The Arcanas

by Sasha Fenton

A tarot deck contains two parts, these being the Major and Minor Arcana . The word “Arcana” means secret or hidden, in the same way that the word occult means hidden from view, and this implies that specialized knowledge is required . The Major Arcana is a series of twenty-two stand-alone cards, the only equivalent of which is the Joker in a deck of playing cards . The Minor Arcana is broken into four suits of fourteen cards each, which are similar to those in a deck of playing cards in that they have Aces, numbered cards, and Court cards.

The Major Arcana

Major Arcana cards carry powerful images that refer back to archetypes that have all but lost their original history and meanings. The Holy Roman Emperor, 15th century power struggles between the Popes, and the hatred of Franciscan hermits mean nothing to modern clients. The behavior of a ruler can affect the fate of a nation and its people, which is obvious if we consider Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, or Robert Mugabe. However, in the Western world, it is often the fate of the orga­nization for which the client works that influences his life. Each genera­tion has to modernize the meanings of the cards to fit the current ethos. These powerful image cards often show major changes and turning points in a client’s life, but it is left to the Minor Arcana cards to fill in the details.

The Ratio of Fate to Free Will

There are just over double the number of Minor Arcana cards to Major Arcana ones in a tarot deck, so if a spread of cards throws up more than a third Major Arcana cards, the client’s future is, to some extent, being directed by fate . If there are very few Major cards showing up in a spread, the future is mainly in the hands of the client.

One word you will come across in many books on the tarot is arche­type. An archetype is a shorthand description for a particular type of person. Archetypes change according to the time and place that people live in. Figures such as a Pope, Empress, or Hermit would have meant a lot to medieval people, while modern archetypes might include such things as a whiz-kid, a tycoon, a bimbo, a lay-about, a doctor, a teacher, the boss, a tax inspector, or anything else that is instantly recognizable .

The Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana of the tarot is composed of four suits. In the Rider-Waite deck that illustrates this book, these suits are called by their tra­ditional names of Cups, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords. In other decks, the Pentacles, which are pentagrams contained within a circle, are called Coins. In this book, I use the term Coins for this suit. Wands are also known as Rods or Staves. It is possible to find European cards that are halfway between tarot and playing cards, these being illustrated with Hearts, Acorns, or other similar features, but also showing Wands and Swords. Such cards are often used for playing games, and one can buy Tarocco or Taroc decks in Italy and Spain that are based on some or all of the Minor Arcana of the tarot.

THE SUIT OF CUPS is concerned with feelings, emotions, and the emotional response to a situation. This doesn’t mean only affairs of the heart but also the way a client feels about his job, his home, art, music, the situation that he finds himself in, or any other emotional response. These cards can indicate celebration, depression, and a whole host of other feelings or events that cause an emotional response.

THE SUIT OF WANDS is difficult to categorize because this covers a multitude of daily activities, benefits, and problems. These might include negotiating for something, carrying out a task, the action of moving house, traveling, working, running a home, or just the business of living.

THE SUIT OF COINS deals with a client’s resources, which may be money, goods, property, land, equipment, a business, a career, success, failure, and status or matters related to these topics. This suit deals with the practicalities of a matter.

THE SUIT OF SWORDS suggests those things that require action of some kind in order to put something right. These can indicate health problems, financial or marital issues, or quarrels and dissent of many different kinds. Sometimes they suggest that the only thing a client can do is to accept defeat, walk away from a situation, and do something else with his life.

One way I describe these suits to beginners in my workshops is to tell them the following story:

“You are fed up with your job. The job is unsatisfying, the pay is poor, the place is inconvenient for you to get to, and the people you work for or with are unpleasant. This is a Sword matter, as it shows that something needs to be done.

“You start looking in the local papers and on the Internet for some­thing new; you ask your friends and acquaintances to see if they know where you might find a better job. This is a Wand matter, as it requires travel, communications, and research.

“Finally, you find the job you want. The pay is good, the place is easy to reach by public transport, the job is the kind you want, the people you will work for and among appear to be congenial, and you have the skills and resources at your command with which to do the job. The practical side of this looks good, and practical matters are related to Coins.

“The outcome may be that the job is just what you want and that you are very happy. On the other hand, there may be something that you don’t see at the interview but that gets you down after a while. You may love or hate the product that the firm produces or sells.

“You could make lasting friends as a result of working at the new job and you might even find love there. Alternatively, you may feel uncom­fortable, unhappy, or just that this job is somehow wrong for you and that you could do better elsewhere. These fuzzy-edged emotional issues belong to the realm of Cups.”

To summarize:

Cups: Emotional responses.
Wands: Day-to-day activities.
Coins: Resources and practical matters.
Swords: Pain, action, quarrels, movement in affairs.

Excerpted from Fortune Telling by Tarot Cards by Sasha Fenton

Born in Bushey, near London (UK), Sasha Fenton became a professional astrologer, palmist, and tarot card reader in 1974. She has written 127 books, mainly on mind, body, and spirit subjects, with sales of more than 6.5 million copies and translations into 12 different languages. Sasha has written articles for every national newspaper and major magazine in Britain and many overseas publications as well.

Our June Titles Are Here!

Happy Reading!

Fortune Telling by Tarot Cards

Sasha Fenton

Who doesn’t want to foretell the future? Once you know how to interpret tarot cards, you can understand yourself and others better and be able to accurately predict what’s going to happen in the future. This accessible and easy guide teaches readers how to use the tarot to not only predict the future but to resolve a particular question, to provide clarity on personal relationships, and for a variety of other purposes. Fenton’s guidelines combined with the reader’s intuition makes using the cards easy and fun.

(Hampton Roads Publishing)

Flower Essences, Plain & Simple

Linda Perry

Flower essences are herbal infusions, or decoctions, made from the flowering parts of plants that uniquely address emotional and mental aspects of wellness.  This book provides a helpful introduction with topics including: how to choose essences; how to make a bottle of essences; essences and their stories; case studies; and a glossary of more than 60 essences and their uses.  This is an excellent introductory guide for anyone interested in alternative health, aromatherapy, and vibrational health.

(Hampton Roads Publishing)

Chakras Plain & Simple

Sasha Fenton

This accessible book introduces the seven major chakras—those spinning vortexes of energy throughout the body—and presents ways of healing the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual problems that arise when the chakras are blocked, misaligned, or too open.   It describes how the chakras affect people and provides simple healing techniques, some combined with other complementary systems that help channel energy through the body like aromatherapy or the use of gemstones.

(Hampton Roads Publishing)

A Ship, a Romance and Twenty-Two Tarot Cards

by Cherry Gilchrist

Sometimes in life our wishes and dreams do work out, but in a way quite different to what we expected. In 2006, I was guest lecturer on a ship cruising the Baltic, giving talks on mythology. Also on the ship was Robert Lee-Wade, artist-in-residence. Our early chats at the lecturers’ dinner table gradually blossomed into something warmer, and finally into romance. We had both been married before, and had both come through difficult times to a more mellow stage of life. Were we ready to try again? A few years earlier, I had had a reading from a lady who pronounced that I would soon meet someone who lived over the water. Hmm, I thought at the time – I don’t really want to start again in another culture, or have to handle an overseas relationship. She was right; he did live over the water but only in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is another part of the UK. As my chief Tarot teacher used to say, ‘Funny how it works!’

We decided that a shipboard romance was wonderful, but that we really ought to test our relationship on dry land, to see if it had long-term potential. Water, in psychic terms, is powerful. I always have deliciously vivid dreams when at sea. Would this just prove to be another, waking version of the magical effects of water? We also had another kind of dream, that we would make a book together – I would write it, and Robert would supply the artwork.

A Ship, a Romance and Twenty-Two Tarot CardsTwo months later, we were able to meet again, and by the end of that year we were a united couple sharing a home. In 2009 we married, and are now living in Devon – it seems we can’t quite keep away from water though as our new, long-term home is close to the wide estuary of the River Exe!

Just as our romance seems to have had the helping hand of Providence, so has our book come about now too, but not exactly as we envisaged. Tarot Triumphs is a joint effort, with Robert creating the images of the Tarot cards to illustrate the expositions that I’ve written for them. Originally, I guess we had in mind some lavish travel-type tome, where Robert could provide his highly-skilled and sought-after oil paintings of places we have visited, and I would write up the myths and legends of those places. Again, ‘funny how it works’!

Tarot has long been dear to me, and when I decided to distill a lifetime’s experience of working with Tarot, into a book which would also to preserve the heritage of my own Tarot Master’s teachings, I wondered what I could do about illustrations. Obtaining permissions for reproducing existing packs, even historic ones, was very expensive, and it wasn’t going to be possible to use color plates either.  I was concerned.

‘Shall I draw them for you?’ Robert asked.

RLW Tarot 18
Well of course! Sometimes, the obvious solution is staring us in the face. So together we pondered series of marvelous images, mostly of historic Marseilles-style Tarot packs downloaded from the British Museum’s digital library. I brought out my own collection too, of course, lovingly assembled since my student days. Robert was new to Tarot, so it was an excellent opportunity for me to work out what was really essential to the image, and convey it to him with clarity. This in turn helped me to focus on the key components of the cards as I wrote about them.

Robert produced exquisite pen-and-ink line drawings of the cards, and as each one was completed, we scrutinized them to see if they conveyed the essence of the card. We were looking for the direct, vivid and vigorous form of Tarot imagery that is implicit in the old woodblock prints, for the cards that were printed for popular use in the 17th to 19th centuries. And we didn’t have the use of color to help us here, so each image had to  speak for itself, but still be a part of a coherent set. Gradually, the pack attained completion. It now graces the pages of the book, illustrating the individual cards as I explain their symbolism, history and significance. And so Tarot Triumphs contains another kind of ‘triumph’ too, the achievement of a dream that we hatched over the waters of the Baltic ten years ago.

RLW Tarot 01

Cherry Gilchrist is a long-term practitioner of the tarot. She has researched its provenance and related it to the systems such as the Kabbalah, alchemy, and astrology, of which she has special knowledge. She holds MA degrees in English literature and archaeology/anthropology from the University of Cambridge. Visit Cherry at

Cherry Gilchrist Titles

Tarot Triumphs | Alchemy: The Great Work

Self Awareness and the Tarot Cards

by Marcia Masino

I believe that creative visualization with the Tarot cards can open new gateways to self awareness and personal transformation. Information held in the subconscious and soul self can become available by using guided visualizations based on the rich archetypal symbolism in the pictures. For many years I’ve guided students and clients alike in this process and witnessed the remarkable results so in order to share this aspect of Tarot I wrote specific meditations for each of the Major Arcana as well as for some of the troublesome Minor Arcana for my book Best Tarot Practices.

Think of the Major Arcana cards in your reading as the helping healing archetypes and the challenging minors + reversed court cards as describing the issue and personality responses. For example, the Minor card the Ten of Wands may be appearing frequently in your spreads. It represents blocked energy and obscured vision, burdens and pressures in need of rebalancing. But how?

Here is an example of the actual visualization from my book and a client’s meditation with this card.

Perform breathing and relaxation before starting your meditation.  Imagine you are the character in the Ten of Wands, hunched over with your burden of obligations and responsibilities symbolized as the bundle of wands.  Doesn’t it feel strained, as if you could drop the bundle at any time?  It isn’t carried appropriately.  It should be neatly bundled and on the character’s back, using the back’s natural strength, not carried on the front.  Feel the strain and the weight of the wands in your arms.  Feel how your vision is blocked.  The inability to imagine how to handle the responsibilities differently is also part of the problem.

Now see yourself slowly lay the bundle down.  Stand up straight and stretch.  Feel the release of tension and breathe deeply.  Take time to examine the wands before you pick them up again.  Are they really yours or are some responsibilities and burdens placed unfairly upon you?

Self Awareness and the Tarot Cards

Ask the character in the card, or your Higher Self, to help you to sort what is necessary for you to carry, what should be discarded and what can be tackled later. Concentrate on each of the ten wands and name them.  For example: career issues pressure, expectations, health, relationships, past pain, inappropriate behavior from self and others, guilt, martyrdom, etc.  Place each wand in one of three piles – now, later or never. Can you see how your preoccupation has kept hope, life and positive options and helpful influences from your attention?

Consolidate and repackage the bundle of wands in the “now” and “later” piles.  Leave the wands in the “never” pile (other people’s problems etc.) behind. You can burn them in an imaginary bonfire or actually write the titles on pieces of paper and burn them. Watch them disintegrate into ashes. Feel the peace and freedom from this gesture.

Place the later pile in a safe place this could be a cabinet, chest inside a tree in your imagination. Finalize the practice by easily carry the remaining wands in an appropriate container. Visualize yourself confidently striding towards your future holding the choices of personal responsibility in a carefree and mature manner.

This is an empowering meditation.  It helps you realize that you have choices about the responsibilities and beliefs you carry and the right to decide their priority in your life.

The client’s experience. “Love the image of me as 10 of Wands! Basically I wrote down 10 things I felt I was carrying and then I noticed that the phrases all started with the word “trying” or some version of trying. It felt like I was just pushing, moving blindly, very off balance, have to get this done, can’t stop, must keep going, always more to do, trying, trying.  It all felt like way too much trying.  Not so much the burdens, but the attitude.

So, I rewrote all the statements, reframing them.  “Trying to stay healthy”, became “being healthy”, “trying to make new friends”, became “enjoying my friends”, “trying to find a new home” became “waiting for my new home” etc.  Very simple but effective!  Then I hurt my back, ha ha.  I think I left out “trying to improve my physical mobility”!  It will now become “honouring my body”

“Amazing what cards can do for you with the right meditation!  The framework to unlock the personal meaning of the cards is very important.  I don’t think I could have connected with it myself after reading the card description alone.  Somehow the experiential part brings out that unique message.”

Without the visualization exercise she wouldn’t have known that she was carrying attitudes that were weighing her down and affecting her vision or viewpoint.  The hallmark of a true meditation is the realization of something new. In this case the client discovered her self sabotage attitude and was able to take her power of choice back from the unconscious by creating new positive statements, therefore accomplishing transformation of a negative to a positive through the Tarot visualization.

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.