Tales from the Psychic Toolbox -- TAROT

"The true Tarot is symbolism; it speaks no other language and offers no other signs. Given the inward meaning of the emblems, they do become a kind of alphabet which is capable of indefinite combinations and makes true sense in all.” – Arthur Edward Waite

I came to my appreciation of tarot late. Like most people, I grew up thinking of tarot as those fortune-telling cards used by gypsies in old movies. Despite my interest in the paranormal, I didn’t even see a real tarot deck until I was ... okay, nevermind how old I was. Then a friend of mine told me how she used these cards as tools for personal growth and insight. That really got my attention. I started studying up on the subject of tarot and have found it both fascinating and useful. I'm still learning of course – and while I'm not sure if anyone ever finishes learning about tarot, I can share some of what I've learned so far.

Brief History of Tarot

The word tarot rhymes with “arrow” and refers to a deck of vividly illustrated cards, traditionally 78 in number with 56 of them divided into four suits and 22 trump cards that are not associated with any suit at all. Originating somewhere around the fifteenth century in Europe, these cards were used to play Tarocchi, an Italian game which still exists.

Since their invention, playing cards of all kinds were occasionally used for divining the future, and tarot was no exception. The Church in Europe didn't take issue with tarot specifically; rather, it condemned all playing cards due to their association with gambling and other vices.

Why Use Tarot?

Today, the Tarot is more popular than ever, but not for playing games. And while some people treat them like fortune cookies or Magic 8-Balls, tarot cards are most often used as a method of obtaining self-knowledge and an intuitive understanding of circumstances. Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, studied the Tarot and described its symbols as "primitive or archaic thought-forms", and that “the unconscious is revealed in symbols”. He noted that, like dreams, Tarot symbols generally have some universal meaning but their interpretation could also be intensely personal. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a picture is supposed to mean, what really matters is what it means to YOU.

An effective tarot reading involves asking one clear and specific question. The tarot doesn’t lend itself to yes/no questions, but more to who, what, when, why and how. The tarot can help you sort out your own thoughts and feelings on a situation, can bring your intuition and subconscious to the forefront to help bring clarity. If there’s a situation I’m confused about or when I can’t decide on a course of action to take, a reading can sometimes help me think outside the box. And yes, I've even used it to help with writing. If I get well and truly mired in a plot, a tarot reading can sometimes help me see how I might work my way out of it. Notice that the tarot doesn't tell me what to do. Rather, it helps me help myself.

Tarot Readings

The person who desires a reading shuffles the deck while thinking of his question, then draws cards. The number of cards drawn can vary widely. Some people choose a single card, some three, for a “quickie” reading. A more detailed and in-depth reading uses many cards, laid out in a precise order and pattern (called a spread). The Celtic Cross spread is one of the most popular (I use this one myself), and requires ten cards. Sometimes an additional fan of three is added to it.

Another way of obtaining a tarot reading is to use an online computer program, such as the one at http://www.newagestore.com/Divination/Tarot.aspx . (This is a site I’ve used often and my anti-virus program has declared it safe) You can choose from a number of spreads and get a free personal reading. There is no human on the other end to skew the results. Yes, the computer program is designed to offer random cards, but some people believe our personal energies are stronger and we draw to us the same cards that we would if the deck was physically in front of us. You can also buy your own software for this purpose and personalize it.

You can go to someone else to have your reading done, but you need to find someone who is skilled, ethical and that you can communicate well with (just like choosing a doctor). As mentioned before, the symbols of the Tarot can be more useful for what they mean to you personally than what they are accepted to mean universally. A human reader needs to help you assign meaning to the cards you draw, rather than tell you “this card means this, this one means that”. While reading tarot requires no psychic powers, there IS an art to it. Some readers are wonderfully gifted. Some aren’t. And no, I’ve never tried any of the spammy-looking “Live Psychic Reading” sites that appear in ads all over the internet – it just doesn’t seem to me like a productive way to connect with someone with the traits I’m looking for.

You Don't Have To Be Psychic

What about reading the tarot for yourself? Anyone can learn to read tarot but how to learn depends on the individual. There are courses to be found, depending on where you live, but the easiest method has to be to pick up a book. There are many good ones on the subject, yet you may have to read several before you find one that “speaks” to you. I’ve run across a few that were more confusing than helpful, but when I found the deck that was right for me, The Guilded Tarot, it happened to come with the “Easy Tarot: Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All!” by Josephine Ellershaw. http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Tarot-Learn-Read-Cards/dp/0738711500/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287940891&sr=8-2   This lovely set proved to be the perfect resource for a beginner. Ellershaw has a very laidback and easy to understand approach and I continue to use both book and deck to this day. There’s a review of her book at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZ17MLJx60 .  YouTube, by the way, is the source of MANY videos on “How To Read Tarot”, some good, some not so much. My personal rule of thumb is that a book or a course or a website was worth my time if I learned just one or two things from it.

More about Tarot in an upcoming blog!

Dani Harper

YOUR TURN - Have you ever used tarot cards or had a reading done?

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