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Friday, 4 February 2011

Expansion Introduction


The Chambers Dictionary defines the word TAROT as: “noun. A card of a type originating in Italy with an allegorical picture; a set consisting of 100 such cards used in games and especially fortune-telling; (usually in plural) a game played with tarots together with cards of the ordinary suits-Formerly also ‘taroc’ or ‘tarok’ [FRENCH ‘tarot’, from ITALIAN ‘tarocco’].

The Concise Oxford Dictionary adds:  “...Game played with, each card of, a pack of 78 cards...of unknown origin.”

The Latin word, ROTA, means, “to turn as a wheel, to rotate, cyclic.”  Rota may appear to be a relative or a derivative or root of the word tarot.  Tarot represents the turning of the cycles of life and death and rebirth, like a wheel.  

The Egyptian God of wisdom, Thoth’s name is additionally & coincidently (?) reminiscent of the word Tarot. 

The word THOTH may also be linked to the roots of our words thought, thorough, and truth.  If this has any bearing on our understanding of the tarot, then we might consider that the tarot is designed to help us understand the true thorough turning of the wheel of life, granting us self-knowledge and wisdom.

While some quite like a “good old fashioned tarot reading” where one person “reads” the cards for another.  What is less considered is how to use the iconic images to meditate and to work on positive attainment.  Ideas for this kind of work will be worked within the text.  Simply put, the Expansion Tarot is a tool to help you...

'Know Thyself' 

Definition of TAROT:

 "Self-truth and understanding gained using symbolically illustrated cards as a tool." 

Definition of EXPANSION:

 “The process of amplification, the state or degree of enlargement, immensity, extension”

This deck has been named THE EXPANSION TAROT because it connotes the ability to increase in all directions.   

The more we understand ourselves the more we can expand our awareness.  Like a dry sponge that is soaked in water, the student of tarot can expand in all directions through the experience and knowledge of his or her essential self.

If nothing else, time working with the tarot gives positive alone time, something we all too often neglect.

Tarot has a cyclical nature, thus the suits of cards are organised as the cycles of life and the compartments of the environment in which we manifest. 

These cards are called the MINOR ARCANA, or smaller mysteries.  Each of these four suits is given a symbolic representation that relates to one of the four major elements of water, fire, air and earth and they relate to the suits of typical playing cards (hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds).

The suit of coins, pentacles or disks symbolises the material world or the element of earth.  In the Expansion Deck, the suit of coins or pentacles is replaced by the name THE SUIT OF EARTH.  Earth is the essential element from which all materials come and that allows for human existence and manifestation on this planet.  It is a negative polarity, or a feminine aspect; bringing to it what it needs through attraction.

Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs [1943] the suit of earth corresponds to the physiological needs — or the requirements for human survival. Air, water, food, clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. Earth also represents how an individual handles the material world and how these resources are managed.

The second suit is the suit of rods, wands, batons, brooms or staffs and symbolises the dynamic world of energy or of spirit, that which animates or is animated or the element of fire.
 In the Expansion Deck, the suit of rods or wands is replaced by the name THE SUIT OF FIRE. Typically this suit uses as the tool of animation to represent the concept of intention. 

The rod or baton was symbolic of the magician’s wand, the symbolic aid or focus for his intention to be made manifest.  Fire is often the symbol of creative energy and is essentially a tool of transformation of spirit; for example, water may boil when heated by fire, and then eventually evaporate, changing its composition entirely. 

Fire can either create or destroy.  This suit is of a masculine energy or positive polarity and thus gets its needs met through action, or goes out and get what it wants.

Fire is also related to passion, obsession and sexuality.  It relates to the Safety needs in Maslow’s theory. 

To keep the human race safe, sex must occur to build the population. If someone were to threaten your feelings of safety, the fire in your belly helps you counter any attack and is the energy you can muster to fight, flee or freeze.

The third suit in the Expansion Deck is THE SUIT OF WATER.  In other Tarot Decks it is symbolised as the suit of cups or chalices or cauldrons traditionally.  This suit is relative to the emotional realm or the subconscious, the world of dreams and visions.  Water, like earth, is a feminine element, getting what it needs through attraction. 

All humans are incubated inside the mother’s body in birth water. 

When pre-literate humans wandered the earth, they needed water, so they cupped their hands in order to hold the water before they got the precious drops to their mouths.  Later, when they developed tools, the first vessels they made for holding liquids resembled the shape of their cupped hands. Water is essential to life. 

This may be a clue as to how very important emotions are to all people, and how difficult life can be when one denies their feelings.  In reverse, often one is no more blissful when embracing his or her emotions, as when one is “in love” or in harmony with another human individual. 

Too much of the water element can lead to drowning or being overwhelmed by emotion; too little can lead to great thirst and even to death. Maslow explains this need as the need for a social life, approval of others, popularity and loving relationships in his text, A Theory of Human Motivation, A. H. Maslow (1943), Originally Published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

The final suit is the traditional suit of swords.  This is the symbol of the male polarity, as Carl Jung found when naming the seven basic archetypes*.  The sword or knife again is a positive energy, like the suit of fire, and gets what it needs through action.  In the Expansion Deck it is known as THE SUIT OF AIR.  This suit indicates the mental realm. While a knife or sword is a tool to cut, it is symbolic of cutting to get to the truth or heart of a matter. 

Truth is an essential element in reasoning and thinking.  One, who investigates the truth and looks at all sides of an issue, is said to have an “open mind”.  Likewise, upon hearing a truth, one may say that it is “likened to a breath of fresh air.” 

While a sword initially appears to be a dangerous weapon, one must have the knowledge of how and when to use it, thus again we see the tool symbolising that intention behind its use.  Air is invisible to the naked eye, as is knowledge and therefore we must find symbols to concretely establish that which we cannot see. 

Too much of this element can cause one to live only in the mind---a mind that has little organisation or concentration.  Lack of air causes suffocation.

Maslow believed that most people have a need for a stable self-respect and self-esteem. We need the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. Deprivation of these needs can lead to an inferiority complex, weakness and helplessness.

(Aside note---there are some Tarot decks and magical systems that reverse fire and air or swords and wands.)

To sum it up, then:

The earth suit is of the physical, material realm
The fire suit is of the active, spiritual realm
The suit of water is of the emotional realm
The air suit is of the mental realm.

 Each suit signifies the different experiences an individual encounters in their daily life.  Just by the nature of each world or realm of each of the suits we can see that they are all as important as each other and need each other to come together in the individual to create a whole life.

In the Expansion Deck these suits are indicative of daily living and it may be helpful when working with the cards to separate these from the Major Arcana cards when specifically dealing with minor issues of the “mundane” world. 

The numbered cards (0 to 0/2) are called the MAJOR ARCANA.  These cards are far more difficult to define.  These cards directly relate to the cyclic nature of an individual’s essence, or soul, the part of each of us that cannot be defined, yet exists none-the-less.  [Some people refer to it as their “Higher Self” or as their “Psychic Self”].

On Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs the Major Arcana fits with the self-actualisation needs. Maslow describes these needs as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

The 0 card, “The Being”, or "the Fool" in traditional Tarot, is the card representing the moment before corporeal birth into the earth realm, the first breath, when the soul is made ready to manifest into a body, or when the being incarnates.  The Major Arcana cards then follow the being’s cycles of incarnation. 

The final card of the Major Arcana "02" is “Expansion”, formerly known as "the World" in traditional Tarot, when the being joins with his/her other incarnations once more in wholeness and prepares to begin his/her cyclical journey once again.  Both the first and the final cards of the Major Arcana represent the state of being whole in one's essence and at home with one's self.  The difference is that "The Being" is just starting out on his/her journey around the wheel of life, while "Expansion" represents a completion of one cycle around the wheel. 

When one is in a period of transition or turmoil in his or her life, the Major Arcana may be separated from the Minor Arcana and utilised to give understanding of the important connotations of your life at the time.

Anything we utilize outside ourselves is a tool, from pencil to automobile.  A tool is a very useful item and therefore deserves the same respect we pay to anything that helps us. 

We take great care of our cars; washing, polishing, lubricating and maintaining it so that it will run properly.  The car is the tool to get us from point A to point B.  These cards are ONLY a tool to help one to find his or her own truth, and this truth is only found within each individual. 

The cards are a means (like a car) for helping you to travel to your desired destination.  Realise though that sometimes when one travels without a map or intended destination, one can get lost.

Maintaining the cards

Most books on Tarot will have various suggestions for keeping and handling your cards.  Some will direct you to wrap them in silk or to put them in a special bag or box, or to stop others from touching the cards.  The cards ought to be honoured in the same way as any other tool you might use, as in the way in which you care for your car. 

Some painters takes great care with his or her brushes, and practices revering his or her art with each cleaning of the brushes.  The brushes are not the art, they are simply the tool for making the art. 

The Expansion Deck was designed for both personal use and as a tool for consultation.  If you chose to “read”* for others, you must trust your intuition try eliminate ego-needs when reading for others. 

Securing a blank book or journal or a file on your computer, kept just for the purpose of writing down a personal understanding of the card can also be quite helpful.  When I was a student of tarot, I meditated upon one card per evening, then wrote down impressions the next morning. 

While each card will be dealt with in the text, each student will have his or her own personal encounter with the cards and will develop his or her own interpretation of each image.  Your impression is very important as everyone relates to the iconic images differently based on your level of understanding and experiences.

There is no reversed meaning for any of the cards in the Expansion Deck.  Should a card be chosen during a reading in the reverse, simply right it. 


Do, please, feel free to download any images or text you like.  This is meant to be an open-access tarot project.  Please leave any thoughts or ideas you have, I would like to hear from you.  I believe that anyone can learn to work with the tarot and I hope what I post can be helpful to those who would like to learn it. 

The Expansion tarot uses contemporary imagery and symbols so they resonate with people today.  Too often, the traditional tarot images have less impact because they illustrate ideas in the way people were and not how they are now.  When they were originally developed in 1993-1995, things like the internet and digital imagery were in their infancy.  Now using new computer imagery programmes and social networking, the Expansion tarot now has the potential to reach people in ways that were never even considered when they were first created.

Certainly link and make suggestions to anyone you think would like to see these. Just please do not reprint as your own work.

Best Wishes,
Gabrielle Elliot, ©1994, 2011

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