What is Tarot and How Does it Work?

The Tarot is a deck of knowledge and a means of guidance through symbolism of events or obstacles in our spiritual (inner) or apparent (outer) world.
The Tarot deck has seventy-eight cards and are divided into the Major and Minor Arcana. Arcana means “secret” or “mystery” and is from the Latin word arcanum.
The Tarot can be used as a tool to arouse our intuition and an aid for meditation, divination, spiritual development, counsel and direction.

Is it a Fortune Telling Pack?

There has been a lot of debate concerning the Tarot because of a lack of understanding about their use. The dictionary says it is a fortune-telling pack, but I disagree with that interpretation. It is a tool that I use to gain insight and understanding into a person’s past and present situation.

It aids to guide the seeker to make the right decisions and possible choices in their life, and helps them to come to terms with issues from the past that they keep carrying with them into their present situation.

Spirituality or Psychology

You can say that it combines spirituality and psychology, as they both increase awareness of the issues that are shaping your current circumstances. At the end of the day, the outcome is up to the person who is looking for the guidance because we can’t change their will, we can only show them their possible choices, direction or action. It is not the Devil as some would believe.

Real Interpretations?

When I started learning the tarot, I was looking for the ‘real’ interpretations for the cards. I eventually realised there is no such thing. There are no strict rules to interpret the tarot because we are all different and see things differently therefore you have to use your own intuition to guide you to the answers you are seeking.

There are twenty-two picture cards in the major arcana. These cards illustrate archetypes that everyone relates to psychologically, and various powerful forces such as the Devil, Judgement and Death. The major arcana (or trump cards) depict the greater events in our lives and symbolize some prevalent aspect of our experiences.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961)

Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was the first psychologist to relate the importance of symbolism and the tarot. He never really adopted orthodox analysis, but used his personal ideas to develop what he believed were lasting fundamental principles.

Jung compared his ideas with those of other cultures, and began to add new words to our vocabulary. He was responsible for the now familiar jargon such as   the ‘archetype,’ the ‘unconscious,’ the ‘collective unconscious,’ ‘individuation,’ the ‘introvert,’ the ‘extrovert,’ ‘anima,’ ‘animus,’ and ‘synchronicity.’

He was a pupil of Sigmund Freud but broke away from his system of psychoanalysis and established his own psychic working. He founded analytic psychology, and concentrated more on a client’s current conflicts rather than following the path of Freud’s treatment of neuroses.

Jung’s “theory of synchronicity” assumes that everything in the universe is connected, and our outer world is a mirror of our inner world. When the interpretation of the cards make sense to the client in a tarot spread, then synchronicity is at work.

Supporters of Jung’s tarot system have found that the symbols and images in the major arcana cards of the tarot deck can be used to aid clients to identify with their archetypes. The images of the archetypal figures found in the tarot help unconscious knowledge to surface.

They also help to relate with the client’s difficulties or situation, and mirror the underlying causes, desires and fears which can shape the predetermined course of destiny or events.

The Major and Minor

Each trump card has a name and a number, some are made up of characters, some have names that correspond with forces connected to heavenly bodies of astronomy, and some plainly carry the card’s meaning. When these cards appear in a reading, the situation or issue is not commonplace or short-lived.

They represent our motivating forces and our predominant feelings. The major arcana cards are unique because they can extract arcane and emotional responses. They inform us of the causes and the origins of the affairs and situations in our life, which are not really predictable but usually turn out to be.

The minor arcana depicts the more routine, everyday aspects of our lives, and offers remarkable information into our experiences or circumstances and aids to guide us in the right direction.

The minor arcana contains fifty-six cards and are made up of four suits: Wands (or staves), Cups, Swords and Pentacles (or coins). Each suit contains ten pip cards (Ace to ten) and four court cards: The Page, The Knight, The Queen and The King. The four elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth are also mirrored in the four tarot suits.

The past, present and future situations, circumstances and events are divulged with the minor arcana, and the information provided is very accurate and valuable and an important part of the reading, but must be considered as complementary to the information revealed by the major arcana.

The court cards refer to either a person or a situation, and can mean that other people are influencing the situation or getting involved when several court cards are shown in a spread.


Each card does have it’s own traditional interpretation, and studying these meanings will develop and strengthen your intuition, which eventually will improve your psychic sense. Tarot can bring insight into everyday situations, emotional problems, understanding people better, and helps you to see new opportunities or changes that may happen in your life, it can also advise you of how to handle these changes.

By working with the cards regularly you will gather more information than you can in any book. Although, the more you read to start with, the more confident you will become.

When you choose cards for a tarot spread, whether for yourself or others, it will seem that you have unconsciously chosen the correct cards to interpret the current or past situation for that particular person’s reading. In other words, a person receiving a reading will choose cards significant to their situation. Now all you need to do is practice and study the cards, it’s not magic.


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