding sunflowers. Stepping ashore, he watches the Sun rise overhead, bright and golden. The day is clear. A child's laughter attracts his attention and he sees a little boy ride a small white pony into the garden.
"Come!" says the little boy, leaping off the horse and running up to him. "Come see!" And the child proceeds to take the Fool's hand and enthusiastically point out all manner of things, the busy insects in the grass, the seeds and petals on the sunflowers, the way the light sparkles on the pond. He asks questions of the Fool, simple but profound ones, like "Why is the sky blue?" He sings songs, and plays games with the Fool.
At one point the Fool stops, blinking up at the Sun so large and golden overhead, and he finds himself smiling, wider and brighter than he has in a very long time. Since he started on this spiritual journey, he has been tested and tried, confused and scared, dismayed and amazed. But this is the first time that he has been simply and purely happy. His mind feels illuminated, his soul light and bright as a sunbeam. Like the great Sun itself, this child with his simple questions, games and songs, has helped the Fool see the world and himself anew, to wonder at and appreciate both. "Who are you?" the Fool asks the child at last. The child smiles at this and seems to shine. And then he grows brighter and brighter until he turns into pure sunlight. "I'm You," the boy's voice says throughout the garden, "The new you." And as the words fill the Fool with warmth and energy, he comes to realize that this garden, the sun above, the child, all exist within him. He has just met his own inner light.
Basic Tarot Meaning
The Sun is ruled by...the Sun, of course. This is the light that comes after the long dark night, Apollo to the Moon's Diana. A positive card, it promises the Querent their day in the sun. Glory, gain, triumph, pleasure, truth, success. As the moon symbolized inspiration from the unconscious, from dreams, this card symbolizes discoveries made fully consciousness and wide awake. This is science and math, beautifully constructed music, carefully reasoned philosophy. It is a card of intellect, clarity of mind, and feelings of youthful energy. And, yes, the child/children in this card can be taken literally if other cards in the spread seem to suggest it. Your Querent can be informed that a wanted and most welcome babe will soon be on the way. Likely a boy, or twins.
I actually have predicted children with this card once, and once only. Most of the time, however, this card, to me, is all about the Apollian ideal. Young, healthy, new, fresh. The brain is working, things that were muddled come clear, everything falls into place, and everything seems to go your way. It's one of those days when it all goes right. Just right. The money you were waiting for arrives and a bonus has been added, the project you've been working on comes out perfectly and you get all the credit. Traffic lights turn green for you, liars come clean and apologize, the garden blooms, the sky is blue, the weather is warm and sweet. As the song goes, "Here comes the Sun...." and absolutely everything is going to be all right.
Basic Card Symbols
Angel, trumpets, graves with people rising from them, often water or an ocean.
Basic Tarot Story
As the Fool leaves the garden of the Sun, he feels that he is near the end of his journey, ready to take a final step. But something is keeping him from doing this, holding him back. He gazes up, hoping to find guidance from the Sun; instead he sees above him a fiery angel, beautiful and terrible.
"You are right," the Angelic figure confirms, "you have only one last step on your journey, one final step to completion. But you cannot take that step until you lay your past to rest." The Fool is perturbed. "Lay it to rest? I thought I'd left it behind, all of it," he says. "There is no way to do that," The Angel observes. "Each step wears down the shoe just a bit, and so shapes the next step you take, and the next and the next. Your past is always under your feet. You cannot hide from it, run from it, or rid yourself of it. But you can call it up, and come to terms with it. Are you willing to do that?"
The Angel hands the Fool a small trumpet. The Fool is hesitant, but he knows that this is a final decision. Either to go forward, or stay where he is. He blows, and the trumpet's song echoes across the sky, its vibrations seeming to crack open the Earth. From under the Fool's feet, memories rise. Images of his innocent youth, challenges, loves, failures, losses, success, disillusionment and wisdom.
For the first time, he does not try to leave them, ignore or forget them, but accepts them. They are, he sees, nothing to fear. They happened, but they are gone now. He, alone, carries them into the present. With that understanding, the memories vanish. Though they remain in his mind, they no longer have any power over him. He is free of them, reborn, and wholly in the present.
Basic Tarot Meaning
With Fire as its ruling element (or Pluto as its ruling planet), Judgement is about rebirth, ressurection. The idea of Judgement day is that the dead rise, their sins are forgiven, and they move onto heaven. The Judgement card is similar, it asks the resurrection to summon the past, forgive it, and let it go. There are wounds from the past that we never let heal, sins we've committed that we refuse to forgive, bad habits we haven't the courage to lose. Judgement advises us to finally face these, recognize that the past is past, and put them to rest, absolutely and irrevocably. This is also a card of healing, quite literally from an accident or illness, as well as a card signaling great transformation, renewal, change.
Judgement is often a hard card to read; it usually signals just a big change, that involves leaving something old completely behind and stepping into something completely new. Like closing the door on an old job, and opening the door to a new and very different career. But it'is also about making a final decision, to take that plunge into the new career, to forgive your family, to leave an abusive spouse, to make a new life. To heal and renew. A very hard card to read in part because it deals with very hard and final decisions. And it means facing something that most Querent's don't want to face. You can't hide any longer, this card says, all the dead have risen and are out in the open. Face what you have to face, make that decision. Change.
Basic Card Symbols
Woman or hermaphrodite dancing, a wreath in the shape of a Yoni (almond shaped circle), two wands, a cherub, an eagle, a lion, a bull.
Basic Tarot Story
The Fool turns to take that final step along his final path, and finds, to his bemusement that he is right back where he started, at the edge of that very same cliff he almost stepped over when he was young and too foolish to look where he was going. But now he sees his position very differently. He thought he could separate body and mind, learn all about one, then leave it to learn about the other. But in the end, it is all about self, mind and body, past and future, the individual, and the world. All one. As above, so below, and all opposites are each other, including the Fool and the Mystic who are both doorways to the secrets of the universe. With a knowing smile, the Fool takes that final step right off the cliff...and soars. Higher and higher, until the whole of the world is his to see. And there he dances, surrounded by a yoni of stars, one with the universe. Ending, in a sense, where he began, beginning again at the end. The world turns, and the Fool journey is complete.
Basic Tarot Meaning
The World card pictures a dancer in a Yoni (sometimes made of laurel leaves). The Yoni symbolizes the great Mother, the cervix through which everything is born, and also the doorway to the next life after death. It is indicative of a complete circle. The Dancer has one leg crossed over the other, just like the Hanged man. She is, in a sense, his opposite, the hanged man right-side-up. As the Hanged Man saw infinitely inward, the Dancer sees infinitely outward. Which brings us to the Lion, Bull, Cherub and Eagle standing for Leo, Taurus, Aquarius and Scorpio, the fixed signs of the Zodiac (these link the ever turning World card to the ever turning Wheel of Fortune), and so symbolic of the four elements, four compass points and the four corners of the universe. All within the Dancer's sight and power.
Thus, the World card, very aptly, represents a successful conclusion, all aspects accounted for and taken in. Simply put, this card tells the Querent that the end to a long-term project is in sight, and that it will be accompanied by well-earned praise, celebration and success. With Saturn as its ruling planet, this card can also indicate that the Querent, now an expert in their subject, is likely to become a teacher or sought-after lecturer. And, finally, on a more mundane level, the World card indicates travel, not short business trips, but long, fantastic trips. Maybe a lecture tour, book signing, or just a trip around the world. This is a wonderful card of wholeness, perfection, satisfaction and happiness.
There are three possible things I usually see in this card when it comes up, sometimes combined, sometimes not:
(1) Everything finally coming together, successfully and at last. The Querent will get that Ph.D. they've been working for years to complete, they'll graduate at long last, marry after a long engagement, finish that huge project. This card is not for little ends, but for big ones, important ones, ones that come with well earned cheers and acknowledgements. The Querent's hard work, knowledge, wisdom, patience, etc, will absolutely pay-off; they've done everything right.
(2) Maybe because of their success, the Querent is about to become a teacher, a Sensei, if you will. Revered for their expertise.
(3) And maybe, because of this, they're going to be offered a job or trip to some amazing place. They're asked to lecture in a remote city in India, spend a month at the North Pole, teach on board a boat sailing round the globe. No boring little trip for this person, no sir! Luckily for them, the World card indicates that they'll feel comfortable and welcome no matter where they go. The World card indicates a person who owns nothing, because everything is theirs. No place is their home because every place is their home. It's all one, all complete.
The Minors are separated into four suits. These suits represent certain things:
FIRE (though some decks have it as Air). If FIRE then:
Represents passion. As such, in a reading it usually stands for a querent's ambition, career, creative endeavors, religion and/or philosophy. Anything a person might put their energy and soul into, such as teaching and leadership. This is something you have to do, whether you are recompensed for it or not. It is something that burns inside of you and you need to act on it.
Represents the emotions. Best known for representing the Querent's love life, but it also stands for emotional extremes, such as elation, depression or bliss, and the negatives that come with such emotions, like over-indulgence in food, drink, drugs. Likewise the positives like poetry or music. Also, psychic powers, visions, illusions. These are feelings that you surrender to, that you flow or sink into.
AIR. AIR though some decks have it as Fire. If AIR then:
Represents pure mind, thinking, speaking. Best known for representing problems and troubles especially those relating to communications or bad press, but really about anything to do with either words and/or thoughts. Brilliant thoughts as well as nightmares; sharp ideas or a sharp tongue. This is the card of scientists and analysts of thinking things though or thinking/saying too much. Ideas breeze into your mind, words are given breath, written letters and messages fly on the wind.
Represents the body and the physical. Best known for representing health and money, but is also anything to do with work, a job, a task, a craft. Also luck. That which is solid, real.
Aces are the root force. They are the spark. Relate them to the Magician, who presents the tools to the Fool. They have no purpose yet, but are filled with raw potential. They are the active energy of the suit ready to be used. They can also indicate direction or season, though which stands for which is often debated. Here are the "usual" directions and seasons. If, however, they don't feel right to you, the reader, use whatever works best.
A new spark of energy for a new passion. This usually indicates that the querent has just discovered a new religion, philosophy, cause or career choice. They feel their energy go up, they feel the heat, and they want more of it. They take up the wand and start to walk.
Emotions rising up for new love. This usually indicates that the querent is feeling a new welling of emotion or beginning to have some vivid dreams. They're not writing the poetry yet, but they feel the desire to, or they may have caught sight of a figure across a room and felt a tug at their heart. They've lifted the cup and they want to drink from it.
The mind awakening for new challenges. This usually indicates that the person's mind is feeling sharper, clearer. They want to talk, want to discuss or write. The breeze stirs through the trees and the flegling thinks of trying out its newly feathered wings. The sword is lifted, and the querent wants to test its edge.
New luck, health or money for a new "job". There is no desire to burn, or flow or fly; here is a physical need to be grounded, to do solid work, make, create and touch. Like a seed in the ground, there is a desire to sprout roots and just become. The pentacle is taken in hand, and, for now, the querent wants only to have it solidly in his pocket.
These are the aces, the raw or initial passion, feelings, thoughts and needs that can be directed into something more. They represent hope, a possiblity, an action to take. The Querent can use them, or leave them behind. Choose wisely what you take up from the Magician's table for each has its pitfalls as well as pinnacles.
The twos are related to the High Priestess. As such they indicate duality but, more importantly, they indicate instinctual knowledge. Aces are undirected energy; the twos are, in a sense, the knowledge of what the direction for that energy should take. Thus:
Two of Wands
Usually a person choosing one wand over another. Wands are passion, and passion is not something that works when split. It requires a single focus. This card indicates a choice to be made, but the instincts are right, and the choice made, where to put your energy and passion, will be a right one.
Two of Cups
This card of two people looking into each other's eyes is one of the easiest to read - it is recognition of love, of a friend or soul mate. It predicts that you will find someone who 'knows' you, and you, in turn, will 'know' them. It is a very Romeo & Juliet card. So, there is the direction for that swelling of emotion within you, toward this other person.
Two of Swords
This is the infamous blindfolded lady with the crossed swords. Crossed swords suggest a clash of ideas or words. The blindfolded lady, indicating impartiality, cannot uncross the swords, but she keeps them still. This is the knowledge of how to compromise, keep these two sides in balance and at peace. Note that this is a temporary compromise. The Querent may be in the middle, or just forced to accept it. Either way, they must be told that it won't last. The direction of your new brain power here is how to keep these two ideas from fighting, to hold off trouble and make peace.
Two of Pentacles
Standing before the waves of an ocean, a fellow deftly juggles two pentacles. Is the meaning quite clear now? Yes, the instinctive knowledge of how to juggle finances, a check book, or jobs. As with the swords, you can't keep at it forever, but it is a good use to put your money or hard work to until your ship comes in. Which is what the background waves are all about - keep juggling, relief is on its way.
So at first we had one, indivisible; then it splits into two, mirror images, opposites: two opposing passions, twin emotions, two ideas, two jobs or finances. The next move, of course,or the two to create a third. Male and female create a child; two corners get a third to form a triangle.
Ruling over the threes is the Empress, of course, whose card is all about creation. The child in the womb, the seed in the ground. So, with the twos, a choice has been made about what use to put this passion, emotion, brainpower, craft. Now we get the first results of that decision, the initial offspring.
Three of Wands
A man with two wands, holding a third, looks out to sea, waiting. Sometimes there are boats on the horizon. This is the card of "waiting for the ships to come in". The person has invested their passion in something - a new career, a big move to a new city (remember wands signify travel as well), maybe they've even thrown their hat into a political ring - and now something is coming back. It is a card of progress, of the first hint that the dream can be made real. The tests are coming back, and it looks to be positive. This card also indicates that, like a newly pregnant mother, or a politician hearing that the first round of votes are for him/her, the Querent might rightly be feeling a little proud, even powerful.
Three of Cups
Three maidens with three overflowing cups celebrate. The creation here, springing from the relationship in the two of cups, is happiness, togetherness. Two cups pour into a third and it overflows with love and joy, enough for all. This is a card of parties, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, birthdays. Any time that families get together and reunite in celebration of something new.
Three of Swords
Ah, the dreaded three of swords. Three swords pierce a heart. Against the background of a storm, it bleeds.
You were warned that the peace established in the two of swords couldn't last. What sharp words or cutting ideas have created here, not surprisingly, is pain and heartbreak. This card often relates to love-triangles; but remember this is an air sign, so what the Querent believes to be true was likely due to something they heard wrong or were falsely told, a wrong idea they got into their heads. It does not lessen the fact that hurtful words are going to be exchanged.
There is, however, an up side to this card, however bleak. Prior to now, the words and thoughts - possibly poisonous words and thoughts - have been bottled up. They now come out into the open, the cutting truth. I don't like you, or, I didn't say that, or, I'm sorry, but it's your best friend I love (ouch!). So, well, now the Querent knows; no more waiting, obsessing, wondering, worrying. Either blood or poison can drip out, and the Querent can get on with their life. They now know how things stand and can act on that, instead of on false beliefs, gossip and misconceptions.
Three of Pentacles
A craftsman shows off his work of three pentacles in an arch to a pair of potential patrons. This is the craftsman's card and it indicates creating something that brings in patronage. The Querent has created, well, more work for himself. So promising is what the Querent has done with so little, that money, admiration, and more work is coming their way, enough to get them out of the juggling they were doing in the two of pentacles. Health wise, this card can also indicate positive results from a new exercise program or therapy.
Fours are ruled by the Emperor. Like both the Emperor and his throne they signify a kind of stability, a holding pattern if you will. For a moment, everything is still, solid, rooted, established. This can be positive, a solid foundation, or negative, something that refuses to budge or change.
Four of Wands
The ships have come in, and the Querent can sit back and enjoy them. This card, with its four wands holding up garlands, implies the foundation of a house, literally and figuratively. Whatever the Querent has been building, they have established it, strong and solid. They can take a moment to admire what they've done, enjoy the first rewards it has brought them, and bask in their initial success. Sometimes this card suggests marriage; once again, laying the foundation for the future.
Four of Cups
Contrarily, the stillness in the four cups represents stagnation, a status quo in a relationship that brings dissatisfaction and boredom. A man sitting under a tree with three cups is offered a fourth by a hand from a cloud. This is the "grass is greener" card. The relationship, once so fresh and exciting, is no longer moving or changing or growing, and the Querent, depressed and restless, begins to wonder if the grass might not be greener elsewhere.
This card is also about over-indulgence in drink, food, drugs, sex, even internet chat rooms, looking for stimulation. It is all too easy to turn to such things when depressed or bored. In general, this card is a warning. The Querent might be in a stagnant relationship, but day-dreaming of others or over indulging is not the way to solve the problem. Stop looking for ways to escape it, and look, instead, for ways to change it.
Four of Swords
A young man rests on a pallet, three swords above, one under him. Though this card (in the Rider-Waite deck) makes the young man look dead, it is really only about taking a break. This is the "meditation" card. The card advises the Querent that they need to get away, rest, recuperate. Especially after the Three of Swords!
The card indicates that the Querent has been facing mental or emotional stress, arguments, misunderstandings or verbal abuse, or that they're ill or injured. A healing retreat is needed, time to clear the head, heart and soul, or just fix a damaged body. In this case, the stillness of the "4" is healing and positive. A quiet, unchanging scene is needed.
Four of Pentacles
A man holds tight to his four pentacles in this card. And in this case, the refusal to budge may be damaging. This is the miser card. Remember how the Querent got more work, money, luck, health in the last card, the Three of Pentacles? Well, he's holding on tight to what he's got, not sharing it with anyone, not investing it in the future, just holding onto it, trying to keep it still and unchanging. When this card appears it tells the Querent that they're in a position of status, health, money, even comfort. Solid, and unchanging. But the Querent is too afraid of losing all this.
The card reminds them to throw their bread upon the waters. Share the wealth, be generous with good luck and good fortune. A miser lives always in fear, never able to take delight in what they have, or create from it those things worth having like friends, family, a good name. Relax a little, be less worried about loss of what you have - it's not going anywhere. Focus, instead, on how to make the best of what you've got while you're around to enjoy it.
When trying to read the Fives, think of the Hierophant. The Hierophant represents a teacher, counselor, or priest, someone who advises people when they're in trouble. Likewise, the Fives are unique cards in that each one seems to pose both a problem and an answer. After four fairly smooth cards of growth and development, the fives represent the fly in the ointment. Instability; the changes that make one humble and allow for growth.
Of the question asked of the Hierophant by a troubled supplicant, the problem is real world. The answer, however, appropriate to the Hierophant, is usually spiritual or at least pragmatic. Understand that all Fives temper the Querent - you go through the fire, the low points, the hard times, in order to come out stronger.
Five of Wands
Five similar young men with five wands battle among themselves. When energy is put into a project, it can usually develop and grow easily in the early stages. Like a small company just started, or someone who runs for mayor of a small town. But when that company gets big enough, or the little mayor wants to be a state representative or senator... now things are not so easy. There is competition, others with just as much clout, similar ideas, equal energy and focus and drive and ambition.
This is a card predicting conflict and power struggles, smooth sailing meeting choppy waters. Inner doubts and fears will arise, leading to confusion and panic. And the question it asks is "How can I stand out?" The answer is, ultimately, that one learns to stand out by entering the fray and sizing up the competition. Only by doing this can the Querent learn how to change, what to cut away or keep, in order to be unique and succeed. If you fear competition and run from it, you will never succeed at anything.
Five of Cups
A very well known card; a young man looks down in despair at three spilled cups of wine, never seeing the two still standing. This is the card of spilled milk, one of the easiest to read. The Querent is obsessing over what is lost, rather than being glad for what they still have. The Querent might be feeling disappointed in someone for not living up to their expectations, making them blind to the person's good qualities. Or the Querent themselves did something they now regret, and they just can't get past it.
The problem, "How do I get past this?" The answer, "Your own blindness is what keeps you from getting past it. Open your eyes, look around, stop staring at what is wrong and bad and see what is right and good!" A simple but important answer!
Five of Swords
A smirking young man gathers up swords won in battle from two losers. In arguments and battles of ideas there are going to be times when one just loses or has to surrender. The worst of these is when the winner is an awful person, a bully, braggart, a cheat, someone who used an unfair advantage to win. But it happens. The problem: "How can I win in an argument with this person?" The answer/prediction: "You can't. All you can do is not argue." This is the closest to a win one can come to in this situation. But if the Querent feels they must argue, then they need to be prepared to learn from it, not allow feelings of failure, anger or blame to overcome them.
Five of Pentacles
Another famous card. Two poor folk sit outside a church with five pentacles on its stained glass window. This is a card that predicts loss, financial loss, bad luck, a set-back in health. It is a difficult time, as all fives are. "How can I deal with this loss?" asks the Querent. And the answer is, "By realizing that it is no real loss at all." The Querent must understand that while they may have lost material things, the spiritual is still with them. Where there is life, there is hope. They should also be advised that this too will pass. Though it may seem like there is no end in sight, there is. We all go through lean and lonely times. Things will get better.
Sixes are balance and harmony, especially after the upsets of the fives. These cards predict a solution, and not just any solution; there will be an exchange, a give and take that results in a new equilibrium. It may not last, but for that moment, everything is stable. With this card, there is an almost "Ah-HA!" of recognition, of understanding in the solution, and more than a little awe at the symmetry achieved by it.
If you connect the sixes to the Lovers card you'll see how it works. The "love" aspect of the Lovers card is that of recognition and equilibrium. Like Gemini, you recognize your twin, your soul mate. Maybe you didn't even know how uneven, how lopsided your life was, but now that you've met this person, you can feel the scales coming into balance. Here is harmony. Here is the solution.
Six of Wands
The Victory Card: A victorious man on a horse, applauded by all, enters carrying a wand with a laurel wreath. Here is the conclusion to what happened with the Five of Wands. Competition was fierce, an answer had to be found to make the Querent stand out, make them different, special. Ah-HA! says the 6 of Wands. The Querent has found (or will find) that solution. Success, in fact, requires that they be above all others, that they make themselves a champion of the people. Note the give-and-take common to all 6's. The crowd offers the victor applause. He, in turn, offers them a champion to adore. For this moment, both are happy, the victor with the adulation, the crowd with their hero.
Six of Cups
Two children among six flowering cups. There is a great deal of rich and complex symbolism in this card, but in a nutshell, it is a frozen moment of perfect balance, the boy and the girl both touching that one cup with the flower in it. I like to think of this as taking place in early spring, still cold enough for the girl to wear mittens, but warm enough for the first flowers to have blossomed. The girl, possibly accepting the flower, looks up and sees the boy, and he, perhaps giving the flower, sees her as well. Perhaps, on that cup, their hands touch for the first time. It is a charming moment of recognition, of puppy love. The meaning of this card refers to a moment of nostalgia, of something or someone from our past coming back into our life. Given an old photo, or an invitation to a school reunion, we get, in return, a memory of harmony. Perhaps we meet with a friend, relative or teacher we haven't seen in years and the exchange of memories restores to us past love, past balance. We rediscover lost equilibrium and a solution that we could never have found in the present.
Six of Swords
A boat of swords being ferried across a river with a woman as passenger. The classic Rider-Waite meaning is that one is leaving difficulties behind. A trip or change of scene may be the answer to restoring balance here. But there is more to it than this. In relation to the mind, ideas and words of the sword suit, this is also about finding a solution to math problems and brain twisters, not just troubles. The ferryman may signal help here, a silent partner (a reference book or internet website perhaps?) who helps you row your way toward the other shore...and THERE is the answer, a way to make your idea, your argument, your formula work smoothly, perfectly, beautifully. Also, of course, a card about trips by boat.
Six of Pentacles
A wealthy man holding scales hands out money to the poor. This card really reflects the idea of all the 6's--how give and take creates balance and harmony. The man wants to balance the scales, but has one coin too many. By giving it away, he gets his balanced scales, and the beggar benefits. Thus, the prediction of this card is that money, work or health woes can be solved by way of a gift, benefit, free promotional items or scholarship. They need to give it away, you can really use it, so take it. Balance achieved, problem solved on both sides. Alternately, this card can also indicate the opposite as well, the Querent, if well off, might be reminded that generosity is a good way to solve other problems. Need a tax break? Give to charity. Two problems solved, harmony restored.
As the fives indicated a particular problem, so do the sevens. The fives were about loss, losing momentum, losing love, losing an argument, losing money. The question there was, "How do I deal with this loss?" The sevens are about finding yourself in a situation where you are not in control. Sevens relate to the Chariot, a card about finding and maintaining complete control and mastery over wild or opposing forces.
If the charioteer lets his horses run where they will, as they will, the chariot will crash. He not only has to have them completely in hand, but to win in a race or war, he must also control direction and speed. So, too, in life. You need to know not only how to take control but also how to direct the forces once you have them in hand. Sevens, like fives, are about overcoming fears and finding a way to succeed in a tough situation. They answer the question, "How do I take control?"
Seven of Wands
A man defends himself with one wand against 6 others. This is the "under siege" card. The stakes are high, and suddenly, the Querent is under attack, often when they're tired or vulnerable. This is when others look at what you've done and get jealous or greedy. The Querent is being criticized, maybe someone is trying to take over his project. He's on the defensive. How can he take back control? The card urges the Querent to stand his ground. Don't give up, don't surrender. If you do, your enemies will take control and show you no mercy. Fear not, success is near to hand.
Seven of Cups
A man sees 7 cups floating on a cloud, each with something enticing rising out of it. This is the "can't make up my mind" card. Think of a teenage girl who gets three from 3 popular, seemingly wonderful boys all asking her to the same dance. She can't say yes to any of them, she can't say no. All she can do is imagining how good each one would be and wish she didn't have to decide. This is the 7 of cups. Suddenly, you, the chooser, are not in control. You are in the power of the choices. And there is one other problem: not all of the choices may be as good as they look. This is a card of illusions, deceptions. Making a hasty decision, therefore, could be as bad as being unable to make any decision. How to take control here? Hold out, invest agate. Don't let the cups be in control. How ever much pressure there seems to be, don't let them force you to make a rash decision. Make an informed *and* measured decision instead.
Seven of Swords
A thief sneaks off with 5 out of 7 swords. This is the "Thief" card. It implies that someone is stealing something from you, your honor, your ideas, your time. They may be spreading gossip about you. How to take control of this situation? You have to be equally sneaky. Sometimes, to win a race or battle, the Charioteer must direct his horses around instead of straight on. You may feel like you want to go charging in, be confrontational, but this is not going to work. That is the out-of-control solution which will allow the thief to play the innocent. To catch a thief, you must be a thief.
Seven of Pentacles
A farmer watches pentacles grow on a tree. Sometimes, there is no way to take control of a situation. The farmer waits for the fruit on his tree to ripen so he may harvest and sell it; he has very little control over when this will happen. All he can do is be patient. So, too, with waiting for a job offer or raise, waiting for work to pay off, or a new diet, waiting for lottery numbers to be read. Sometimes you have to realize that you've done all you can do. It is out of your hands now. All you can do is wait.
Ultimately, the sevens share that message, the farmer's message: hold out, be patient, don't rush, go around. Be in control of yourself and you can be in control of this situation.
Going with the Rider-Waite deck, we'll relate the Eights to Strength. Eights are about moving, taking action, as Strength is a card of courage and transformation. It's very easy to let things stay as they are inside yourself or without (though, as the Eights warn, it's easy but damaging). It is much harder to gather up the willpower and mental strength to make a real change. A scary change. Like the Strength card, it is scary to approach that lion, but you can alter the relationship you have with it.
Eight of Wands
Eight wands cut across the sky. The power and energy of eight combined with the energy of wands makes this a card of movement and expansion. There is no fear in the Querent at all! This is the card of a person who, on seeing that lion, says, "Allow me!", rolls up their sleeves, shoves everyone out of the way, strides up and raps the beast on the nose. "Don't you try to push me around!" they snap.
A lot of things are going to be happening fast, and the Querent is going to revel in and handle all of them. This will likely include trips - and the Querent will want to drive or fly him/herself, likely. Fast. No need to slow down or be impatient, with this card, you can really move, change, do.
Eight of Cups
A man leaves behind eight cups to follow the moon. The movement, or progress in this card is the shedding of old relationships, old loves, familiar things. The Querent is either disappointed with these familiar things - they are not what was expected, or hoped for, or the Querent has a crazy new dream calling to them. Their instincts are to follow the dream. But good idea or not (an inverted card might suggest that it's a bad idea, an illusion), they'll need courage to do this, to leave all everything known, comfortable and familiar, and go for the unknown. This can be a card of separation or divorce. And yes, like all Eights this can imply a literal move or trip, especially from an established home to a new, unknown one in an unknown land.
Eight of Swords
A woman is tied and blindfolded within a cage of swords. This is the "damned if you do, damned if you don't," card. The Querent is in a situation where they're afraid to move. If they move, they'll get cut. However, the ropes that bind them, the blindfold over their eyes, are their own fears, keeping them still, immobile. And so the longer they stay, the more they constrain and entrap themselves. Ever been in a situation where you're afraid to say anything, so afraid that you second guess yourself, end up saying nothing, tying yourself in knots? But speaking up is going to get you cut to ribbons? That's this card. The Querent must have the strength to endure the cuts, else they'll stay trapped. They must move, for the longer they let the situation continue, the worse it will get.
Eight of Pentacles
An apprentice works on eight pentacles. This is the apprentice card. It is a card of starting over, doing something new or perhaps just expanding. Apprenticeship can be scary or demoralizing, like in all those cliched movies where the Kung Fu youngster has to carry water and sweep floors before he can do the real stuff. Similarly, this card predicts, if not a tough time, a time of learning and mistakes, doubts and just hard work. The Querent needs to be told to keep up their courage, to either make this move into a new job or to stick with it if they've already made the move. Being an apprentice (or an apprentice again) will teach (or re-teach) them how to persevere.
The message of all Eights is that movement, a change of place, home, job or situation can lead to an internal transformation. All that is needed is the strength to go through with it.
Nine is a card of completion (so is Ten, but we'll get to that). Like the Hermit, who connects to the nines, it is a card where something is finished and the person in turn steps back to look on what he's done, earned, or gained. Nines are among the most powerful cards, usually granting the Querent what it is they, like the Hermit, are seeking.
Nine of Wands
A wounded man holding a wand stands guard over the other eight wands. Think of this card as the "staircase" card; you climb flight after flight of stairs to get to the top; but finally stop, panting, and wonder "Will I ever get to the top?"
What the Querent seeks most, leadership, a successful career, is right there. They've only to shine the Hermit's light upward to see it. They might feel tired, wary and on guard; but remind them that they have reserves of energy and strength for that final push. Completion of all they've worked for is right there, all they need do is go for it!
Nine of Cups
A innkeeper sits before nine cups set out for guests. This is perhaps THE best card in the minors. It is sometimes called the "wish" card. What you have an appetite for you will be given, your wish will come true. On the more emotional level, relationships are loving and complete. Creativity at a high, friendships and emotions are good. It is like walking into an inn and finding that the innkeeper has already filled his chalices with the best wine for you and your friends. The joy and camaraderie the Querent seeks he will surely find.
Nine of Swords
A man wakes from a nightmare, nine swords on the wall. It can be a good thing to find what you seek, except when it comes to ideas, words or problems. Find too many of them and they will overwhelm you. We all know this card, it is the one where we wake up at night and go over our troubles, problems, worries, thoughts, what we said, what others said. The Querent must be told that while their problems may be real, they're blowing them out of proportion, making them worse, nightmarish. They are spending too many sleepless nights alone and awake with these words, ideas, problems. What they are really seeking is to wake from this bad dream - which they can do by realizing that it is a bad dream - most of it is in their head.
Nine of Pentacles
A woman in her private garden watches over nine "blossoming" pentacles. Like the Hermit, the woman here has retreated from the world, but unlike him it is into a private world of pleasure. This card signifies a lucky windfall or payment for work well done, enough to buy what you most want. It can also indicate a retreat to a spa or one of those beautiful bed & breakfast inns where you're pampered and waited on hand and foot. Everything is lovely, luxurious. The physical things the Querent has been seeking, things they wanted but were unable to buy, they will finally be able to have.
As the aces were the pure, elemental spark of the suit, the tens are the element of the suit complete. Not as in the nines, which are physical completion, but in a transcendent fashion. It is the ultimate good or bad of that element.
Ten of Wands
A man carries ten heavy wands on his back. This is a card that says that the Querent has used up all the energy they started with at the ace. They don't feel that creative, driving force any more. The image on this card implies that the Querent has complete control of all the many things he wanted control over. He is the leader, the boss. But this means that all the burdens are his as well. He's trying to do everything, and it leaves him drained. Advise your Querent to delegate, to put down some burdens and find his energy again.
Ten of Cups
This is a permanence of joy, love, friendship. The kind of family we all work to create, a family we can trust, rely on, one that's there for us in the best and worst times. This is the family you look forward to seeing during holidays and on special occassions. The ones that come running out to greet you when you arrive at their house, smiles of joy on their faces. The Querent can be told that this family - or family of friends - can or is theirs.
Ten of Swords
A man dead with ten swords in his back. It is a nasty looking card. Sometimes everything just... goes... wrong. And this is a card that lets the Querent know that, yes, things are as bad as he fears. The troublesome swords can't get much worse than this, with bad things said about the Querent, ruin of their lives. But as the fellow in the card indicates, the swords have done their worse. You can't be more dead. It is over.
Ten of Pentacles
This is the pinnacle of prosperity, material goods that last instead of being temporary; this is a family home bought and paid for, a business you can pass onto your children. The Querent might find themselves the lucky recipients of a trust fund or lottery money big enough to last a lifetime. It may not be a huge lump sum, but it is something that can be relied on for a good, long while, or something to be passed on to the children, a family inheritance, or just a special, valuable item to pass on.
The most troublesome cards in the deck are the court cards. They are very hard to read in the context of a spread. For example, if you get the Queen of Cups in the "Health" position in a spread, what does that mean? (How would I read this? Alternative medicine, likely dispensed by a new, female healer that there Querent is going to or should go to). I'll be going through each court card in its own thread.
I hope we can all get talking about these cards and find a way to solidify them in our minds! So, first, what are court cards? There are four, and even these are confusing. Rider-Waite style, they are Pages, Knights, Queens, Kings. Crowley style, they are Princesses, Princes, Queens, Knights.
Does this make a difference? Some say yes, very much so. They argue that in Crowley, there are an equal number of male/females, and that the seated Queen indicates the "Goddess power" where as the active Knight indicates the "God" power. Unlike the more hierarchical situation in the Rider-Waite deck where you have a seated King ruling at the top, unequal with the seated queen and unmoving compared to the knight he commands.
In either case, certain things we need to assume.
1) Court cards almost always indicate people. Someone in the Querent's life (past or present), about to come into the Querent's life or the Querent themselves.
2) Yes, Court cards can be symbolic. For example, Pages can indicate a "message," Knights a "movement" or a "trip." It depends on the reading and reader. But in most cases, the cards are likely to be people, not symbols.
3) Zodiac symbols (designations) are a good way to tell what kind of person each court card is. For example, that the Queen of Wands is a Leo. But which card is which Zodiac symbol can differ from deck to deck. So examine images carefully to see which card is which Zodiac sign in your particular deck. The pentacle court card which has a field of wheat in it (for example) is undoubtedly Virgo, whether it is King, Queen or Knight.
The first court card are the Pages/Princesses. It is always best to imagine them as young, and with a letter or scroll in hand or on their person. The element of the pages is "Earth" indicating something young, growing, a seed planted. So the Page of Wands would be "Earth of Fire" - the seed of fire, so to speak. The spark. Pages most often stand for children, though they can also be said to the "Fool's" alter ego. So, an adult who is child-like enough might also be a page. The Querent, if starting something very new and fresh might also be said to be "The Page" - in this case, a kind of apprentice. Deck-wise, if a Page, they can be male or female. If a Princess, likely a female young person; the prince will be the male young person.
When no children seem to be involved (the person you're reading for is childless, has no friends with kids, etc.), then the Pages can indicate that the Querent is about to receive a message. The purpose of a page, after all, is to deliver messages. In this case:
Page of Wands
A message, possibly from far away, about a trip, career move, leadership position or something spiritual/philosophical.
Page of Cups
A message of love, romance, heart-break or family.
Page of Swords
A message relating to a problem either solved or ending badly, or a message that gives one an idea or solution. Sometimes about illness. Sometimes rumor or gossip - in which case, check it out carefully, it might be false.
Page of Pentacles
A message about money, luck or a good, unexpected turn in health.
. . .
As for what kind of kids these pages are:
Page of Wands
Is a kid that never stays still, runs all over the place, always wants to go outside and play, is always getting into strange places, climbing trees, wanting to go on trips. He's never home for dinner on time. Personality wise, however, he is usually a delightful child, happy, fun-loving, charismatic. He loves being the center of attention and the leader, however, and you might have to watch that he doesn't bully other kids.
Page of Cups
This is the daydream kid; head in the clouds, rarely paying attention. They've got a great imagination and love telling or being told stories, but they're also overly sensitive; very kind and sweet, they'll bring you a flower, try to rescue sick birds or abandoned kittens, take very seriously the death of a goldfish. When sad, they're the saddest kid you ever saw. When happy, they're positively blissful.
Page of Swords
You can't shut up this kid. "Why? Why? Why?" he/she's always asking. And even more alarming, anything they hear, they'll repeat, just blurt it out in front of people. They'll go up to Aunt Hazel and say, "Are you carrying a baby? Mommy says it looks like you are...." On the positive side, this kid could be quite a brain, good a puzzles, quick to learn. And they already know how to use the computer better than you do. Likeable, but also the most aggravating of kids because whatever you tell them to do, they'll argue about it. You have to watch that they don't become "know-it-alls" or tattletales.
Page of Pentacles
This is the kid who likes to make things. He/she is always playing in the mud with their truck, making sand castles, bringing home caterpillars and lizards and frogs. They like to hammer together bird houses, help build a tree house. And they'll take it upon themselves to do extra chores for extra money. They'll deliver papers, water lawns, walk pets. They're very frugal with that money, keeping it in the piggy bank and counting it out often to see how much they've got. Personality wise, they may seem a bit too serious and sober for their age, a little too practical though often generous and good hearted.
Knights or princes are the spirit of the teenager, all about changes. Knights are never still; as the pages/princesses suggest messages, the knights/princes suggest movement, travel.
Elementally, they are Air moving and flowing like that element. As a person, they're likely to stand for a young adult or someone who acts very like a teen. Their beliefs are purer than of adult, less cynical and more fierce. In this they are most knight like: powerfully, almost unquestioning loyal to a kingdom or cause.
Knight of Wands
An exciting trip, and likely a long one to an exotic place. Likely a trip by motorcycle, car, bus or train.
Knight of Cups
Travel to lake, river or sea, maybe a day on a boat.
Knight of Swords
Travel by air.
Knight of Pentacles
Travel on foot, hiking, walking, cycling.
. . .
The types of teenager-like people they can be:
Knight of Wands
I like to think of this teen as the "tilting at windmills" Knight. Charismatic, the kind of youth who never slows down, who always goes for grand gestures. This is the party "teen", and we're talking big, wild parties; the kind of youth who loves his car and seems to live in it, driving everywhere, picking up his friends as he goes. He's popular, the center of attention, the leader who comes up with crazy ideas. He'll be voted class president or Prom King, and is likely an aggressive player on the football team. On the negative side, this teen can be headstrong, bossy or a bully. A little narcissistic, he's not always sensitive to others feelings. Don't expect him to be reliable or on time. Fiercely loyal to his friends, and his religion whether that is sports, a philosophy or church.
Knight of Cups
A knight in the truest sense, this is the knight of love, the Romeo. The teen we all know and love; dreamy, sensitive, moody, "deep." he plays music, spends long hours alone in his room with the shades drawn, he writes dark, meaningful poetry. He will fall in love, passionately, profoundly and he and his love will be inseparable. On the negative side, he should be watched for depression which can be very real. Though moody, he's fiercely loyal to anyone he loves, including family.
Knight of Swords
Too smart for his own good, this young man is also too talkative. He's engages in flame wars on a dozen internet chat sites, he questions his teachers, he likes to play devil's advocate and argues with his friends and family just for the sake of arguing. This sharp mind and sharp tongue can, in the negative, lead him to spread gossip or nasty rumors just to see what will happen. If there's anything this knight will fight and die for, it is for freedom of information and speech.
Knight of Pentacles
This teen appreciates the very best things money can buy - not only because he likes such things, but because he doesn't like to stand out. He's got projects going, jobs on the side, he fears not having what others have, not fitting in. In comparison to the Knight of Wands, however, this teen likes being at home. He needs to have his own room or secret place, and woe to anyone who goes into that room or changes it in any way. This teen has his own organization system for everything. On the negative side, this teen can be far too solitary, too concerned with perfection, what he does or does not have, or earning a place of respect. Fear of failure or competition or standing out may keep him from leaving his room. He values and protects beautiful things and is a loyal employee if treated right.
he element of Queens is water and, not surprisingly, they are a reflection of the Empress. In this they signify the creative force. One way to think of the court cards is this: The Kings are the motivating force (Fire = the sun waking up the sleeping Earth). The queens are the ones who make it real (water = rain bringing forth life from the earth). The Knights spread the idea of the Kingdom (wind = spreading the seeds). And the Pages, of course, are the fertile soil in which all of this can grow.
When Queens appear they signal a time of growth and development, a time when the Querent is making things real. For example:
Queen of Wands
Developing a trip or making real a career, especially one in acting or leadership.
Queen of Cups
Developing a romance, psychic powers, or the growth of a family.
Queen of Swords
Developing a speech, making real a story, working on a debate, or just spreading news.
Queen of Pentacles
Making real a business, altering a work situation, or developing an exercise or health plan.
. . .
As always, Court Cards are more likely to be actual people. The queens are adult women, often women in charge:
Queen of Wands
They light up a room when they enter, radiate warmth and energy, humor and spirit. Very often they're in entertainment, actresses or singers. They can also be leaders and activists. Men and often other women hover round them like moths to a flame, and can certainly be burned by their hot, passionate, restless natures. Not that these women can't be gentle; they love children and are almost over-active participants in the lives of their kids, making costumes for plays, coaching teams, etc. These are very creative women, with boundless energy to make, do, travel, entertain. The problem, of course, is that these Queens have trouble stepping out of the spotlight. They can overwhelm or intimidate, be bossy and overbearing. At their best, however, they are an inspiration to their family and friends, and often to admiring strangers as well.
Queen of Cups
Often a healer, counselor or psychic, this is a woman who seems to know what's wrong even before you open your mouth. Call her the emotional fix-it woman, but she seems to have exactly the right solution to problems relating to home, friends, love. Sometimes she is shy, self-effacing, you might not even notice her; other times she can be a little scary, dreamy, mysterious, a creative storyteller. Affectionate and loving, she is a "mom's mom" always there to hug, heal and bake cookies for her children. Her intuition is uncanny, her temper...well, it runs very deep and you don't ever want it turned against you. Talk about scary. Unfortunately, this is also a queen who can suffer from female hormonal problems, depression, moodiness, alcoholism, drug addiction, psychological problems.
Queen of Swords
She's a walking encyclopedia. Any information you want, this woman has it, and as such she can mingle with almost anyone. She can talk science with the scientists, history with the historians, literature with the poets. She knows obscure facts, strange tid-bits, and she seems to love nothing better than to pour it all out, give it away like gifts to help people. In fact this woman is likely to be involved in a job that includes talking: psychology, politics, radio, or information gathering, like the sciences. She absorbs information, and is able to relate it back succinctly, clearly, simply, so everyone can understand and use it; men who aren't threatened by her (and many are!) gather round to listen to her beautiful voice, fascinated. You can always pick out this woman in a crowd as she is always stylish in her own, unique way; almost eccentric in dress. The problem? These queens can be the most "queen-like." Aloof, even cold. They believe the right facts can fix any problem, and will offer that instead of sympathy or warmth. They also like to know everything, and are likely to listen in on conversations, read diaries. Worse, they might well spread what they've learned thinking it will do good. They mean well, but their need to know and solve problems often outweighs other considerations.
Queen of Pentacles
This is the practical, down-to-earth woman. An enthusiastic outdoors woman, she's always encouraging friends and family to exercise. She also owns her own successful business. Her accounting is scrupulous, but that doesn't mean she's afraid to spend. She loves beautiful things and has an artist's eye. Her home is impeccably decorated with paintings, furniture, and trinkets. Her garden is also beautifully maintained. Tasteful is the perfect word for her. Likewise in her dress, jewelry and make-up. As in work, nothing less that giving her all to her family will do for the Queen of Pentacles. She wants them to have the best so they can succeed. But this can put a lot of pressure on them. The queen does not understand that buying a child a Steinway piano will not make them Beethoven; also, this Queen's pragmatism, her dislike of anything strange or distasteful, may exclude anything unique or imaginative - solutions as well as people. Her children or partner feel that they can't be themselves and still be loved.
Kings. Although they come last, they really should come first, as Kings are where the Court Cards start. They are the fire - their element - the passion, the driving force. This is why Crowley has them as Knights instead, riding on horseback (rather than sitting passively on a throne), filled with energy, moving, leading. Kings are related to the Emperor and like him they are planners, motivators, commanders, creators, the one who rallies everyone together to form the kingdom. (Think Henry V.) The Queen is the one who will make it real, and the Knight/Prince will take it beyond the castle walls. But without the King, it won't happen at all.
Thus, Kings in a spread can indicate motivation, a beginning or start of something.
King of Wands
The planning of a great trip, the idea for some grand new career, being motivated to go into politics or take charge. Depending where it is in the spread, it can indicate that the Querent has decided to take command, to overthrow the old with his new, bold ideas.
King of Cups
The decision to start a new relationship, may indicate a man deciding to propose or just finally motivating himself to approach a special someone. This is a new love, but it is a mature love, one that is determined. Can also indicate a man motivated to be a new and better provider, father and husband.
King of Swords
Tossing out a new idea, getting thoughts on paper, brainstorming. The ability to see problems objectively and find new and better solutions.
King of Pentacles
Drawing up plans for a new business, new thoughts on how to make money or craft something. Perhaps building a new house.
. . .
The thing to remember with the Kings is that while they are powerful motivators, they are still "in the crown" - in the head. They can move mountains with their enthusiasm and energy and light a fire under almost anything. But they can't make it real all by themselves.
Like all court cards, the King cards are most likely to be people. These might be men the Querent knows, or the Querent himself if he's an adult male. It may signify the kind of man he is, or the kind of man he is at this time or in this circumstance.
All Kings have high aspirations, they dream of having the best "kingdom" in the land. And they expect loyalty, especially from family and friends. They are men of influence, and leadership; others come to them for advise. They can be stubborn, absolutely sure that they are right.
King of Wands
Call him "The Preacher." His dream kingdom is a philosophy. He fills a room when he walks in, expansive, full of energy, charisma, fun. You know this man, he's the motivational speaker, the charismatic church leader, the warm politician, the bullying coach who turns losers into winners. He loves danger, adventure, challenges. A great innovator, he can turn a company around, with employees working overtime to please him. This is Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Henry V. He always has to lead the charge. He hasn't friends so much as worshippers; people either love him or hate him, and the same goes for his family. Not that he doesn't love his family; he fell in love with his wife at first sight and wooed her till she loved him back; and he's great with kids. No dad was ever so inventive or fun. But he fully expects his family to come with him, wherever he goes - like an impromptu African Safari - support whatever he does. If they don't, his other side can come to the surface, one that is jealous, impatient, tyrannical. It is not surprising that sometimes his wife or children will rebel against him.
King of Cups
Call him "The Godfather". A kinder, gentler, more loving man you'll never meet. His "kingdom" is his family, and his one dream is to be sitting at the head of a huge table filled with kin, kids, grand kids, serving up food to them all. His family comes first; for them he'll work, sacrifice, do just about anything; and, yes, like the "Godfather" he will consider doing terrible things to you if you cause grief to any member of that family.
More likely to be a chef, bookstore owner, museum curator, decorator or restorer than a Godfather, this King is a historian, an old fashioned man with quaint, old fashioned ideas. He'll motivate the neighborhood to restore old buildings, to be more friendly, neighborly and polite. Very like the Queen of Cups, however, he's too soft and sentimental. No matter how prodigal the son, this father will always bail the kid out. About his family, it is almost impossible to make him see reason.
King of Swords
Call him "The Judge". His kingdom is the kingdom of high ideals. Loving, friendly, but distant, the one thing everyone says about this man is "He's Fair." Likely a lawyer, judge, musician, politician or designer, he is a patient, careful man, with very high ideals. Here is a man of eloquence, so good with words and debate that he can easily see the other side of every argument. This does not keep him from his own strong beliefs, beliefs which he expects his family and friends to adhere to. Not that he isn't a good father; he can be kind, playful, a loving and faithful husband. He treats his wife and kids fairly, hearing them out, acknowledging when they are right. But if he is against child labor, and won't wear certain shoes to protest it, no one in his family can wear those shoes either. And he'll be bitterly disappointed in them if they do. Unlike the King of Cups, this King does not put "Family first, right or wrong." Ideals come first, and he can be unforgiving of the family member who is weak or more "human" than he. He is willing to go on hunger strikes, fight or die for these high minded ideals. He will not budge when it comes to upholding them, not even for his nearest and dearest.
King of Pentacles
Call him the "Tough Old Farmer" and his Kingdom is his "business" or farm. Proud and self-reliant, this respected man is likely a civil servant, architect, engineer, manager, farmer or, surprisingly, entertainer. Wherever he is, he worked hard to be in charge and in charge he intends to stay. Although he can seem cold and aloof, he can also be strangely charming and funny, telling the most amusing tales at the dinner table. And he is, underneath it all, kind and loyal. If you need help, he will help and never ask for repayment. But if you help him, he'll repay you as soon as he can; he doesn't like being beholden to anyone. He will always provide for his family, do his best for them, stick by them, and expects them to be equally responsible, hardworking and disciplined. Much like his queen, he hates being embarrassed and has a hard time forgiving any one who causes him embarrassment, be they family, friends or enemies. Likely, no one he cares about will ever be told that he loves them; the best they'll get out of this King is "I'm proud of you." Which, from him, is his highest compliment.