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Tarot Card Meanings vs. Interpretation

A quick search on Google Trends with the term tarot meanings in the US revealed that six of wands reversed is a pretty frequent search, along with others like six of pentacles tarot card meaning and six of swords tarot card meaning. What does this say? A few things: For one, the sixes appear to be confusing (except for the Six of Cups, everyone appears to be clear on what that means). On that note, a majority of the rising searches are related to Major Arcana meanings, followed by the suits of Wands and Swords, with no Cups trending in search, what makes me wonder if it's just me or are they trying to find out what those cards mean in a relationship context (searches for "insert card" meaning in "insert context" are also quite high!)


Something else that I extract from that information, is that people are searching for individual card meanings, presumably, for readings that they are doing in a context (see the example of the six of wands reversed) and maybe not taking that context into consideration.


This takes me to the subject that I want to talk about today, which is meanings vs. interpretation.



Tarot Card Meanings vs. Interpretation


To illustrate what I mean, let's think about a bouquet of flowers. By itself, it is a bouquet of flowers. It can be beautiful, aromatic, fresh, it can inspire thoughts of nature, celebration, thoughtfulness or many other things.


Now, imagine a bouquet of fresh flowers scattered and walked over on the sidewalk. A person walking with a bouquet of flowers behind their back. A bouquet of flowers on top of a grave. Someone posing on Instagram with a bouquet of flowers. A bouquet is a bouquet is a bouquet, but in those four scenarios, it is telling a different story.


The same thing happens with tarot cards.


This is why the meaning of a card is one thing, and its interpretation is a different one.


A reading is a combination of the meanings of the cards that are on the table (and those that are not there) their positional context in the reading, the context of the question asked, the circumstances of the querent and other factors that make each reading unique to the circumstances.


If you interpret one spread in the context of an established relationship, the same spread in the context of a Tinder date, and that same spread again in the context of the sale of a car, you are going to get three different stories despite having the same cards on the table.


Knowing what the cards mean individually takes memorizing (or asking Google Almighty). Knowing how to interpret them takes practice, observation and threading all of the above-mentioned factors together.


It's like a word vs. a paragraph. If you see the word arm written on a white piece of paper with nothing else around it, you can think of the body part, or the metal thing that holds my overhead camera, but it can also be a division in an organization, and it can also be the action of equipping yourself with something, often a weapon, but not always a weapon, since you can be also armed with information, education or courage.


It's confusing! So how do you know which is it when we don't even know if we're talking about a noun or a verb?



From a Word to a Paragraph


five of pentacles tarot meaning | tarot meanings | tarot interpretation | tarot tips

Going back to the previous example, if we see the word arm in a book about Biology, we are more equipped to conclude that we are speaking about a body part. The word arm coming from an engineer is more likely to be about a mechanical arm. It is the same word, but we now have a bit of context to interpret it. But before getting there, we need to first be aware of the many possibilities of the word arm. A 5-year-old child probably doesn't know any other meaning for the word other than the part of the body that comes before their hands, so they can't consider any other option because they don't conceive that it exists.


To gain this awareness in the context of tarot, you need to come to understand the essence of the card, what I call its core meaning.


The core meaning of a card is the ultimate keyword, and it is not a keyword that you take necessarily from a book, it is a keyword that you come to because it unlocks the potential of the card and allows you to then interpret it according to what is on the table.


I will write in greater depth about core meanings and how to get to them in a different post or we'll be here until tomorrow, but to illustrate what I mean, I'm going to give you an example with the Five of Pentacles.


Upon running a quick search for five of pentacles tarot meaning, I am going to copy here the results from Biddy Tarot, since it's the first to appear.


It says:


"UPRIGHT: Financial loss, poverty, lack mindset, isolation, worry.

REVERSED: Recovery from financial loss, spiritual poverty."


What do these words have in common?


To me, the core meaning of the Five of Pentacles is "lack".


If you think about poverty, it is easy to take this card to the financial department and think that it has to do with money. If you think about lack, you switch from the mindset of money to the mindset of "something isn't there in this situation".


Then, when you have the Five of Pentacles in a love reading, you don't automatically think about financial issues in the relationship (which is still a possibility, but not the only possibility) but about something that this relationship lacks, and then, when you look at the rest of the spread, and gather the information necessary to conclude what is it talking about. Is it a lack of money? Is it a lack of stability? Is it a lack of passion? Feelings?


When you are open to the possibilities of the meaning and you blend it with the rest, you are in a position to make an interpretation that reflects the situation that you're reading about. And that's how the magic happens!

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