We're very excited to have Rowan Ong (Singapore), an established tarot card reader and great tarot teacher with decades of profound experience take us on a fascinating introduction to the wonderful world of tarot in this article. Rowan will explain what tarot is and introduce us to 3 of the most popular and 3 of the most feared cards of the tarot as represented in film. This introduction is further supported by the lovely images from the Fenestra tarot.
What is Tarot?
There are many ways to divination. The Runes, the I-ching, Oracle cards, reading tea leaves, reading palm or face are just to name a few. Tarot is one of these systems of divination.
Tarot is a set of symbols which is arranged in the following manner.
78 Symbols in total which is broken up in major and minor arcana.
There are 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana.
The major arcana consists of 22 cards which are considered the life paths. They represents key events in a person’s life and also of much consequence. They are what people are experiencing in different times of their life. From birth to death and from exterior factors to spiritual senses.
The minor arcane consists of 56 cards which are broken up into 4 suits and has a total of 14 cards in each suit. It is from Ace to ten and 4 court cards which is king, queen, knight and page.
The wands are symbols of fire. They mean passion and of creativity. The suit also mean Stress and control related matters.
The Cups are symbols of Water. They mean Feelings and of Expression. The suit also mean Emotions related matters.
The Swords are symbols of Air. They mean Logic and of Science. The suit also mean Education and legal related matters.
The Pentacles are symbols of Earth They mean Wealth and of Resources. The suit also mean Wealth and finance related matters.
A deck which consist of the above system is the tarot deck. It is the traditional and recognized tarot system.
Of the tarot deck there are 3 most commonly seen cards which are featured in most movies.
Live and Let Die (1973). James Bond film in which Solitaire (Jane Seymour) can predict the future with her tarot cards only so long as she remains a virgin. “Us?” asks James Bond as he holds up The Lovers card just dealt by Solitaire.
The lovers card is very popular in tarot. As most people will associate lovers as the card which represent love However, contary to most perceptions, the lovers card is actually the card of choice. In the Rider waite deck it is the angel requesting Adam to make a choice between the fruit of knowledge and the fruit of life. It is also a card of making a decision on forming understanding and partnership with your partner.
The Death card
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965). While on a train Dr. Terror uses the tarot to predict death for his five fellow traveling companions.
Dr. Terror: “Tarot cards are the key to ancient wisdom. The tarot deck is a picture book of life, an answer to the deepest questions of philosophy and history, and sometimes a means of prediction. . . . There is within each of us a twin destiny: the natural and the supernatural. The cards are attracted to the supernatural part of our destiny as one pole of a magnet attracts an opposite pole. . . . This deck can forewarn us. I call it my ‘house of horrors.’ . . . The person whose fortune is to be told taps the deck three times, then they are shuffled and dealt. The first four cards predict his destiny. The fifth gives him the knowledge to change it—if change is possible.”
There is a Chinese saying, “ there is no banquet which does not end.” For every beginning there is a death. When we are born to the world we are destined to die.The death card is not representing actual death all the time. It represents the ending of a cycle and the beginning of another cycle. In most circumstances, the death card is a netural card which is a course of nature to end matters.
The Devil card
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). A film by Terry Gilliam that features the Devil and other tarot references. Heath Ledger’s last film. Extraordinary!
The devil card normally is a negative denotation. It symbolizes addiction and bondage to a particular matter. It is also a card of a matter binding to you something. It could mean marriage as it is binding 2 people in a contractual matter.
The following are 3 cards which are most feared in tarot.
The tower card is a card which was made famous due to the September 11 2001 incident whereby the world trade centre was struck by planes.
It is a card which lives up to its image. In the images of the tower, you see a lightning bolt striking a tower and leaves it burning. People are falling out of the tower. It is the card of destruction.
Apart from the image of destruction, you can also trace the tale of the tower of babel to that of the tower card. In Genesis, the story of the tower of babel refers to people building a tower to reach god. Yet god destroyed the tower and scattered the people. It is a humbling of the human pride and ego.
The 3 of Swords
The 3 of swords depicts a heart being pierced by 3 swords. It is an image which strikes people as something which hurts your emotions. It is the card of sorrow. People do not like to feel sad and when you get this card, it means you are.
However, on the brighter side of things, it is the card which is the triumph of logic over feelings. Many a time, we are blinded by love and cannot make a logical decision to leave a bad partner or to fire a incompetent worker.
The 3 of swords is a reminder for us to think and do the tough choices in life.
The 5 of Pentacles.
This card is the card of worry. You feel the need of material needs. You need to feel the warmth of your family. The need to look after you health is also implied. Once you see this card, fear normally shows in the person’s face.
We are pleased to announce that Rowan has just published a book, "Tarot in an hour", diagram left, where instead of metaphysical mumbo jumbo, he has distilled the practical meanings gleaned from his experience with the tarot into a great readers' cheat sheet and reference book. The book complements classes he teaches at Sanctum Singapore and can be found at Books Kinokuniya Singapore.
If you also happen to like the images of the Fenestra tarot in this article, all 78 Fenestra cards are represented in Rowan's book.