Tarot reading has been used since the 14th Century. Tarot is a meaning-making system, a tool for understanding your life and observing patterns and connections in your past, present, and future.
If you’re new to tarot, the terminology used can seem daunting, so we’ve put together this handy guide for understanding the buzzwords and phrases used in the tarot world:
The collective term for the first 22 cards of the tarot, starting with the Fool (0) and ending with The World (XXI). The narrative that takes shape over the course of the Major Arcana, from Fool to World, is often referred to as “The Fool’s Journey”.
The collective term for the four suits of the tarot – Cups, Pentacles, Wands, and Swords. Here’s a bit more about each suit:
This suit, which in some decks might be titled Vessels or Chalices, focuses on emotional experiences. The suit of Cups is associated with the element of Water, and typically shows up when there’s inner work to be done rather than external action to be taken.
Also known as the suit of Coins, Discs, and Wheels, the Pentacles represents work life and material investments. The suit is associated with the element of Earth. Like the Cups, this suit is less about external action and more inner work. It encourages self-direction and determination.
Depending on the deck you use, the Wands can also be called Staffs or Clubs. This suit is tied to spiritual and creative pursuits, and is associated with the element of Fire. The Wands is a suit of action, and is usually a sign that there’s specific progress to make.
Also known as Knives and Blades, the Swords is the suit of the mind – all its inner trappings and skills. Associated with the element of air, the Swords are often indicators that a decision needs to be made.
Each suit features four court cards, typically titled the Page, the Knight, the Queen and the King. These can represent people in your life, but also stages of expertise, with a Page indicating a beginner’s mindset, and the King illustrating the height of wisdom. While the court cards, and many cards in the tarot, are illustrated by gendered imagery, their themes go deeper than surface level stereotypes.
A tarot spread is a method of laying out several tarot cards to line up with predetermined prompts. Maybe the most famous, and most simple tarot spread is a Past, Present, Future spread, where three cards are set out in a line. The first card corresponds to a past experience, the second card to a present issue affected by that past experience, and the third card offers advice for moving forward into the future, based on the context of the first two cards.
Now you have a basic understanding of the tarot terminology, why not take a look at The Tarot Spreads Yearbook by Chelsey Pippin Mizzi to continue your journey into the wonderful world of tarot.
For more about tarot, spreads, and readings, be sure to follow Chelsey on Instagram here.