It is said that with the use of a special set of cards and the help of someone who studies them, one can learn more deeply about themselves, and even learn of their future. The readings of these mysterious cards are oftentimes very accurate which makes us wonder “how do they work?” Are they as mystical as they seem? Or are tarot readings a projection of our own subconscious mind? By delving into their rich history, which reaches back to, as some believe, ancient Egyptian times, you can learn more about how these cards have come to be used today.
The History of Tarot
From humble beginnings, Tarot cards most likely originated from Turkish Mamluk game cards, which were brought to Western Europe in the 14th century. In the next century, wealthy Italians began using these cards to play “tarocchi appropriate,” a game in which players would draw a set of cards and use them as inspiration for writing poetry about one another. The designs were directly related to important aspects of the world at the time with an emphasis on Christian symbolism. Shortly thereafter, these cards were used in a game similar to today’s Bridge, called “carte da trionfi” or “cards of triumph.”
Although most people used the deck for playing games, there were some who used Tarot cards for reading the future. This practice of divination, though, did not become widely known about until the late 18th century, when Antoine Court de Gébelin, a former pastor of the Protestant church began using Tarot cards for arcane wisdom.
A popular author, Gébelin wrote an encyclopedia, Le Monde primitif analysé et comparé avec le monde modern, which consisted mostly of esoteric topics. One such topic was Tarot reading. This topic was written by Gébelin and Louis-Raphael-Lucrece de Fayolle, comte de Mellet, who was the governor of Maine and Perche at the time. The two claimed that divination using cards originated in Egypt, with the name coming from the Orient: “Tar” and “Rha, Rho,” which means “royal road.”
Up until the 20th century, the use of Tarot cards was kept behind closed doors, in small circles of intellectuals. It is believed that the Freemasons comprised one such circle. Finally, in 1909, poet and scholar, Arthur Edward Waite (better known as A.E. Waite) commissioned illustrator Pamela Colman Smith to design a deck of Tarot cards specifically for esoteric purposes. This deck of 78 cards, called Rider-Waite, named after both A.E. Waite and the publisher, William Rider, has become the most well-known and widely-used set of Tarot cards today.
Not until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s did the popularity of Tarot cards skyrocket. This was due to author and president of US Games, Stuart Kaplan, importing the cards into the United States. With his books, Tarot Encyclopedia I+II+III, the general population came to learn about the workings of Tarot.
Many people are surprised to find just how accurate Tarot readings (one free psychic question) can be. You may be wondering “but how?” There are plenty of theories to explain how Tarot readings can be so precise. From psychoanalytical beliefs and scientific findings, to more mystical explanations, the illusive truth behind Tarot has been a mystery for decades.
Some believe that because humans have a limited understanding of themselves, interpreting Tarot cards allows us to bring our subconscious thoughts to the surface. This belief, known as game theory, says that while the cards are random, “we force meaning upon them, allowing us find deeper understanding of ourselves.”
Another popular theory is called synchronicity. This term was coined by psychoanalyst and psychologist Carl Jung, as he worked with the I-Ching. The synchronicity is essentially “meaningful coincidences.” In other words, coincidences that cannot be written off as simply random events. Jung postulated that there is a deep connection between the human mind and physical objects. Jung’s studies showed that the ability to use synchronicity most depends on our belief in it. Therefore, if you believe, or are at least open to the idea that Tarot readings can provide insight into your life, you are more likely to have a meaningful reading.
Quantum physics may also have found reasoning behind why Tarot readings are so often spot on. Physicists have found that particles, the stuff everything is made up of – you, the chair you’re sitting on, and the food you eat – are all interconnected. And, in fact, nothing is truly “solid.” Everything is made up of tiny particles, buzzing around at different frequencies to create matter. Because all this energy is interconnected, we are able to impact it by the type of energies that we exude. By simply looking for the interwoven energies, you open yourself up to a field of infinite potentiality. Because this seems to contradict modern science, this idea can be difficult to wrap your mind around. But studies suggest that this may very well be the key to understanding how the mind can affect matter.
Not all theories are based in science and psychology, though. There are many people that believe that there are supernatural forces that determine how tarot cards are laid out. It is often believed that magic or divine guidance arrange the cards, and many claim that you must have skill or power to be able to provide an accurate Tarot reading.
No matter which ideology you choose to believe, Tarot readings can be a fascinating and meaningful method of introspection and self-awareness.
How Tarot Works and Questions to Ask
Now that you know the decorated history of Tarot, you may be wondering Tarot readings work. Here are the basics. The reader will ask the questioner to free the mind of any pre-existing thought and then to set one question or intention for the reading. The questioner then will be asked to shuffle and cut the cards, all the while thinking about the question that they have in mind. The Tarot responds best to open-ended questions. Questions like “will I get the job?” or “does so-and-so have any feelings for me?” may be too specific. Though love tarot readings can be done, the cards usually tell you what you really need to know, and may not have any true answers for questions that have too many underlying factors.
Asking, “what do I really need to know?” is actually a great question to ask at the start of a tarot reading, but you can get a little more specific, if you’d like. “What is holding me back in my life?” is another good question to get insight on, or “what can I focus on to have a more fulfilling life?” can help you to better understand what areas of your life need your attention.
There are plenty of different spreads to choose from, but the three most common Tarot readings are: the 3-card spread, 5-card Horseshoe spread, and the Celtic Cross. Each spread will reveal different aspects in the person’s life. For example, the simple 3-card spread provides the questioner with insight into their past, present, and future (great for daily tarot readings); the 5-Card Horseshoe Spread is a simple layout intended to give the reader a quick answer or answers to some very basic problems and concerns; while the Celtic Cross, a spread with ten cards, will represent the questioner’s present position, challenges, distant past, immediate future, best outcome, recent past, factors affecting you, external factors, hopes and fears, and the final outcome.
You may be wondering what exactly these mean:
- Present position: This card will represent where you are in your life currently and how you are handling your current situation.
- Challenges: Current challenges that are really affecting your life at this time. Challenges, which if resolved, could make your life much better.
- Distant Past: This card represents how this challenge came about. What factored into your current situation.
- Immediate Future: This card will not represent the final outcome, but rather what will happen leading up to the final outcome. What are the next steps that you will face?
- Best Outcome: Your current goals are represented in this card. This is the best possible outcome from your current situation.
- Recent Past: This card is the representation of how you influence your personal situation. It is a reflection of your innermost feelings; what is driving you.
- Factors Affecting You (or advice): What can you do at this time to have a better outcome?
- External Factors: These are things that are out of your control: people, situations, and energies that you yourself cannot change. This card represents something that you may have been spending time and energy on which are not in your control.
- Hopes and Fears: This card can be difficult to discern its meaning from because it could mean either a hope you have or a fear. That being said, it is important to know that both hopes and fears can be meaningfully entwined.
- Outcome: This card represents the outcome of the situation, as the way things are going, for better or for worse. If you draw a card that it is negative, this is the opportunity to change something about your life in order to have a different outcome.
As the Tarot reading is interpreted, you will find that there are two sections within the deck: the Major Arcana, and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is made up of 22 cards and represents the different aspects of yourself and your life. These cards are the most recognizable for people.
The card, Death, for example, is widely known, though it is often misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with what it represents. During a Tarot reading, The Death card usually doesn’t have anything to do with death at all. Simply put, it is a representation of change in one’s life. Oftentimes, it can be considered the death of something negative, which creates a positive change.
Another well-known and important card is The Devil. Often associated with evil, The Devil Card most often means that the questioner is caught in a self-destructive habit or behavior. Receiving this card during a Tarot reading can lead to a positive outcome, due to its ability to enlighten the questioner to their behaviors.
During your Tarot card reading, you will see an array of the 56 cards in the Minor Arcana, which are divided up into suits: Cups, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords each representing a different aspect of your life. For example, Cups represent emotions and feelings, Wands represents creativity, action and movement, and Swords represent logic and thinking, leaving Pentacles as the suit of practicality, security and material concerns. Amongst each suit are a Page, Knight, King, and Queen. These court cards show us certain ways of being in the world so that we can use or in some cases, avoid, those styles when appropriate.
Finding a Good Reader
There are a couple of things to consider as you begin to search for a legitimate tarot reader. First, you must look inward and decide what kind of tarot reading you are looking for. Would you like to have a spiritual guide, or someone who is practical and straight to the point? Secondly, would you like a tarot reading done in-person or would you prefer an online tarot reading? Some readers may offer a free one-card tarot reading before you decide to do a multiple-card reading. Bear in mind, some readers provide in-depth interpretations with plenty of insight into the cards, while others allow you to read into the cards yourself. Decide what you’re looking for and then begin your search.
Word of mouth is probably the best way to find a trusted tarot reader. Perhaps you have friends who have already had tarot readings done and can share with you pieces of their experiences. As you listen, think about whether or not what they have to say matches up with what you’re looking for from your Tarot reader.
The Internet is another great resource to get started in finding an accurate tarot reader. Most readers are registered in city directories, which can easily be found by googling “tarot card readings near me”. Many readers also have websites that you can peruse before you make an appointment to have your tarot read. Try to find a reader that you connect with by reading their website, downloading their apps, or subscribing to their e-mail newsletters. What are their philosophies when it comes to Tarot? Seek out a blog entries and other information that might show you who the reader is. You should feel a “vibe” that works with your own. Don’t to forget to look for information on how long they have been doing tarot readings or if they have any certifications.
You can also look into reviews on the internet. Similar to word of mouth, these reviews can help you to decide whether or not the tarot reader can provide you with the type of tarot reading you’re looking for.
Keep in mind how much you’re willing to pay. Most accurate tarot readings range from $50 – $90. Set a budget and stick with it. Knowing how much a tarot reading generally costs will help you to determine if the reader is legitimate. If they charge far less than the average, they may be inexperienced, or ask for more money in order to provide “valuable” insight. More exorbitant prices could lead you to paying for more than what you get. Again, many readers will offer a short, free introductory reading prior to charging for a fuller, more in-depth tarot reading.
Tarot, as well as the art of reading tarot, has mystified us for centuries. There are no clear answers as to how the cards were once used in playing games and how they have become a way of unfolding our past, present, and future. Yet most theories suggest that they are an effective and meaningful way to learn about ourselves. From Tarot’s decorated past to today’s use, the power behind them remains a mystery.