It’s a common question I hear from people who are new to tarot, or new to readings overall.
And depending on who you ask, the answer can vary.
There is a level of mystery around tarot and its origins because history has made it so. While it doesn’t sound very glamourous, tarot started out as a card game in Italy in the 1400s.
Of course, there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding tarot’s history and purpose. When the cards were later adopted by occultists, the lines between fact and fiction began to blur when claims were made that the cards originated in ancient Egypt.
Another reason there are so many myths around it is that for some, there is an allure to keeping tarot mysterious and secretive. It can also be appealing to certain folks who like to give the impression that they are accessing arcane knowledge.
I’ll admit that it’s a much more intriguing idea to think of tarot as being a relic from such a mythological time. But tarot evolved throughout the centuries from a card game into the divinatory tool we know it as today, and its true origins don’t diminish its power now.
Every tarot reader will have a different take on what the cards can do, and what they mean. For me personally, I believe that every tarot deck has its own consciousness, which is developed through a personal relationship with its owner.
The more you work with a deck of cards, the more you understand it. I have numerous decks, but they all have their own energy and purpose for me.
When I am reading for others, I always use the same deck, and have done so for years, as it’s always been the deck to pick up on other people’s stories and experiences, and it’s always been the one who delivers the most relevant messages.
Every time I do a reading, I never really know what to expect. Sometimes, the cards are very literal and deliver their messages very directly, staying true to their traditional meanings.
Other times, it feels like I don’t even see the card for what it is. Tarot can throw its own definitions out the window to deliver messages in words, phrases, or images that seem to repeat again and again, which will set the tone for the rest of the reading.
This is the kind of relationship I have with my deck. Other tarot readers will have their own experiences, style, and language they bring to their readings.
So what kind of messages can tarot deliver?
Sometimes, people look to tarot for guidance on what kind of career path they should take, or what they should study in school.
Out of the 78 cards in the deck, there are no cards designated to specific occupations. But the cards can tell you what to focus on, or what qualities or gifts within yourself it’s time to put to use, and through those messages, you can make a decision on how you might want to bring your talents forward.
Tarot can also help you see if you need to live through other lessons or experiences before you can reach your true calling.
At the end of the day, you still need to be the one to make a decision, and tarot will also help remind you of that (and so will an ethical reader).
Tarot is also a great way to see what your options are in a situation, and what the possible outcomes might be if you are a fork in the road and want to know which choice is better.
And if you need to work out a plan, then tarot is a great go-to for figuring out the best course of action when it comes to navigating relationships or other decisions.
It can also be helpful in figuring out the steps you need to take right now before you get a bigger picture view of your life’s goals. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, then tarot can help you feel less overwhelmed by showing you what’s most important for you to learn and overcome at this time.
It can help you be more creative, restore your confidence, and reassure you that change is possible.
But how does it work, exactly?
Well, that’s where tarot gets mysterious. I do believe that it has a lot to do with the connection between the reader and the client, and the relationship that the reader has with their cards. Somehow, there’s magic within those elements.
I’ve been reading tarot for eight years now, and it continues to surprise me and amaze me with the answers it brings.
Each of the cards has a layer of meanings; on their own, their messages might seem simple, but once they are put into the context of a specific question, or once they appear side by side to other cards, their meanings can change.
It’s all in the interpretation, and in paying attention to how the cards are relating to each other.
In my experience, tarot reflects a lot back to the client. It acts as a mirror to affirm that you are asking the right questions at the right time, or that you are making the right decisions along your path.
It can also speak of your soul’s purpose, and your spiritual path, and offer messages from your guides, along with giving you important nudges towards the direction it’s time for you to go in.
Yes, it can be used for fortune telling to do traditional past, present, and future readings, but often I find that the messages that come up for me through tarot offer insightful, introspective guidance that can be used as a personal roadmap for the months or year ahead.
In this way, tarot for me feels less about fortune telling and more about uncovering your path, purpose, and lessons in life, and creating exciting goals and plans based off of the information gleaned from each session.
So while tarot’s origins may be humble, it’s a tool that has evolved to become something that is much more profound than a card game.
It’s important for me to help others understand tarot and its origins because I want people to get the most out of their readings, whether they choose to purchase sessions with me or other readers, or simply work with the cards on their own at home.
At the end of the day, I believe that the more we all understand what tools like tarot can and can’t do, the more we can make them work for us.
Until next time,
p.s. If you’d like to learn how to read tarot, you might want to check out Going Beyond the Little White Book: A Contemporary Guide to Tarot.