The earliest tarot cards date to the early 15th century, Alexis Alvarez, an intuitive energy worker and spiritual advisor, tells me, and the earliest decks were right up my alley: They were used to play games, not seek knowledge. "It wasn't until the 17th century that we began to see occult symbolism and magical meanings being attributed to the cards," Alvarez says.
"Nowadays, most people use the tarot deck as a divination tool," the expert continues. "Divination literally means communing with the divine, or your higher self. Professional intuitive readers, energy healers, and coaches like myself use tarot cards...to get answers and higher guidance from source energy."
That's not to say you have to be an intuitive in order to use a tarot card deck. "I believe anyone can use tarot cards as a tool for personal guidance and development, for divining the future, to obtain universal wisdom, for spiritual growth, and meditative contemplation," Alvarez says. "I actually encourage everyone to get a deck, because it helps us get outside our heads and initiates us to follow our intuition."
So, how do I use them and what tarot card am I?
For the uninitiated, tarot cards aren't your typical numbered casino deck—they have specific pictures and symbols on them, each with a different meaning. "The traditional tarot card deck contains 78 cards, all numbered," says Alvarez. "This is then split into two main categories: the Major Arcana (big secrets) made up of 22 titled cards, and the Minor Arcana (little secrets), which includes four main suits: wands, cups, pentacles (or coins), and swords."
Though there are a number of ways to work with tarot cards, Alvarez suggests you choose from her five fave options for guidance.
1. Pick a card of the day
The easiest way to find your tarot card is to "let your intuition be your guide," says Alvarez. "Randomly pull a card from a shuffled deck, faced down. Doing this each morning or evening will give you some guidance for the day."
Unlike some other ways of reading tarot cards, this method doesn't require you to ask any questions (like you would a Magic 8-Ball)—you literally just pull from the deck. "Then look up the meaning [in the booklet that accompanies your deck or online] and reflect back during your day to see if the card had any significance or highlighted an underlying theme," she says. "This process helps beginners become more familiar with the cards in a theoretical sense as well as to view them as a link to personal and practical events."
2. Find your zodiac card
As you'd imagine, this technique revolves around your sun sign (the one you say when someone asks you, "What's your sign?") and its respective characteristics, according to Alvarez. "This card helps bring to light your strengths and what you could be working on, as well as reoccurring themes in your life that can be attributed to imbalances. Look up your sun sign, then the Major Arcana card that's traditionally associated with it." While there are many layers of meaning within each card, Alvarez says these are descriptions to follow:
Aries: The Emperor (I Am)—ambition, authority, financial stability, achievement, confidence, control, energy, power
Taurus: The Hierophant (I Have)—traditional values, a wise person, provides guidance, authority, forgiveness, inspiration, manifestation, spirituality, wisdom
Gemini: The Lovers (I Think)—love relationships and choices, attraction, balance, beauty, emotions, harmony, romance, sex, sexuality
Cancer: The Chariot (I Feel)—triumph over difficulties, strength of will needed, concentration, revenge, strength, success, transformation
Leo: Strength (I Want)—gentleness with inner strength and courage, action, control, energy, obstacles, power
Virgo: The Hermit (I Analyze)—withdrawal for contemplation, inner wisdom
Libra: Justice (I Balance)—fairness, the need for a balanced mind, legal matters, balance, fairness, strength
Scorpio: Death (I Desire)—major change, transformation, endings
Sagittarius: Temperance (I See)—patience, moderation, compromise, balance, healing, action, adaptability, harmony, love, patience, unity
Capricorn: XV- The Devil (I Use)—manipulation, overindulgence, self-enslavement, anger, endurance, influence, boundaries, limitations.
Aquarius: The Star (I Know)—hope, healing, optimism, better times ahead, balance, clarity, faith, spiritual guidance, insight, inspiration
Pisces: The Moon (I Believe)—uncertainty, illusion, fluctuating emotions, unseen depth, darkness, obstacles, secrets, truth
3. Divine your personality card
You can also use the tarot cards by finding one that corresponds to your personality. "This tarot card is calculated by adding the numbers of your birthday and then finding the Major Arcana card that corresponds to the sum," says Alvarez. "For instance, if your birthday is September 25, 1985, you add 9+2+5+1+9+8+9 = 43, then 4+3 = 7." She adds that if the sum's from 1 to 22, the card from the Major Arcana with the corresponding number is your personality card. If the sum is greater than 22, then calculate the sum of the two digits, as seen above.
4. Level up with your power card
"Your power card is thought to represent your unique strengths," says Alvarez. "Simply pull the Major Arcana card that has the same number as your day of birth. Do this in the same way as above—if you were born on days 23 to 31, use the sum of those two digits to figure out your power card." She notes that, once find your power, personality, and zodiac cards, "you will be able to see the bigger picture of who you are and what it is you need to seek for balance and happiness."
5. Set an intention with a "know thyself" tarot spread
Before doing this type of tarot card reading, clear your mind. "This easy tarot spread can be used to uncover aspects of yourself and how you can meet your true needs and desires," says Alvarez. "Before you consult the deck, make sure you're in a balanced, centered state. Maybe light a candle or incense, smudge your space, or grab your favorite crystal, then take a few deep breaths and just set the intention to get accurate information that is for your highest good."
Then, shuffle the deck and then pull three cards, laying them face-up from left to right. "Read the descriptions for each card and honestly contemplate their meaning and how they apply to you," says Alvarez. Well, Solitaire can't do that.
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