What Learning to Read Tarot Taught Me

Tarot was always something I had admired from afar. The art of divining one’s path by shuffling and laying out cards was something I always wished I knew how to do. So, in January of 2018, I decided to learn. I went online and ordered a deck of cards for $10 and began to do my research. Four suits, 14 pips to a suit, plus 22 trumps. 78 cards, each with dozens of meanings depending on context, placement, and whether or not it appears upright or reversed. Should be easy, right?

Oof.

Tarot reading is, first and foremost, an art, and a reflection of spirituality. But there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it, and I get more than my fair share of raised eyebrows when I tell people I know how to read them, or even legitimate fear. So, today I'm going to debunk those common misconceptions, and include some of the things that I've learned as I've grown in my ability.

1. Tarot is "evil."

Alright, so there is, in fact, a card called The Devil. And a card called Death. And yeah, tarot cards (and their readers) have some bad (and unfairly earned) reputations. I always get a kick when people think tarot is for so-called "New-Agers" or the retro-modern hippie type, when tarot cards have been around for centuries, and people have been using them for divination for at least 600 years. "New Age," indeed. But besides this, tarot is not tied to any one religion. Anyone may use them, and whether or not you believe they are tools of some evil influence, well, that's up to you.

2. Tarot is for telling the future.

I get this all the time. I pull out my cards and people get wide-eyed, then say "Are you gonna tell me my future/when I'm going to find love/when I'm going to die?" The answer is always "no." Tarot does not operate as something with hard-and-fast answers. It is for, as I call it, illuminating your past and present to shed light on a possible future. Through readings, I can see where you've been, and where you are, and through that, tell you where you can possibly go. But I will always tell you that it's one of many possible paths that will require your direct action. Don't ask me, "Will I be successful at my new job?" ask me, "What can I do to be successful at my new job?" Active, not passive. And no, the cards will never tell me that you're going to be married on May 22nd, 2029. It's just not what they are for.

3. People want to be heard.

More than anything, tarot bridges the gap between people. It shows paths and tells a story that the recipient may never have thought of before. It provides a space for people to talk about the pain or joys that they encounter in their day-to-day lives. Therapeutic tarot exists, and any good reader pursues it.

4. Finally, it encourages intentionality,

Nothing on a tarot card is without intention. Red clothing on a character in a card means movement and action. The type of horse someone rides shows their willingness to pursue an idea. Pomegranates = the divine feminine. Tarot reminds us that with it's important, above all, is to be honest with yourself about who you are and why you do what you do. Manifesting the symbology of tarot and the intentionality of each of those symbols trains us the ability to think about our intentions in our daily lives. As we take steps towards being better humans, better versions of ourselves, may we all find peace.