How do tarot readings work?
How do the cards arrange themselves into a meaningful pattern? Why should some pieces of cardboard with pretty pictures on them be able to mysteriously arrange themselves into an order which tells us about our life and experiences in a detail that often exceeds what we are consciously able to observe?
No one knows for sure. I can’t say exactly how the cards work, but I can assure you that they do. Several theories abound as to why this is. One is that when we shuffle a deck of tarot cards (or your reader shuffles them for you while concentrating on you and your question), the cards connect to your energy and they arrange themselves accordingly based on it. We all have energy within us. 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. Whatever the tradition, the energy and spirit within each of us is meant to flow as blockages result in physical and spiritual issues.
Another possible explanation can be found in Karl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Synchronicity can be defined as “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” Jung was fascinated with the tarot and worked extensively with the I-Ching, a Chinese form of divination based on the same principles. Sometimes in life we are gifted with “meaningful coincidences.” Can you think of a time (or several times) where you were simply in the right place at the right time?
By deliberately shuffling the cards we are invoking synchronicity into our lives and the cards will ‘just happen’ to arrange themselves into an order which tells us something useful about ourselves or the question we have asked.
Different areas of psychic study credit the subconscious mind with an entire array of powers and abilities of which we are generally unaware. As an explanation for the tarot, it is usually supposed that in some way the subconscious mind ‘knows’ the order of the cards and through the shuffle, re-orders them so that they will lay out in an order which conveys a useful meaning to the person performing the spread, based on insights that the subconscious mind presumably already had.
Lastly, let’s not rule out magic (or magick). Magic means ‘to make events occur in conformity to your will’. In this case, the will of the reader is that the cards will arrange themselves in a meaningful way, in order to reveal something useful. The magical explanation is simply that this focused intent is enough to make the cards arrange themselves in a useful way. This involves accepting as an explanation that magic is real – the Universe really does respond and change according to the will of an individual. It also suggests there is some skill required in ‘making the tarot work’ as well as simply interpreting the cards. A deck of tarot cards is believed to be particularly susceptible to this form of magical influence, because of the way the cards are read.
These are all theories. We will never know for certain exactly how tarot cards work.
The bottom line is…they do.
This post contains excerpts from http://www.weirdshitnotbullshit.com/articles/how-does-the-tarot-work.