Basically, there are 78 cards in a deck. 22 Major Arcana represent and/or deal with universal trends, spiritual truths, levels of soul awareness, and the such. 56 Minor Arcana, are symbols for normal reality or the more mundane phases in life such as: money, ideas, passions, and those sorts of things.

Within the Minor Arcana there are 4 suits of 14 cards. The suit of Wands, or clubs, has to do with fire, direction, control, interactions, interpersonal exchange, energy, and will. Cups, or hearts, deal with emotions, love, and personal resources. Swords, or spades, are action, activity, and often presage danger. Pentacles, or diamonds, reflect earth matters such as abundance, or the lack thereof, and riches of all kinds. These are traditional meanings and should only be used as a springboard for learning the cards rather than hard and cold facts. To get the most from a card's imagery you should attempt to let the card speak to you through meditation and by contemplation.

Many books on the subject of tarot give listed meanings and, while that may be fine for learning, it isn't something you want to become dependent on. The best way to learn the cards is to develop a relationship with them. Buy a deck that absolutely appeals to you on more than one level. Choose one that has pictures and colors that really appeal to you; there are many to choose from. For learning purposes, try to pick a deck that has pictures on all of the cards; many decks only have symbols on the Minor Arcana cards and that makes it a little more difficult to have a personal relationship with them. Thing of the cards as a new friend, treat them with respect, kindness, and attention.

You care for your cards the same way you care for anything else that means something to you. You put it in a safe place, where the kids can't get their hands on the cards to do creative coloring on them. Wrap them in a nice cloth, or put them in a protective pouch to keep the sun from discoloring them. You might even put a few of your favorite herbs next to them to make them smell nice. Be creative!

The tarot works because of mnemonics which is a system where visual imagery, one's subconscious mind, and the images of the cards work together triggering off certain cues in the memory. The symbolism on the cards is connected with the collective unconscious, or universal archetype images. There are also numerological, alphabetical, and kabalistic meanings buried within the card's imagery.

Below are some traditional meanings given to tarot cards. Remember that these are traditional, do try to use them to develop your own meanings.

    Major Arcana:

  • Fool: begin a new cycle or enterprise, a matter that is unexpected or unplanned, moving up in a different direction, heading toward an unknown future, look before you leap, use your hidden talents.

  • Magician: mastery of self, readiness to put plans into action, great power or energy, use your skills.

  • Priestess: Awareness of other planes of existence, hidden forces, new solutions, feminine balance, occult learning, leadership potential.

  • Empress: financial and emotional security, motherly or womanly love, good fortune, pregnancy.

  • Emperor: Reason over emotion, politics, command, authority, patriarchal thought, the need to be famous.

  • Priest: conformity, tradition, going with the flow, facade, karma.

  • Lovers: choice between opposites, second sight, love versus practicality.

  • Chariot: Balance through movement, self-control, bringing two opposites under control. In some decks this is card 11, or strength.

  • Strength: victory, successful end to tiresome event, spiritual strength, sharp mental action.

  • Wheel: change of life circumstance, tides of movement, turn of events, upward mobility.

  • Hermit: introspection, enlightenment, plans, evolution, a physical teacher.

  • Justice: legalities, contracts, reaping what you sow, outside forces will balance the situation. In some decks this is card 8 or Chariot.

  • Hanged One: thoughts, ideas, suspension of projects, stagnation.

  • Death: Radical change, old being ripped away, a new life.

  • Temperance: adapting to new circumstances, acting under higher guidance, control through wisdom.

  • Devil> binding by word, thought, or deed, lust, passion, untrustworthy person, fate.

  • Tower: a break down of some kind, suddenly seeing a truth that was unseen before, unexpected set backs.

  • Star: faith, confidence, positive influences, cut through illusions, broader/wider choices.

  • Moon: Dreams, intuition, vision quest, imagination, possible deception, being torn in two directions.

  • Sun: happiness, joy, well earned rewards, good news.

  • Judgment: completion, an awakening, an ending, past returning to haunt you.

  • World: End of cycle, end of a situation, loose ends tied up, conclusion, explore new avenues.

  • Wands: spring, enterprises, creative growth, fire, business, career, talents, intuitive sensing, blond hair, blue eyes, red/auburn hair and green eyes, Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, energy, creativity, work situations.

  • Cups: summer, relationships, emotional matters, love compassion, receptivity, water, emotional sensing, light brown hair, brown eyes, medium complexion, intuition, secrets.

  • Swords: fall, mental realms, thoughts, ideas, air, boldness, aggressive energy, mental sensing, medium to dark brown hair, brown eyes, medium complexion, intellect, mind, communication, conflicts and struggles.

  • Pentacles: winter, physical life, money, cash, merchandise, sensation, earth, black hair and dark eyes, dark complexions, material matters.

  • Numbers:

  • One: leader vibrations, forthrightness, dominant, strong willed, pioneer, self reliance, beginnings.

  • Two: Values friendship, shy, lacking resolution, fond of home life, mediumship, the need for co-operation with others, choices.

  • Three: lucky, cheerful, generous, self-indulgent, expansion of consciousness, planning.

  • Four: steady, reliable, stubborn, unimaginative, orderliness, firmness, foundation, stability.

  • Five: Active, changeable, mind power, impatient, searching for knowledge, adapting .

  • Six: Harmony, beauty, artistic, luxury, peace loving, harmony in self, patterns.

  • Seven: Mystic, idealistic, self-possessed, reserves of inner strength, psychic, intuitive, individuation.

  • Eight: organization, material power, stern, pessimistic, high principles, cautious, structuring.

  • Nine: strength for good will, active, courageous, jealous, hasty, high spirited, creative living, rights of will, expansion.

  • Ten: Manifestation, fulfillment.

  • Court Cards:

  • Queens: mature women with the energies and coloring depicted by the suit.

  • Kings: mature men with the energies and coloring depicted by the suit.

  • Knights: Young male adults with the energies and coloring depicted by the suit.

  • Pages: messages; youths of either gender with the coloring and energies depicted by the suit.

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