Have you ever been curious about what might happen to you? Do you have a question for the spirits around you? Well, you’re far from the only one. Humanity has wanted to pull back the curtain covering the future since time immemorial.
So much so, that practices of palm reading, rune casting, crystal ball gazing, and playing with tarot cards gripped the imagination of many cultures around the world.
Tarot cards are steeped in mystery, with each image hinting at something that your future may hold. As each card is symbolic on its own and can have deep meaning in your life, the practice of tarot reading can be a spiritual place to find inspiration for a meaningful tattoo.
But, why were tarot cards created?
The History Of Tarot Cards
Tarot cards were not created with the purpose to look around the corner to what’s coming up next. They were initially just a deck to play games with.
They were invented before the printing press was churning out everything that used to be handwritten. As such, these cards were painstakingly painted by hand. Because of this intense process, tarot cards were pricey and only available for the upper classes of society.
The use of tarot cards for spiritual purposes only became popular late into the 1700s, due to a particular book that was published. Bicycle Cards explains,
“…Frenchman Jean-Baptise Alliette published the first definitive guide to tarot card reading. Pseudonymed Etteilla, he wrote a guide to using the cards and released his own deck alongside it.”
Alliette got inspired by the Book of Thoth, an ancient Egyptian text, as well as astronomy and the elements to give meaning to each of the tarot cards.
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How Tarot Cards Work
The practice of reading tarot cards is called “cartomancy”. The practitioner comes to the cards to gain a deeper insight into the past, present, and future.
There are two types of readings you can get from tarot cards: Question readings and open readings.
“In question readings, you are addressing a specific question. Tarot is not intended to answer specific yes or no questions. Most say it also shouldn’t be used to make decisions, but instead should be used as a guide to help you make the decision yourself. For this reason, the way a question is stated is very important,”How Stuff Works
Open readings are a bit more general. This type of reading is usually done when you’re entering a new phase of your life, and want a greater insight into career, health, or relationships, for example.
In the 21st century, there are a variety of tarot card decks you can choose from. Decks can have different themes – such as nature, fantasy, animals – but the cards still have the same meanings.
The deck is split in two: Minor arcana and the major arcana.
Major Arcana Tarot Cards
The meanings behind these cards are extremely deep and are pulled in response to important aspects of life.
“The Major Arcana Tarot cards represent the life lessons, karmic influences and the big archetypal themes that are influencing your life and your soul’s journey to enlightenment,”Biddy Tarot
When you pull a major tarot card in a reading, this often sets the scene for the rest of the reading – this is the main message that’s being brought to your attention.
There are 21 cards excluding The Fool that make up the major arcana. The Fool is seen as the main character of the deck, and makes their way through the deck as they learn lessons – this is known as ‘The Fool’s journey’.
Minor Arcana Tarot Cards
The minor arcana cards are the more practical part of the deck – these cards relate to small-scale projects and day-to-day activities.
These are still important cards, as they can give you an indication into the type of energy that’s running your life right now, and the actions you can take to shift things to be more aligned with what you want.
How To Conduct A Tarot Card Reading
First of all, it’s important to see the cards as a tool to see how you’re feeling about your life and the decisions in your path.
Tarot reader, Rachel Howe, said to Vogue,
“Tarot, a tool, and the real healing work is going to be done by the person. A lot of people describe tarot as a mirror, so it’s not like I’m pulling some secret out of you.”
Once you have your deck, your next step is to get to know the cards. Go through each card and familiarize yourself with the meanings behind them.
If you’re a beginner, focus on basic readings, such as the three card pull.
“…this layout is good at suggesting some sort of linear path, sequence of events, cause and effect, or a way of getting from point a to point b,”Labyrinthos
You can use this spread to ask questions about: Part, present, and future; you, your path, and your potential; and the ideal, the process, and the aspiration.
Tarot Card Tattoo Ideas
The most popular choice for tarot card tattoos are the major arcana cards, as these are the cards related to huge life events.
Let’s start with the main character in a tarot deck: The Fool. As stated above, this is the persona that travels through the deck learning lessons.
The name of this card shouldn’t put you off. A tattoo of The Fool can mean your willingness to go on adventures and expand your knowledge.
“These Fools are not foolish but rather they’re willing to dare the risk for a new life and a fresh creation,”Tat Ring
The key meanings behind this card include power, resourcefulness, skills, and your abilities.
“When The Magician appears in a Tarot card reading it is a sign that you have all the skills and abilities you need to be successful. The universe is aligning to bring positive changes your way,”The Tarot Guide
A tattoo of The Magician can serve as a reminder that you have the power and wisdom to bring about the outcome that you want to see in your life.
The High Priestess
This card represents wisdom, and if it shows up in your reading, it could be a call for you to develop your innate powers – it’s time for you to move forward.
“When the enchantress shows up in your reading, it’s time to acknowledge the polarities between a situation, stop questioning your instincts, and hone in on your inner wisdom,”Bustle
A tattoo of The High Priestess can represent your intuitive capabilities and be a reminder to listen to your gut instincts.
The Empress tarot card can be seen as a representation of femininity. When this card is pulled, it’s often an invitation to embrace your softer side.
An Empress card tattoo can symbolize your commitment to nurturing yourself and those around you. It is also an apt representation and reminder to embrace your feminine side.
This card represents law and order, and stability. Pulling The Emperor could signify,
“…that you are adopting this fatherly role (regardless of whether you are male or female), providing for your family, and protecting and defending your loved ones. You may be the breadwinner or the ‘rock’ for those who rely on your stability and security,”Biddy Tarot
As such, a tattoo of The Emperor can represent embracing your masculine side and be a call to step up as a leader.
The Lovers tarot card depicts a couple who are seemingly in the Garden of Eden.
“The fruit tree with the snake behind the woman is a reference to that story, which tells of humanity’s fall into temptation and into the realm of flesh and sensuality. The angel depicted here is Raphael, the angel of air – who is of the same element of the zodiac sign that governs this card: Gemini,”Labyrinthos
While this card has the connotation of love and relationships, The Lovers can also represent finding what’s important and unimportant in your life, and can be a call to focus on authenticity.
This card is associated with going on a journey, ambition, and confidence. Getting The Chariot during a reading can indicate that you’re overcoming conflicts. A tattoo of this tarot card can represent your dedication to sheer hard work and determination to get what you want in life.
In traditional tarot decks, The Hermit card has an old man carrying a staff and lit lantern. This card can represent a period of introspection and looking for answers within.
“The Hermit card reminds us of the value of time away from the hubbub of civic life, to relax the ego in communion with nature,”Tarot
So, a Hermit tarot card tattoo can symbolize reflection, wisdom, and evolution.
The Hanged Man
When looking at the card, you may think that pulling it just means negativity. That, as Little Red Tarot explains, is not so,
“The Hanged Man represents independence from the flock, the willingness to see things differently, see them your way. It can point to critical thinking or awareness (especially when paired with other cards that deal with this theme) and it can represent courage.”
The Hanged Man is depicted hanging from a tree upside down by one foot. As he is upside down, this card can encourage you to try to view things from a different perspective.
You pulled the death card… does that mean your time is up? No, not at all. Although drawing this card can induce fear, it’s actually not so scary.
The Death card can represent new beginnings and letting things go.
“The transformation or change that Death can bring can be difficult, unexpected, sudden or even traumatic but it will bring with it a new lease of life. Its best to try not to resist the change the Death Tarot card brings as resisting it will only make the transition difficult and painful,”The Tarot Guide
A tattoo of the Death tarot card can serve as a reminder to not resist when things come to an end, and to embrace fresh starts.
On this card, a winged horned depiction of the devil with a pentagram and figures in chains around them is depicted.
Of course, seeing this card come up can cause panic. But, the meaning can hang on whether the card is drawn upward or downward…
Tip: Be careful on which way you get your tarot card tattooed. When getting a reading, whether your card is seen as upright or reversed has an impact on how you can interpret the card.
When the Devil is pulled upright, it can mean unexpected failure or strange experiences. Astrology says,
“The Devil card warns you not to be too restrained but to be passionate and ambitious. You are restrained because you allow yourself to be.”
If the card is reserved,
“It’s a card of letting go and moving on. You have acknowledged that which has held you back in the past, and you are ready to move past it and into a brighter future.”
Wanting answers and to get a glimpse of what we can expect in the future is part of the human condition. Tarot cards are just one way that people have come up with to clear the uncertainty around decisions and gain a deeper insight into how you feel.
The major arcana cards are beautiful to look at and, with the deep symbolism attached to them, make for excellent meaningful tattoo inspiration.