What do the Tarot cards mean?

I've been working for Vivienne for a few months now, keeping the servers running smoothly and trying to avoid the mystical side of things.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear, that working for a witch requires if not belief, then at least knowledge of things like Tarot cards.

Earlier this week, Vivienne sat beside me in the office, and demanded

"Tell me everything that you know about the Tarot."

"The Tarot is comprised of a load of cards with spooky designs" was all I could manage resulting in a triumphant look from V.

She declared that as I had now passed my probationary period, it was time for me to start developing and improving my skillset to become more valuable to the business.

"Excellent. There is a course on fault tolerance using cloud based systems ..." I tailed off gradually realising this wasn't what she had in mind.

In a normal business, personal development and growing your skill set, looks good on your C.V, gives you transerable skills and increases your employability and earning power.

I'd briefly forgotten that I don't work for a normal business. I work for divination online, running the IT infrastructure.

My first task is to learn something about the Tarot. Useful for divination online, and the websites that I build for Vivienne, but useless in terms of transferable skills.

I know I am likely be tested (possibly obliquely), and this is what I have learnt so far ...

An introduction to the Tarot

The Tarot is a mechanism of probing your unconscious and learning something about yourself. This is performed by using images on cards, and can be attributed to yout own intuition (if you are of a scientific slant), or attributed to higher powers if you believe in fairy dust. Like Vivienne.

So, the cards either work using divination (gaining knowledge by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual), or through the action of your subconscious.

There are 78 cards in a Tarot deck split into two sections. The Major and Minor Arcana.

This naming system is overcomplicated to make the Tarot appear more mysterious. Arcana comes from the Latin word 'arcanis' meaning secret, so why not just say 'secret'?

The major secrets and the minor secrets?

The Major Arcana

The Major Arcana (trump cards) are the most important cards (of which there are 22), the remaining cards belonging to the Minor Arcana.

Each card from the Major Arcana has a name and number. The first card the Fool is card numbered zero and the final card the World is number twenty one.

As a C progammer, the fact that the cards are numbered from zero to twenty-one instead of the more common one to twenty-two is neat.

If you are not an old-school programmer, the previous statement probably makes no sense.

Programming and magic? Different sides of the same coin.

The sequence of cards in the Major Arcana can be thought as describing the journey through life or the path to enlightenment. We start with the Fool, who represents innocence and ignorance and finish with the World representing wisdom.

Those little jokes about Number Zero are now starting to make sense.

The key point about the cards from the Major Arcana is that they are often interpreted as standing for outside forces and forces outside your control.

And as such, they are more important than the cards in the Minor Arcana, and trump them if there is a conflict in interpretation.

I'm not sure if Vivienne had this in mind when I was set this piece of 'personal development' but I can't help wondering about the best way to represent the cards on a website.

The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana deal with more mundane or everyday concerns of day to day life. There are fifty six cards in the Minor Arcana split into four suits with fourteen cards in each: Cups, Pentacles, Swords and Wands. Each suit is numbered from I to X (Latin numerals again) along with the Knight, Page, King and Queen.

The four suits correspond to different areas or experiences:Cups (emotions, feelings), Pentacles (practical matters), Swords (actions, communication) and Wands (action).

As I wrote this, I examined the deck of cards I had bought, the pictures were of an old style, and I discovered drawn by Pamela Colman Smith (also known as Pixie) in 1909.

She has her own rather sad entry in the Wiki, which leaves more questions than provides answers. I wonder where she is now?

I also wondered if I would ever actually use these cards.

The Cards themselves

Each card has a meaning, but certainly with the Minor Arcana, there are differences of opinion as to the interpretation that should be used. I now understand the reason for a vicious row between members of the coven during their book group. For reasons I can now longer remember it took place in the building where I normally work, and I could hear the angry words through two sets of doors.

In addition to the meaning the so-called pip cards (all cards except the King, Queen, Knight and Page) of the Minor Arcana have a number from one to nine. Most numerological significance is placed on the numbers one to nine. The cards with higher numbers in the Major Arcana are reduced to nine by adding the digits together. Let us take the Tower which is number as XVI or sixteen. The one and six of sixteen would be added together to give seven.

These numbers have an occult or numerological significance, and with the Minor Arcana, it might be safer to rely on the number and suit in your reading. I don't know and will ask V.

The number one (Ace) signifies unity new beginners, a starting point. The number two indicates duality, a union, off and on or binary. (I added binary myself). The number three indicates the trinity. Father, son and holy spirit or mind, body and spirit. Take your pick.

I could continue and in fact have here. (I wrote this in stages as numerology seemed to important to skip).

Additionally, if numerology is your thing (as it is so neat), and along with scrying it may well be mine, odd numbers are masculine and even numbers are feminine.

Programmer, geek, numerologist, scrying? Hmmm. I need to get a new job as soon as.

Using the cards

I've now read a large amount of literature on the art of Tarot reading. I've also listened to, or more accurately zoned out off, numerous conversations on divination and the Tarot.

Pixie, a member of V's coven, uses the Tarot even to decide whether to have tea or coffee in the morning. OK. I'm exagerating a bit, but she is constantly doing reading.

As I write this, I now understand where her nickname came from. None of the coven use their real names, presumably as witchcraft is still considered a strange occupation.

Every profession has its little in-jokes, banter and jargon. Witchery is no different.

One of the areas that stands out with the Tarot, is the number of different but semi-formalised spreads of cards that exist.

It is important to remember when reading a Tarot spread that different cards interact in different ways.

The skill lies in interpretating the interactions between the cards as accurately as possible.

Applying logic to an illogical idea would support this premise, which tells us that the more cards used the more complicated the reading will be to interpret due to the different interactions.

As a programmer and scientist, I get this, and if I were to use the Tarot as a beginner, I would start with a smaller spread.

The three card spread

There are different ways of doing the three card spread, but this is the one I've seen performed most frequently.

It is a popular Spread using three cards to represent the past, present and future. The card on the left is the past, the centre the present and the future to the right.

Before doing this shuffle and split the deck a few times (mental note to self - randomise deck properly), and focus on the question that you want answered before you select and lay down the cards.

You might do this for self insight, advice on relationships, learning how to understand a given situation and possible future outcomes.

The Tarot as any method of divination (or so I have been told) is very wide in the interpretation of the answers given. The cards have multiple meanings, the interactions are numerous and so this is where the skill, intuition or genuine ability lies.

With the three card spread the first card, the past, relates to effects in the past that still impact on you, hold you back, stop you moving onwards or letting go. Understanding the past will help you move forward.

The second card describes what is going on for you now, what is happening to you at the moment, factors that might have a bearing on the situation, options and challenges and your current path. It is potentially pretty wide.

The third card is the future or better said possible futures. Desires. Outcomes. Potential. Resolution.