In essence, the Tarot is a pictographic diagram of both the universe and the human body of conscious experience. It is often described as an oracle, or a book of wisdom disguised as a deck of cards. The symbols, archetypes, and meanings are based on a variety of ancient teachings and spiritual practices; including but not limited to Qabalah, Hermeticism, Astrology, and Numerology.
In addition to these, the Tarot encompasses the five elements (physical earth, emotional water, mental air, spiritual fire, and the astral – ether), describing how these five elemental forces weave together to create the totality of life experiences, and the structure by which the laws of creation are set.
Tarot is a language of symbology, numerology, cosmology, geometry, and art – which fuse together in an intricate web of ideas providing a means by which one’s consciousness can engage, and come to know itself better with. The Tarot then becomes a guidebook through the many different aspects of life, and supports a higher understanding of one’s experiences in a deeper, more meaningful way.
The history of Tarot is a colourful story depicting the evolution of thought and ideas over time. By observing the rich history of Tarot, we may come to see how culture and society has also evolved through our varied social means.
Today, the Tarot has developed into a beautiful system of ancient and esoteric wisdom, bringing forth a re-emergence of spiritual knowledge.
In this video to the left, you will see and explore how the Tarot has evolved over the past several hundred years, and what it means for us today as we explore it with our modern mind.
Now that you have an idea about what Tarot is as a whole, we can begin to break down the various ways in which this system is established. It is generally observed that there are two or three predominant sections within the cards; the main two are called the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.
The third section is called the Royal Arcana, but are traditionally observed as the “court cards”, and most often attributed as an aspect of the Minor Arcana because they deal with the principle forces of each suit of the Minor Arcana. In Patch Tarot, and in the support of learning, we have decided that these 'court cards' are their own unique system unto themselves, and thus delineate their own category called the “Royal Arcana”, but will also use each term (Royal Arcana and court cards) synonymously throughout this material. In Patch Tarot, we also have the presence of a new Arcana, called "The Holy Arcana".
The word “Arcana” is a latin word which translates to “Mysteries” or “Secrets”, and so these four sections translate to say: The “Greater (Major) Secrets”, “Lesser (Minor) Secrets”, "Sacred (Holy) Secrets", and the “Total (Royal) Secrets” – this last one can also be observed as the “Familial or Hierarchical Secrets”, because they describe the hierarchy of elements in the makeup of the universe, essentially describing how the various suits of the minor arcana interact with each other. The use of “total” comes from the etymological definition of royal from the 13th century, which also may translate as “splendid”.
As previously mentioned, within the Tarot there are five elements described. These are Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Ether. Four of these suits collectively make up the “Minor Arcana”, and the fifth element is then represented by the entire 22 cards of the Major Arcana.
The Minor Arcana contains ten cards for each element, making a forty card grid with ten numbered cards for each of the four elements. The Royal Arcana has sixteen cards with four members of a royal family for each element. This is virtually identical to a modern day playing deck of cards with the Jack, Queen and King; but with the addition of a female mirror of the Jack, most often titled as a Page or a Princess.
Each Arcana tells its own story; sharing an image of the circle of life from different perspectives, utilizing numerology, symbology, ancient wisdom, astrology, and much more. The more that you learn and the deeper you go into these subjects, the more the Tarot will speak to you. In Patch Tarot, we’ve specifically included a number of keys around the edges of the cards, making it easy to connect with the essential principles, and support you in your spiritual learning.
The cards are sorted into four unique collections. Click below to learn more about each one.
The Major Arcana is the path of the soul, a story of personal evolution and transformation through life experiences and universal archetypes.
The Holy Arcana is a new concept to the Tarot, a sacred collection of four cards describing that which lies beyond the Tarot, pointing to the divine beyond the veil of reality.
The Minor Arcana tells the story of the Four Elements, and how each of them progress and evolve through the Tree of Life, and within your personal experiences.
The Royal Arcana speak to the four elements as they relate to each other, and describe how they manifest both in nature and within your daily life.
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The word Esoteric comes from the Greek word esoterikos, which translates to “belonging to an inner circle”. Essentially, it means knowledge or information that is intended for a smaller inner circle or group, because it was not something that the world at large was necessarily “ready” to hear or comprehend just yet. By the fact that you are reading this, you have entered into the inner circle.
In this section we will be looking at the relationship between Tarot and several other esoteric systems, specifically - Tree of Life and Astrology. By doing so we will also discuss the nature of the averse sephiroth – the Qliphoth, in order to understand how reversals are designed in Patch Tarot.
A reversal in its most simplest sense is an interpretation of the card in opposition to its natural meaning, which emerges when you draw the card in reverse during a reading. At the top of each card in Patch Tarot you will find an upright and reverse keyword, and on each card description on this website, in the App, and in the Book of Patch, you will find a “reverse card description”. This description will be expanded upon in The Book of Patch, in order to go deeper into the relationship to the Tree of Life.
One of the biggest reasons why people use reversals is to provide another layer of depth to the readings, but if you are just getting started you can set your intention with your deck not to use them; if this makes it easier for you to learn the basics.
In truth, there are a great many ways of interpreting reversals; a simple internet search will reveal a myriad of ways to interpret a reversal, ultimately leading you to have to identify how you want to mean. Here are some examples of what this means; reversals can be read as an “opposite” energy to whatever the dominant energy of the card is. If it’s positive, the reverse is negative. If the card seems negative, the reverse appears to be positive. Another perspective is taking the principle energy of the upright card to an extreme, for either perceived “good” or “bad”. Reversals are sometimes even read as “the same energy as upright, but weakened or blocked”, and finally – and potentially the most creative reading – “Whatever comes to mind when you look at the drawing upside down – it means that”.
In Patch Tarot, I really wanted to find a balance and some level of solidification to these reversals, and even played with the idea of not even having them at all because of how flippy-floppy the interpretations could be. However, when I learned about the Qliphoth, it all began to make sense and click together.
In the most simplest sense, the Qliphoth represent the “evil” variation of each of the Sephiroth, the “shells” surrounding the emanations of creation and reflect the darker aspects of our human psyche, and the challenges that we must overcome in our day to day lives. Many will warn against becoming involved with the Qliphoth due to the evil spirits around them, and yet by understanding the nature of the Qliphoth, we can recognize them in relationship to our own egos and human experience, and then translate the correlations to the reversals in order to paint a clearer picture about what we need to do in any given scenario.
If you are someone who wants to dive deeper into the Qliphoth specifically, you will find an extensive explanation within The Book of Patch.
Ultimately, if you are just getting started, the Qliphoth is not something you need worry about. Focusing on the reversal meaning of the card itself is enough to propel you forward in your spiritual learning. In closing however, Qabalah teaches that the nature of evil is energy going against the natural flow of creation, and thus must be integrated through spiritual awareness and awakening of the inner light.
According to the ancient mystics, Astrology was considered to be something of a hidden mechanism of the stars, offering different subtle energies to the planet and those who lived upon it. It was through the understanding of what those subtle energies were, and how they interacted with each other and what effects that they would have upon us, that we would gain the ability to flow through the various life events we experience with more understanding and clarity, by seeing the bigger picture.
Astrology is deeply present within Patch Tarot (and almost all forms of Tarot for that matter, although normally it is more hidden), and provides us with the ability to read deeper into the cards than if we were unfamiliar with the Astrological systems.
On each card there is an 'astral signature', which represents either a constellation, planet, or element. These are incredibly significant, and I encourage you to explore these where you see fit! In the Book of Patch, each card description contains a section describing their astrological associations and how they relate on the Tree of Life, as well as a complete “esoteric tarot” section at the back of the book diving much deeper into these topics.
The Tree of Life plays a major role in the Tarot, drawing a complex map of the cards within this sacred geometric structure. This is generally considered a little bit more “advanced” for those who are just beginning to learn the Tarot.
Exploring Qabalah and the Tree of Life is a deep and beautiful journey of discovery, and one that could be discussed at great lengths for hours. Even today, new discoveries are still being made as to the spiritual significance held within this system.
For the sake of keeping things simple, on this page we will describe only the basics to give you an idea of what it is. For new learners – know that it is not critical that you learn this in order to understand how Tarot functions. If you wish to discover how the Tree of Life applies to Patch Tarot on a deeper level, please enjoy the video provided below to get started. You will also find a tremendous body of information in the Book of Patch, as well as on the Wisdom Wall – a series of printouts which show the intimate connections between all of these systems.
While the Tree of Life is the geometric diagram shown above, Qabalah itself is the philosophy that goes alongside it, or rather, the philosophy that created the Tree of Life diagram in the first place. Qabalah teaches that there is a path to knowing God, and that through spiritual practice, exploring your inner self, looking at the world in terms of energy and the relationship to the higher worlds, we can begin to break free from the limited paradigm of the 3rd dimension, and move into a higher way of life altogether.
By understanding that we have been disconnected from the One that is All, it empowers us with the ability to do something about it, and begin to reconnect with Spirit in a realistic and practical way. No longer must we live a life of unconscious suffering, but move into an active participation with our higher selves, and all of life, to create a world that is better for all of us.
Through modern syncretism, we find that the Tarot embodies a harmonious union of the Tree of Life, Qabalah, Astrology, the Elements, and more, into a spiritual diagram that we can each use to assist us in our spiritual growth and development.
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