“A deck of the cards and a sincere intention for insight are all we need to engage the sacred conversation and, if you choose, to facilitate that conversation for others.” - Paul Quinn, Tarot for Life
The great thing about the question "What is Tarot" is that you could ask ten different Tarot readers and get ten separate, distinct answers. With so many misconceptions about Tarot, it's important not to get caught up in what you THINK it is or what others tell you it SHOULD be. While there are hundreds of different answers to the query, there are also many archaic and uninformed beliefs that should be permanently swept under the rug. Will everyone agree? Absolutely not, and that's ok; the important thing to understand is that Tarot is for everybody. Anyone willing to pick up a deck can learn to read effectively without having to worry about the fate of their soul or that their first deck came from the drugstore around the corner.
As Tarot is an entity with a myriad of meanings and capabilities, it may be better to start off with what Tarot is not:
Hollywood has done nothing to help the case for Tarot as anything but a terrifying work of evil. While many believe the cards are the work of/are created by Satanic forces, the truth is that the very first Tarot cards were created within highly Christianized Europe. Many of the cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the one most contemporary decks are based off, contain oodles of Christian symbolism. Everything from doves to Archangels make appearances in the cards. Is there a Devil card? Yes. But the Devil is also in the Bible. Does that make it evil? Of course not! The “darker cards” such as The Devil, Death, and The Tower are there to help us see and understand forces which to avoid, approve upon, or prepare ourselves for. A card deck originally used for a game played by 15th-century Italian nobility is no more evil than a deck of UNO Cards; Satan has nothing to do with it.
An Easy Answer to All of Life's Problems
If you go into a Tarot reading expecting the cards or the reader to solve of of your problems, it’s better to avoid Tarot altogether. Can it give you insight, perspective, and guidance? Of course. Will you be required to do the changing needed to see the outcome of the cards? Absolutely. Any reader worth their salt won’t just tell you what you want to hear and send you on their way; if they do, take notice of the red flags. What they should do is help empower you in your decisions and actions, serve as a guide through whatever question or problem you have, and then help give you actionable, empowering advice that will help you move forward. The only one who HAS the answers is you. While Tarot can help shed light on questions and inquiries, it’s up to you to show up and do the work.
Only for People Who Have Been Gifted Decks
I’ll be the first to admit that the thought of being gifted a Tarot deck from a great-aunt or mysterious stranger is enticing, but I’ll also be real: I bought my first deck at Barnes & Noble. While not very practical if you wish to read Tarot, there’s a longstanding “tradition” within the Tarot community that one has to be gifted a deck in order to use it. While I enjoy this idea on a purely aesthetic view, wanting to work with the cards is reason enough to go out and buy a deck if no one’s offered you one yet. Picking out a deck at a bookstore or amazon.com will in no way hinder your learning or make you “less” of a reader. If you don’t have any long-lost esoteric family members or strangers in your life handing out Tarot decks, then hit up your favorite shop or website and pick one out yourself! The plus side? You’ll get to choose one you really like and connect with.
Only for Those Who Have Strong Psychic Ability
This may be one of the biggest myths or misconceptions about Tarot. Are there psychics who use Tarot? Yes. Are there psychics who don’t? Indeed. Are there people with little to no (known) psychic abilities reading cards successfully? Hell yeah! While I’m of the opinion that we all posses some sort of psychic ability, you do not need to be a naturally gifted medium or intuitive to read Tarot. Much like a gifted athlete or musician, some readers are more inclined to have these talents without much practice or preparation. For others, building up and working with your intuition and innate psychic abilities takes time and a bit of effort, and Tarot is the perfect modality for this work. Since it speaks to us in archetypes, anyone, even those who have never seen the cards before looking at them for the first time, will be able to tap into their intuition and discern meanings and understanding from Tarot. While practice makes perfect, not having a wide-open Third Eye should never keep anyone away from the practice of the cards.
So then …what IS Tarot? Simply put, in my humble opinion, it’s a tool. It's a tool used for growth of the mind and for growth of the soul. When used to its fullest potential, Tarot can empower you and those you read for with advice, guidance, and insightful understanding of where you've been, where you are, and where you may be headed. Tarot acts as a key to discovering your greatest potential, helping seekers realize their own personal power and serving as a catalyst for working out a best course of action though encouragement and individual empowerment. In order for it to be effective, however, you have to be willing to put in the work.
What other misconceptions or myths have you hard about Tarot? Do you believe or follow any? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let me know!
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Until next time!