What does it mean to get an Ace (or many aces) in a Tarot reading?
Should Aces even be used in readings at all?
These questions have plagued Tarot readers for goodness knows how long and after some experimentation (see my previous post on the subject), I came to the anecdotal conclusion that Aces are actually powerful cards that should not be ignored or taken lightly.
Wholeness, Unity, Oneness: Etymology of the Word “Ace”
Etymologically speaking, the word “Ace” comes to us from the Old French word “as,” which means “a whole,” “unity” or “a unit.” This word came into being thanks to a small Roman coin, which was originally rectangular and made out of bronze. It weighed about 1 pound and was eventually reduced in depreciation to half an ounce.
In Imperial times it then became a round coin and the Latin/Old French word is also the source of the Danish es, Dutch aas, German aas, Italian asso and Spanish as. Some scholars even posit that the word is originally Etruscan and gave rise to the Greek word “eis” which means “one.”
By looking at its original meaning we can say that, in the context of a Tarot reading, Aces can indicate energy that is yet to be used or channeled into something tangible but that can lead to a sense of wholeness and completion if harnessed with care and compassion.
Depending on where the card is in a reading, it can also indicate the resolution of a problem or a life phase and the seed of a new one.
Other possible interpretations include a sense of primal urgency (One/Ace =primal life energy) that will lead to the native feeling a sense of unity, wholeness and completion if tackled with honesty and conviction. This can lead to a feeling of “coming home” or coming full circle.
The welling up of the primal energy symbolised by the Ace calls the native out to risky, passionate adventures and, because he has listened to this inner calling, will come to a place of unity within his own being.
So, as we’ve seen, Aces can indicate the inchoate stirrings of something within us that is waiting to erupt out onto the surface of life.
Etymological History: Changes in Meaning of the Word “Ace”
Before playing cards became popular, “ace” was always the lowest side of a dice and in the 1500s the word became synonymous with bad luck and ill fortune. The word then became a metaphor for “bad luck” or “something of no value” until the 18th century when the Ace became the highest playing card thus reversing its original connotations as ”something of no value. “
The Ace thus experienced a reversal in its symbolism and came to denote something of excellence, high value and good quality.
The expression “ace in the hole” means a “concealed advantage” suggesting that, “if you play your cards right” (no pun intended) receiving an Ace in a Tarot reading can suggest that there’s an advantage afoot. On the other hand it can indicate that if you don’t “play your cards right” then “bad luck” (remember we create our own luck with our thoughts and actions) and “something of no value” awaits.
Ultimately, it all comes down to “the way that you use it.”
Use an Ace properly and its power can work to your advantage, however, failing to seize the opportunity means that you waste this divinely inspired gift from the Universe.
Other Meanings and Connotations
An “ace” became slang for a World War I pilot who had shot down ten enemy planes. This came from the French l’ace.
According to Bruce Robertson:
Scoring “points” by receiving an Ace in a Tarot reading can bode well for questions about new ventures, projects and love interests (to name a few).
Also note that the verb “ace” means to succeed or to pass something with flying colours, as in: “I aced my history exam.”
In British slang saying something is “ace” means that it’s “great,” “fantastic” etc.
In the Jewish Quarter in Paris the best falafel is served at a restaurant called “L’As du Falafel,” which suggests that the word ace is also synonymous with being a whizz at something (making falafel in this case). Therefore the word “ace” can also suggest mastery, skill and talent.
The Ace in a deck of cards changes from the highest to the lowest card in the pack depending on the game. There are even some games (such as Poker and Blackjack) where the players can decide whether the Ace is the high or low card showing, once again, that when they appear in a Tarot spread they can indicate a “gift from the Universe” that is now up to the individual to use and “guide” as they see fit.
This duality also allows players in some other card games to use it as both at once, known colloquially as “going around the corner.”
As far as Tarot divination is concerned, this can mean that if the powerful, raw, eruptive energy of the Ace is handled carelessly it can drag as up and down at the same time. Take charge, however, and it can lead you to the wholeness, unity and oneness that is inherent in its etymological meaning.
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