A Quick Guide to Symbolism with the Totally Tarot Method

Discover a quick guide to symbolism with the Totally Tarot Method using the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

The Totally Tarot Method

I created The Totally Tarot Method over twenty-five years ago with outstanding results.  I decided that the old meanings of the cards were too negative for today’s times when we need more positive energy and options for our futures.  Instead of memorizing 78 upright card meanings and 78 reserved card meanings, I developed a way of delineating each card by the colors of the sky, clothing, directions of the figures in the card (past, present, or future), the ground (foundation), balance issues, mountain positions, greenery, thrones, etc., and many other logical connections.  When you find one symbol in a card, it means the same in another.  I use upright cards to predict what will happen during the next six months and reversed cards to foresee what will happen during the six to twelve-month period in a year’s reading.  If time frames are shorter, then the upright card would forecast the first half of the time frame vs. the second half. The symbolism I use makes sense, is logical, and very current for the new age.  I decided to write two tarot books when I constantly asked teachers many years ago, “Why does this card mean ….” and the answer I always got was “Because it’s always meant that!”  My method has surprised professionals, students, and clients alike with its accuracy.  I hope you enjoy this new method and be able to expand your understanding of the cards.

Armor

Any figure wearing armor was hurt in the past and is taking steps never to be hurt again. They are constantly protecting themselves.

Beards

A man with a beard is enlightened, wise, and honorable, has much integrity and spirituality.

Birds

The Querent must take a necessary risk to achieve the goal or objective.

Black Animals

Black animals denote hidden meanings, secrets, or concerns where the animal is located (past, present, or future) can help one understand if the Querent is noticing the issue, avoiding it, or not seeing it.

Black Birds

These birds indicate hidden secrets or negativity that is yet unseen. (Notice in which part of the card they occupy – past: left; present: center; or future: right). So, it will tell you if the issues are over, going on now, or will come in the future.

Castles

The castles indicate love, happiness, prosperity, joy, inner peace, inner strength, self-esteem, and confidence. (This also applies to towers, houses, tents, or cities-any place in which one can live). If the castle is behind the figure in the card, one must pay more attention to her home life to reap the wonderful benefits that the castle’s energy brings. Is the castle in the past, present, or future? Facing the castle, home, tower, or tent is the goal of the Querent. If one is not looking at the castle, she will not receive any of the benefits signified from the symbolism.

Cement

This is the most grounding substance on which to stand or sit. It indicates determination, security, stability, focus, endurance, and being totally grounded.  This is the best foundation anyone can have in the cards. 

Chains

Chains signify feeling imprisoned, helpless, restricted, or limited in some way. These are self-imposed chains and you have to be strong enough to take them off and start seeing reality. Especially in The Devil card, take the self-imposed chains off of you, open the door and escape that reality.  It is no longer for you! It will also help you to clearly see that all the help you have been giving to others at this time is not having the positive effect you had hoped.

Cliffs

You need to make a decision quickly before falling off of the cliff (by being oblivious to your situations or surroundings) and finding it very hard to recover. Making the proper decisions in a timely manner will save you from issues and concerns in the future. Make a plan for your future and then take a leap of faith that it will happen.

Clothing

Clothing is an integral part of tarot interpretation. What is the figure wearing? The clothes closet to the body is how they are now; the layers of clothing over the base color is what they have to do to get over that first color and all the emotions that are relevant to them at this particular time.

Clouds

Puffy – Events are brewing behind you. Be prepared for life to get a little more upsetting in the near future.  But this is nothing you can’t handle. [b] Streaking – You are in the middle of fighting at the moment and things have escalated beyond your control. You must handle the situation quickly and with wisdom.  Compromise is usually the key.

Circle(s)

Circles stand for completion, eternity, oneness, wholeness, following a total cycle of beginning to the end of a situation, the one, the all, infinity, and totality.

Crown

A crown symbolizes royalty, regality, knowledge, and high status in life.

Cups

Cups stand for the water signs of the zodiac: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pieces. They represent nurturing love and a desire to be thoughtful, kind, compassionate, and sensitive. They also represent love relationships or extremely close friendships.

Dog(s)

The beloved house pet symbolizes fidelity, loyalty, and trust. 

Feet

The color on the figure’s feet is their grounding color or foundation. If it is blue, they are compassionate and empathetic by nature. Gray may indicate some fears, doubts, and worries plaguing you.  Red would indicate a fiery temperament and are passionate. Brown would indicate grounding and stability. Yellow means a very good intellectual foundation. White stands for naiveté, goodness, purity, and ignorance.

Flame

Fire represents Spirit, passion, burning desire, and consuming energy.

Foundation

Whether the foundation in the card is in the background or the color of the shoes the figure is wearing, foundations are very important. The foundations indicate what the Querent has to hold on to as groundwork to get him/her to their final destinations, goals, dreams, or achievements.

Fruit

Fruit indicates prosperity, abundance, fertility, growth, ideas, and being productive.

Future

Anything on the right side of the card is in the future. These are the things that are most probable if you do not change the path you are currently on.

Geckos

These little creatures represent challenges or obstacles that must be handled. If they have completed a full circle, the concerns and issues are at an end. If they remain open, the issues have not been totally resolved or will continue. When a gecko has hold of his tail in his mouth thus forming a circle, the obstacles and problems are either self-contained or being properly handled to its conclusion. If there is a break from the mouth to the tail, additional problems may come into your situation unless they are promptly handled.

Gloves

Covering the hands indicate hiding the truth, not being honest, not telling the whole story, and keeping things to oneself. Take note of the color as well.

Head

Anything on the head of a figure in the cards is very important. The hair color is an indication of the figure’s motives or temperament. For example, white on the head indicates spirituality and goodness, a sharing and caring nature while red may indicate someone with a fiery nature who is passionate, aggressive, and controlling in the way they handle circumstances.

Horse

A horse is often seen carrying the figure back to the past or ahead to face the future. The horse’s color is also important for proper interpretation. For example, beige or brown would be a grounding, focused, centered influence. White would be someone who is now in control of his or her spirituality or has taken a step towards not being taken advantage of any longer.

In Between

If a figure is “in-between” anything, whether it is towers, trees, columns, etc., something in the Querent’s life is out of balance. However, sometimes getting in between two towers also showers luck on the Querent by the very nature of the meaning of towers, castles, homes, and cities. Pay attention to the objects the figure is standing in between.

Leaves

Depending upon the color of the leaves, they usually represent fertility, growth, prosperity, and new beginnings. Add the color of the leaves to the position in the card for more precise meaning.

Lilies

These flowers are indicative of purity, naiveté, kindness, being overly giving, and trusting. If there are too many lilies in a card, it may indicate that the Querent is always being taken advantage of or is always doing for others. One must stand up for themselves and try to say “No” more often.

Moon

The moon stands for illusion/delusion, not seeing the truth, seeing what you want to see, or hearing what you want to hear because it is easier to face than reality.

Mountains

The positioning of the mountains in a card is very important in reading. If they are in the past, they mean procrastination is an issue. If they are in the future, your goals and objectives will be easily met and will come to fruition quickly if they have not already come to pass. If the mountains go across the whole card, they indicate all the amazing opportunities and goals you have before you. The trick is that you have to grab them or they will slip away as easily as they were brought before you.

Naked

Naked people in the cards are extremely vulnerable, gullible, and easily hurt. They should try to set more limits so that others will not take advantage of them so frequently.

Past

Anything on the left side of the card indicates the past. It also indicates that you are going in the wrong direction, so you must handle the issues of the past, turn around to look towards the future, and get on with your life.

Paths

Be sure to note if a path is straight, crooked, or going off into the sunset or mountains. Usually, paths are put into a card to show the Querent where she has come from or where she should go. Also, take note of the color of the path. For example, if the path were yellow, you would follow the path of intellectual and logical pursuit rather than emotional thought.  If it were brown, you would have to become more stable, secure, and centered to resolve your issues.

Pentacles

Pentacles correspond to the earth signs of the zodiac: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. They represent prosperity, abundance, inheritance, possessions, prosperity, and abundance in all things.

Present

The absolute middle of the card represents the “present” time period. This indicates the way things are now, whether good or bad, and possibly a current situation you need to handle.

Rabbits

A rabbit connotes someone in a hurry to conclude a situation or to get on with a particular concern or issue. It represents sensitivity and shyness, but can always escape if cornered.

Serpents

Having a serpent in a card means trouble, secrets, hidden problems or concerns, mistrust, and negativity. Do not trust everyone so easily.

Ships

Ships float so as long as they are floating, you are ahead of the game.  Keeping emotions and dreams within yourself will make your life feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster.  However, sometimes a ship is telling the Querent to escape quickly from a situation.

Shoes

The shoes are the foundation of the wearer. Notice if the shoes are the same color, or the same kind, and all the other possible combinations. If there are no shoes, use the socks as the foundation color.  If both feet have different shoes on, then there is another balance issue that needs to be addressed.

Sky

Clear yellow and blue skies indicate smooth sailing, happy endings, and everything working out for the best. Notice the color of the sky as well; which indicates in what area your good fortune will come to you.  If the sky is yellow, it is telling you that intelligence and logic need to be used now to continue towards some goal.  If the sky is blue, that means relationships, friends, happiness, and compassion are there for you if you want it. If it is gray, it indicates that the negativity around you is holding you back and you have to choose another decision or opportunity to get rid of all those fears, doubts, and worries.  Black sky means that you feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, negativity and upset, confusion, and added responsibility.  I do not use the Gray and Black skies for clear sailing, harmony, and peace even if there are no clouds present.  Just by the nature of those two colors, they tend to be somewhat negative or unpromising.

Snails

A snail indicates preceding with extreme caution or not moving fast enough for others. You feel as if “slow and steady” wins the race.  Perhaps if you are too cautious, you may lose some important opportunities.

Snakes

This reptile represents wisdom and knowledge (both practical and enlightened).  It is always a fortuitous symbol to have in a card.

Stars

Stars represent choices or decisions. Take note of the color and number of stars. White stars indicate spiritual guidance, wisdom, and knowledge from above and learning esoterica or metaphysics in some form to help you progress on your spiritual journey.  Yellow means that the Querent must remain logical and rational to accomplish the goals at hand. The bigger the star, the more important the issue.  Handle priority issues first and the smaller ones will take care of themselves.

Sun

The sun stands for vitality, goodness, optimism, illumination, focused energy, new beginnings, and reality.

Swords

Swords correspond to the air signs in the zodiac: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Swords represent arguments, fighting, responsibilities, conflicts, concerns, limitations, creative thinking, ideas, actions and energy, writing, a curious mind, and trying to deal with all of your issues and concerns before they get harmful in some way.

Sunflowers

Like the sun, these flowers represent new beginnings, the fertility of ideas, going in a new direction, or creative energy. New ventures and new growth.

Towers

Something between two towers indicates that there is a balance issue – something must be dealt with. It may have taken the Querent a long time to get between the towers to experience the balance of home life and love. Look at the color of the towers for further clues. However, if there are towers in a card, it usually represents love, happiness, prosperity, and joy, and your goal is to reach them to benefit from their outstanding qualities.

Trees

Green leaves indicate prosperity, possessions, and things concerning money and abundance. Green also refers to good health.  The brown trunk of the tree stands for grounding and clarity of purpose in regard to finances.

Water

There are so many depictions of water throughout the Rider-Waite deck, but in particular, water stands for emotions, crying easily, and being overly sensitive. Calm water indicates secrets and emotions are below the surface. There could also be hidden agendas. Ripples in a body of water mean that some troubles or negativity is coming into your life. If a body part is in the water, the Querent is making her own emotional problems. If the water is very wavy, there are rather serious problems to handle.

Wands

Wands represent the fire signs of the zodiac: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. This suit represents career, jobs, and how one works on the job (from a procrastinator to workaholic) while sharing all the career-related opportunities available to the Querent.  The Wands also indicate different stages of health issues, if asked by the person you are reading.

Wheat

Wheat symbolizes fertility, growth, abundance, fruitfulness, bounty, and plenty.

Wood

Wood is the second most grounding substance in the cards to stand, lean, or sit on. This color also brings one in connection with the earth or Mother Nature.

Yods

These small, usually yellow flecks of light are blessings from God (or whomever you believe in). If Yods are present in a card that looks negative, this always indicates that God is blessing that person and pushing them into a necessary change that will be in their best interest.


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Victoria Anderson

Victoria Anderson is a published author, a renowned lecturer, and a metaphysical teacher, specializing in astrology. Vikki has been teaching for forty-eight years. Trained in numerous modalities; she is an expert in astrology, tarot, and Feng Shui. She has taught in numerous countries throughout Europe and Australia. Additionally, Vikki is a certified hypnotherapist, certified advanced Feng Shui consultant, an Interfaith minister, and is the author of Inner Realm Magazine's horoscope section for almost twenty-five years. A prolific writer, Vikki currently pens monthly horoscopes, numerous blogs, and her most recent book, "How To Be A Tarot Detective" is now available on Amazon.

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