Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Witches, Part 3: Tarot

Hello all! It is my great pride and pleasure to sit down with tarot expert and fellow author L. K. Below!

Lindsay: Well I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I'd be happy to help explain it to you.

Clara: So tell us a bit about the art. How easy is it to do?

Lindsay: Well that depends on how committed you are to it. Every tarot deck has 78 cards to it, each with its own separate meaning, which changes again if the card happens to be reversed. Not only does a reader have to learn the different meanings, but he or she also needs to learn how to read the cards in different positions—because the meanings of the cards are also dependent upon the surrounding cards. Fortunately, there are books (my recommended choice being It's All in the Cards by John Mangiapane) which help to decipher the meanings of the cards. 

Clara: Maybe I should go back to the beginning. What's the first thing we need to know about tarot?

Lindsay: Tarot is a form of divination. Like I said, there are 78 cards to a deck. The deck is divided between the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are the powerful cards, the "trump" cards, if you will. These are the cards that you commonly see in movies; The Hanged Man, The Devil, The Priestess. There are 22 of these cards, numbered from 0 (The Fool) to 21 (The World). 

The Minor Arcana resemble the deck of common playing cards. There are four suits: Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. Each suit has 14 cards: an ace, the numbers 2-10, and then the "royal" cards—a page, a knight, a queen, and a king. What makes these royal cards different from the rest of the Minor Arcana is the way it can be interpreted. Like the other cards, it has a general meaning. However each of these cards also represents a person in the life of the Querent (the person the reading is for). This person can be a friend, family member, or it can even represent the Querent himself. 

Now, of course I am describing the Rider-Waite deck, which is the most common deck used. However, there are hundreds of decks available, each with different representations of the symbols in the original deck, and therefore each with different meanings. To learn them all would take longer than my lifetime, that's for sure! I hope you don't mind if I generalize and use the most popular deck. 

Clara: Not at all. Walk us through a typical reading.

Lindsay: There is no such thing as a "typical one." Each reading is tailored to the individual. 

To start, the Querent would have to think of a question. He or she would not tell me this question until the end, and only then if they desire. They can choose to keep it entirely to themselves. The question has to be specific—and not a frivolous one. If they sit at my table for advice on whether to dye their hair blue, I advise they patronize a hair salon instead. The question can be about themselves or about someone else. However, it does need to have a time frame. For instance, the Querent can't ask, "Will I die?" First of all, because the answer is yes (we all die), and secondly because it has no time frame. A proper question would be, "Will I die in the next two months?" And in fact, that is a lie. Because the second rule of asking a question in tarot is that the question be an open-ended one. Yes or no questions cannot be asked, because the cards don't spell out the answer like that. They describe scenarios, but they don't have mouths to ask questions. Examples of good questions are: "What will happen in my love life in the next two years?" "What opportunities does a career with this company hold for me?" or "How will the next two months change if I decide to move to such a place?" Once the Querent decides on a question, it is time to move on to the spread. 

There are many different spreads for a tarot reading. The depth of them depends on the number of cards used. The most common for public readings is the Celtic cross, which has 11 cards in it. The simplest is the 3-card spread depicting the past, present, and future. As with tarot decks, there are hundreds of different spreads. A good place to look them up is this website or

As soon as those factors are decided, the reader can move on to the reading. This begins by the Querent shuffling the cards as he or she thinks of their question. The reader never shuffles after the Querent has finished. Instead, he or she turns over the top cards as needed in the spread. From there, they have to interpret what they see, in order to answer the Querent's question. After I answer it to the best of my ability, I always give the Querent the option of telling me his or her question, so I can tailor the answer better. However, I never ask beforehand, in case knowing the question should cloud my eyes and instead of reading the cards, I would try to tell them what they want to hear. 

Clara: Is there anything else we should know about tarot?

Lindsay: It depends on who you ask. I have laid out the basics of the art. Other useful websites include the Wikipedia page and this website. 

Depending on who you talk to, you will get different answers on things such as why the cards work, etc. The most committed people will tell you never to insult your cards. By keeping them with you, they are attuned to you, and will show the truth, which according to some will be lessened if you insult them. To tell the truth, that is the reason I still use my first pack exclusively, even though I collect other tarot decks. Insults to the cards include frivolous questions by Querents (not to mention it's a waste of your time), and monopolizing the cards, or asking for money in return for the reading. 

I once read the most amazing historical novel by Anne Stuart involving tarot. It was called Prince of Swords. Unfortunately, I think it is out of print now, but if you can get your hands on it at a library or yard sale, I definitely recommend!

Clara: Well, Lindsay, thank you for agreeing to answer my questions on the subject. 

Lindsay: Thank you for having me.

Clara: You can find Lindsay's romantic fiction under the pen name L. K. Below. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter at @LBelowtheauthor

But before you go,  Lindsay, I have to ask: are the rumours true? Are you planning to write a book involving tarot?

Lindsay: Well, you heard right, but unfortunately, it won't be romance. The novel currently under way is for a young adult audience.

Clara: You know I had to ask. Thank you again for coming—and thank you to everyone who joined us!



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