What’s That Mean? Tarot Definitions and Related Terms

Definitions for Your Tarot Studies

These are a handful of terms you may find helpful as you read articles, pages, and books on the Tarot and related topics. This is a work in progress and these definitions are in my own words, as I understand each term. I’m also (slowly) adding links to sources for further study.

Looking for Tarot card meanings? Please see my References below and my list of Tarot Card Meanings Resources.


Definitions

Beltane

Beltane is the Sabbat celebrating the beginning of Summer (May Day/ May 1st – Northern Hemisphere, November 1st – Southern Hemisphere), an ancient Celtic festival. Bonfires and May Pole dances are traditional ways to observe this holiday. Beltane at Encyclopedia Brittanica. See also Sabbats.

Court cards

The Tarot court cards are the Page, Knight, Queen, and King of each of the 4 Tarot Suits (Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands).

Divination

Divination is the practice of seeking knowledge of the unknown or the future by occult or supernatural methods (ex. reading Elder Futhark Runes, reading Tarot/ Lenormand/ Oracle cards, or studying an astrological chart).

Divinatory tools

Also known as “methods of divination”, divinatory tools are any tools used to seek knowledge of the unknown or the future, such as Tarot cards, Lenormand cards, Oracle cards, Rune stones, sets of bones or shells, or a pendulum.

Esoteric

Esoteric means obscure and only intended to be understood by a small group of people, often those with special or secret knowledge. The word esoteric is sometimes used to denote secret teachings only available to the initiates of a specific group.

Fool’s Journey

The Fool’s Journey is the path through the 22 Major Arcana Tarot cards in numerical order from the Magician, the first Major Arcana card, to the World/ Universe, the final card of the Majors. The Fool travels through the Major Arcana, pausing to learn the lessons of each card along the way. The Fool’s Journey represents the stages of life from new learner to the wise, experienced world traveler.

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana Tarot cards, the”Greater mysteries”/ the Majors/ trump cards/ triumph cards, are the first 22 cards of a 78-card Tarot deck. As a group, the Major Arcana may be referred to as the Fool’s Journey. The Major Arcana are followed by the Minor Arcana, the remaining 56 Tarot cards, to form a complete 78-card Tarot deck.

Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana Tarot cards (“Lesser mysteries”/ the Minors/ pip cards) are the 56 cards of the 4 Tarot Suits (Cups, Pentacles, Swords, Wands). The Minors include 14 cards per suit, Ace (1) through 10 plus the 4 Court cards, Page through King. The Minor Arcana follow the 22 Major Arcana Tarot cards, to make a complete 78-card Tarot deck.

Occult

Occult means hidden or obscure. Mystical or supernatural practices, knowledge, and beliefs that may not be academically considered to fall under the categories of religion or science, such as spirituality, magick, and divination (including Tarot card reading), are often considered occult.

Querent

Querent is a historical/ traditional word for the Tarot client or person asking the question(s) or query to their Tarot reader. The Tarot reader can be the same as the querent if a person reads Tarot spreads for themselves.

Sabbats

Based on the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes and the Summer and Winter Solstices, the Sabbats are earth-based holidays that offer a perfect way to honor the seasons. The astrological seasons are defined by the Equinoxes and Solstices. Celebrating the Sabbats helps us to mark the passage of time in a meaningful way. The Sabbats are Imbolc, Ostara (Spring Equinox/ March Equinox), Beltane, Litha (Summer Solstice/ June Solstice), Lughnasadh/ Lammas, Mabon (Autumn Equinox/ September Equinox), Samhain, and Yule (Winter Solstice/ December Solstice). See their respective listings for dates and further information. Note that the dates listed are for the Northern Hemisphere with the date observed in the Southern Hemisphere in parenthesis. Calendar of Sabbats, also known as the Wheel of the Year.

Samhain

Samhain, AKA Third Harvest, Day of the Dead, and Old Hallowmas, is the Greater Sabbat that coincides with Halloween. It is an ancient Celtic festival that marks the “end of summer” (Gaelic translation). It is most commonly celebrated on October 31st by honoring departed loved ones and with divination, with others choosing November 6th-7th, All Hallow’s Eve, as their day of observance. Samhain at Encyclopedia Brittanica. Samhain history, mythology, and traditions.

Tarot birth cards

The Tarot birth cards offer a general framework for understanding personality, based on the birth date. It is similar in concept to Life Path numbers and astrological sun signs. Everyone has 1 to 3 Tarot birth cards, depending upon the system used. I use the 2- to 3-birth card system as described in Method 2 here.

Tarot cards

The Tarot cards are cards with symbols and detailed illustrations to tell stories with layers of meaning. These cards help us connect with our intuition around major themes and daily issues. Tarot is an ancient tool that may have begun as a card deck used for games and fortune-telling around the 14th or 15th century. Traditionally, a Tarot deck contains a standardized set of 78 Tarot cards.

Tarot deck

A Tarot deck is a standardized set of 78 Tarot cards with symbols and detailed illustrations to tell stories with layers of meaning. There are 22 Major Arcana (“Greater Mysteries”) Tarot cards reflecting major life lessons, universal archetypes, and stages of life. The remaining 56 Minor Arcana cards address daily life and temporary concerns. The Minor Arcana cards are divided into 4 suits, similar to playing cards: Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. (Note that there are Major Arcana Tarot decks which contain only the 22 Major Arcana cards.)

Tarot reader

A Tarot reader is a person who interprets the Tarot cards in a Tarot reading (from a single-card reading to a more complex spread with multiple Tarot cards). More than simply repeating the meaning of each Tarot card, the Tarot reader interprets the meaning of the reading as a whole in addition to the meaning of each card as it applies to the question(s) asked and/ or positions of the spread selected for that reading. A professional Tarot reader is a person who routinely accepts payment to perform and interpret Tarot readings for clients. Note that many Tarot readers also practice other forms of divination, such as reading Lenormand cards, runes, or tea leaves (tasseography).

Tarot reading

A Tarot reading is an interpretation provided by a Tarot reader of the Tarot cards laid out in a Tarot spread to answer questions or give information on the chosen topic.

Tarot spread

A Tarot spread is a group of Tarot cards laid out in a pre-determined pattern or shape with each position (place where a card is laid) representing a question or aspect of the topic at hand. Examples of Tarot spreads include the simple 3-card Past/ Present/ Future spread, the 7-card horseshoe spread, and the more complex 10-card Celtic Cross.


References

Dictionary.com

Encyclopedia Brittanica

Tarot Card Meanings Resources

Celtic Connection