As we’re launching our Simply Tarot Study Group and online courses, I think it’s important for us to go back to basics.
So many people think that becoming a good Tarot reader is about learning Tarot card meanings and being able to regurgitate them without the aid of a reference book. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you’re looking to be a good Tarot reader you need depth and empathy. Depth in your understanding of Tarot; its structure and function, depth in your understanding of people and empathy for the experiences they go through in life.
There are some fundamentals about Tarot that we think all readers need to understand before they take on the responsibility of reading for others. In this blog, we seek to outline our understanding of Tarot, it’s purpose and use.
About Tarot Decks
Tarot cards are commonly associated with fortune telling and divination; the fancy word for this activity being cartomancy. It’s true that Tarot cards have the ability to foretell the way events may play out, but they’re also so much more.
The Minor Arcana is split into four suits (reminiscent of those in a playing deck) running from ace to ten with four royal cards in the form of a page, a knight, a queen and a king. The four suits are named Cups, Wands, Swords and Pentacles.
The people and events represented by the Major Arcana are seminal; depicting key people and situations the reader, and the Subject, should take note of.
The Minor Arcana illustrate a vast array of situations, peoples and emotions over 4 key areas of human life and existence:
Relationships & Emotions – Cups
Adventures & Aspirations – Wands
Mentality & Conflict – Swords
Money & Security – Pentacles
Whilst the events depicted by the Minor Arcana cards might be less strategically significant, they are likely to be the events that are really affecting the subject in the here and now. So they shouldn’t be undervalued.
Broadly speaking the earlier numbers in the suit shows journeys and endeavours in their early stages, progressing through to the ten and the completion of that “minor” cycle. They also show the inevitable ups and downs, and the advancements and challenges the subject will face in the pursuit of his or her goals.
We’re all told stories in one form or another as we grow up, in attempt to teach us right from wrong, to ward us off some dangerous path or to instil some moral or ethical virtue. This comes in the form of myths, fables, fairy tales or parables; any kind of traditional “tale” so to speak.
So, the notion of teaching through stories is commonplace, traditional and totally socially acceptable. Except in the case of Tarot!
Tarot, at its very least, is a prize collection of such tales. I’ve never really been able to understand why it doesn’t garner the same respect or accolade as, say, beautifully written myth or scripture.
Each card in a deck represents some event, person and experience that almost every human will encounter at some point in his or her life. These tales have emerged and evolved over hundreds of years, with generations of people contributing along the way.
Why call Tarot a “prize” collection? Only the most epic of tales and scriptures such as perhaps the Bible, Homer’s epics and so on, could hope to convey the vast array of life situations, emotions and characters a good Tarot deck so aptly does.
Of course, Tarot is much more than that too – as we’ll come on to.
Tarot is a strange thing because the cards and their meanings have evolved over hundreds of years but there is no one single version of their truth; only our interpretations. The true meaning of Tarot is simply translated through a new set of tales with different names for the same characters. Somehow, the core meanings themselves remain constant throughout.
Each individual card depicts our subject on some part of his or her life journey. It tells us the challenges they face or the rewards they’re reaping. They can show us who their allies are, the enemies they might face and importantly, how they might seek to handle any and all of these situations.
The stories that the cards depict, like with most traditional stories, are those most common and familiar to our human existence.
This is where the term archetype comes in. An archetype is really just a typical example for something else. So each card is a stereotypical depiction of a situation, person or set of events. For example, The Emperor in basic form represents a father figure – a common character in life that we’ll all be familiar with.
Likewise for situations and experiences. The Five and Eight of Cups show some form of separation and loss in relationships. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t experienced something like that in life.
With each of these archetypal images and stories comes inherent wisdom, experience and knowledge to be imparted for the benefit of the person being read for. Being a good Tarot reader isn’t just about accurately identifying the situations our subjects find themselves in, it’s about also being able to translate the latent moral or ethical lesson the reading contains.
I like to think of this pool of knowledge and wisdom we’re tapping into as a hive mind for human life and existence. Carl Jung would have, more intelligently, referred to it as the Collective Unconscious.
But Tarot is Different
Other traditional tales are just that. Stories to be told and listened to.
When you use a Tarot deck, you get a newly adapted tale every time. A tale that is unique and relevant to the person being read for. A Tarot deck can also be quizzed and asked questions to draw out specific information and guidance.
This is aided by the effective use of Tarot spreads. Tarot spreads are crucial to building up a meaningful Tarot reading as they provide context and therefore depth.
When the cards are laid out in a spread, they can create a chronological re-enactment of your subject’s tale, providing you with the necessary guidance and information to pass on their inherent message.
Why Use Tarot?
Tarot is a psychological tool and should be respected and treated as one. But it’s a spiritual tool, too.
It’s easy to understand how the people you read for relate to the scenarios in the individual cards. After all, they are supposed to be familiar, stereotypical life situations.
The mysticism of Tarot lies in its ability to consistently present the right card, in the right position, at the right time in order to provide a reading that’s customised, timely and meaningful.
Whilst we agree that when we’re reading Tarot, we’re tapping into this epic hive mind, we don’t believe that’s the be all and end all of it. We believe that we’re also guided by a higher energy, our Higher Self, to pick the right card at the right time.
We believe that maintaining connection and alignment between our earthly selves and our higher selves, will help us to lead happier, more contemplative and harmonious lives. Tarot is one of the most constructive, and communicative ways to facilitate an exchange with our Higher Self.
Whilst it’s true Tarot cards have the ability to foretell the way that situations and events will play out, we want to reinforce they should not be used purely as a divinatory tool. To do so is to greatly diminish their value and role.
Tarot could be viewed much like a spiritual Sat Nav. Your Sat Nav can’t make decisions for you, it can’t remove the road blocks in front of you and importantly, it can’t define a destination for you. But it can help you get back on track if you’re lost. It can help you find the quickest route to your destination, warn you of any issues and keep you informed and reassured along the way. It might also be a bit irritating at times, repeating messages you don’t want to hear!
But, like Sat Nav, Tarot is a tool that’s supposed to enable people. It’s supposed to help them make better, more informed choices about their lives.
When a Subject seems powerless to make their own decision and seems intent on Tarot dictating their life to them, then things have gone horribly wrong and won’t work out well.
As with all powerful things, it needs to be used responsibly and in the manner for which it was intended. As a Tarot reader then, you have a responsibility to work ethically and within the interests of your subjects. At Simply Tarot, we operate a code of conduct and we’d recommend that all readers seek to do the same.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please let us know if you’ve got any question or comments. Please do head over to our Study Group if you’re not a member already.