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What is Symbolism?

Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. 


There are seventy-eight tarot cards in a tarot deck.  Globally, there are thousands of tarot decks that are available, and continually being added too from all over the world.


These decks with diverse themes, from different cultures, with both a shared and contrasting volume of diverse and innumerable images, consequently have created a "Language of Symbolism".

Can a symbol really be part of a language, or is it just a pretty picture?

Yes, a symbol can be part of a language.  History provides evidence of images, pictures, symbols that were throughout ancient civilizations all over the globe used to convey a pictographic language. 


                                                 Some examples of ancient "Languages of Symbolism" are:

































Generally, a symbol is an object representing another, to give an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant.  The image of the Lion is more than just a Lion.   It is a symbol of those attributes listed: courage, strength, pride, majesty and there are many others. However is it so much more, as is each and every symbol in tarot, and the "Language of Symbolism" encompasses elements that both evoke and invoke elements of our interpretations. 


When we as tarot readers evoke a symbol, it means that we draw forth or recall something to mind that usually applies to feelings and memories. It starts with an “E” and is Effortless because it is less purposefully active. The most commonly used way to evoke in a tarot reading is to call something forth, particularly something which is hidden, or not immediately obvious.


You as a reader are likely to evoke such things as memories, emotions, sympathy, and associations. A smell, a taste a sound of a song or a few notes can evoke strong feelings, memories, recollection of stories, poetry, and other images to mind, as you interpret, your client may also evoke things as well, that are their experiences. One example of evokation with the symbol of the Lion may find that we remember a story in Greek mythology we learnt at the school of The Nemean Lion and Hercules, as I did. It may make us remember that the legendary Lion was unstoppable as it ravaged Nemea. The Lion had impenetrable fur, impervious to human weaponry. We may remember that the first Labour Hercules was given, was to slay the Lion by King Eurystheus. He killed the Lion with his bare hands, as they were not man-made weapons, he was then able to remove the pelt of the Lion, he had to use Lion's own claws and Hercules then wore the pelt as his own armour, for the remaining Labours he faced.  


From this story we might recall as part of Lion symbolism, that the Lion may be powerful and the "King of the Beasts", however, even the most powerful have a weakness, so when the strength card is in the reading, we can remember that the gentleness of the women was able to overcome the Lion with her inner strength, not overt strength, but also that even the overtly strong have physical areas of weakness.  We may imply a power struggle, as it was a King, who wished the "King of the Beasts" to be killed; in a work situation, this could be the reminder to us that a third party may be the downfall that was never seen coming.  


Invoke has a few different meanings such as to call on, to appeal to, and to call for. Although invoke still carries the connotation of "calling," it is more of a "call upon" than evoke’s "call to mind," it is more external process than the internal evoke as a process. You invoke a law, a privilege, or an authority. As a noun, the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like; supplication, any petitioning or supplication for help or aid. A form of prayer invoking God's presence, especially one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony, or for many tarot readers using an invocation at the beginning of a reading, using a symbol that is personal to them, for example, someone who practices Wicca may use the symbol of the Pentacle. 


Symbols in the tarot cards can be interpreted in many ways. At times, metaphors and allegory are literary elements that help writers create symbolism in their literary pieces. In a tarot reading, symbolism is as an element that can also be seen as a way to interpret the story of the cards. This interpretation is woven into a narrative, born from the symbolism in the card. That narrative of those symbols, for that card in that position, at that place in time, for that seeker and the questions asked, is a unique moment, and the reader takes on the mantle of an ancient storyteller or wordsmith in our modern world.


Is that any different to the Ancient Scripts telling a story or passing on information, or the narrative of the Pharaoh's reign through Hieroglyphs, or the text message on your iPhone with a string of emoticons?  Tarot symbols are a true "Language of Symbols" in their own right, it is up to the reader, to see those symbols, and to interpret them in the correct context of the reading.

     Ancient Chinese

Pictographic Language

Ancient Scripts

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

            The Evolution of  Written Language

Evolving into  our  very modern "Language of Symbols"                                 

                                  The Emoticon!