Symbols are everywhere. We’re so used to seeing symbols that most of us hardly give them a second thought during the course of an average day. For many of us, symbols are no different than the ordinary signs that mark a street corner or an off-ramp.
Symbols, however, represent a wealth of information that can only be experienced by understanding the history and traditions that underlie their surface meaning. Christians, for example, use the symbol of the cross to refer to the entire life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Patriots point to the flag as a symbol of our nation, a symbol that embodies the full range of its history. When wedding guests throw rice at a new bride and groom, they are symbolically showering them with their hopes and best wishes for a long and productive life together.
The stories behind our symbols are important. Those stories make it possible to read tarot cards for yourself, and for others.
At first, it might seem difficult to translate the symbols into words. Symbols speak to us on a spiritual and emotional level. In order to discuss them, we need to draw each symbol, dripping wet, up from the well of our unconscious, filter it, and wring it through our intellect.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the same symbol may represent an entirely different concept to each individual. Although most symbols do connote certain, standard meanings, they are also open to interpretation. The significance of many tarot symbols will vary from person to person, and even from reading to reading. Your own experience — in everyday life as well as in your study of the cards — will affect how you perceive and interpret the symbols on the cards.
The best way to begin studying symbols is by noticing them. Pay attention to the way that symbols are used in the tarot, as well as how they’re used in everyday life.