Why Tarot is so popular and effective.

Tarot has stood the test of time as a popular tool for divination, self development, spiritual insight and informed decision making.  As an experienced tarot reader, here I describe some of the reasons it is so effective.

Most  people seeking psychic and spiritual guidance are seeking either reassurance and confirmation,  or direct help.  There are also those who are seeking to grow and develop both spiritually and who wish to attain desired  goals and outcomes. Tarot is a generous and accessible resource open to everyone, whatever you want to use it for. For those seeking a tool for insight, growth and development, or as a channel for messages from spirit,  tarot has stood the test of time.  Already 100s of years old, it has become more popular than ever in recent years. Beautiful modern decks are available which take us beyond the medieval world view depicted in the first cards – but which still hold the timeless archetypes and symbology of a rich and multi-layered system.

As a psychic reader, spiritual  coach and therapist, my experience is that tarot is a universal language that anyone from any country or culture can easily connect with.  The images are direct and fresh,  and show people and situations we instantly recognise and understand.  The art of the reader is to see the possible links between these timeless stories and the querent’s own life and questions – or you can interpret your own readings for yourself.  Tarot, tarot studies and modern tarot practice have been able to grow and move with the times, for example reflecting changes in the role and identify of women, and the acceptance of much greater diversity of cultural, personal, social and sexual identity and expression.

Why Tarot is not for everyone

Occasionally I have come across people who are frightened by tarot, or who even think of it as evil, or that a pack of cards can cause harm!  It’s unpopular in some conservative Christian religions, but it’s hard to find out any rational reasons for this – the reasons run deep.  The use of divination, that is direct perception of truth for yourself, or gnosis, which is direct personal knowledge of God or the light within,  is unacceptable in those religions where you have to go through a cleric or priest, and you are not considered worthy to perceive Truth directly for yourself.  Divination has also become confused with trying to  predict or control the future – which of course in most situations is worse than useless!  Consider the situation with Doreen Virtue, who used to sell a great many themed tarot decks, and who directly taught thousands of people to use them for direct divine guidance. When she joined a Christian religion she denounced and rejected the tarot and all the tarot readers she encouraged and trained.  Tarot seems to represent some kind of special danger or dark temptation for the Christian.  This is curious, as the underlying world view expressed in tarot can be seen as a Christian one, in that you reap what you sow, light and dark exist equally in the world, and it is your choice how you deal with this. Tarot always has something to say about ethical behaviour.  Perhaps the issue is that working with the tarot divination process encourages you to think for yourself;   and those who would be your masters are in reality no better than their actual behaviour, no matter what they say they are. Tarot is often positive,  fun and light-hearted. In my experience, it is always benign, and the wellbeing and right actions of the querent are of utmost importance.

Some of the cards, such as Death, the Devil and the Tower might be considered evil and frightening.  Yet these ancient images contain profound truths hiding in  open sight.  Death shows us that yes things come to an end, and yes this can be tumultuous, but that death and rebirth are inextricably linked, and the beginning and the end give birth to each other.  The Devil card is a quite ridiculous cliché of a horned devil figure who is holding a man and a woman in chains.  If you look closely, the chains are wrapped around loosely and they could easily escape –but  they do not want to,  as they are caught up in their own addictions or preoccupations. The tarot Devil is not an externalised  figurehead of evil, but represents our very human refusal to face the consequences of our own actions, and our separation from our true sense of identity that can happen when we become preoccupied in doing whatever we want, regardless of how it affects ourselves or others in the long run.

The Tower can be another scary card – a tower is falling, and people are tumbling dramatically through the sky.  Yes sometimes towers have to fall.  This can be tragic and is often caused because there was something wrong in their very foundations, in the way they were built, such as arrogance, pride, hubris or incompetence  – or they are just out of date.  We are responsible for the world we create, and pride goes before a fall if we are only seeing things through a very limited human perspective. These are examples of images that have a strong presence and message, including death and destruction – but drawing these cards does not magically create negativity or destruction or attract it towards you!  Some modern deck artists have sought to tone down or soften cards like these to make the message gentler, so clients are not scared.  However, a well seasoned reader will understand exactly what these cards can mean if they appear in a spread  created for you, and will find a way to convey this to you in appropriate words. Sometimes the whole tower really does have to come down before we can rebuild something sustainable and well balanced that treats everyone and every being as an equal partner.

These three cards depict Death, the Devil and the Tower from the contemporary Fountain deck.  This beautiful deck presents the layered symbology of the tarot deck in subtle and visually rich and accessible forms. 

Some interesting facts and figures about tarot.

There are 78 cards in a normal deck. Twenty two cards are considered majors, and represent a developmental story or a journey in their own right. The presence of any of these majors in a reading is related to big themes, life lessons and life events. The remainder of the deck is divided into four suits. Within each suit, there are 10 numbered cards, and three court cards, each with very specific meanings and characteristics, which are understood more in terms of the issues of everyday living.

It is virtually impossible to deal the same reading twice, if the deck is shuffled correctly, as the amount of different combinations possible in a three to ten card reading, while not quite infinite, is vast. In addition, the interpretation of cards is directly affected by those around them,  and when (after random shuffling) up to half of the cards appear reversed, upside down, these are also interpreted differently.  If, as sometimes happens, a high number of cards from one suit shows up, and none from another, this does not make sense according to the mathematics of random distribution, but conveys vital  information concerning the reading.   What is absent in a reading is  just as important as what is present.  The numerical and elemental patterns, astrological correspondences and references, and the dynamic interactions between cards are all part of how a reading is understood. Then there is the spread, which is the sequence and patterning in how the cards are deliberately laid out in random order.  All of this just hints at the vast amount of information available to the reader – who can then weave selected aspects of this information together using a blend of their psychic abilities, their own life experience, their client skills,  their understanding of synchronicity, and their ongoing tarot education, to create a reading where the client feels seen, recognised and understood, and is given some new insights into ways to approach their situation.

The images on the cards have multiple resonances and correspondences, for example with Qabalah (the Tree of Life), Western mystery and  magickal traditions, cosmology and the symbolism of the hero’s journey, astrology, numerology, and the elements of air, fire, earth and water that are almost universally used in shamanic and magical traditions worldwide. As in astrology, these interrelated dynamic forces can be dignified or afflicted according to their placements and interrelationships. The person for whom the reading is created is seen at the centre of all these forces, in a temporary moment of time., both conscious and unconscious, known and unknown, present and potential, dark and light. The reading that is then delivered  is thus a summary of an expression of synchronicities, a snapshot.  A tarot reading allows for the incredible complexity and individuality of each person in their unique situation, and what is bringing them to this question, or series of questions, at this moment in time. There is no other tool that can bring so much resonant information to the table so quickly, elegantly and economically.