What is traditional Tarot?

Strictly speaking, Tarot is a deck of 72 cards, divided into two ‘Arcana’ (secrets); 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana are further divided into four ‘suites’ – 10 ‘Pip’ Cards (Ace – 10) and four ‘Court’ Cards (traditionally King, Queen, Knight, and Page.) The Pip and Court cards, over time, became our traditional deck of playing cards.

The traditional Tarot suites are Swords, Wands, Cups and Pentacles/Coins, and these suites traditionally correspond with the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, respectively. (Although some Tarot traditions link Wands with Air instead of Fire, and Swords with Fire instead of Air.)

What was Tarot, and what has it become?

Originally, Tarot was just a simple card game for entertainment when it was first created during the Renaissance, but over time it became a mystical tool for fortune telling.

In more modern times, Tarot has taken on new personas, morphs and uses, with new interpretations, new artwork, and new correspondences in addition to the four elements (astrology and Kabbalah are two popular examples).

There are now hundreds of Tarot decks with new themes, anything from Baseball to Steampunk, Dragons to Greek myths, Wiccan to Zen, and everything else in-between.

What is Tarot – NOT? What does Tarot do – NOT?

Tarot is not the work of the devil, although there is a traditional Major Arcana Card of that name. Tarot does not have special, mystical powers; it is not a way to conjure black magic, white magic, or any other kind of alternative-universe ‘force’.

Tarot will not tell you the sex of your unborn child, it will not predict that you will meet a blue-eyed stranger who will become your muse, it won’t even tell you if your significant other is cheating on you. Tarot doesn’t foretell death, destruction, sickness, wellness, instant wealth, success in business, failure in romance, or any other future prediction – because the future is unknown, and unknowable.

TAROT: IT’S JUST A DECK OF CARDS. Albeit a deck of Cards with great artwork, symbolism, traditions, and a bit of mysticism attached, that helps us explore the rich symbolism and abstract thought in our right-brain unconscious.


Archetypes – symbolic/abstract representations of personalities, roles, mythic characters, life events and that civilizations share. in a traditional Tarot deck, the 22 Major Arcana cards represent various Archetypes.

  • Archetypal characters – i.e., The Hero, The Rebel, The Sage, The Innocent, The Mother, The Father, etc. that are found in most cultures.
  • Archetypal events – i.e., birth, death, separation from parents, marriage, coming of age, initiation, etc. that all humans share.
  • Archetypal motifs – i.e., Creation, The Flood, the End of the World, etc. that most (though not all) cultures share.

Shadow, The – the parts of the unconscious mind we wish to repress or otherwise not recognize because we (and/or society) find them unacceptable; the ‘dark’ side; the ‘unknown’ side. The hidden side.

  • Shadow Work – the process of making the unconscious conscious; integrating the unknown parts of ourselves into the known parts of ourselves (Tarot is an excellent tool for Shadow Work!)

Yin/Yang – an ancient Eastern spiritual concept that states all things exist as inseparable, contradictory yet complimentary forces, in balance with each other: female/male, dark/light, passive/active, water/fire. Other descriptions include: duality, paradox, unity in diversity.

In the classic Yin/Yang symbol, a curved white shape exactly mirrors a curved black shape, two halves that form a perfect circle. Each shape contains a small circle of the opposite shade within, as nothing is “all black,” or “all white” – hence the duality. The circle has no beginning and no end, the two halves complement each other.

A journey through our unconscious mind
A mirror into our hopes, fears, dreams and desires
A system using themes, patterns, numbers, and symbols to unlock our psyche

Tarot uses the theories of Dr. Carl Jung:

  • Archetypes – themes found in all cultures (Hero, Trickster, Teacher, etc.)
  • The ‘Shadow’ part of our psyche – that which is hidden
  • Arcana (Latin for ‘secrets’)
  • 22 Major Arcana
  • 56 Minor Arcana, in 4 suites: Swords, Wands, Cups, Coins
  • Each Suite has cards from Ace to 10, called Pips
  • Each suite has 4 Court Cards:
    • Page
    • Knight
    • Queen
    • King

A Tarot Spread is a layout of Tarot Cards

The position of each Card has an assigned meaning, such as “root of the problem,” “actions to take,” “past, present, future,” etc. Tarot Spreads help to uncover information about a dilemma we are facing or information about our careers, relationships, general health.

  • Choose a general topic
  • Choose the number of Cards you want to explore
  • Choose a Tarot deck
  • Ask your question
  • Journey with Caenna from SHADOW to LIGHT