MINOR ARCANA #1: FREE ASSOCIATION
In this lesson, you will become much more familiar with cards 1-10 of each suit, sometimes called the pips. Together with the court cards, these cards form what is known as the minor arcana. These cards were designed to represent the usual concerns and activities of everyday life, whereas the major arcana or trumps represent the spiritual progress of the soul and major phases in one’s life. Most of the questions you will get as a reader focus on everyday issues – love and relationships, money, career, co-workers, and family. For this reason, these are good cards to start with in learning the tarot.
The purpose of this first lesson is to allow you to form personal associations with each card, independent of what you may have learned from books or other study. Later we will look in detail at the structure and symbology of these cards, but your understanding of these cards will be much deeper if you have built a personal connection to them first. For the exercises that follow, clear your mind of whatever you have already learned, and please do not refer to books or notes. There are no right answers, and you will have plenty of time later to study what others have to say about the cards. Use the cards only in their upright positions – since the reversed meanings of the cards general follow from their upright positions, we will discuss those once the upright positions have been mastered. It will help to have a blank journal to record your observations in.
Exercise 1 – Getting to Know the Cards. Take the Ace through 10 cards of one suit out of the deck and set the rest of the deck aside. For each card, look closely at the card. Notice all the details in the card – the background, any people in the card, animals, plants, buildings, symbols, colors, and expressions. Imagine that you have stepped into the card – look around you. What do you see and feel, smell, hear? If there is a person in the card, imagine that you have become that person. What are you doing and why?
Try to associate this card with some event or period in your own life, and write down what it is. If it doesn’t seem to fit in your own life, does it remind you of anyone you know? Or how about a myth or scene in a book you have read? Whatever it most reminds you of, write that down. If you can remember this event or person every time you look at this card, it will be much easier to remember what it means.
Now take out your journal (written or on-line) and write down words that you associate with these experiences. Continue writing down words until you have run out and can’t think of any more. It is fine if you use some of the same words for more than one card. Don’t worry about which word is most important or most represents the card, yet.
Exercise 2 – Telling the Story. When you are done making associations for each card, lay them out in order, starting with the Ace and ending with the 10. Imagine that you are writing a book, and your main character is moving through the cards in order. What is this story about? What happens to the character in each card? Does there seem to be a logical beginning, flow, and conclusion to the story? Write a summary of this story. The purpose of this exercise may not be obvious, but it may be more clear if you realize that the pips were designed to loosely follow numerological associations, which moving from 1 through 10 represent a complete cycle. Later we will discuss these numerological meanings in more detail, but if you can see the flow and patterns through your own observations, it helps make them easier to remember.
Exercise 3 – Key Words. Now that you have become familiar with all the cards in a suit and have told your story, go back and look at all of your associations. Choose one word as your key word for each card that seems to best represent that card, and make sure that each word is different. See if the words fit into your story (they don’t have to).
Once you have completed all three exercises for each suit, send the results of Exercises 2 and 3 to your mentor, then continue on with the next suit. The results of Exercise 1 are personal and just for you – it may help you later to have them recorded in a written journal that you can refer to during readings. Having one key word for each card is a good exercise, because it requires you to really find the central essence of each card. However, in practice, each card means many different things, depending on the question, the reader, the deck, its position in the spread, and the influences of the cards around it. Having all your various associations recorded in a journal helps when you get stuck reading a card – often there is an association you have forgotten about that fits the circumstance very well. As you learn more associations for these cards, you can add them to your journal later.
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