Interpreting the Tarot

Reading Tarot cards is all about interpretation. There are as many ways to interpret the cards as there are readers. This is the way it is supposed to be. There is no single right or wrong interpretation or meaning of any particular card. They were designed to speak individually to all of us. There are only seventy eight cards but that limited number can address any life situation for any individual person.

The way the cards speak is through the language of symbology – pictures. The images on the cards engage each reader personally as she or he responds to the visual symbols subconsciously. We respond differently because we each have unique life experiences that make up our symbolic language dictionary that we carry around in our heads. We all have different preferences – likes and dislikes. Where did these come from? The symbol of a red rose is usually associated with passion and romance. But for someone highly allergic to roses, the image of a rose may not be a pleasant one. We all live in different environments and areas of the world where subtle differences frequently occur in language and traditions. So throughout our lifetime we develop associations to symbols based on what they mean to us.

Designers of Tarot decks have tried to capture symbolic language by using symbols that are more universal. Many decks depict that rose as a symbol of romance because it works that way for the majority of people. Some have created a symbolic world of their own that must be memorized before the cards can be read.

It is sometimes difficult to trust our own interpretation. We feel that we need an “authority” to tell us what each card means. But the best authority is your own instincts and experiences that awaken within you an intuitive understanding the moment your eyes absorb the pictures on a card. The power of the Tarot does not lie in the seventy eight pieces of cardboard that make up the deck. It lies within you.

Teresa Sue McAdams, co-author of Today’s Journey Tarot and Today’s Journey Tarot, A Traveler’s Guide

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