Aberystwyth University Tarot and Meditation Society

Lesson 2: The Symbols found in Tarot

Symbol meanings of Tarot are essential to our interpretational process. Indeed, symbols themselves serve as messages from our higher selves and the Universe. A prime reason why the Tarot is such an effective divining tool is because it deals with the common ground of symbols and their meanings.

The Tarot is a symbolic oracle, and as such, it is vital for us to recognize and understand its symbol meanings to assure a well-rounded reading of the cards.

Common Tarot symbols and their meanings have been included in this lesson for your growth, development and deeper understanding of the Tarot reading craft.

As you read the cards, you will notice certain symbols will catch your attention more-so than others. This is no accident.

When we gravitate toward specific features in a card, this is your intuition bringing to light important issues. When this happens, consider some of the symbol meanings provided below in conjunction with your reading. This will provide more clarity and insight to your overall reading.

Remember, symbol meanings are subject to your own perception. To clarify, if a symbol means something specific to you, then this is the meaning you should assign to that symbol. These pages simply offer a foundation of meanings to work with.

Opening the Tarot Door

"If our minds are glorious mansions,
and our spirits are the surrounding landscape,
then the Tarot i
s a doorway
revealing a wide realm of ever-increasing
beauty, insight, and mystical experience."

--Avia Venefica

Important Note: The symbols selected for the creation of these pages were taken from the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Other deck renditions may not display the same symbols as the Rider-Waite. For example, the Angel symbol is shown on the Rider-Waite "Wheel" card, but is not shown on the Morgan-Greer rendition.

Angel: Angels in the Tarot system are symbolic of divine messages. They are messengers of important information. In a reading , their appearance indicates a message (relating to the card) may be coming to the querent in the form of inspiration, divine intervention, or subtlety. Angels also symbolize higher thought and ideals.

Lovers / Wheel / Temperance / Judgment / Queen of Swords

Ankh: The ankh symbolic meaning deals with immortality and balance. It is a common Egyptian symbol whose meaning is "life." Geometrically, the loop on top represents the sun rising above the horizon represented by the horizontal line. This captures both immortality (the sun shall always rise) and balance (the horizon is female, the sun is male in symbolism).

Emperor

Arch: Arches are symbolic of openings, passage-ways, and initiations. In a reading, the arch is a symbol of a new direction for the querent. This new opening or path is indicated by the card.

3 of Pentacles / 10 of Pentacles / 4 of Wands

Armor: The symbolic meanings of armor deal with protection, preparation, and strength. Most Tarot deck renditions depict all the knights in full armor (knights typically represents action and strength). The armor indicates a need to protect ourselves when engaging in activities referenced in a reading.

Emperor / Chariot / Death / Knight of Swords / Knight of Pentacles / Knight of Cups / Knight of Wands / 4 of Swords

Bench: The bench is symbolic of taking a moment to examine the details. In a reading, benches indicate the querent needs to sit back, relax, and take some time to examine or savor the situations expressed in the card layout.

3 of Pentacles / 8 of Pentacles / 2 of Swords / 9 of Cups

Bird: The symbol meanings of the bird deals with higher thoughts and matters of the spirit. They are creatures of the air, so they symbolize higher ideals. They also represent freedom and ascencion. When the bird symbol pops out at us during a reading it is a message that we are rising to a higher level, that we need to free ourselves from bondage and we must make our hearts light.

Wheel / Star / World

Blindfold: As one would guess, blindfolds deal with our inability to see things clearly. They represent unwillingness to face the truth, inability to accept the facts, or a sign that something is being hidden from us. In a reading blindfolds are a sign that we need to be honest with ourselves, do more research, and/or get a different perspective

2 of Swords / 8 of Swords

Boat: Boats are a sign there are some pressing thoughts rumbling within the subconscious. These thoughts will have a tendancy to put us in motion, and this is another symbolic trait of the boat. Boats deal with deeper thoughts and the motion (to action) these thoughts produce. In a reading boats may also indicate travel, or movement in a different direction (usually after much thought and deliberation).

6 of Swords

Brick Wall: Seen in the sun card, the brick wall is a symbol that you have been holding yourself back or positive events have been prevented from flowing forth due to negative or incorrect thinking. When we see the brick wall it is a message that we must be in a state of allowing in order for the good (sun energy) to shine upon us. It also indicates that we mustn't hold ourselves back or sell ourselves short.

Sun

Bridge: Bridges take us from one point to another, and therefore they symbolically represent resources or help available to us. In a reading bridges remind us that the ways and means to accomplish something is always available to us. In the five of cups the bridge represents moving from a place of grief or regret on to another phase of life.

5 of Cups

Bull: The Bull is a symbol of power, royalty, stability, force and potence. When we see the bull amongst the cards in a reading we know we are dealing with some powerful forces. It is shown in the World & Wheel card because the bull (Taurus) is one of the fixed signs of the zodiac. The bull (and Taurus) also carries symbolic meanings of resistence to change, being stubborn and inflexible.

Wheel / World / King of Pentacles

Butterfly: A universal symbol for transformation. Butterflies are shown on the queen and king of sword cards, and typically indicate a change in the thoughts of the querent, or someone close in the querent's life. Butterflies go through several changes and transformation before they develop into their final state of beauty. They are a symbol that we as human do the same thing to reach our end goal and to obtain a better way of thought and living.

Queen of Swords / King of Swords

Caduceus: Varied in its meaning, the Caduceus symbol meanings deal with balance, health, duality (union of opposites), proper moral conduct, protection and cosmic energy. Seen on the two of cups, the caduceus bodes well for new partnerships, and serves as a message that with honor and respect to balance, new relationships shall be fruitful. It may also indicate the querent is joining forces with another party in order to facilitate healing.

2 of Cups

Castle: Castle symbol meanings deal with goals. Castles are physical reprsentations of our need to build (block by block) upon a strong foundation in order to obtain our goals. Castles may also deal with sheltering ourselves or limiting ourselves from reaching our goals. They are also a symbol of obtaining our desires.

Chariot / Ace of Wands / 4 of Wands / 9 of Pentacles / 8 of Swords / 5 of Cups / 7 of Cups

Cat: Cats deal with watchfulness, awareness, and perception. Shown on the queen of rods card, the cat is a message that there are energies at work that we may not be aware of, but we can certainly tap into. Cats are also a symbol of psychic ability. In a reading, the queen and her cat will make a point that the querent must keep his/her poise (keep your wits about you) and be aware of all sides to the story in the situation relating to the card reading.

Queen of Wands

Chains: As one might imagine, the symbolic meaning of chains deals with restriction, bondage, conflict, and slavery. Featured in the devil card of the Tarot deck, chains are a message that we may be in a situation where we have become a slave to our thoughts, vices, or to others. It indicates there is restriction or addiction revolving around the situation noted in the reading.

Devil

Children: Children represent promise, hope, fresh starts, new beginnings, new ideas, and a fresh way at looking at the world. Children are full of promise for the future and as such they are a symbol of this promise. When they show up on the cards in a reading it could mean the beginning of a new venture, the promise of a new beginning, or it could literally mean children are on their way (new births/adoptions).

Sun / 6 of Cups / 10 of Cups / 6 of Swords / 10 of Pentacles

City/Village: Cities and villages represent centers or gatherings of people, thoughts, energy and ideas. They are a symbol of the culmination of a group that meets for a common goal. They also symbolize protection, harmony, and team-work. When you notice the cities/villages in a reading it indicates a group effort is required, or the querent must tap into some energy centers or thought centers to accomplish what he/she must.

4 of Pentacles / 6 of Pentacles / 10 of Pentacles / King of Pentacles / 7 of Swords / 6 of Cups

Clouds: Clouds hold the symbol meaning of revelation. Consider out of the mists of our deepest thoughts suddenly an epiphany comes, a bright idea comes out from nowhere - this is the basic cloud symbol meaning. Depending on the card, clouds can also symbolize confusion or clouded judgment. Primarily, clouds represent higher thought and messages from the divine.

Lovers / Wheel / Tower / Judgment / World / Ace of Swords / 3 of Swords / 5 of Swords / Page of Swords / King of Swords / Ace of Cups / 4 of Cups / 7 of Cups / Ace of Wands / Ace of Pentacles

Dog: Man (and woman's) best friend - symbol meanings of the dog deals with fidelity, honesty, loyalty, and truth. When the dog symbol pops out at us, we might aks ourselves one of the following questions: 1) Where are our loyalties? 2) In what are we putting our faith? 3) Are being true to ourselves? The dog in our cards is also a good indication that we're on the right track as they are symbolic of stability and righteousness.

Moon / Fool / 10 of Pentacles

Dove: The dove is a common spiritual icon with symbol meanings indicating hope, purity, aspiration, and ascension. In Greco-Roman mythology, the dove is a sacred creature to Aphrodite/Venus, and therefore is a powerful symbol of love. Featured on the ace of cups, it is a promising symbol. Note the dove (in the Rider-Waite version) is pointing down - this is a message: "whatever goes up, must come down." In other words, fly high, but ground yourself first.

Ace of Cups

Falcon: Throughout culture and myth the falcon symbol meanings have pertained to higher vision, superiority, and rising above the mundane. A common sun symbol among many cultures, the falcon also symbolizes potency, vibrancy and power. When Falcon catches our attention on the nine of pentacles, we are prompted to consider if we are living our lives in-line with our vision. Are we living at our highest potential? The falcon asks us to fly high and blaze the sky with our own brilliance.

9 of Pentacles

Fire: Fire is a symbol of both creative and destructive power. Among its many cultural symbol meanings are: energy, transformation, passion, ambition, inspiration and power. In many faiths fire is a symbol representing a test of faith or the measure of one's purity. This very well may be the case in the two cards fire is featured in (Devil & Tower).

Devil / Tower

Fish: It is no coincidence that the fish is featured on all the cups court cards because fish symbol meanings deal with emotion, intuition and creativity. When considering the fish symbol meaning, we must first recognize the nature of the water in which it lives: in motion, unpredictable, and representative of the subconscious (see Water symbol meanings). The fish is a symbol of prolific abundance if we have the wherewithal to harness our own passion responsibly.

Page of Cups / Knight of Cups / Queen of Cups / King of Cups

Flag: When we consider the cards on which the flag is featured (Death, Sun & Judgment) we get a good concept of its symbol meanings. The flag is an announcement to change - something has shifted and a flag makes the world aware of this shift. It is a bright, bold obvious sign that a new day is dawning. This is not about subtle shifts - the flag is about "in-your-face" transformation; an event to announce to all who will hear.

Death / Sun / Judgment

Flowers: As we would guess, flowers possess symbol meanings of joy, beauty, growth, sensitivity and unfolding. They are predominant features on the six of cups and four of rods, but they are seen sprinkled throughout many deck renditions (see also the Sunflower symbol meanings entry). Flowers are all about opening up and receiving the light of love, joy and compassion into our lives. They remind us of the better things in life, the good times, the sweet smell of success, and the beauty that surrounds us if only we open up to its presence.

6 of Cups / 4 of Wands

Globes: Often depicted as the world, globes possess symbol meanings of totality - both cosmic and physical. When the globe catches our attention on a card, it is an indication that achievement is imminent; we have the whole world "at our fingertips." It is also a symbol of comprehension, getting the idea - or grasping the "bigger picture." The globe is also a geometric aspect of the circle which deals with infinity, completion, cycles, and again - totality.

Emperor / 2 of Wands

Grapes/Grapevines: Symbol meanings of grapes and grapevines deal with fertility, abundance, transformation and blessing. Considered the fruit of the earth in both pagan and Christian circles, the grape is rich in symbolism. Bunches of grapes have long been depicted in funerary art and are symbols of redemption. Grapes and grapevines are also found in Greco-Roman art as symbols of hospitality, bounty and symbolic of youthfulness. All of these attributes come into play when we see these power-packed fruits in the cards.

7 of Pentacles / 9 of Pentacles / 10 of Pentacles / King of Pentacles / 3 of Cups / 4 of Wands

Hammer: A hammer, or the act of hammering is a sign of getting the point across, or getting the job done. The hammer is also a symbol of force, action, masculinity, and creativity. Typically drawn in matters of vocation, when the hammer catches our eye in a reading it may indicate that we need to get the job done and done well. It may also mean we need to hammer out the details relating to work or a project.

3 of Pentacles / 8 of Pentacles

Hand: Power, domination, protection these are primary symbol meanings relating to the hand. Hands are historically seen as points of transmission, meaning we give and receive from hands (energetically and physically). It's no accident that the powerful ace cards are all depicted with a hand holding the suit symbol. This is a clear message of force and power relating to the indicated suit. It is also a reminder that we are able to both give and receive those attributes pertaining to the referring suit.

Ace of Pentacles / Ace of Rods / Ace of Swords / Ace of Cups

Heart: As one would assume, the heart has long been as symbol of love, joy, and affection. The heart is also a symbol of truth, courage and conscience. The symbolic heart is the center of existence - physically speaking it pumps out life to the rest of the body. When we note the heart in our readings we must be mindful of our own center, and what is at the center of our focus. We may also ask what we love most - that which is positive or negative.

Empress / 3 of Swords

Hoe: Yes, this is a tool, and as such its sybmolism deals with work, resourcefulness, accomplishment. But the hoe is also a message telling us we can make our way easier by using the resources (tools) that are available to us. The hoe is also connected to the old adage "what we sew so shall we reap." When the hoe pops out at us in the cards (7 of pentacles) we might do well to consider what kind of sewing we are doing and how we are utilizing our resources (are we doing things the hard way, or should we recruit some help).

7 of Pentacles

Horn: Much like the flagsymbol meanings, the horn is also a symbol of announcement, only more forceful. Horns symbolize a joyous, boisterous, victorious, triumphant announcement. They signal all within ear-shot that something has happened or is about to happen soon. Horns announce both victory and oncoming attack - keep this in mind when the horn comes to your attention on the Judgment card.

Judgment

Horse: Featured on all the knight cards of the Tarot, the horse symbol meanings deal with strength, motion, action, and vitality. Linked in many ancient traditions with the four elements (fire, water, earth, air) the horse is also a strong spiritual symbol and an emblem of incorporating all the elements to maintain an equal, powerful balance with all things in the universe. This is evident in the "either/or" nature of the knights. In a more mundane sense, the horse is predispositioned to have a charging nature. In a reading, this gives us pause to consider where we are charging to and why.

Death / Sun / Knight of Pentacles / Knight of Swords / Knight of Cups / Knight of Wands / 6 of Wands

House: In houses we live, die, play, cry, grow, hide, dream, the list goes on. As such, they are symbols of our deepest secrets and the tenderest parts of our hearts. House symbol meanings also deal with protection and the value that we feel we must guard against theft. When houses jump up to our vision in a reading it may be a sign that our security is threatened, or it may convey the opposite, and we should not be concerned with safety and we are already protected.

2 of Cups / 6 of Cups / 10 of Cups / 2 of Wands / 8 of Wands / 10 of Wands

Ice: Ice symbol meanings deal with isolation, patience, waiting, distance, and objection. Ice is used in the Tarot to convey a feeling of separation. It is also used to portray a time of deep contemplation or a process of growth that is not perceived until much later (cycle of season) for example, spring is only evident after the thaw.

Fool / Hermit / Tower / Judgment /

Keys: Keys unlock things, and as such, they represent knowledge, intellect, and uncovering things that are hidden from us. The keys of the Hierophant card symbolize the keys to spiritual knowledge, and wisdom. The ancient Greeks depicted keys as symbols for knowledge and life. When these keys catch our attention we may need to ask if we are locking up our potential, or if we feel something is being locked away from us.

Hierophant

Lantern: The lantern carries with it all the symbol meanings that deal with light - it is the vehicle for intelligence, truth, and illumination. In Hinduism and Buddhism a lamp is a symbol of life. Lamps also serve as a devotional symbol and embody the spirit of virtue, faith and vigilance (lighting a candle in memory, as well as lighting the way through the darkest hour). When the lantern of the Hermit shines brightly to our awareness it is a symbol of clarity coming through and life revealing precious gifts to us.

Hermit

click for a larger view of all cards with the Lemniscate symbolLemniscate: The lemniscate (also known as the infinity symbol) is a geometrical represetation of the endless and eternal nature of energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply continues on forever in motion. The symbol meanings of this emblem serve to remind us of the infinite nature of our spirit, as well as our thoughts. When this symbol comes to our attention it may be a message that we should consider the consequences of our thoughts and deeds - the effects of which can be infinite.

Magician / Strength / World / 2 of Pentacles

Lightning: Typically the symbol meanings of lightning deal with instant and divine intervention. Lightning is a major message from a higher source, a message for the observer to wake up and pay attention to his/her surroundings. Lightning was viewed as a creative spark to the Native Americans as it signified the winking Thunderbird. Linked with both fire and water, lightning is also viewed as both creator and destroyer in many cultures. When the lightning bolt in the Tower card flashes at you, perhaps it is a message to pay attention to what creative or destructive forces are at work in your life.

Tower

Lily: The lily has symbol meanings of purity, innocence and fertility. Also, lily symbolism deals with vulnerability, and the freedom to be ourselves, as well as allowing others to be as they are too. The lily is also a symbolic flower of health and provision. In a reading, the lily can signal growth, development, and a quality of innocence in our lives. Depending on the surrounding cards, the lily may also indicate new relationships and births.

Magician / Temperance / Ace of Pentacles

Lion: Signifying one of the four fixed signs of the zodiac, lion symbol meanings deal with strength, courage, royalty, and protection. Much like lightning, the lion is viewed as both savior and destroyer in ancient cultural myth. The lion is a bit of a paradox - while standing as a symbol of spiritual valor it is also a symbol for the beastly needs of the flesh. When the lion roars at us in the cards we are encouraged to consider the level of our courage. Are we seated in faith or flesh? Are we protecting others or ourselves? Are we being strong or just stubborn?

Strength / Wheel / World / 2 of Cups / Queen of Wands / King of Wands

Lizard: With symbol meanings of renewal, vision, enlightenment, and rebirth, the lizard makes its appearance on the male court cards in the suit of rods. The lizard (or salamander in some renditions) suns itself on these cards to signify the importance of vision in the midst of action. In fact, in ancient times (particularly in alchemical lore), it was believed that the lizard renewed its sight by looking into the sun. A symbol of demure perspective in the face of monumental physical force - the lizard is a tiny reminder that big results come from small, conscious efforts.

Page of Wands / Knight of Wands / King of Wands

Lobster: Also depicted as a crab or crayfish in other deck renditions, the lobster symbol meanings deal with cycles, regeneration, and protection. These creatures are lunar symbols; they cast off their shells for new onces, and this is where the rebirth/cycling association plays its part. The protective symbolizm is evident in the hard spiney exo-skeleton found with these creatures. When the Lobster in the Moon card crawls into our consciousness we're reminded of the cyclical nature in our lives and what protection we may need for the path on which we embark.

Moon

Moon: The moon symbol meanings deal with cycles, time, psychic power, reflection, and emerging from one phase into another. Consider the power of the moon - able to influence oceans, and affect the realm of nature in strong subtle ways. Also a symbol of feminity, the moon is a sign of the softer, intuitive side of all of us. When the moon lights up on our readings, it is a prompting to consider our level of awareness. The moon asks us if we listening to our intuition and what are we allowing to influence our direction in life.

Priestess / Chariot / Moon / Page of Swords / 8 of Cups / 2 of Swords

Mountains: Seen on many of the cards, mountain symbol meanings deal with triumph, challenge, attainment, and realization. Mountains also represent timelessness and an endurance that is infinite. When those mountains peak out of the cards into our attention, we may consider the vastness of our universe, and contemplate our place within it. We may also want to consider the heights to which we are climbing, and what the realization of our goals may mean for us and those around us.

Emperor / Lovers / Strength / Judgment / Fool / Page of Pentacles / Queen of Pentacles / 8 of Swords / 10 of Swords / 8 of Cups / Knight of Cups / Ace of Rods / 2 of Wands / 3 of Wands / 7 of Wands / Page of Wands / Knight of Wands

Ocean: Ocean symbol meanings deal with infinite possibilities. Consider the ocean, and you will be considering the essence of vastness, mystery, and depth. It seems in exhaustible and the holder of wonderous things unseen. When the oceans in the cards crash their waves against our consciousness, it is time to pay homage to the great divine - meaning we should recognize the burgeoning power around us, the animating force that runs through us - the expansive and expressive nature of the universe. In other words, we must acknowledge that there may be other (higher) powers at work in our lives and it may be time to release our control in order to allow these powers to open up incredible opportunities to us.

2 of Pentacles / 5 of Swords / 6 of Swords / 10 of Swords / Page of Cups / Queen of Cups / King of Cups / 2 of Wands / 3 of Wands

Path: As you may imagine, path symbol meanings deal with direction as well as the path we choose to travel in any phase of our life (family, career, love, spirituality, etc.). Paths remind us that journeys of a lifetime begin with one small step. Paths in our reading are indicative of beginnings, endings, and the steps we take in-between that create the life we are living. When paths wind their way in our readings, we must consider these things, and question the intention and sincerity of the steps we are taking upon each of our paths. We must also re-evaluate the commitments we've made to our life path.

Temperance / Moon / Ace of Pentacles

Pillars: Pillar symbol meanings are all about balance. Typically, the focal point of the card is planted staunchly betwix two towering pillars - this is a visual indication that the figurehead of this card has chosen middle-ground. When the pillars tower over our readings, it is time to consider matters of diplomacy, balance, tact, and strategy. It is a sign that going between may be more adventageous than taking the proverbial high road or low road. Rather than seeing things as left or right, black or white, perhaps we can consider a middle road - a third option with a new and different perspective.

Priestess / Hierophant / Justice / Moon / 3 of Pentacles

Pitcher: The pitcher is vessel, and as such, we are keenly interested in the contents. As a vessel, the pitcher symbol meanings deal with what we are holding in our lives...what does our heart hold? Our minds? Even our bodies? Depicted in the Star card, we see the clean, clear waters pouring forth - a sign that we must be pure vessels in order to expand, express, and put forth purity. When the pitcher makes itself prominent in your readings, grab it by the handle, and begin to contemplate what kind of vessel you are - what are you holding, and are the conents coming out of you as pure as they can be?

Star

Plowed Fields: "As we sew, so shall we reap." This is the prime symbol meaning behind the plowed fields we see in the cards. When these fields come in contact with our intuition in a reading, we should be mindful that what we do and how we do it is pivotal to our harvest. If we're lazy and sloppy (rushing through as the Knight of Pentacles is want to do) with planting our seeds we will be disappointed with the results. However, if we invest the time to plant, nurture, and grow our rows, we will be rewarded with abundance. Plowed fields are also a symbol of time - it takes time to reap our rewards, we must allow for germination, and patience is required as we wait it out for the results we are expecting from our labors.

Page of Pentacles / Knight of Pentacles / 10 of Wands

Pomegranates: Pomegranate symbol meanings deal with abundance, fertility, lusciousness, generosity and union. Used in many cultures as a symbol of marraige, fertility, and love, the pomegranate with its leathery outer skin and its juicy, sweet interior is a symbol of encompassing bliss, reminiscent of passion and luxury. It is also a strongly feminine symbol, and is associated with female sexuality. When visions of pomegranates dance in our heads during a reading it is time to consider the power of our divine feminine side. The pomegranate is also a message for us to tap into the luxurious side of life - recognize the richness, abundance and wonder that surrounds us at every turn. It is also a sign of union with the divine as well as union with others.

Priestess / Empress

Rabbit: Reflexive, tentative and fast, rabbits symbol meanings deal with decisive action tempered with good judgment. Rabbits are close to the earth, and therefore are very grounding symbols. As social creatures, rabbits also remind us of the importance of friends and family. When the rabbit in the Queen of Pentacles card hops into our awareness it is a good time to consider look before we leap and excercise good judgement as the Queen does. Also, it is a good sign to gather friends and family about us - get in touch with our grounding roots.

Queen of Pentacles

Rain: Traditionally, rain has held symbol meanings of cleansing as well as fecundity (ancient cultures honored the rain for its ability to provide life to crops). In the case of the three of swords, we can take this symbol meaning as one of clearing, and washing away the old in order to accept the new. The imagery of card is oppressive, as it should be for all its indications - when we see the rain falling in this card it is a reminder that rain washes away the dirt, storms DO pass, and we are left with more fertile soil for planting (figuratively speaking) at the end of the storm.

3 of Swords

Ram: Featured prominently in most decks, the head of the ram has symbol meanings of determination, action, initiative, and leadership. The ram is also a symbol of Aries, which is the astral ruler of the Emperor. Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac, further reinforcing attributes of leadership, authority, and other forefather-type characteristics. When the ram butts our attention, it is a sign to take responsibility, get up, take action, and get motivated to accomplish our goals.

Emperor / Queen of Pentacles

Ropes: As we would guess, rope symbol meanings deal with binding, confinement or restriction. When we think of ropes, we often think of knots, and being all tied up in them. In the case of the Hanged Man however, the rope is a utility - it serves as a necessity in order to pull away from our internal knots. When we are tied up, we are forced into a state of non-action and this is precisely the answer to our problems. The more we struggle with the ties that bind, often the tighter they become.

Hanged Man

Rose: A long-standing symbol of purity, promise, and beauty. The rose symbol meanings deal with the promise of new beginnings and hope. We must also take the thorns into consideration - with the promise of new hope, we may have to endure a few stinging thorns (painful ordeals) along the way. Overall, the rose is a poignant symbol of the beauty that is ready to unfold within each of our hearts, and a reminder that we must take the opportunity to savor the beauty around us.

Fool /Magician / Strength / Death / 2 of Wands

Scale: As one would guess, scale symbol meanings deal with of equality and balance. It is a perfect visual measure when something is "out of whack." The scale in all its precision shows us which part of our life is out of balance - when the scale is tipped more to one side we know we need to take some corrective action.

Justice / 6 of Pentacles

Scroll: The scroll symbol meanings deal with knowledge that is carried down from era to era. Scrolls are symbols of ancient wisdom and sacred knowledge - usually of a secretive nature. When the scroll flashes at you in a reading it is time to get in touch with the facts that are hidden - get to the source of knowledge and educate yourself about what is going on in the situation pertaining to the reading.

High Priestess

Shield: Shield symbol meanings deal with defense, protection and covering up. Featured in the Empress card, the shield is an unlikely symbol for a card exhibiting virtues of love and abundance. However, even in the midst of the most happy and abundant times the shield is a message for us to protect ourselves from over-indulgence and is a signal for us to make preparations to shield or protect that which we value most (family, friends, future, etc.).

Empress

Ship: Yes, of course ship symbol meanings deal with travel and journey's. However a commonly overlooked factor is the medium upon which they said - water - it deals with the deeper levels of the psyche and the subconscious. When Ships sail across your vision in a reading, take into consideration where your thoughts (psyche) are traveling - what kind of baggage (cargo) are you carrying around, and are you charting (navigating) out the best course for your thoughts and emotions?

Death / 2 of Pentacles / King of Cups / 3 of Wands

Snail: Snail symbol meanings deal with steady footing (snails being psuedo pods which actually means "false feet"), and stability. Snails carry their homes upon their backs which is symbolic of carrying our security in our hearts (security and happiness in this case is an inside job). Not only sure of foot snails are also symbols of slow (but steady) progress. Featured in the 9 of Pentacles, we understand that stability and success do not appear overnight. Rather, success usually comes at a snail's pace.

9 of Pentacles

Snake: Snake symbol meanings deal with renewal, rebirth and development primarily because they shed their skin during each cycle in growth. Snakes are also cold-blooded which means they depend on their environment for their body temperature. This is a symbolic message that we must be adaptive, flexible and adjust as best we can to our circumstances. When the snake slithers across the cards into our consciousness way may need to ask ourselves if we need to shed a part of ourselves to allow further growth, or perhaps we need to be a little more flexible in situations at work or home.

Magician / Lovers / Wheel of Fortune / 7 of Cups

Snow: Featured on the 5 of Pentacles, we can derive from this imagery that snow symbol meanings deal with being "out in the cold," isolation, and exposure to harsh conditions. However, anyone who has stepped outside just after a fresh snow can tell you the beauty is stunning. Clean, crystally, and quiet. These are also symbolic qualities of snow. When the flakes fall on your eyes in a reading, keep in mind the snow is needed in order to have spring flowers. Also remember that tribulation is a matter of perspective - we can either see the snow as isolation or we can see it as a fresh clean blanket - waiting for us to make a few snow angels in it.

5 of Pentacles

Sphinx: Symbolic meaning of the sphinx deals with guardianship and protection of the secrets of life. Long considered to be a tyrant in myth , the sphinx was said to incessanty provoke passersby with riddles; only those who could answer their riddles were allowed entrance into the gates they guard. The sphinx's physical construct (part man part beast) is also symbolic of the senses. When the sphinx paws its way into our attention in a reading we are called to answer a riddle - using all of our senses and determing the secrets that may be holding us back.

Chariot / Wheel of Fortune

Staff: Here we are recognizing staff's found in the cards that are specifically used for support by the archetypes in the cards. With this parameter in mind, staff symbol meanings deal with support, stability, direction, and single-ness of purpose. The staff is also a symbolic representation of the numeral one, and as such is carries a meaning of new beginnings, first-attempts, and again, single-mindedness in thought as well as deed.

Magician / Emperor / Chariot / Hermit / 8 of Cups

Stained Glass: Stained glass is symbolic of perception and how our vision (mental, phsyical and spiritual) can change according to our perception and beliefs. The art of staining glass reaches back to ancient alchemy when certain compounds (i.e.: antimony windows) were mixed with glass to bring about transformational effects upon the viewer. When you seem to be looking through the stained glass windows of your reading, it's a sign to begin getting honest about your perception of the situation. Are you seeing things clearly, or looking at things through "rose colored glasses?"

5 of Pentacles / 4 of Swords

Star: As long as we have been able to look up at the stars, we have been looking to them for illumination, direction and guidance. Thus the star symbol meanings deal with shedding light on our lives, offering us navigation when we need it, and providing consistency when our lives seem to be topsy-turvey. When the stars in the cards featured below wink at us in a reading you know it is time to look to a higher source for direction, and realize the starry light within our hearts can also illuminate our way.

Empress / Chariot / Star

Sun: So much is dependent upon the existence of the sun, its symbolic meanings are endless. Primarily, the sun is a symbol of expansion, growth, energy, and creativity. When the sun shines upon your consciousness in a reading, pay attention to its position in the sky (setting, mid-day, or rising) as its position is also symbolic. Rising the sun is a symbol of new beginings, setting indicates and ending or transition and mid-day indicates going full force in creative endeavors.

Death / Temperance / Sun / Fool

Sunflower: If you've ever observed this happy flower, you've noticed that its head always looks to the sun. This is the message of the sunflower "always look to the light" for the answers and guidance you seek. When the sunflower nods at us in a reading it is time to look away from the dark (negativity) and look to the light (positive) side of things. It sounds cliche, but keeping on the "sunny side" as the sunflower does assures a more sunny disposition.

Sun / Queen of Wands

Tomb: Tomb symbol meanings deal with laying to rest the thoughts and things that no longer serve us. When we see the tomb in our readings we must not misunderstand the message. This symbol has very little to do with physical death. Rather, it deals with coming out of poorly suited mind-sets and freeing ourselves from tomb-like belief systems. Often this period of "coming out" occur after much time of stagnation - another facet of the tomb - where we are once interred or encased for a time, we evolve from our tomb into a new phase of understanding.

Judgment / 4 of Swords

Triangle: In Ancient Egypt the Triangle was seen as a symbol of intelligence and indicated the capacity for love. The Buddhists utilze this geometric pattern in the Sri Yantra mandala as a tool to invoke the energy of love. The triangle also deals with the love represented in the mother, father, child union as well as the holy trinity. Additionally, this symbol has long been recognized as a sign of balance and creativity.

Temerpance

Wall: See also "brick wall" in the symbol meanings (A-C) page. Simply put, walls deal with separating one area from another. When we have a need to keep one area of our lives separate from another, the walls in the cards show themselves to us in a reading. Take a close look at the context of the "wall cards" in relation to the rest of the reading - what are the cards indicating you separate? Walls also deal with the need for privacy, this may be another consideration in your reading.

King of Pentacles / 2 of Wands

Waterfall: Water is a symbol of emotion and the subconscious. Therefore, waterfalls deal with the constant running and flowing movement of our emotions and the stirring movements of our deeper minds. Observing the nature of waterfalls, we see they typically move at such a rushing speed that they tend to take everything with them in their path - rocks, trees, any debris in the midst of a waterfall is subject to its pull. This is symbolic that we must not let our emotions run away from us. Further, the waterfall leads to a plummeting drop and a crashing end against jagged rocks. This is a lesson that when we are not in control of our emotions and thoughts then they control us - potentially leading us down a rocky demise.

High Priestess / Empress / Queen of Swords

Wolf: The wolf is a symbol of our primal urges and bears its teeth at our every attempt to be conventional. As a member of the canine family, the wolf is also a symbol of loyalty and intelligence. When the wolf comes howling out of the cards in a reading, it is time to re-focus on our core desires and compare them with our loyalties. Simply put - are we being true to our core self or are we trying to "fit in" or measure up with the image we feel we must sustain in the societal view.

Moon / Wheel of Fortune

Wreath: Typically wreaths of laurel are depicted on the various feature cards (listed below). Wreaths of this type have long been a symbol of victory ever since the first ancient games upon mount Olympus where the victor was crowned in laurels (hence the term "resting on his laurels" comes when one relies on his/her credentials rather than further drive/action). A sweet smelling laurel wreath is also a symbol of protection, peace and purification and is associated with the god Apollo. It is a message that the favor of the Gods is upon us, and that we shall be the victor in this stage of our lives.

Fool / World / 6 of Wands / 7 of Cups

Three Card Reading in Tarot

To help you understand and clarify available options before taking action to solve a problem or pursue a goal (focus).

Basic Time frame Spread


 

What the Spread Reveals

This is a very simple yet useful spread, that can have a wide range of meanings assigned to each of the three positions. Two of these are presented here for your consideration. They include the top row of titles, which introduces a problem or decision focused approach, "Context - Focus - Outcome" and the bottom titles which introduce a timeline approach, of "Past - Present - Future."

To begin this spread, shuffle the cards carefully, spread them out in a long line in front of you, then allow your Higher Self to draw three cards from the deck. Each step should be done carefully and with calm focus.

Timeline Approach

This spread will help you to learn to apply the tarot to help you to explore the forces that are influencing the Querant, by looking at the past, present and future energy around them.

Left Card: The Past - This card shows the Querant's past experiences, the ones that cast a light on the current situation.

Center Card: The Present - This card reveals what the Querant is feeling and experiencing at the moment.

Right Card: The Future - The card predicts the result of the course of action that the Querant will take, based on the first two cards.

Problem Solving or Decision Making Approach

This spread will help you to learn to apply the tarot to figure out how to approach a problem or decision. This is easiest when you let your ego and conscious mind relax, and allow your Higher Self to speak to you through the cards you draw.

Left Card: The Context - This card reflects a general overview of the Querant's present situation.
 

Center Card: The Focus - This card reflects a new set of circumstances that are about to act upon the Querant, the forces that drive these may be positive or negative depending on the card and whether it is upright or inverse. This card is the general problem or the decision to be made.
 

Right Card: The Outcome - This card reflects the effect of the second focus card. It shows the outcome that comes with the new circumstances; the results of the problem solving and/or decision-making.


Aberystwyth University Tarot and Meditation Society

Networks: Aberystwyth University

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