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The Llewellyn Journal
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1-2-3 Tarot: Keeping It Simple

This article was written by Donald Tyson
posted under Tarot

The most difficult part of learning to divine with the Tarot is remembering the meanings of the cards. The names of the cards, and the card layouts for divination, are easy to remember, but the meanings are hard to memorize because there are so many of them. Each card has dozens of possible meanings in its upright position, and just as many more when it is inverted. Even more frustrating, books on the Tarot give completely different sets of meanings, and they sometimes contradict each other.

One of the best ideas writers on the Tarot have come up with is the use of key words. A key word is a word that sums up the meaning of a card. Using key words to trigger the memory, it is only necessary to memorize a single word for a card in its upright posture, and another key word for the card when inverted.

Key words have their limitations, however. One word really is not adequate to express the meaning of a card, because the meaning changes depending on the placement of the card in the layout. In 1-2-3 Tarot, the concept of key words has been extended to provide a more rounded understanding of the cards, but still retains the ease of memorization and use. Each card receives three key words that are formed into a simple sentence. Which word applies to the card is determined by the location of the card in the layout.

Card layouts have been created that use card triplets—rows of three cards that correspond to the card sentences. At a glance, it is easy to tell which of the words in the card sentence applies to the card in its position in the layout. Sentences are easier to remember than individual random words, so memorizing the sentences for each card is not hard. However, those with a poor memory will be glad to take advantage of the table of Tarot card sentences in the back of the book. It makes finding the sentence for each card a snap. Then it is just a matter of one, two, and three. You locate the card in the triplet of the layout. You locate the sentence for that card in the table. You apply the part of the sentence in the table that matches the location of the card in the triplet.

When a card is in the first placement of a triplet in the divination layout, you look up its sentence in the table and apply the first part of the sentence. Then you look up in the table the card that is in second place in the triplet, and apply the second part of its sentence to it. Finally, you look up in the table the third card in the triplet, and apply the third part of its simple sentence. The result is a new, unique sentence that gives the meaning of all three cards of the triplet. Each card contributes one third of the meaning, and its contribution depends on its location in the triplet.

If this system used only single key words, and only a single row of three cards for a layout, it would be limited in its results. However, each of the three key words that make up the simple sentence for a card is expanded into a phrase, and the three phrases fit together to produce a longer sentence that gives a much more rounded understanding of the card. Complex layouts designed to answer different kinds of questions are made up of triplets of cards joined together in various arrangements, so that fully detailed life readings are easy to obtain.

Also supplied under the description of each Tarot card is a set of general key words that will give a more rounded understanding of the card, should the person using the book wish to probe deeper into the meaning of the card. These sets of meanings have not been randomly gathered from various sources, but are based on the system of Tarot divination developed within the esoteric organization known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It is generally agreed that the Golden Dawn created the most detailed and accurate system of Tarot interpretation ever used.

The purpose behind this book was to provide a totally new system of Tarot divination that is easy to use and remember, even for a beginner, yet employs the best existing analysis of the meaning of the cards, that of the Golden Dawn. The Universal Tarot was chosen to illustrate the book because of its general popularity, but any Tarot deck may be used with this method of divination. Anyone who has been intimidated by the complexity of the Tarot will find it an easy way to get started. Yet because of the depth of meaning revealed by Tarot sentences, solidly based in the Golden Dawn system, even experienced Tarot diviners will gain from it fresh understandings of the cards.

Donald TysonDonald Tyson
Donald Tyson (Nova Scotia, Canada) is an occult scholar and the author of the popular, critically acclaimed Necronomicon series. He has written more than a dozen books on Western esoteric traditions. Visit him online at DonaldTyson.com....  Read more

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