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 She lives in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.


A New Perspective on Interpreting Court Cards

by Marcia Masino

Accurate interpretation of the Tarot Court Cards can be a challenge for a reader when they appear in a spread for a query that doesn’t include other people. The Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages usually represent the individuals involved with the inquiry. The Page of Wands represents a youth, so why does it appear in financial question? Why does the Knight of Swords turn up for a woman’s property search when her realtor is a woman and there is no male influence involved? What about that repetitive Court card that shows up in your own readings that you haven’t been able to identify?

Usually a Court Card represents a person who is influencing the question from a past, present or future perspective and that may be a correct card interpretation however there is another explanation. When an unidentified aka cannot recognize him or her Court Card appears it may represent an aspect of your own nature that is influencing the question and therefore your future for good or ill. The positive character traits ascribed to the card are the qualities that may be utilised to bring about the desired outcome. Negative descriptions, usually read as reversals, will not only explain the behaviour that is creating a problem but how to correct adversity by simply looking to the card’s good personality qualities for guidance. The idea is to use this self awareness to interact with and co-create your future from a self empowered vantage point.

Here is a great example of the significance of the unrecognized Court Card. Recently a student asked me about “some weird man” that showed up in her Tarot session during her visit to a new reader. “She insisted he would be with me forever. I am seventy years old I have never had a loyal male figure in my life and I don’t think I will in the future since I do not want one. Anyway, I was asking about finding a new house, not romance.” Her opinion of the reader and therefore the reading had diminished. She had asked for guidance about her confusion in choosing the right home for herself and was frozen in fear, self doubt, scepticism and mistrust of her own judgement when assessing the virtues and flaws of the houses she was viewing.

A New Perspective on Interpreting Court Cards

The way she described the reader’s explanation struck me as indicating quite a different interpretation than the one offered to her. I asked my student which card it was and she said the Knight of Swords. This Knight appeared in her reading as a way shower, a healer and an agent for self transformation. The Knights are powerful cards that herald breakthroughs and positive direction. The Swords quality of personal integrity, in other words keeping true to her values, reason, intellect and clarity is what she needs to find her home. The Knight of Swords is an aspect of her own nature being pointed out to her. Of course he will always be with her, he is her! But, and this is where the healing challenge comes in, she needs to recognize and integrate his qualities in order to get unstuck from her house hunting dilemma. Her self – perception is the problem because she regards herself as the opposite of this Knight, indecisive, unable to accurately assess situations and inadequate.

By suggesting her past held many times when where she did make good decisions, trusted her observations and did act decisively with successful outcomes I refocussed her stuck fearful viewpoint using her own positive experiences. Of course she will require repeated reminders that she is the Knight of Swords to maintain her new positive self-awareness. One of the easiest techniques is one she devised, she now carries a picture of the Knight of Swords on her phone, goes to house viewings, looks at the card and is constantly reminding herself that he is her companion and ally.

Adding Court as character qualities to your interpretation repertoire can be very helpful. You can describe positive personality traits, challenges, lessons, best strategy, soul nature and spiritual strengths through them. Highlighting the individuality is empowering and shifts the focus of the reading from, “this is going to happen” to “this is who you are in relation to the question, these are your strengths and flaws by understanding them and being pro-active you are shaping your own future.”

I believe life gives us character challenges and gifts and to understand how they function within the context of a perplexing life area is important. For this reason, I designed The Whole Self Spread for my Best Tarot Practices book; it only uses the Court and Aces. The reading reveals who you are in relation to a repetitive or stuck situation based on all four court cards and qualified by their suit significances.

I explain the Kings as the authoritative, well developed personality that you know yourself to be, the Queens as the soul powers possibly unknown or underutilized, the Knights are spiritual lessons, powers and healers and they also denote turning points and significant life lesson accomplishment. The Pages since they represent youth denote the part of yourself that is growing, your evolution. The Wands represent courage, the Cups are faith, Swords are integrity and justice and Pentacles are labors with love.

Someone once said, the most important card in the spread is the one you cannot relate to. The unidentified, unknown Court card can point to an aspect of yourself and a character trait that holds the key to understanding the message of the reading. By interpreting the Court as qualities of self, soul, spirituality and evolution you may have discerned the hidden meaning of a life lesson, one in which personal empowerment is the real message.

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 She lives in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.