The tarot decks we know today come from a long line of tarot decks stretching back to some time before the fifteenth century, some say even before the fourteenth century. The earliest known decks are a far cry from the elaborate works of art that we see today when we visit a bookstore or metaphysical shop. The proliferation of tarot decks began only recently, most of it has occurred since the 1960’s when the underground hippie culture began exploring the realm of magic and mysticism. Prior to that, the Rider-Waite deck pretty much defined what tarot was for most people and for most people that meant fortune telling.
The tarot in popular culture has long been associated with Gypsies and crystal balls, with darkened rooms and hushed voices…no longer. Since the sixties, tarot has come out of the closet in more ways than one. Once a tool for adepts, tarot has become something anyone can do because every deck comes with a set of ‘instructions’ to guide the would-be reader and today, most instructions advise that above all, intuition is the best guide to any reading.
I began reading cards in the mid 1960’s, back when there were only a few decks to choose from; now there are hundreds. Fortune telling was still popular – and may always be – but these days, as more and more spiritually and metaphysically minded people embrace the concept that we all have choices, that nothing is written in stone, that what we think affects what happens in our lives, these days, the tarot is more likely to be used as a tool for guidance, a means for determining where you may be headed at just this moment, if all things stay as they are. It’s a very different and far more empowering approach.
Traditional tarot decks consist of 4 suits, derived from the original decks of playing cards. Hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs became, in tarot, cups, pentacles, swords and rods. Each suit consists of 10 numbered cards plus 4 ‘court’ cards which began as royal family cards just as they were in the playing cards from which they were derived. Older decks had a king, queen, knight and knave. As a result of social chances in the 60’s the knight and knave were often replaced with a prince and princess. Today a good many decks – including my own – eschew pomp and royalty altogether, replacing the entire hierarchy with fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
There is an additional suit in tarot, though, often referred to as the major or higher arcana. The word, arcana, referred to things that were secret. The 4 minor suits are sometimes called the minor or lower arcana, presumably holding less important secrets. The major arcana consists of 22 cards, numbered from 0 through 21; the numbers, save the 0, are written as Roman numerals and each card has its own name. The cards of the lower arcana are usually thought to refer to more mundane matters or matters over which you may be able to exercise some control while those of the major arcana have more of a ‘Hand of God’ feel about them.
Were there ever secrets in the tarot, disguised in its imagery? Are there secrets in the tarot now? Sure there were and there still are, as many as you carry within yourself. It’s undeniable that the tarot has been linked with ancient mystery schools and even alchemy. In far more recent years Alistair Crowley’s infamous deck, rife with symbols and hints at magic, proudly proclaimed its arcane nature and followers, anxious to be thought special, declared it so but really, how secret can anything known by that many people be?
Most of us love a good mystery though, so people have imbued tarot with a power that lives in their imaginations and in the imaginations of the hearts and souls of all of us who love and use tarot, but it’s no secret, that power. It’s who we are at our best, like the tarot, with roots that go so far back that we’ll never be able to trace them, reflections of each other and of life itself.
Victoria Pendragon was born and raised in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the oldest of eleven. Her life has been defined, as are most of ours perhaps, by conditions that would seem to have been beyond her control. Eighteen years of various sorts of abuse and two diseases that should have killed her rank among the most outstanding of those.
Her study of metaphysics began in early childhood as an attempt to validate the lessons she’d been learning from the earth and the trees whenever she left her body. She has been working as a professional in the field of spirituality since 1995, has read tarot since 1964 and created in 2007, Sacred Earth Seven Element Tarot, a tarot deck designed to bring the world community together.
Victoria began training in art when still a child, eventually acquiring a BFA from The Philadelphia College of Art. Her work hangs in numerous corporate and personal collections, among them The Children’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Moss Rehab and Bryn Mawr Hospital Rehab.
She has two children by her first marriage, a son and a daughter, both of whom amaze her. She is currently married to her third husband, a man whose kind soul has created for her an atmosphere of clarity and creativity in which she dances, writes, creates art and helps when asked.
Her latest book is Sleep Magic: Surrendering to Success.
The author may be contacted through her website: http://site.heavenisinyourheart.com.