What is Tarot?

Welcome, fellow traveler, on life’s winding path! Have you ever felt the call of the ancient and mysterious, the pull of a spiritual journey that transcends time? Tarot, this timeless instrument of divination and introspection, has held humanity in its mystical grip for centuries. But what is Tarot? It’s not merely a deck of cards—it’s a voyage into the esoteric realm. Are you ready to unlock your inner world’s secrets and navigate your life’s cosmic currents? Let’s set sail together on an enlightening expedition into this captivating world.

  • Tarot, a tool transcending cultural barriers, provides insightful perspectives for personal growth, decision-making, and self-discovery, debunking the myth that it’s limited to spiritual or supernatural purposes.
  • Collecting Tarot decks or crafting personal ones are fulfilling hobbies that deepen the understanding and connection with Tarot, further enhancing its role as a mirror reflecting one’s inner world.
  • The global appeal of Tarot is evident in its versatile cultural adaptations, from Chinese Tarot to African American, Native American, and Celtic Tarot, each integrating traditional art, symbolism, and belief systems of their respective cultures.

The Tarot Deck

what is tarot

The Tarot deck, a magical tool for fortune-telling and introspection, is structured with 78 cards, each brimming with symbolic meaning. Now, imagine a grand stage set with 22 actors.

These trump cards are the Major Arcana cards, the heavyweights of the deck, each one representing life’s significant events and spiritual lessons. From the Fool setting off on his journey to the World, symbolizing completion, these major arcana cards often steal the spotlight in a tarot reading.

But what about the rest of our ensemble? Enter the Minor Arcana cards, the remaining 56 players. The minor arcana cards deal with the day-to-day aspects of our lives, the trials and tribulations, joys, and sorrows we all experience.

The minor arcana cards are divided into four suits, each resonating with an element. Cups (water) showcase emotions and relationships, Wands (fire) spark creativity and personal growth, Swords (air) cut through to intellect and conflict, while Pentacles (earth) ground us in the material world.

So, are you ready to explore this mystical framework further? Remember, every card is a new chapter in your story, waiting to be told.

Tarot Card Meanings and Interpretations

As we delve deeper into the Tarot, you’ll soon realize no right or wrong interpretations exist. Each card speaks to individuals differently, depending on their unique experiences and perceptions. However, certain common symbols and imagery in the cards can help guide your interpretation.

Some of these images include:

  • The Tower: a crumbling building symbolizing sudden change or upheaval.
  • The Sun: a bright, radiant sun representing positivity and enlightenment.
  • The Moon: a crescent moon symbolizing intuition and the subconscious mind.

Remember, these are just a few examples, and countless others to explore. Some Tarot readers also consider the card’s position in a spread (layout) and its relationship with surrounding cards for additional insight.

Reversed Tarot Cards

In a Tarot reading, cards can appear upright or reversed (upside down). While some readers choose not to read reversals or interpret them as the opposite of their upright position or meaning, others see reversed cards as representing blocked energy or a lesson yet to be learned. For example, drawing the upright Tower card may indicate sudden change, but a reversed Tower could signify resisting change or being stuck in old patterns.

The Tarot Card Reading Process

tarot card reading

Now that you understand the Tarot deck and its meanings let’s talk about preparing for a reading. Creating a peaceful and comfortable environment, free from distractions, is essential before beginning. You may also choose to light candles or incense, play calming music, or meditate to clear your mind.

Once you’re ready, it’s time to choose a spread. These layouts guide the interpretation of cards and can focus on different aspects of your life, such as love, career, or personal growth. Some popular Tarot spreads include:

  • Celtic Cross: a classic ten-card spread that provides insight into general life issues.
  • Three-Card Spread: a simple yet powerful spread that offers guidance for past, present, and future situations.

After choosing a spread, it’s time to shuffle and draw cards. While there are various shuffling methods, from overhand to rifling, the most crucial aspect is your intention. Take a few deep breaths, focus on your question or intention for the Tarot reading, and let your intuition guide you as you shuffle.

Once you’ve drawn and laid the cards, it’s time to interpret their meanings. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to read Tarot cards; trust your intuition and allow the cards’ symbolism to guide you. With practice and an open mind, you’ll soon become more comfortable with the cards and develop a unique reading style that resonates with you.

If you’d like a detailed guide on how to perform a reading, check out our step-by-step guide!

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Popular Tarot Decks

As mentioned earlier, the Rider-Waite, Thoth, and Marseille Tarot decks are some of the most common playing cards, well-known and widely used. Each one has its unique symbolism and aesthetics, making it a personal choice for many readers.

The Rider-Waite, created in 1910 by Arthur Edward Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, is often considered the “gold standard” of decks. Its simple yet meaningful imagery and symbolism make it ideal for beginners.

In contrast, the Thoth, created by Aleister Crowley and illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris in 1944, delves deeper into esoteric symbolism and occult teachings. It’s a popular choice among more experienced readers and those interested in the occult.

Lastly, the Marseille is known as one of the oldest and most traditional Tarot decks, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Its colorful yet simplistic design makes it an excellent choice for beginners looking to explore the foundations.

The History of Tarot

tarot cards with antique art

Origins in Playing Cards

The origins can be traced back to the 14th and 15th centuries, when it first appeared as a form of a popular card game in Europe. Its exact roots are unknown, but many believe it descended from a similar game called Mamluk, played with beautifully decorated cards featuring court figures and symbols.

Tarot and the Occult

While Tarot was initially used as a game, it gained notoriety in the late 18th and early 19th centuries among occultists. They saw the deck’s symbolism and archetypes as an instrument for prophecy and spiritual growth.

Some of the most well-known figures in Tarot’s occult history include:

  • Antoine Court de Gébelin: a French clergyman who wrote about the esoteric symbolism of Tarot in the late 18th century.
  • Eliphas Levi: a French occultist who popularized the idea of using Tarot as a tool for prophecy and spiritual development in the mid-19th century.
  • Arthur Edward Waite: an English occultist who created the Rider-Waite Tarot in 1910, which remains one of the most popular decks today.

Modern Revival of Interest

After a decline in popularity in the early 20th century, Tarot experienced a revival in the 1960s and ’70s with the rise of New Age spirituality. Since then, it has become a widely accepted tool for self-discovery, personal growth, and prognostication.

It continues to evolve, with more modern playing cards and new decks and interpretations emerging. Whether you use it for guidance or simply appreciate its rich history and symbolism, Tarot remains a fascinating aspect of human culture and spirituality.

Tarot and Divination

tarot cards with crystals

The word “divination” comes from the Latin word “divinare,” meaning to foresee or be inspired by a god. Tarot, used for divination, taps into our intuition and connects us to something greater than ourselves.

While some may view divination as predicting the future, it’s more accurate to say that it offers insights and guidance based on our current energies and choices. Card readings can help us see patterns, obstacles, and opportunities in our lives, allowing us to make more informed decisions and take control of our path.

The Role of Intuition

The inner knowing or gut feeling guides us towards what we need to know or understand. In a Tarot reading, both the reader’s and the seeker’s intuition come into play. The tarot reader must trust their instincts as they interpret the cards, while the seeker must listen to their inner voice as they receive guidance.

The more we connect with our intuition, the more accurate and meaningful our readings can become. That’s why it’s essential to cultivate and trust our intuition, both in Tarot and in life.

Tarot in Popular Culture

Tarot has appeared in numerous movies, TV shows, art and literature, often as a symbol of magic or the unknown. It’s also been referenced in popular songs by artists such as Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, and Lana Del Rey.

Some notable examples in pop culture include:

Movies and Literature

  • “The Hanged Man” (1975) is a horror movie about a serial killer using the Tarot deck to inspire their murders.
  • “The Craft” (1996) is a coming-of-age movie about teenage witches featuring readings and symbolism.
  • “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman (1996): a fantasy novel that includes a character named The Hierophant, inspired by Tarot’s Hierophant card.

Pop Music

  • “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac (1975): inspired by the Welsh goddess Rhiannon, this song references the Moon and the Two of Swords Tarot cards.
  • “Station to Station” by David Bowie (1976): this song features lyrics that mention Tarot cards, including The Star, The Tower, and The Fool.
  • “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey (2011): this song’s music video features a Tarot reading and mentions the Death card in its lyrics.

Reading Practices

There are various ways to read Tarot, and each reader may have their unique approach. Some common practices include:

Personal Readings

Personal readings involve using the cards for self-reflection and guidance. Many readers use a “daily draw” practice, pulling one card as a message or lesson for the day.

Professional Tarot Readers

Professional readers offer their services to seekers, providing insight and guidance through a reading. Depending on the seeker’s question or situation, they may use various Tarot spreads or layouts.

Online Tarot Readings

Thanks to technology, readings are now also available online. Seekers can receive readings via email, video chat, or apps. While it may lack the personal touch of an in-person reading, online Tarot readings can offer valuable insights and guidance. Just be sure to choose a reputable reader or tarot reading platform.

The Skeptic’s View

While Tarot holds deep meaning for many, skeptics often view it through a scientific lens. They may attribute its effectiveness to psychology and chance rather than any supernatural or spiritual powers.

Psychology and Tarot

Some believe that the images and symbols in Tarot can tap into our subconscious minds, bringing forth insights or interpretations based on our life experiences and beliefs. Others see the act of shuffling and drawing cards as a random chance, like flipping a coin. They may argue that any meaning or guidance derived from Tarot cards is purely coincidental.

Chance vs. Intuition

While there may be some truth to these skeptical perspectives, they don’t discount the role of intuition in Tarot card readings. Even if we attribute it to psychology or chance, it can still offer valuable insights and guidance through our own intuition. As they say, “Coincidence is just God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

Tarot Ethics

black and white court cards

Ethical considerations are crucial in Tarot readings as with any practice involving personal information and guidance. Two essential aspects to consider are privacy and consent.

Respect for Privacy

It’s essential for both the reader and seeker to respect each other’s privacy during a Tarot card reading. This means keeping all information disclosed during the reading confidential unless given explicit permission to share it.

Obtaining Informed Consent

Before any reading, obtaining the seeker’s informed consent is crucial. This means explaining the purpose of the reading, what they can expect from it, and their rights as a client. It also involves asking for permission before delving into sensitive topics or using certain spreads that may reveal personal information.

Spirituality

Tarot has been used for centuries for spiritual growth and self-discovery. Its rich symbolism and archetypal imagery can serve as a mirror to our innermost selves, revealing insights and guidance on our spiritual journey.

tarot card with wand pentacles, queen and king

Spiritual Growth

For those seeking a deeper connection with their spirituality, Tarot offers a powerful means of exploration and guidance. By tapping into the inner wisdom within of the cards, we can better understand ourselves and our place in the universe.

As we navigate through life’s challenges and triumphs, it can provide valuable insights and perspectives to help us grow spiritually. Its universal symbolism allows for interpretation on multiple levels, making it versatile for personal reflection and growth.

From exploring our inner desires and fears to understanding the cycles of life and our place in the grand scheme of things, Tarot has much to offer for those on a spiritual path. It can also serve as a powerful tool for connecting with higher consciousness and receiving guidance from divine forces.

Personal Development

In addition to its role in spirituality, Tarot can be valuable for personal development. As we dive into the depths of our subconscious, we can uncover limiting beliefs, patterns, and behaviors that may hinder our growth and progress.

By using the Tarot to gain insight into these aspects of ourselves, we can work towards overcoming them and becoming our best selves. The cards can inspire and motivate us to set goals, act, and manifest our desires.

Tarot is powerful for self-discovery and personal transformation. Whether it’s in the context of spirituality or personal development, its potential for growth and healing is undeniable.

Tarot and Psychology

Tarot has been a popular tool for clairvoyance and guidance for centuries. But did you know that it is also closely related to psychology? In particular, Tarot and Jungian psychology have a strong connection, making it valuable for self-reflection and understanding the psyche.

Jungian Psychology and Tarot

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed that the human psyche comprises various archetypes and is universal across all cultures.

These archetypes represent different aspects of our personality, such as the Shadow (our negative traits), Anima/Animus (our feminine and masculine sides), and Self (the true form and essence of who we are).

Tarot also works with archetypes; each card represents a different archetype or energy. For example, The Fool represents the beginning of a journey and taking risks, while The High Priestess embodies intuition and inner knowledge.

Jung also believed in synchronicity, the idea that events are meaningful coincidences rather than random occurrences. Similarly, Tarot readings are based on synchronicity, with cards seemingly appearing at the right time to provide guidance and insights.

Self-Reflection and Tarot

court cards

One of the main purposes of Jungian psychology is self-reflection, or exploring one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Also, readings can serve as a instrument for self-reflection by providing insight into our subconscious minds and bringing awareness to our patterns and beliefs.

Moreover, Jungian psychology emphasizes the importance of individuation, or becoming our true selves. Tarot can aid in this process by helping us connect with our inner selves and aligning our actions with our true nature.

By tapping into the archetypes and energies of Tarot, we can gain valuable insights and guidance on our journey toward self-awareness and individuation. So next time you do a Tarot reading, remember its connection to psychology and embrace its potential for individual growth.

Tarot Myths and Misconceptions

Tarot has its fair share of misconceptions and stereotypes as with any popular practice. Here are some common misunderstandings debunked:

Common Misunderstandings

  • Tarot is used to predict the future: This is perhaps the most prevalent myth surrounding Tarot. While it can provide insight into potential outcomes and guide decision-making, it is not made forfor predicting the future with certainty. The future is not set in stone and can change depending on our choices and actions.
  • Tarot readings are always accurate: Tarot readers interpret the cards based on their intuition, knowledge, and experience. Therefore, readings may vary from person to person and can be influenced by their emotions or biases.

Debunking Tarot Stereotypes

  • Tarot is associated with witchcraft or occult practices: While it has been used in these contexts, it has no inherent connections to them. It can be used for various purposes and by people of different backgrounds.
  • Tarot readings are only for the spiritual or supernatural: Anyone can benefit from a Tarot reading, regardless of their beliefs. The cards are not tied to any specific religion or spirituality and can be used for personal development and introspection.

By understanding the true nature of Tarot and debunking these myths, we can appreciate it as a valuable vehicle for self-discovery inner wisdom and guidance.

Tarot as a Hobby

tarot classes

As mentioned earlier, collecting decks or crafting your own can be a fulfilling hobby. Here are some tips for those interested in exploring this aspect:

Collecting Tarot Decks

  • Research before purchasing: With the plethora of decks available, it’s essential to research and choose one that resonates with you personally. Consider the artwork, symbolism, and theme of the deck.
  • Mix and match: Don’t feel limited to only one. Many enthusiasts collect multiple decks and even combine cards from different ones for unique readings.

DIY Tarot Crafting

  • Start with a blank deck: You can purchase blank Tarot cards or use regular playing cards as a base for your own deck. This allows for more creativity and personalization.
  • Incorporate your own symbolism: Instead of using traditional imagery, you can add symbols or themes that hold significance to you personally.
  • Use different mediums: You’re not limited to pen and paper – try using mixed media, paints, or even digital tools to create your Tarot cards.

Tarot card collecting and crafting are enjoyable hobbies and a way to deepen your understanding and connection with these cards. You can even combine these activities with your self-reflection practices for a more meaningful experience. So why not give it a try and explore the world of Tarot cards beyond its divinatory purposes?

Tarot’s Global Appeal

While Tarot has its roots in Europe, it has been adapted and embraced by cultures worldwide. Here are some examples of cultural adaptations:

Chinese

Chinese Tarot features traditional Chinese artwork and symbolism, such as using yin and yang, the Five Elements, and Chinese deities instead of traditional imagery.

African American

This one features African-American culture, history, and mythology in its illustrations and interpretations of all the cards.

Native American

The images and symbolism in this one are based on Native American beliefs and folklore. It also incorporates elements from traditional tarot cards.

Celtic

As the name suggests, Celtic mythology heavily influences this deck, with each card representing a Celtic deity or symbol.

These are just a few examples of the cultural adaptations of Tarot cards, showcasing its global appeal and ability to connect with different belief systems.

Getting Started with Tarot

Tips for Beginners

  • Choose a deck that resonates with you: Research and choose one that speaks to you personally.
  • Start small: Instead of trying to learn all 78 cards at once, begin with the Major Arcana and gradually add in the Minor Arcana.
  • Practice, practice, practice: The more you use Tarot, the better your intuition and understanding of the cards will become. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spreads or techniques.

Recommended Resources

  • Books: “The Rider-Waite Tarot” by Arthur Edward Waite and “Tarot for Beginners” by Barbara Moore are great introductory books.
  • Online resources: Websites such as Biddy Tarot, Labyrinthos, and Tarot.com offer free information and resources.
  • Courses or workshops: These can be a more structured way to learn about Tarot from experienced teachers. They may also provide opportunities for practice and feedback.

With these tips and resources, you can begin your journey with Tarot and explore its potential for growth and self-discovery. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to use it – it’s a way that is unique to each individual. Have fun and trust your intuition!

Conclusion

In conclusion, Tarot is a versatile and richly symbolic tool that transcends cultural barriers and connects to various belief systems.

It can offer insightful perspectives, guide decision-making, promote spiritual growth, and be a fascinating hobby that allows personal creativity to flourish.

Whether you’re drawn to Tarot for its spiritual implications, its role as a psychological device, or simply the allure of the beautiful decks, it invites exploration and introspection.

As you embark on this journey, remember it is not a predictor of your fate but rather a mirror reflecting back your own inner world. So, pick a deck, shuffle the cards, and let your journey of self-discovery begin!

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Free Download: Tarot Card Reading & Your Destiny
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Christina Johnson

About the Author

My name is Christina, and I am the founder of centerspirited. Being a physiotherapist for several years I have found that many people, including myself, don’t achieve well-being only from a physical point of view. I’ve always viewed a person’s body, soul, and emotions as a whole construct of beauty. Always being a yoga enthusiast, I finally became an instructor myself. On a secret mission to capture spirituality in all of her beautiful shapes, I found myself being guided on a way through ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle. Through this platform, I will hopefully be able to help other beautiful souls out there find their inner peace and bond with their spiritual selves.

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