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Tarot Cards 101
Tarot cards were invented in Europe in the mid-15th century. They became popular in the late 18th century.
- Tarot was originally called trionfi then later tarrocchi or tarock.
- The cards were first used for entertainment purposes. Later people used them for cartomancy / divination.
- There are 78 cards. There are also 78 romantic compatibility possibilities in Western astrology. Odd coincidence.
Tarot is split into the major arcana and the minor arcana. The major arcana includes 22 cards with different milestone scenarios that people go through in their lifetimes. The major arcana cards relate to the element of ether, the 5th element relating to the divine or cosmos.
The major arcana cards can be split up by the natural elements: fire, earth, air, and water. These four elements are used throughout Western astrology, which is based off Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. It was a continuation of Hellenistic and Babylonian traditions.
The minor arcana is made up of 56 cards: four suits with 14 cards each. Each suit has 10 numbered cards and 4 face cards. The suits are as follows:
- Wands = Fire
- Pentacles = Earth
- Swords = Air
- Cups = Water
In the major arcana, there are seven cards that are identified as fire elemental cards.
- Emperor IV
- Strength VIII or XI (some decks swap Justice for the 8th or 11th place)
- Wheel of Fortune X
- Temperance XIV
- Tower XVI
- Sun XIX
- Judgment XX, this card is sometimes identified as a water card (death by fire or ice)
The Fire Element
The fire element is the last one to be introduced in the major arcana with the Emperor numbered at 4. In Western Astrology, fire starts the zodiac cycle. Aries is the first sign, and it begins spring.
The Fire Element Has the Most Cards in the Major Arcana.
Fire, 7 cards. (Emperor, Strength, Wheel of Fortune, Temperance, Tower, Sun, Judgment)
Earth, 5 cards. (Empress, Hierophant, Hermit, Devil, World)
Air, 5 cards. (Fool, Magician, Lovers, Justice, Star)
Water, 6 cards (High Priestess, Chariot, Hanged Man, Death, Moon, Judgment)
Minor Arcana + Elements
In the minor arcana, the face cards also represent a certain element:
Pages = Earth
Knights = Fire
Queens = Water
Kings = Air
What Fire Represents
Fire represents powers of vitality. The element represents free-will, passion, movement, energy, aggression, and growth. This element is about activation, making choices, and following your instincts.
Fire and air in tarot are considered action cards. Earth and water are resource cards. Fire is nurtured by earth in order to move forward. Air is nurtured by water.
People born under fire signs in Western astrology make for strong leaders. They don't let fear get in the way of their goals. They're charismatic people with a lot of energy; they're the most prone to anger. They're also attracted to humor.
Fire Signs in the Zodiac
The three fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. All three get into the thick of action. They don't do well to sit and wait. They want instant results. They will fight for what they believe. They are the knight charging into battle.
Aries is the first fire sign and the first sign of the zodiac. Aries dates are from March 21 to April 19. They rule the beginning of spring. The sign is fueled by instinct and independence. It is a cardinal sign: they're not afraid to do things first. In relationships, they need love to be active. They either love or hate people; they're terrible at finding a neutral place.
Aries is ruled by Mars, the warring planet. The sign acts like a warrior. They're known for great leadership, sharp tongues, and starting projects but not finishing them. They're fierce people who will charge after what they want. They're not known for organizational strengths: they make for great leaders but not so great managers. (Leaders tend to be fire and air signs; managers tend to be earth and water signs.)
Leo is the second fire sign. People born under this sign are born from July 23 to August 22. Leo rules the middle of summer. The sign is fixed: it is focused, a champion of others, and leads like a king or queen. The Leo is ruled by the sun giving it a boost of energy, happiness, and a rather defined ego.
Leos are dramatic, power-seeking, and get caught up in social causes. They can be worthy opponents against Aries, but they tend to be more jovial. The fixed fire sign wants attention, it tends to be extroverted, and it is very competitive. The Leo can get its ego hurt easily. People born under this sign want to feel like people depend on them; they want to be necessary.
Where Aries only see in shades of red, Leo is open to red, orange, and yellow. Sagittarius is open to a wider range of possibilities with red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, and white. (Aries is stubborn, Leo is also stubborn, and Sagittarius is flexible.)
Sagittarius dates are from November 22 to December 21. This sign has the weakest flame. It is the most spontaneous and amicable of the fire lot. They're obsessed with humor. Sagittarius types tend to value intelligence and research more than Aries or Leo. They're guided by the planet Jupiter: the planet of growth, expansion, healing, and prosperity.
Sagittarius rules late autumn. No fire sign occurs in winter. Sagittarius adds merriment and excitement to life. The sign symbolizes the holiday season ahead of Christmas. This sign has commitment issues; they tend to stay single or as bachelors longer than almost all the other signs.
Aries is about passion; they don't do well in connections that have no chemistry. Leo is about finding a partner, a queen if you will. Sagittarius is about freedom and exploration; they're wild horses and don't always find a suitable partner.
Elements in Tarot
Yin or Yang
Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Reptiles and Insects
Mammals on Land
Minor Arcana Suit
Powers of Vitality: free-will, energy, motivation, growth, creativity, passion.
Material Resources: wealth, health, career, money, property, legacy.
Powers of the Mind: logic, communication, clarity, reason, intelligence, honesty.
Matters of the Heart: love, feelings, intuition, flow, relationships, emotions.
Tarot Is about the Fool's Journey
The Fool is the only unnumbered card in the major arcana. It can be used as an excuse card to not follow suit, the zero, or it can used as a trump card, the number 22.
In games or a reading, the Fool is considered the protagonist. It might be the person who is getting a reading done on their life or other circumstances. The Fool could also be interpreted as the hero. The Fool is an air card that's been activated to go on a journey: one where they'll meet new people, challenges, places, and items.
All the other cards are in relation to the Fool and his or her journey. The Fool first meets the Magician, the High Priestess, and the Empress before meeting a major arcana fire card. These first few people in the major arcana help introduce the Fool to different conflicts taking place in the world and conflicts in the Fool's personal journey. It is part of their origin story to meet the first few numbered major arcana cards.
The Fool's journey ends with the World card: signaling the journey has been completed and goodness has reigned. All Fools are meant to go on a journey to help actualize earth into a paradise. Unfortunately, some Fools don't make it all the way to the World card; they get stuck somewhere else, distracted, or die an early death. (I'm one to think that all Fools will eventually make it to the World card. They may have to restart a couple of times.)
Whereas the Empress card represents motherhood and mother nature, the Emperor card represents fatherhood and the patriarchy. The Empress is an earth based card; the Emperor is a fire card. He explains to the Fool the mysteries of masculinity, of raw fire power and aggression, and spreading life. He wants to inspire the Fool.
Upright: Authority, father figure, patriarchy, establishment, masculinity, aggression, inspiring life, creativity, activation, developing leadership, taking responsibility.
Reversed: Too much control, lack of discipline or structure, inflexible, domination, excessive control, rigid, unyielding, poor listening skills, domineering, incorrigible.
The Emperor sits on a throne. It is adorned with four rams' heads, the symbol of Aries. In his right hand: an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life. In his left hand: an orb, a model of the world.
The Emperor wears a red robe. The color symbolizes power, passion, fertility, and strength. He wears a suit of armor underneath the robe. He protects himself from threats; he is an active leader and occasionally makes some enemies. He teaches the Fool to protect itself while on its journey.
His long beard is a symbol for wisdom and experience. He is an authority figure, and he demands respect. . . just like a Leo would.
Behind his throne is a tall mountain range. It symbolizes the rough obstacles and terrain the Fool will go through to complete his journey. The Emperor encourages the Fool to go forward into the unknown and to be resilient to hardship. The figurehead is not a very soft hearted or gushy human. He has high expectations, he acts as a boss, and he demands action.
The Emperor can represent a new parent, whether male, female, or otherwise. This person has taken on a role that employs authority and structure to a younger person.
The Emperor is a primary source of income and security for dependents. People recognize this person as responsible, having a clear vision, and is firm.
This leader can think too highly of himself. It is only the number 4 in the major arcana, but sometimes it tries to act like it is god itself.
The Emperor card above all represents leadership. This is a person that plays to the rules and regulations. They set down guidelines. This is a guardian of people, and the Emperor sometimes doesn't realize that its rigid structure can actually alienate people.
Leadership is like bread: if it has too much structure it will be like a brick and impossible to eat. If it doesn't have enough structure, it won't even turn into a dough much less bread.
Strength isn't just about who can lift the most weight and who can roar the loudest. It's also about the person who can calm tensions. It takes great strength of character to diffuse conflict. You need both physical strength and mental strength to take on a challenging journey.
Upright: courage, persuasion, influence, compassion, calming the tides, might, belief, security, honor, resilient, determined, loyal, eager, hard worker, constructive.
Reversed: inner strength, inner turmoil, doubt, raw emotions, insecurity, no say on matters, fear, paranoia, impulsive, easily manipulated, lacking direction, scaredy cat.
A woman calms a lion. She strokes his forehead and jaw. She flatters his ego. The lion is a clear symbol for Leo. (The woman is the kind of partner a Leo desires.)
Lions are known as the kings of predators, but the woman through the strength of her calming voice has turned him into a gentle, loving beast.
She reminds him that raw energy and passion can be expressed in positive ways. You don't have to run into battle and be competitive; you can be collaborative. She doesn't force the lion to be still: she uses her inner strength to subdue him.
The woman wears a white robe: symbolizing purity, loyalty, and grace. She wears a belt and crown of flowers; she respects life and helps it to grow. Over her head is the infinity sign, representing never ending potential and wisdom.
The Chariot card represents outer strength and determination. The Strength card is about inner strength and using our persona to overcome challenges.
Those who rule by the Strength card are determined, not easily swayed, nor manipulative of others. They're considerate, kind, well-balanced, and diverse. They have a great assortment of tools to solve a large number of problems. Strength uses free-will to confront problems and in ways that don't create new problems.
This card encourages people to abandon fears, to persevere, and to develop strong friendships. This card is one that represents all the positive qualities and potential of Leo. It carries with it summer energy, openness, and the notion that we should champion others and help those less fortunate or in stress.
Relating the Card Back to Leo
Leo is the fifth sign of the zodiac. The fixed fire sign is one of the younger signs, but they have learned enough lessons to have a clear direction on the way things should be.
They're not like the more mature / existential signs that occur later in the zodiac. Leo deals with the here and now and less with metaphysical possibilities. Leos are dying to help people in real and present ways.
Wheel of Fortune
Before it was a game show, Wheel of Fortune was a tarot card! The wheel has the letters TORA, which can be interpreted in three different ways:
- Torah, meaning law
- Tarot, as in card
- Rota, the Latin word for wheel. Rota = rotation.
Upright: good luck, karma, chances, life cycles, the zodiac in motion, a turning point, destiny, fate, revelations, potential, future, upcoming quest, variety, law in motion.
Reversed: bad luck, resistance to change, broken cycle, lack of fortune, trouble on the way, no quest, please sit still, needing to behave, too much wildness, too many options.
A giant wheel, with three figures standing near it. Four Hebrew letters are on the card: YHVH, which means Yod Heh Vau Heh. It is the unpronounceable name of God, as if it comes from a language that is more enlightened than we're allowed to understand as mortals.
The middle wheel has the symbols for mercury, sulfur, salt, and water. Mercury, sulfur, and salt are the three principles of alchemy. It is believed all matter can be divided into these three things.
- Mercury represents water. It represents the principle of fusibility, the ability to melt and flow. Mercury represents life essence, organic material. It is considered feminine energy.
- Sulfur represents fire. It is inflammable. It is the volatile oil essence of plants. It represents the soul. It is the active energy of the universe. It is considered masculine energy.
- Salt represents earth. It represents the principle of fixity. It is the salts extracted from calcined ashes of a plant body. It is the receptacle for the energies Mercury and Sulfur. It is neutral energy. It represents both soluble and insoluble.
The outer circle on the Wheel of Fortune has a snake. This could be a symbol for Scorpio or the Egyptian god Typhon, the god of evil. The snake represents a soul plunging into the material world. In coming into the world, you will eventually have to meet Death.
On the right side: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. He welcomes souls to the underworld, much like Hades. At the top of the wheel: a sphinx, who represents knowledge and strength. These three gods are all similar to Scorpio and its three symbols: the scorpion, the snake, and the phoenix.
In the corners of the card are the four living creatures written about in the Bible and are the four fixed signs of the zodiac.
- The angel is Aquarius, the ruler of winter. The angel is the most mature of the four living creatures as it is near the end of the zodiac cycle. The angel has high intelligence, prizes empathy, seeks spirituality, loves colors and sounds, and seeks calm ways. Aquarius is the fixed sign of air.
- The lion is Leo, the ruler of summer. The lion is a champion of others. Christ was called the "Lion of Judah." The lion represents strength, justice, social order, and courage. The lion is seen as a mighty king or queen. They have been given divine blessing to rule and bring order. Leo is the fixed sign of fire.
- The eagle is Scorpio, the ruler of autumn. The eagle is the final and best transformation of Scorpio: the phoenix. Scorpio is complicated and moody because they study and try to understand emotions. This sign sees the hand of death and also the magic many of the other signs fail to see. The eagle's ultimate goal is to find a cause that's worth defending. The eagle will sacrifice itself to protect someone else out of love. Scorpio is the fixed sign of water.
- The bull is Taurus, the ruler of spring. The bull charges after what it sees with tunnel vision. It is strong like an ox, it works slowly and surely, and it has a childlike energy. The bull is amazed by life and embraces it fully. Taurus is often depicted as a gardener. They crave beauty and nature, like in the Garden of Eden. Taurus types work hard to make our planet into a paradise. Taurus is the fixed sign of spring.
The four living creatures' wings represent movement and change. Each creature holds the Torah. The Wheel of Fortune is about fate in motion: it's about organic life.
The card is loaded with symbols because life is complicated. When it appears, it signals change, possibility, potential, and new ideas coming into fruition.
The fire element is not only about unleashing energy, having passion, or showing off might. It's about learning how to control ourselves, learning how to control our aggression, and learning to be balanced. The Temperance card is an evolution from the Strength card. It encourages the Fool to be even better about balancing different elements and alchemical principles.
Upright: balance, moderation, patience, perseverance, faith, unifying forces, modesty, diligence, stealthy, consistency, middle ground, collaboration, equanimity.
Reversed: imbalance, excess, self-healing, alignment shifts, hasty, impulsive, extreme, headlock, not getting anything done, split priorities, restless, aggressive.
A large winged angel has both masculine and feminine traits. It simultaneously is both and neither genders. This card is the complete opposite of the Devil card, and a lot of the imagery foils each other.
The angel wears a light blue robe with a triangle, representing the trinity of God, the son, and the holy spirit. The triangle is in a square. The triangle is bound by laws.
The angel balances on one foot on the rock, expressing they're grounded with the earth and its teachings. One foot is also in the water, showing they're in tune with their subconscious and intuition. This is similar to the imagery that's in the Star card.
The angel pours water into two cups, symbolic of the flow of alchemy to bring life into matter. The Two of Cups is also representative of lovers and what their union can bring forward.
In the background: a serpentine path going through the mountains. The journey isn't over for the Fool. A golden crown floats above the mountains. The crown glows. If the Fool continues on this path, they'll eventually get to where they want to be. If they stay balanced, they can achieve their life's purpose: which is to help the planet turn into a paradise.
The Fool must learn how to balance different opposing elements together. In feng shui, every element nourishes one other element. . . and also destroys one element. By considering how the five elements in feng shui correspond with each other, it can bring harmony to a space. That's the lesson behind feng shui.
For instance: fire destroys metal by melting it, and metal destroys wood by chopping into it. Fire nourishes the earth by turning into ash and helping land to form and spread. Fire is nourished by wood, which feeds it and helps it to grow.
There is a time and place for every element. There are also times when an element is destructive or feels wrong, like a chord played at the wrong time in a song. . . that chord might otherwise sound beautiful in another spot.
Bonus: angels in the Bible are sometimes described as genderless.
Have you read the book of Job in the Bible? The Tower card is essentially the story of Job. It's when you lose everything: your house catches on fire, you can't pay your bills, your family died, and you have nothing.
The Tower card is a natural part of life for many. It doesn't happen based on your own actions. Suffering isn't handed out to those who do wrong; suffering is a circumstance of our reality. Job loses everything, but in the end he is able to restart his life.
Upright: destruction, loss, revelation, awakening, major change, heartbreak, property damaged, extremely high bills, severed ties, death, pandemic, flood, disease, mischief.
Reversed: averting disaster, personal transformation, fear of change, hermit, escaping loss, locks and keys, surveillance, protection, alarm, close call, mischief managed.
The Tower is on fire. Lightning bolts are everywhere. This is one of the few cards that has a lot of black on it. It's intended to look ominous and scary, because it is scary. It's about major loss. One can hope their life will only go through this phase once or twice, if at all. (It most likely will happen, acceptance is key.)
Two people leap out windows. This card may remind people of 9/11. It may bring up unpleasant memories. This card represents cataclysmic events.
The Tower itself is a solid structure, but it was built on shaky ground. Since it was built in imperfect conditions, it will crumble.
The Tower represents dreams and hopes made on false premises. This would be the Fool running only on the fire element. The Fool charges after its goals only to realize its ambitions didn't have enough structure.
Fire needs the support of earth energy in order to succeed. You need to consider your ground before you start building.
- Aries is the head, Taurus is the throat. Taurus manifests the words of Aries out the mouth.
- Leo is the heart, Virgo is the chest. Virgo manifests and protects the emotions of Leo.
- Sagittarius is the thighs, Capricorn is the legs. Capricorn supports Sagittarius. Without Capricorn, Sagittarius has been greatly limited and loses its freedom.
In the Tower card, the lightning represents a sudden surge of energy and change. It zaps the building. The energy hits the crown, symbolizing the crown chakra. The power of the Tower will hit the most sacred space and target your sense of self. The attack is serious and will take time to heal.
If you were prepared and protected your crown chakra before the attack, you may have more chance at surviving and recovering.
There are 22 flames in the picture. 12 of those flames represent the zodiac signs. The other 10 represent the points of the Tree of Life. These spheres of reality are going through something wild, but the divine has a way of intervening and getting things back on track for the ultimate goal of turning the planet into a paradise and directing souls to paradise.
The Tower brings with it divorce, famine, financial failure, serious health problems, and more. It shakes you physically, emotionally, and mentally. In the hero's journey, this card is considered the darkest cave. It's when the protagonist deals with extreme doubt and may give up on their quest.
The Tower is one of the worst fire cards to receive, especially upright. The Sun card, however, is full of happiness, good feels, exuberance, and hope. It carries with it all the good and nourishing qualities of fire. The Sun recognizes that it is essential: it has the power to make things grow on planet Earth.
Upright: positive, fun, warmth, joy, happy, childlike, innocence, confidence, times of peace, connected, vitality, strength, aspirations in reach, healthy, charismatic, bold.
Reversed: inner child, feeling down, too optimistic, vampire, morose, malaise, dreary, not enough vitamins, sickly, insecure, uncertain, awkwardness, adolescence, puberty.
The Sun proudly hangs in the sky. It is present. It is loud. It is reassuring. A child who has only just begun on his path is riding a horse on a quest. The card is a trifecta of fire sign energy.
- The child represents Aries as the firstborn of the zodiac. Aries is said to have the energy of a child. This is someone who listens to their instincts and acts quickly. They're loud, boisterous, and difficult to contain. The 12 signs represent different parts of aging: Aries as a child to Pisces as a matured and wise mentor.
- The Sun represents Leo. The Sun is the ruling planet (technically star) of Leo. The colors of the Sun are those that follow the Leo: red, orange, and yellow. The Sun is to be seen, it is dramatic, it is hot, it is proud, and it is necessary. The Sun governs over the people and their day to day lives.
- The horse represents Sagittarius. The third fire sign is represented by a studious centaur with a bow and arrow. The mutable sign represents freedom, independence, and wildness. The horse goes where it wants to go; it can't be held back. The horse is considered a jovial and curious spirit. It likes to keep things light. It doesn't have the ego of the child or the Sun. (In the Chinese Zodiac, the horse struggles in the big race because it's scared to go past a graveyard. The horse finds it too gloomy.)
The Sun card is meant to be a positive one. It encourages people to be themselves, to have faith, and to take charge. You're allowed to be energetic. You don't have to sit all day. You should move your limbs and play.
The Sun card reminds the Fool that not everything is about rest nor hard work. Sometimes we need to be excited, playful, and silly. Let the Sun heal you. Add more sunlight into your day.
With the Sun on your side, you'll be more likely to succeed at your goals. Ask for the Sun's guidance and energy, and be open to receive it.
The only card where there is debate about its element. Does it belong more to fire or water? Will the world end in fire or ice? The card was originally assigned to the planet Mars. The warring planet rules both Aries and Scorpio, fire and water.
Later, the card was assigned to the dwarf planet Pluto. The card was re-designated when Pluto was discovered. It was reassigned to balance out the cards with different plants.
Today we'll be looking at the Judgment card as the final evolution of fire.
Upright: rebirth, inner calling, absolution, atonement, purification, standing before the judge, new beginnings in paradise, processed, standing before the jury, the finale.
Reversed: self-doubt, inner critic, ignoring the call, not prepared for the finale, not prepared for the gauntlet, terrified by the supernatural, refusing to acknowledge the divine.
The card carries all the messages of the Book of Revelation and the Norse teachings of the Ragnarok. It is the battle to end battles, the last call to stop evil, throwing the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom.
The card shows an angel blowing a trumpet. The time is ready for the great anointing. For souls to be judged. For people to be reconciled. For people to meet their god. This card is about the dead resurrecting, it is reincarnation, being born again. It is open ended and fits a robust amount of spiritual and religious beliefs. The Judgment card is universal.
The angel is often described as Gabriel, the Messenger of God. He is summoning souls to be ready for their acceptance or denial into heaven. Those who are denied may have a second chance to live a humble life, to be a person who cares about others. Until you care about others, you won't find paradise: whether that's on earth or in some other mystical realm.
In the background stand tall mountains. The terrain represents the insurmountable obstacles the Fool has encountered. There is only so much the Fool can do in a lifetime. The mountains also represent the impossibility of avoiding judgment. All mortal action will go noticed, but all people will be given grace. All mortals fall short, but by the grace of god they're allowed to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Judgment is loaded with religious connotations. It's impossible to describe this card without getting into some philosophy. On a base level, the card is about reaching a higher level of consciousness. It's about coming into more understanding of the universe, whether through science or through the spirit.
The card encourages the Fool to consider what frequency they project into the world and how they can be more charitable. Avarice is what opposes the charitable spirit. Judgment seeks to put those of avarice on the opposite side of those who favor giving of themselves. Maturity is on the side of those who sacrifice.
Final takeaways: these are all important lessons for those with an affinity for fire energy. You can charge after your goals all you want, but you need to ask yourself if your life is only about you or if you're working hard to better the lives of other people. Self-seekers live in the reverse of how they should be living.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence