Secrets of Magic No. 41: Ask the cards

If we can have only one tool to make magic, the tool to have is a Tarot deck. Tarot cards are an excellent introduction to the magical forces of the universe. Their symbols and pictures depict the entire world and human experience in a compact form. They combine the elements and the planets. The cards illuminate our understanding of ourselves, and give us ways to think about what is happening in the world around us.

There is no one correct Tarot deck. There are many decks on the market today. Almost every bookstore has a deck or two tucked away in the store. Each has a particular perspective. Many practitioners of magic own more than one deck, using different decks depending on our moods. Some people collect decks, for their historical value, or because they like the art on the cards.

Almost every Tarot deck follows a general pattern. There are four suits, called in most decks wands, swords, cups, and disks. These correspond to the clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades of a regular playing deck. Tarot decks also have a version of the court cards, King, Queen, Knight, and Jack. In the Tarot the court cards usually depict one older and younger man, and one older and younger woman. These are often called King, Queen, Prince and Princess, although the names for each of these vary from deck to deck.

Taken together, the suit and court cards are called the Minor Arcana. They contain symbols for the elements and for the planets. Each of the suits relates to an element. In most decks, Wands are fire, Swords are air, Cups are water, and Disks are earth. Some of the number cards relate to the planets. Threes are Saturn, Fours are Jupiter, Fives are Mars, Sixes are the Sun, sevens are Venus, eights are Mercury, nines are the Moon, and tens are Earth.

More complex decks may include the astrological signs and other magical symbols on the Minor Arcana cards. Many, although not all, Minor Arcana cards have pictures which portray the meaning of the cards. Sometimes they may also have names for each of the cards.

The Tarot has another set of cards that is not contained in a regular playing deck. These are called the Major Arcana, and are numbered from 0 to XXI, beginning with The Fool, and ending with a card sometimes called The World and sometimes called The Universe. The Major Arcana depict powerful forces that can affect our lives.

Many people ask the Tarot cards a question. Often our questions are really requests for reassurance. We are saying to the cards, tell me it is going to come out alright, or tell me that I will get what I want. A more effective question might be, what do I need to do to get the outcome that I want? Sometimes the best question is just, what do I need to know?

The answer the cards give us is not necessarily what will happen in the future. Like our dreams, the cards are a way for parts of us that are not conscious to let us know what we already know. The cards might also point out to us the real roots of the problems that we are experiencing. They might point out to us several possible paths we can take, to solve our problems, or to bring different outcomes into our lives.

Many people use Tarot cards to begin a magical journey. We can look at the card, and then imagine ourselves stepping into the card. This can teach us a great deal about the symbols on the cards.

The cards provide us a lot of information that is immediately accessible and gives us room to grow in understanding and skill. We can start to use them from the moment we buy our first deck, and yet, we can still be learning new things about the cards decades later.

I understand and use Tarot cards.

Practice: choose a deck
Picking a deck can be great fun. Look through all the styles available until you find a set of images that speaks to you. Traditionally, the deck should not have been touched until you touch it, so used decks are bought for education only. Pick a deck that is still in its shrink-wrap. It’s nice to have a bag to put the deck in to keep it clean and set it aside as a magical tool.

When you first get the deck, look through all of the cards in order. If you like, you can leave them in order, learning about each of the cards in turn. You can also shuffle them so that you begin to draw cards at random.

Pick one card. Look at the image on the card. What symbols are on the card? What colors? What do those symbols and colors mean to you?

Now take yourself on a magical journey into the card. Imagine yourself stepping through the card. You can talk to the beings and symbols in the card as you talk to the beings and symbols in your dreams. Ask them what they are doing in the card and what they have to say to you.

Remember to bring yourself back to the present moment when you have finished your magical journey. You can jot a note in your journal about the card you picked and what you learned.

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