The Power of Tarot Symbolism

by Marcia Masino

I recently received an inquiry from a woman who asked, “Do you have to know the Tarot to do the Ten of Wands meditation you described in your blog? A brilliant question.  She’d read the visualization instructions from my June, 2016 post and felt moved to perform the meditation because she related to the ideas I presented. However, she was concerned it wouldn’t be effective because she wasn’t a student of the cards.

Her traditional Tarot knowledge was very limited, she could tell a Wand from a Pentacle, could identify some of the Major Arcana and understood that the cards relate to people, life circumstances, spiritual themes and past, present and future. Her concern revolved around the meditation helping her if she didn’t know all the relationships between the intricate card symbolism and interpretive meanings. The woman’s intuitive self recognized the significance of the visualization; she wanted to do the practice without learning the entire Tarot.

the-power-of-tarot-symbolismThe visualization exercise I described focused on the idea of self empowered choices when handling burdens and this felt very relevant to her current life circumstances. She was unable to release the beliefs that no longer helped her and manage those that served her best and higher self. In truth is that not the challenge we all face?  The opportunity to chose which burdens she carried and how to release others appealed to her. The idea of choice was revolutionary; as was engaging with the psyche aspect of the Tarot visuals as a pathway to a better life.

Yes, you can participate in creative Tarot visualization without a full understanding of the nuances of a card’s symbolism. When a Tarot image “speaks to you” or resonates with you it is a sure sign that you are meant to create an imaginative dialogue with it. Another reason to contemplate a specific card is its appearance in a helping placement in a reading’s layout.

I told her to go for it. What she didn’t know was that the Tarot symbolism will teach her what she needs to “know” about the card via the pathway of meditation. A person may not consciously comprehend all the symbolic card meanings (who does?) However, through the contemplation practice the individual’s soul will present knowledge in the best way for her to understand it’s messages. This experience parallels how the cards function during a reading as well as how symbolism appears in a significant dream.

My blog’s focus was on the Ten of Wands, a challenging card that depicts an overburdened figure bent with care. Who would want to meditate on that image and why? Contemplation of a perceived negative card is really the courageous ability to face a test and remove obstacles. By facing the imagery, choosing to take back her power and realigning with her best self my reader is inaugurating a positive future unencumbered from resistance and destructive beliefs.

In my book, Best Tarot Practices, I include empowering meditations for a number of the undesirable cards. This practice requires looking at the chosen card, then following my instructions to interact with the character and scene. By performing (or even reading about them) you can start the process of turning a negative into a positive. Simply focus on a negative card that appears in your spread or as in this example, your attraction to the image.

Contemplation of a negative card is less traditional than the classical utilization of positive Tarot imagery to evoke and or invoke a specific spiritual power. In the early Florentine Renaissance, a scholar named Marsilio Ficino developed a contemplation method to alleviate his own suffering of “saturnine” depression. Ficino used uplifting positive images as talismans and a therapeutic tool to “cure “his self-described melancholia. He taught the elite members of his Hermetic Academy that harmonization with the refined aspects of our spiritual nature can be achieved by viewing and interacting (creative imaging) with beautiful images.

Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli was a member of Ficino’s Academy and would’ve understood the value of inner harmony and self cultivation when he painted his Primavera masterpiece with allegorical characters’ familiar to Tarot students. He included figures of Mercury (The Magician) Venus – The Empress, The Three Graces aka the Three of Cups and also alludes to The Lovers in his painting. No doubt his intention in part, was to capture the elevated qualities of those planetary Tarot figures as both talismans and for therapeutic contemplation. I believe the influence of Ficino’s esoteric teachings and the creation of the first Italian Tarot decks may have experienced some cross pollination since both happened at the same time, place and within the same elite group.

Ficino’s arcane practice of utilization of images to attain spiritual knowledge and well being still exists today. Many of the early 20th Century Tarot decks as well as the modern packs have symbolism designed with this experience in mind. The technique is a threefold process; first you chose the image, then you merge with it in meditation (my Best Tarot Practices book features meditations for all the Major and selected Minor cards as well as the Court.) The third stage is when transformation occurs as the harmonious energy aligns with your nature.

The Tarot symbols are a soul sourced universal and archetypal language that connect you with the spiritual aspect of your subconscious or the Divine Mind. You do not have to know their meaning to have a meaningful meditation experience. However, as you explore symbolism and visualization you will discover significant aspects of yourself while attaining a better understanding of the Tarot. Ultimately this is a way for you to open the path to the universal mind, a plane of consciousness that once tapped facilitates soul purpose, gifts of the spirit and alignment with the Higher Power of your own understanding.


Marcia Masino is a certified Grandmaster of tarot and author of the tarot classic Easy Tarot Guide. She has lectured at numerous tarot conferences and is a popular speaker for the Lily Dale Assembly workshop program. Her articles on metaphysical subjects have appeared in Fate and on the Web at http://mmasino.wixsite.com/tarotbooks. She lives in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.

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