Tarot Basics: Symbolism + Interpretation in the Major Arcana

October is here and Fall is in full swing. This month brings grey skies, crisp air, big sweaters and golden leaves. And of course, it concludes with Halloween, when all things have a little more magic to them. It’s the time to be lost in creative costumes, more candy than any dental professional would recommend and naturally, a few thrills and chills. As we re-watch some of those classic Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus or Beetlejuice, we find ourselves wondering how these movies actually creeped us out as 11-year olds? And why not now? Well, we’ll admit, at least part of it has to do with a better understanding of special effects and theatre makeup.

This leads us though, to a fundamental human flaw. When we don’t understand something, we often don’t like it, sometimes to the point of being afraid. That is basically the story of Tarot Cards. Either you’ve done some research and have a good understanding, or you may write it off as “spooky” and that’s that. But in an effort to learn something interesting and maybe help you relax around the phrase, we’re breaking down the Tarot basics, because, you see, our lovely Luna is a pretty big deal when it comes to the cards.

Functional or Fun?

Before cartomancy was a thing, (FYI cartomancy is simply fortune telling/divination using a deck of cards), the Tarot deck first appeared in Europe somewhere around the last little bit of the 14th century at the seaports of Venice, Italy, with a standard 52 card deck. They were enjoyed for the next four centuries exclusively for gaming purposes with no indication of other occult purposes.

Then we hit the late 18th century (we are talking 1700s, remember the century number is always one higher than the years its referencing) and we have Jean-Baptiste Alliette otherwise known as Eteilla becoming the first professional Tarot card reader. Before him was notably the man who made the connection between wisdom long forgotten and the tarot cards who was named Antoine Court de Gébelin.

This is where the Moon makes its first appearance in an indirect kind of way. At that time, it was thought that Ancient people hid certain precious secrets in the game using Tarot cards to ensure its survival. Pretty clever right? Even if libraries were lost, games were played by both rich and poor and would have a better chance of living through the ages. Those “secrets” were from an Ancient Egyptian text that was thought to be lost, called the Book of Thoth. Thoth was one of two Lunar deities and was also the God of mathematics, inventor of hieroglyphs and calendars. Ancient Egyptians adopted a solar calendar for daily life but lived by a lunar calendar for all things sacred and Holy. So, the Moon comes to play a pretty important role in the Tarot origin story.

As the centuries continued many more people elaborated on the basic functionality, with minor and major changes here and there, like the addition of more cards and a continuous adjustment to the symbolism through the discovery of new information. New connections were made and so Tarot grew in both depth, knowledge and following.

Tarot Today 

From a game enjoyed by Italian nobles to a tool for divination and finally to today, where Tarot has transformed once again. Today, Tarot takes into consideration many cultures, science and even healing in the New Age. From fortune and future-telling to a tool for self-transformation, creating an ideal future and manifestation of your goals in life and love, Tarot still has a wildly popular following in today’s world.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of different Tarot decks, but here’s a little breakdown with the basics of what is accepted and widely used as the foundation of all decks today:

Tarot Deck

78 cards, each decorated with its own special imagery and associated symbolism

22 Major Arcana cards said to represent the soul’s evolution through life, in other words, a set of teachings that can be insightful to someone’s personal development and often referred to as the trump suite.

Our three favourites, for obvious reasons: 

The Star (XVII) announces a wonderful, positive and beneficial period of time in life, love and career. It expresses a lasting love, a desired result in the professional field, confidence in projects being favoured and a sign that you’re en route to success.

The Moon (XVIII) a challenging card, known for its mystery, it announces things that may not be what they first appear to be. In love it may dictate undisclosed feelings or the possibility of a new love interest that will actually yield an unpleasant surprise. When it comes to careers, it may call for the need to develop and form a deeper understanding of professional relationships.

The Sun (XVIIII) is one of the most positive cards. Announcing success, clarity, and happiness alongside personal fulfillment. Achieving the goals you have set in your professional and personal lives are without a doubt. Everything looks bright under the radiance of the Sun.

56 Minor Arcana cards with 40 numbered cards separated into 4 suits representing the trials and tribulations of daily life, and the 16 Tarot Court Cards that announce various characteristics of a person’s potential personality whether it be your own or another’s. 

What do you think Moonbabes? Are you into Tarot cards or are they not really for you! Tell us what you think!