An Introduction to the Tarot
by Anthony Louis

The traditional Tarot is a deck of 78 cards that has become a popular method for tapping into our intuitive consciousness. By contemplating the images on the Tarot cards, we engage in symbolic or metaphorical thinking. This gives us access to a part of our mind that we ordinarily tend to ignore. Various authors have referred to this aspect of the human mind as "the collective unconscious," the "inner self," or the "inner guide." Business minded persons often refer to this process as "brainstorming" and spiritually minded authors talk about "visualization" or "creative imagination." Whatever we call it, the Tarot is a tool that allows us to enter a contemplative, meditative state in which we can gain fresh insights into reality.

The 78 cards of the Tarot are subdivided into Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consist of 22 cards that depict the Fool's journey to enlightenment.

Minor Arcana

The remaining 56 Minor Arcana cards (22 Major + 56 Minor = 78) are divided into four suits, just like the modern playing cards. Each suit corresponds to one of the classical four elements of Greek philosophy: Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. I will list below the four suits with their corresponding elements and symbolic associations:

  • Wands, The Fire Element (spirit):
    Wands are fiery, enthusiastic, inspirational, and spiritually minded. Wands correspond to the zodiacal signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
  • Swords, The Air Element (intellect):
    Swords are cutting, intellectual, rational, logical. They also represent conflict and strife. Swords correspond to the zodiacal signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
  • Pentacles, The Earth Element (matter):
    Pentacles are practical, dutiful, business minded, earthy, and materialistic. Pentacles correspond to the zodiacal signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
  • Cups, The Water Element (emotions):
    Cups (like Hearts in the modern decks) are emotional, sensitive, caring, nurturing, and relationship oriented. Cups correspond to the zodiacal signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Major Arcana

The 22 Major Arcana have been linked by various authors with astrological signs and planets. The most popular associations are those of the Golden Dawn movement and they go as follows:

  • 0 The Fool, URANUS
  • 1 The Magician, MERCURY
  • 2 The High Priestess, MOON
  • 3 The Empress, VENUS
  • 4 The Emperor, Aries
  • 5 The Hierophant, Taurus
  • 6 The Chariot, Cancer
  • 7 The Lovers, Gemini
  • 8 Strength, Leo
  • 9 The Hermit, Virgo
  • 10 The Wheel of Fortune, JUPITER
  • 11 Justice, Libra
  • 12 The Hanged Man, NEPTUNE
  • 13 Death, Scorpio
  • 14 Temperance, Sagittarius
  • 15 The Devil, Capricorn
  • 16 The Tower, MARS
  • 17 The Star, Aquarius
  • 18 The Moon, Pisces
  • 19 The Sun, SUN
  • 20 Judgment, PLUTO
  • 21 The World, SATURN

Understanding the above correlations will help the beginner to see how the cards derive some of their significance from astrological symbolism. In the next installment we will consider the numerological associations of each of the Minor Arcana cards from Ace to 10.


Copyright 1997-2017 Anthony Louis

Anthony Louis is a respected teacher who has lectured internationally on astrology and divination. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Horary Astrology: The History and Practice of Astro-Divination (Llewellyn, 1991) and of numerous articles in leading astrology journals. His most recent books are Tarot Plain and Simple (Llewellyn, 1996) and a workbook on horary astrology, Horary for Beginners (Just&Us and Associates, 1997). His Web page is: http://members.aol.com/tonylouis/home/index.html


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