what is tarot?

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The tarot is a deck of cards, each with its own symbolic image and meaning. Tarot users with an issue or question lay the cards out in a spread (a pattern of card positions, where each position has a particular significance), in order to “read” a response in the form of a narrative. Many people believe that we each hold the answers to what we seek deep within, and reading tarot cards is one way to allow these hidden answers to emerge.

How does tarot work?

The language of tarot is one of symbol and image, and it can reach places in our unconscious minds that verbal language cannot. Each tarot card represents a specific situation, quality, or conflict. But unlike systems of verbal language, where words tend to have a fixed definition, we can project or overlay our own personal interpretations onto the card images, thus making them both individual and unique. No two users will understand the cards in exactly the same way, and often we will change our interpretations over time, as we gain life experience.

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By holding an issue or question in mind, and then randomly shuffling and spreading out image-laden cards, we can get beyond our mental and emotional blocks and reveal what’s been hidden, or what we’ve been hiding from ourselves. If true wisdom comes from within, the act of randomly shuffling and laying down cards, while reflecting on a question or issue, can free our inner knowing. By presenting a random set of external images, tarot can help us to see difficult situations in a new way.

what if a reading doesn't make sense?

In all the years I've been using tarot, it continues to amaze me how the cards work to show me the message I need to see in that moment -- sometimes I don't realize it at the time, but the cards I draw are almost always spot-on and relevant to the issue at hand. It's synchronicity at its most convincing! However, it happens from time to time that a reading just doesn't make any sense. What then?

 

First of all, don’t panic, and don’t start over! Sit with the reading, breathe, and observe how you feel: 

  • Look at the images on the cards, and reflect on any aspect you might be drawn to – what does it mean to you, what memories does it bring up?

  • Revisit the card meanings: maybe not every meaning listed feels right, but you can zero in on the one that does.

  • See if you can open up your interpretations: for example, how could a negative-seeming card actually be a good thing in regard to your issue? If a card’s meaning is more positive but the position it’s in describes an obstacle or challenge, think about how the quality of the card could be challenging or difficult for you; if a card’s meaning describes struggle but it appears in a “positive” position, imagine how the card’s quality could actually be a strength, or helpful to you.

  • Consider that the cards might be describing a future that you haven’t encountered yet – they might be pointing to where you’re going (or where you want to go or don’t want to go), not to where you currently are. 

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Once you’ve looked at this reading from all directions,  record it, and then return to it in a week or two to see if anything has shifted for you. If your reading is still a mystery to you, don’t be discouraged – the Universe contains multitudes, accept the unknown! But for your next reading, here are some things you can try:

  • Ensure the issue or question you want to read for is clear in your mind, not vague or overly complicated

  • Choose a spread that has worked for you before, or that will provide the information you’re looking for

  • Don’t preconceive – be open to what the cards might be saying, even if it’s not what you expected