About Tarot

What Can The Tarot Do For You?
  • Is your relationship in trouble?
  • Do you need a deeper awareness of your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Is your career unfulfilling?
  • Do you need to make an important decision?
  • Is your family a concern?
  • Do you need to know what is motivating you?
  • Is a dream puzzling you?

Most people, at some point, require guidance and insight in life. The Tarot can address any specific issue or just be used as a general window into the soul. In fact, it is so flexible you can ask it just about any question about anything! It is especially useful in accessing areas of your psyche that are not usually available to your conscious mind and in showing you how current factors in a situation could  play out in the future. You have the opportunity to change that future by heeding the messages and advice of the cards.

What is The Tarot?

The  Tarot cards are a system of divination, now also used to reflect psychological patterns and the dynamics of the unconscious mind. The exact date and place of origin of the Tarot is much disputed but it appears that they were condemned as "The Devil's Picture Book" by the King of France (Alfonse X) as early as 1332. The origin of the term "Tarot" is similarly open to speculation but it is usually accepted today that the term is probably derived from the Northern Italian game of tarrochi or "trumps" (indeed, the 22 Major Arcana are often called the "trump" cards). Perhaps the very first Tarot deck was the Visconti-Sforza of the 1400s, although no complete set survives. 

In 1888 an "occult" society, established in the UK, and called "The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn" transformed the Tarot by applying their knowledge of mystical and philosophical traditions from many different cultures: ancient Greek and Egyptian myth, Christianity, paganism, astrology, numerology, alchemy, Enochian Magick, the Kabbalah, and more. As such, the cards are multivalent and do not reflect any one religion or culture. The multi-layered meanings operate to signify whatever guidance and insight is most appropriate to the questioner or Querent.

So How Does It Work?

The Tarot "works" in a number of registers: there are many different ways of consulting the cards and reading them. They can function as modalities for  types of inspiration even at a mundane level; as memory triggers, guidance, prompts, brain-storming, and psychological insight.  However, when most people ask how it "works" they mean how on earth do the "right" cards come up which seem to "fit" as an answer to a question - when other cards would not have been "accurate" answers.

The short answer is that nobody really knows in any way that we can fully comprehend. However, if we want to say that they work in a way that is beyond the human propensity to perceive meaning in the random (apophenia), then we must suppose something "outside" of ourselves which is at once  "within" us or the cards could not show us our inner worlds. Nor could they illuminate personal situations or relationships with others.

The best known and perhaps most popular theory borrows from a set of paradigms developed by the Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Gustav Jung.The basic idea here (in fact it is enormously complicated so  this  is  just  a  very  brief declamatory overview) is that we have a "collective unconscious" consisting of archetypal or primordial figures and structural patterns of behaviour which present themselves in the form of images to the individual conscious mind. The thought here is that the Tarot cards can reflect this typology. Freud had proposed a similar notion concerning forms of our mental lives, "archaic remnants", which could not be explained with reference to an individual's own life. Maybe you can think of a dream, especially as a child, where you can be sure that you could not have experienced the images in your personal life history? Where did that come from? 

Jung is also well-known for his theory of "synchronicity", a type of psycho-physical parallelism whereby our thoughts  can be reflected back to us through the external world, although the precise connections organizing this capricious phenomenon remain obscure. It could just mean you are more attuned to noticing a particular thought or event arising in the external world but Jung believed that sometimes this parallelism went well beyond mere coincidence.  A further explanation that could converge on Jungian theory is a version of metaphysical Monism where it is believed that we are all interconnected by a kind of Universal energy often called Source or The Divine; a kind of "Otherness" which, as finite beings, we cannot fully comprehend. This is an ancient idea best known through Plato as The Good Beyond Being [epekeina tes ousias], and elaborated by Plotinus who called it The One; later transformed into God in neo-Platonic Christianity. 

A further theory is that perhaps ghosts and entities of the spirit world, which may occupy the same speculative terrain as a Divine Otherness, have a part to play in the fall of the cards. Perhaps it is all of these. Or none of these. Or strange combinations and concatenations of influences that we cannot easily apprehend. In the end, we can only use metaphors and gesture towards an Otherness which reveals glimpses of itself but which ultimately we cannot reduce to the limitations of finite cognition. In this respect, the Tarot will probably always remain exterior to the horizons of comprehension, signifying only enigmatically in a blinking, torsion or twisting of meaning in and out of our quotidian lives. 

For more theories on how Tarot works, including mine (Donna) in the Comments section, see the marvellous series of interviews conducted by James Ricklef Here

Give it a Try - Be Surprised!