Ah, the age-old question. How do tarot cards actually work? Are they magical portals that will unleash beasts and make you a magnet for bad luck? Are they secret symbols that have been passed down through the ranks of the Illuminati for generations? Or are they something else completely?
Before I share my thoughts on this subject it’s important to know that every tarot reader will have a different idea of how the tarot works. That’s because each reader works with the cards in their own unique way.
To answer the questions from before. They aren’t portals, they aren’t secret Illuminati business cards and they aren’t going to give you bad luck.
I believe that the Tarot works on a number of levels. But let’s look at some of the more practical facets of the cards. The cards are printed on cardstock. That’s really the core of their physical makeup. They’re not magically imbued tools out of the box. They’re a tool like any other. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, they can be life-changing. Or they can be used for card games or aesthetics.
So let’s assume that the person who has the cards is a skilled Tarot reader, how do the Tarot cards work?
Most people come to the Tarot with a question. They want to know something. Whether that’s something about themselves, the future or an important situation in their life. They’re the seeker. The Tarot can help them understand the way forward. When you ask the cards the question, shuffle the cards and pick the cards in a Tarot spread or even just a singular card you’re given information.
I like to think of this as my Navigator, Map and Key Trio
I like to think of the Tarot Cards as keys, the Tarot Spread as a map and the Tarot Reader as the navigator.
A good navigator or Tarot Reader will help you get through rocky terrain all the while allowing you to be the one at the helm of the ship. You don’t give over complete control to the navigator, you still have to do the work but they’ll make sure you have all of the information you need to get there safely.
The map, or the Tarot Spread is a way to put down what pivotal aspects you need to look at. It’s a way to get to the answers you seek while also exploring untapped terrain as you go. I use Tarot spreads when I work with clients and when I read for myself. Not everyone uses tarot spreads, it’s really a matter of personal and professional preference.
The Keys, or Tarot cards are what you discover on the journey itself. As you stop on the different waypoints on the map you’re given information to consider to make the most out of your continuing journey. Each of these keys unlocks the information in the card and will ask you to reflect on your attitudes, choices, beliefs and responsibilities. You can get as little or as much information out of these keys as you desire, depending on your skill and dedication.
So how do the Tarot cards give us this information?
Symbols as a Universal Language
The universal language is something that most people will recognise as a reference to something else. Symbols do this often. It can be a symbol of an animal, shape, hand gestures, facial expression and objects in nature and man-made. Depending on the tarot deck that you use, you’ll find that the cards are rich with symbols that connect us all. We know that the pierced heart of the Three of Swords means heartache and pain. We understand that people in the cards holding or using tools means skill, work and action. Because these symbols connect us in our understanding of life, we can see these symbols in the cards and apply them to our own experiences, choices and lives.
One definition of an archetype is ‘an archetype is a pattern that connects us all. No matter where we are in time and place’. Carl Jung created the concept of archetypes even though they’ve been used in mythology and life well before his time. For example, in most cultures in the world, there are Goddess of Love, Gods of War, Goddesses of Magic etc.
The Tarot, especially in the Major Arcana is full of Archetypes, most tarot readers know one version well, The Fools Journey. There are other tales and archetypes told in the tarot, they’re present in each of the 78 cards. These connecting themes allow us to see ourselves in the cards, they can help us solve problems, see possibilities and explore paths that we didn’t consider before we picked up a deck of cards.
Many people use the cards to access their Higher Self. They give themselves space and time to connect to themselves. It’s a way to put aside the hustle and bustle of everyday life and give yourself space to explore how you feel. With the aid of the cards, you can practice getting out of your own way and out of your comfort zone to see all of the possibilities and have breakthroughs. It’s also easier to listen to our spirit guides and inner compass when there is a tool in our hands to keep our analytical self quiet.
Get Out of My Head
One of the biggest benefits of doing a tarot reading is that you get to see things outside of your own head. Some of us go over things in our heads over and over, creating more confusion than clarity. Add that with the fact that, we are bombarded with so much information in a day and people are more than willing to give us their opinions and you have a cocktail of doubt and uncertainty. When you give yourself the opportunity to lay out some tarot cards you get perspective. You can step outside of yourself and see the bigger picture or a small detail you missed that may change everything.
No matter how you view the Tarot Cards, whether you think they have value or not you’re the most important element. I hope this video has given you something to think about the next time you use your Tarot deck or consult a reader.
Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below how you think the tarot works!