Lesson 1: Major Arcana
What Tarot Does and Why It Works
When I need to think about a real life situation that I have gotten myself into, consulting the Tarot has always provided me with fresh insights. However, WHY that works is what has puzzled me for quite some time.
Finally, I have realized that this is because my subconscious has already dwelt on the problem, and that Tarot is basically a way to let my own mind point me to some crucial detail or new perspective to consider.
When you have a problem, you can bet that your subconscious has ALREADY dwelt on it.
Insights Come Through Your Own Associations
People with a healthy amount of skepticism immediately point out that advice from the cards is pretty universal and can be applied to most people in most situations.
However, until they stop and think about it, they don’t see one pretty obvious thing. For two completely different people in completely different situations, the exact same card will bring to the surface entirely different associations!
For example, let’s say that the Moon on a particular card in a reading somehow “feels” important. That feeling comes from somewhere inside YOU, not from the card itself.
Pay attention to what catches your eye on a particular card; that’s your intuition signaling something to you.
For different people, the exact same card will evoke completely different associations.
Story Method: How to Learn Tarot Cards
When I was starting to learn Tarot, I tried to read spreads by simply reading the meanings from a book that came with the deck. In fact, learning the meanings for each of 78 cards doesn’t sound easy or fun. Especially when you realize that each card can mean many different things depending on the context.
The breakthrough came when I realized that each card isn’t an independent entity; cards follow each other and describe different stages in real life cycles such as a person maturing, an idea developing, or a project advancing.
Such progressions are easy to tell as a story. That is great for our purposes because our brains are designed to catch a “thread” in a story and automatically attach the details along the way.
Cards are not independent entities; they follow each other and describe different stages in the progression.
The following lessons include six short stories I wrote for myself to memorize all 78 cards in just two days. I have used that method myself, to feel like the fog has suddenly lifted. Thousands of people have used this same method since.
Furthermore, an additional benefit of Story Method is that you will be able to automatically think of each card as part of a “progression” (What happened before? What is yet to come?), which is much more powerful than simply considering the meaning of one card in isolation.
When you look at each card as part of a progression, reading becomes a story all by itself.
Open Your Learning Channels
Of course, you will learn much quicker if you apply several well-known general rules for learning anything. These are as follows (keeping it simple):
Use Multiple Channels. These are viewing, listening, speaking and doing. Read the stories, look at the cards, read aloud, discuss the cards and the readings with friends or open spreads for yourself.
Maintain Your Interest. One of the tricks to maintain your interest is to define mini goals, for example, learning a single story. Or being able to open spreads still using the book you received with your deck, but now with your own understanding kicking in and completing the picture.
Repeat What You Have Just Learned. After you have read a story, repeat what you have just learned. Then do something else for 15 minutes to let your memory integrate the information, and then repeat once more – and tomorrow again.
Use multiple channels, define mini-goals and repeat what you have just learned.
Major Arcana: Maturing and Overcoming Life Challenges
Most tarot decks have 22 major arcana cards, which don’t belong to any suite. Those special cards don’t deal with mundane and everyday worries. Each major arcana card depicts an experience that changes us.
Major arcana don’t deal with everyday worries; they represent significant lessons in life.
As new situations arise, we first, analyze them with our rational mind, but we mature only when we integrate them on an emotional level.
The beginning of the major arcana represents the beginning of a new cycle in life, and with the ending of the major arcana, this cycle is complete, but everything is getting ready for a new beginning.
The First Story: Memorize the Major Arcana
I wrote the following story precisely to learn and understand the Major Arcana cards. It proved invaluable both for me back then, as for thousands of others in the years since.
If you have a deck near you, now would be a good time to use it. No real problem if you don’t, but looking at the cards will speed up your learning (Multiple channels, remember?) and it’s fun.
As the card comes up in the story, just put it in front of you and pay attention to the image on the card.
The Fool’s Journey
You start the journey as a Fool (0), naive and carefree, excited by all the new experiences. In search of knowledge, you proceed as a Magician (I), manipulating the inanimate world around you and finding out the boundaries.
Soon you realize that there are other kinds of knowing, and as a High Priestess (II), you start freeing your intuition. This doesn’t prove to be enough, and you find that everything in nature has to be in balance, and through the mother stereotype, the Empress (III), you start to listen to the emotional world.
Through father stereotype, Emperor (IV), you discover authority and rules. Finally, you become interested in the mysteries of outer world and through Hierophant (V); you learn it’s ways and beliefs and how to become a part of it.
A need arises for a deeper connection with others – Lovers (VI) – but it proves difficult to find a balance between passion and reality.
You become aware of your value and you are no longer a child. With Chariot (VII), you take off alone into the wide world, decisive and self-confident. However, you are quickly forced to develop discipline and willpower. Soon, you confront your first real problems and challenges and you discover your inner Strength (VIII).
This leads to a quest for answers and as a Hermit (IX) in isolation, you strive to understand all the whys and acquire a deeper understanding of the universe. Through the Wheel of Fortune (X), you accept fate as a legitimate factor in life and the whole universe. You begin to understand that your complete past creates the present.
Finally, through Justice (XI), you accept responsibility for your own life and realize that right now, your each and every tiniest action makes your future.
You understand now that you have just scratched the surface. As a Hanged Man (XII) you look at the world from a reversed perspective. Transformation represented by Death (XIII) begins, and you feel the whole life phase is ending.
You develop a strong inner balance, and through Temperance (XIV), you start to apply the newly discovered powers of moderation and flexibility.
Through the Devil (XV) come painful confrontations with chains of your own dark depths. You free yourself of your own self-deceptions and ignorance only when your whole world is brought down, represented as the Tower (XVI).
The goal is finally clear as a Star (XVII), and it gives you hope and faith to continue on calmly. But it’s not over yet; the last challenge is the Moon (XVIII) whose illusions seduce and confuse you so that you need to learn to discern illusion from truth. After the doubts and tricks of night, the Sun (XIX) brings the crystal clarity and confidence of the day.
Finally, you stop and take inventory of all that is behind you (Judgment (XX)). However hard won your experiences have been, you rise above your ego, your shortcomings and your limitations, and you are ready for next level of existence. You have learned all the lessons and successfully integrated all parts of yourself into a fully-complete and balanced whole. Through the World (XXI), you reach a new level of happiness and fulfillment.
However, although this cycle has concluded, you are ready for a new journey on a completely new level.
Repeat What You Have Just Learned
If you are actually trying to learn the cards (as opposed to reading this out of curiosity), try to tell the story to yourself now. Don’t worry if you can’t remember all the meanings, just have fun with it; improvise based on the card’s picture and go on to the next card.
UPDATE: If you don’t have a Tarot deck handy, use this flaschards deck I have created on Slideshare:
Once you have finished the whole story, check the cards you had problems with and then try again.
Next, let’s see an even quicker way to memorize four Tarot suites.