What is Tarot?
I spent many years fumbling over my words when family and strangers alike would ask me, “just what is tarot?” At first, I said phrases like mirror of the soul or the hero’s journey. It wasn’t until much later, years after working with the tool, that I could actually describe what tarot is and does. That initial magickal attraction is priceless, though.
Tarot is a path or instruction manual of manifestation. Meaning, Tarot is a tool for pathworking to bring about a desired result. There is a clear beginning, and a clear ending. And once you understand the paths, you can apply the teachings to your life in whatever situation to bring about a desired result. However, the distinction should be made that while Tarot is linear as applied from a cycle of birth to death, Tarot rarely shows up as linear in readings because we are all at different stages in whatever situation we are seeking answers about. So Tarot is linear in itself, but it is not linear for divinatory use (unless you are using it for prediction, fortune telling, or spell casting, then you can harness the linear progression of Tarot).
Tarot is the symbolic, visual storytelling depiction of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm. Macrocosm and microcosm is an ancient Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale, or the macrocosm/universe level all the way down to the smallest scale, the microcosm/sub-atomic/metaphysical level. This is where we get the term Metaphysics or Spiritual Quantum Physics.
A standard, traditional tarot deck is made up of 78 cards. If we look at that numerologically, 7 represents a path and 8 represents the act of manifestation preluding physical manifestation — or 9.
22 of those 78 cards are what we call the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana is the spiritual journey – the trials, tribulations, successes, and victories the human spirit must endure to achieve Ascension. Ascension is the act of aligning our human spirit with that of the Divine, to literally become as creatively powerful as God. Our ASCENded masters, such as Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and more, achieved in their lifetime the great success of Ascension. It is our hope that by pathworking with the Tarot, that we too will become Ascended and able to serve humanity.
I know, it’s deep right?
More Than Fortune Telling
Of course, we can just use Tarot for fun and games, like fortune telling. But, I feel it is a great disservice to the capacity of the Tarot to just tell fortunes, and this is not a judgment. The underlying problem in fortune telling is we give our power away to the cards to decide our fate for us. Instead, we could choose to use the cards to become empowered, and manifest the life we desire. It’s fine to do fortune telling for fun, but you are truly missing the boat if that’s all you come to Tarot for.
Of those remaining 56 cards, there are 40 cards that we call Minor Arcana. They represent the more mundane aspects of life — the day to day activities. Let’s face it. Most people come to Tarot to answer questions about their jobs, or their relationships, or how to handle a situation. A vast majority of what a professional reader deals with are situations that happen within the Minor Arcana. The Minor Arcana reflects the microcosm. We are, after all, mundane beings. So there’s no judgment here.
Lastly, the remaining 16 cards are called the Court Cards. These Court Cards represent specific personality archetypes. I personally use the Myers-Briggs system overlaid onto the Court Cards, and it works fabulously. The Court Cards give us hints on how to act or what energy to possess to bring about a desired result, or to describe a person’s energy signature. Most novices are completely confused by Court Cards. I admit, I was too for a long time. But the idea is to get inside the head of the Court Cards and intuit how they might act in a situation. I tend to think of them as personality types, but they can be outside players, too.
Is Tarot Always Accurate?
The simple answer is that yes, Tarot is always accurate. Each life event that Tarot cards describe are what we call universal life experiences. Every single person will experience these life events at some point or another.
Tip for the Readers: Tarot becomes inaccurate when the reader imposes their personal experiences onto a Tarot card and then forces that experience onto the client. This is when I most often hear that readings were inaccurate — especially when giving a simplified yes or no answer to a question the client might have. If you avoid giving hard and fast statements and allow the cards to speak for themselves, you will find that your accuracy rate will improve dramatically.
Is Tarot a Religion?
One thing to keep in mind is that Tarot is a Universal system with a general consensus on what the cards mean — meaning, there is traditional schematic involved with Tarot. Its composition is very specific. However, it is not a religion, and you don’t even have to be spiritual to use Tarot. It is an instruction manual of manifestation. No dogmas or doctrines here. Could you turn Tarot into a religion? Sure. But is it inherently a religion? No.
Why use Tarot cards, as opposed to Oracle cards?
It all comes down to what type of information you want to know. Would you see a podiatrist for a toothache? Tarot cards are highly psychological in nature. They tell us how to act, how to feel, or what type of mindset is needed to bring about a desired result. They tell us WHY someone is doing something, what their mindset is, and the psychology behind people’s decisions (including ourselves). It allows us to look into motivations to better understand people and situations. So, if you want to understand someone’s way of thinking, or the psychology of a situation, Tarot is your go-to.
Plus, Tarot is a system that has been around for about 300 years now. There are lots of books, classes, courses, and brilliant philosophers that have been adding to the Tarot collective for a while now.
Oracles vs Oracle Cards
Oracles cards are similar to Tarot cards, but they are not usually unique system altogether, unless they are established in tradition — such as Runes, Lenormand, and Kipper to name a few. This topic is complicated, though… As almost any type of divination tool can be superimposed onto cardstock now days.
Instead, most oracle card decks out there are individual systems, created by highly creative people, that follow a specific theme or intention. There’s oracle cards for angels, faeries, gods and goddesses, ascended masters, guides, sea shells, runes, bones, crystals, herbs… even fortune cookies!
Tarot would be considered an Oracle as a verb, but it is in it’s own category as a noun.
There just aren’t a lot of resources out there for our modern day oracle cards. It’s difficult to go deeper and to find other perspectives about certain cards. It’s a bit more obscure.
Lenormand is a popular oracle that is also standardized much like Tarot, but a little bit more forgiving in that it only has 36 cards to memorize. Lenormand answers for us the what and where of the situation. It is based on factual accounts. Lenormand also don’t have a rich hero’s journey superimposed upon it — Lenormand is more like accessing a dictionary of symbols (Tarot is too, but Lenormand has one symbol per card where as Tarot is like a buffet of symbols per card.)
For example, if I approach the Tarot with the question of “Why is Mike giving me a hard time at work,” Tarot might tell me he has mental issues stemming from an abusive father, or any other deep psychological insight — while Lenormand might tell me that he is looking to improve his ranking in the company by trying to throw me under the bus. Ouch. Lenormand is more direct.
Either way, both answers are acceptable and valid, but it’s the type of answer you will receive when dealing with Tarot or Lenormand. Of course, it is possible to deduce both from either oracle, but that is where intuition comes in and not the system itself. You will be able to make similar conclusions off both systems, and come to a similar result, but HOW the oracle speaks to you and what language it uses is the information I am trying to imprint on you. So, it is very important to know what type of answers you are seeking, and then use the appropriate oracle to divine the answers.
How do I know which type of reading is best for me?
The easiest way to know which type of reading — Tarot, Oracle, or otherwise — is best for you is to consult the reader you have in mind and ask them. Give them some background information and tell them what you ultimately want to know. I know that this can seem counterintuitive, and to be fair, not all readers like having a backstory up front. It’s true that we all work differently and have our own unique preferences on how we conduct readings, but the best way I’ve found to ensure you get a reading you are happy with is to get in touch with the reader. Ask them:
- Do you prefer to have some background information up front or do you prefer to read without it?
- This is what I am wanting to know. What reading do you recommend?
Your Tarot guide should be more than happy to help or provide some type of quick consultation. Myself? I say upfront in my checkout notes, “If there is any information you would like me to consider for your reading, take this time to send me an email with your unique situation. If I don’t hear from you within 24 hours, I will conduct the reading based on the spread and deck featured in the listing.”