On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

11 Pipers Piping

11 is half of 22, which is the number of tarot majors; so that will be today’s topic. With some references to Lenormand worked in for good measure. I don’t know that the majors are particularly musical like the 11 pipers, although the Fool claims to be good at the tinwhistle and the High Priestess is rumored to play the violin in private.

Did you get images of the Fool playing an instrument, perhaps while dancing a brief little jig? Did you giggle at the thought of the typically reserved High Priestess practicing her violin, especially if she had trouble learning a new song? If so, you’ve learned the best way to get better acquainted with your trumps: make them personal through the medium of your imagination. That applies to all kinds of cards, but the tarot majors are reputed to be so serious and heavy; and I think it’s good to remember that they don’t have to be.

You could continue this way, imagining how each major card would react to an instrument. Play it? Love it? Be a virtuoso, or throw it away? Or you could ponder what kind of habits they might have; foods they would eat; animals they would pair with; and so on.

If you are looking to get off the beaten path with your majors, try building up relationships with them. That is, imagine conversing with them. What would they say? How would they describe themselves? What would they talk about? If this appeals to you, Gareth Knight wrote a book most recently published as The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe which takes this approach. It systematically works the reader through the tarot by interacting with its characters — the majors and the courts. (The pips are envisioned but not interacted with.) He focuses on the Marseilles deck and works through the reading process. I periodically like to revisit the deck in this fashion myself, although I admit I’ve never during a reading explored dialog with the cards — but I should!

How about majors-only readings? If you’ve never tried, I encourage you to do so. It is liberating compared to a full deck; it encourages more intuition. If the Emperor shows up, he could represent the client’s job, father, a controlling mother, a sturdy chair, the head and so on. If the Emperor and Empress both showed up, they could be standing in for the client and his or her significant other. The meanings of the majors have to be “stretched” more for this sort of reading.

Are you a fan of oracle decks such as Lenormand (I promised to work it in!) but find tarot intimidating or boring? Perhaps you’d like to give the majors only reading a try; reading it in an intuitive fashion, similar to how you might approach the oracle deck. You can read based on the characters and symbols; or arm yourself with a basic range of meanings. If you want to add reversals, give secondary meanings to the majors and effectively double the number of cards.

Think this style of reading majors like oracles can’t be done? A.E. Waite himself — author of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot — wrote a document describing a method of reading that uses all majors spread in a line, and read in relationship to each other. So the meanings were used, and the spread also illustrated a general timeline; or where things were in relation to each other. (And he read it on three different levels.) If you’re curious the title is The Book of the Secret Word and the Higher Way to Fortune

And that concludes our eleventh day of Christmas look at the cards. If you have any tips or interesting ideas on tarot majors, let me know in the comments.