The meaning of The Tarot


Peace, Love and Unity
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Someone asked in another forum about the Tarot, and I offered a somewhat offhand reply - but it may make for a useful discussion starter on the topic here:

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The point of tarot cards - in my opinion - is that every single card has meaning to your question anyway. The actual layout is simply smoke and mirrors for make you focus harder on the actual card meanings involved. Ultimately, the tarot deck itself is simply a tool for making you try and focus more on your sense of intuition regarding specific matters.

Another point, too - the readings are never true, but merely provide possibilities, and offer small insights on larger issues, rather than a full understanding of the larger issues themselves.

I started reading Tarot back when I was 12, over 30 years ago now. I agree that the cards, and any other divinatory system, are really just tools to focus a person's intuition. Most readers start out by memorizing the meanings of each card, but the good ones eventually move past rote memorization into following their intuitions and feelings about the person they're reading for, and the situations they're reading about.

Meanings of the card or rune or whatever can be hints, but they're not necessarily the message.

Sometimes the outward meaning of a reading does happen, but I tend more to think of the resultant reading as a possibility or constellation of possibilities that a person's efforts can either change or bring about. I believe that the future is not set in stone, but that each moment changes the next. With forewarning, many things can be avoided, while others can be chosen. I see a reading more as counsel than as prediction.
I've spent many years myself reading the tarot and practicing other forms of divination too.

Even if we discount intuition divination systems can be useful tools as ways to encourage us to look at our current circumstances and possible choices with new eyes. The random element forces us to look for patterns and connections that we might otherwise have missed. We often get into "ruts" in our thinking and divination can help us discover some new creative options.

When I do a reading for someone else I always try to emphasize that it's all about looking at choices we have. The patterns revealed in the reading provide one set of options but it always comes down to our own decisions that determine what will actually happen.
Very good posts - explained much better what I was thinking. And surprised to see such basic agreement already!

Of course, different perceptions are more than welcome.
Sorry, Brian. No dispute here.

When reading the cards for someone else, I emphasize that the outcome is never set in stone. The cards may give warning, or show potential paths or choices, but they do NOT “tell the future.”

The witch from whom I learned the tarot some years ago used a spread which included, among many others, a card representing the querant's fears, and, of course, a final outcome card. Her patter always included the phrase, "If you don't like the outcome, change the way you deal with your fears." This emphasizes that we DO have free will, can make choices, and can change our future.

I agree that the best readings use the cards as a jumping-off point only, and that the reader’s intuition and psychic connection with the querant are what really count.

At the same time, in my experience tarot spreads have come up with some astonishing results quite independent of the reader’s intuitional input. I once had a math-major friend calculate the odds of a specific series of card falls across two linked readings for a single querant. Even without factoring in what the cards meant to me personally—which is not quantifiable—the odds against that particular pattern occuring came out to something like six trillion to one. So there’s more to it than intuition alone.

My take on the physics of the tarot is that we, each of us, are constantly making and re-making the reality around us, affecting events around us in a way I think of as roughly analogous to the way a planet bends the space around it to create a gravitational field. I call this our “reality field.” Various divinatory systems—runes, tarot, what-have-you—fall into patterns of “meaningful coincidence” within this field. This would explain the routine appearance of long-odds results in readings.

At the same time, a good tarot reader is attuned enough to his deck to let the pattern of cards act as a kind of psychic gateway or link to the querant. The Ace of Swords could have any of a number of possible meanings in the querant’s life; which meaning is something chosen by the reader, through intuition.

At least, that's how it is for me.
Over the years, I've found that most people find Tarot the easiest system to introduce them to concepts of divination. I think it has a lot to do with the pictoral images on the Major Arcana, and those decks that have pictoral rather than numerical images on the Minors as well. The pictures allow people something to hold onto and hook into as they learn.

Runes, ogams, I Ching, and other non-pictoral systems offer less visual clue and usually seem to be more difficult for beginners because of this. They tend to involve more memorization of mythology or written symbology, and this is a different skill than what is required to work with Tarot or other card-based divinatory systems. Not everyone has this experence. I know a few who are very good with runes, but find Tarot too complex or too busy to be useful to them. These folks seem to be the exception rather than the rule, though.
I once went to see a Tarot reader. He asked me whether there was anything specific that I wanted information about and I wanted him to guide me with one sticky situation that I happened to be in at the moment. The session was really helpful but I was looking at it more in a therapeutic way, instead of thinking that something truly mystical and magical was involved. In a way, helping me to know what I already knew.
One should know before using these cards that our subconscious minds already know everything they need to know. These tools can be used to distract or alleviate the conscious mind.