The Magician card from the Visconti Sforza deck
The Tarot is a deck of 78 cards. Each card is different.
Many different interpretations of the Tarot exist, possibly thousands. But even though the images and themes vary, the process is the same. We shuffle the cards, lay some out, then use the images and the meanings of each card for divination and guidance.
When was the Tarot first created?
This is a subject of a lot of debate. The first Tarot deck that has been found to exist dates from the 15th century; it was made for the Visconti Sforza family in what is now Milan, Italy. It was used as a Religious Education learning device for the young ladies of the house.
How does it work?
In this 6-minute video, I explain how I think the Tarot works. Hint: it involves experiments at Princeton and quantum mechanics.
According to the Swiss philosopher and father of psychotherapy, CG Jung, there exists a force called synchronicity, where events occur that form a pattern. This is also known as coincidence.
In quantum mechanics, there is a theory that the way you view an experiment influences it’s outcome. If you try to analyse light in an experiment to see if it is a particle, light will be shown to be a particle. If you analyse light as a wave, it will be shown to be a wave. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Unit showed that the way we observe complex machinery leads us to affect it’s performance. This is how our minds can affect the way the cards fall, when we shuffle them. This could also be part of synchronicity.
It’s also believed that we have a Higher Self. Sometimes, we can feel the guidance from our Higher Self. I believe that the Tarot is a link that enables us to communicate and receive direct guidance from our Higher Self, using the laws of synchronicity.
Jung also pointed out that there are certain images, which he called archetypes, that are universal in nature. Seeing these kinds of image leads us to experience change at a very profound level. The images of the Tarot are archetypal.
So: the Tarot uses the laws of synchronicity, and archetypal images, to deliver messages from our Higher Self.
Image from the Tarot de Jacques Vieville, ca. 1667
What happens in a Tarot reading?
In a Tarot session, the cards are shuffled and laid out on a flat surface. There are many ways of laying out cards; some set patterns, known as spreads, have names, such as the Celtic Cross or the Astrological spread, but not all of them. This, surprisingly, can be done at a distance. Nowadays, Tarot readers do readings via Skype and e-mail. The accuracy doesn’t change.
Cards from Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith’s Classic Tarot.
What do the cards mean?
As I said, each card has a different meaning. In fact, it’s truer to say that each card has several possible meanings. The Major Arcana cards have many layers of very deep meaning, and some of the Minor Arcana have only one or two possible meanings. Please see the page on this site: Card Meanings to help you understand. If you are curious to find out more, I can recommend two books:
What about the positions of the cards on the table? Does that affect the meaning?
The positions of the cards, which cards they are next to and the other cards on the table, all influence the meanings of the cards. So as you can see, it’s a very subtle and complex divination method. You can compare Tarot with the I Ching.
Image from Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris’s Thoth Tarot.
Is the Tarot good or bad?
In my 25 plus years of experience, I have never known the Tarot to guide someone to do something unethical. It is possible to use the Tarot too much, some people use it for every single decision, from what clothes to wear to which person to date. This is not the Tarot’s best use, as the Tarot is mainly for use to enhance our sense of responsibility for ourselves. You should not base your life decisions on the images on a pack of cardboard cards. The images on the cards help you to make your own decisions, to be the catalyst for your own change. The Tarot is an accurate tool for self-knowledge.
Image from Marie White’s Mary-El Tarot.
What if I get a scary or upsetting card?
Imagine if you asked your friend to go shopping with you, and he or she advised you to buy an outfit that looked awful on you, just because they couldn’t bring themselves to tell you the truth. You would feel really deceived when you realized it had been the wrong decision.
Or what if your doctor knew that you had a potentially serious illness, that might get better on it’s own, although it might get a lot worse if not seen to. You would want your doctor to tell you, right?
The Tarot sometimes uses strong cards if the situation needs it, for urgent guidance.
For example: you might be feeling very sorry for yourself because of some bad situation and at the same time ruining the lives of the people you love through your self-pity and selfish actions. You would want to receive strong guidance that would point you in the direction of your highest potential, and at the same time safeguard the happiness of the people who mean most to you.
In this way, the Tarot is a guide that can see into the future, understands your past, has a bird’s eye view of your present situation, and only wants what’s best for you, to lead you to a higher evolution of yourself.
How accurate is the Tarot?
I would say, based on 25 plus years of using the Tarot, that it’s about 80% accurate in guidance and prediction. There may be cards that do not mean anything to you at all, but most of them will.
A good Tarot reader does not need to know anything about your situation or who you are in a Tarot reding, because all of your information will be in the cards.
Nevertheless, imagine if you went to the garage with your car, and you said to the mechanic: “You’re supposed to be the professional, you tell me what’s wrong with my car.” The mechanic would think you are rude, and it would take a lot longer to run diagnostic tests to work out that the rattling in your glove compartment was a crayon left there by your kids. What a waste of time and money for you, and no matter how great the mechanic is, he might always be too busy to see you in the future.
In the same way, it’s better to dialogue openly with a Tarot professional, to get to the heart of the message the Tarot is giving you, and to make a good connection with a valuable ally in the future.
How do I choose a good Tarot reader?
Look at the Tarot reader’s feedback, their example readings, read their blog and Facebook posts. A good Tarot reader will never:
- Prophecy terrible doom, and tell you the only way to get rid of a curse is to pay them more money
- Prophecy how to become rich, and tell you the only way to get rich is to pay them more money
- Tell you what other people are doing or thinking
- Tell you how you are going to die
- Give your information to anyone – all Tarot readings should be confidential.
Please also remember that:
- not all Tarot readers are clairvoyant, though some are
- being part of a Tarot association or having a Tarot qualification is not a guarantee of anything – there is no global standard for Tarot reading excellence; certificates on Tarot are just pieces of paper.