In a reading, any tarot card can be anything. In other words, any card, whether Major, Minor, or Court, can give a spiritual message to ponder, a specific answer to a mundane question, or represent aspects of yourself, or another person in your life.
Very often, readers try to relegate card meanings based on the section of the deck from which the card comes. For example, wanting Court cards to always be people, wanting Minor Arcana cards to always suggest mundane action, and wanting Major Arcana cards to always give deep spiritual meaning.
In some readings, this sort of structure will play out perfectly. Yet, if we only interpret cards from the perspective of those boxes, we often miss the deeper and more helpful directives that could be available within a reading.
Tarot only has seventy-eight images with which to tell every story of human experience. Given that obvious limitation, tarot does an amazing job with this daunting task. Yet, it does a better job when we occasionally allow the cards to come out of their boxes to give us the messages we need.
Those boxes to which we assign the cards are helpful and necessary. The book of spiritual wisdom that tarot is would not function as well without its structure. Yet, just as a university professor might moonlight as a DJ, and as the local priest might play a mean game of darts, each card can do a variety of tasks, determined by the situation in which you find them. The priest won’t play darts while celebrating Mass, but might when gathered with friends over a beer on Monday evening. When you know the priest, you might know which skills he will be using, and which responsibilities he will be tending to, in which places and on which days. Tarot is much the same.
A great exercise is to take a group of tarot cards and imagine what each card might represent in a specific situation, or in answer to a certain question. Of course, in an actual divination, sometimes a card may speak in a way that it never has before and may never again. When that happens, we need to be able to justify our interpretation, as well as simply trust our intuition.
As an example of this exercise, and as a way to demonstrate how the Major Arcana cards might work as other than spiritual lessons and insights, I have challenged myself to list for each Major Arcana card a particular directive, or action step, that the card might suggest. Of course, this list is neither comprehensive nor definitive. You might come up with a completely different list and be equally correct. Give it a try!
The Fool may tell us to take a calculated risk, or to do some activity that we enjoyed in childhood.
The Magician may tell us to go to school, take a class, or study something new.
The High Priestess may suggest we meditate, or do shadow work.
The Empress may tell us to call Mom, or to remember our mother’s wisdom.
The Emperor may tell us to run for a political office, or get involved in community leadership.
The Hierophant may tell us to see a lawyer, or a doctor.
The Lovers may tell us to integrate more than one thing into a plan or project.
The Chariot may tell us to take control of something, or to travel.
Strength might tell us to get a pet, or it might remind us to hold our tongue.
The Hermit might instruct patience, or that we should be working toward advanced education.
The Wheel of Fortune might ask us to break hurtful patterns. It might also suggest taking a gamble.
Justice reminds us to do the right thing. It also can tell us to seek legal advice.
The Hanged Man may advise against any action, and instead suggest a time of waiting. The Hanged Man can also suggest devoting to a yoga practice, or, if needed, a Twelve-Step program.
Death can ask us to consider taking a serious step or making a significant change in life.
Temperance may instruct us to create art, or to cook.
The Devil may tell us to seriously commit to something.
The Tower may ask us to radically examine our current belief system.
The Star may ask us to seek healing of body, mind, or spirit.
The Moon may tell us to do dreamwork.
The Sun may suggest a relocation to a place with year-round warm weather.
Judgment may tell us to advertise a business or to communicate more clearly.
The World may ask us to look at the larger picture. It might also suggest an international trip, or to share our skills with a worldwide demographic.