What does it mean to be a tarot reader, anyway?
First, I cannot read your mind, nor can I tell the future.
The ability to read tarot cards is not a skill reserved for a select few who come from a long line of psychic mediums. Anyone can learn to read the cards. It requires passion, dedication, and immense amounts of study and practice to learn the meanings of the 78 cards contained within a tarot deck. It requires even more time and effort to learn reversed cards, and to learn a variety of spreads that are designed to provide guidance on different scenarios. (If you are interested in embarking on your own journey with tarot, I am happy to share resources on this topic in a future blog.)
The tarot reveals much about our past and present, as well as the larger forces at play in our lives. In exploring these themes you can glimpse at a likely outcome to a current situation. However, it is important to note that though the future is predictable, it is not predetermined.
But how does tarot work? It boils down to the belief in Spirit. We are all made of the same stuff – loving energy and light. Inside each of us is God’s incredible and powerful DNA. The energy that flows within each of us is known by many different names throughout the world. Christians call it the Holy Spirit. In Chinese medicine, it’s Chi. Yoga refers to it as Shakti. In the West, it’s commonly called Spirit. All great spiritual traditions talk about spiritual energy and the energetic body. It’s this same energy that some mediums connect with when the spirits of loved ones leave their physical body. Whatever the tradition, the energy and spirit within each of us is meant to flow. Blockages can result in physical and spiritual issues.
When we shuffle a deck of tarot cards (or your reader shuffles them for you), the cards are connecting to your energy and spirit. They come together in a reading to reflect your unique energy.
The 78 cards capture the entire human experience from birth to death. The 21 cards of the major arcana depict the spiritual forces at play in our lives. They deal with three phases of our life: consciousness and the outer concerns of life in society; subconscious, or the search inward to find who we truly are; and superconsciousness, the development of a spiritual awareness in the larger context of life. When many major arcana cards appear in a reading then the events taking place are largely out of our hands (in other words, the universe is doing its work) and there are big lessons being learned.
The minor arcana is made up of four suits – Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. The association of these four emblems with magical practice and underlying spiritual truth goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages. These emblems stand for the world itself and for human nature, as well as the act of creation of both specific things and the continuous creation of evolution. The four suits are also linked to the study of Kabbalah, and they each are related to God’s name, YHVH, which some translate as Jehovah. I could write an entire book on the esoteric meanings behind the cards. Suffice to say that the minor arcana depict us in our daily lives going about our daily business. Within the minor arcana there are also court cards that depict people and energy depending on the spread.
When you have a tarot reading, it’s like taking a picture of your life. You can see the present moment, the recent past, the near future, and the likely outcome that may result if you carry on your current path. The beautiful thing about the future is that nothing is set in stone. Predictable, not predetermined, remember? If a tarot reading reveals a poor outcome, you can take steps to avoid it. The tarot is less about giving definitive answers and more about giving guidance.
To me, the tarot is best summarized by the message of the Hermit card. Tarot is a tool for introspection. Just as the hermit in the card takes off alone with his lantern, the tarot provides a light in the darkness as we find our way through life.