What is Tarot?

Tarot Tarot

A system of divination that uses a deck of cards.

Historical Background

Tarot appears to be a more recent method of divination, arising within the last five or six hundred years as a card game within Italy. How divination entered into the picture is something of a mystery, with a variety of theories on the subject. At some point various occult societies such as the 'Hermitic Order of the Golden Dawn' picked it up, although whether divination originates with these societies, or was already in existence is a matter for debate. Due to the use of tarot by such societies, its reputation as a divination tool spread, and with it's reputation, it's popularity as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why would you use Tarot?

Tarot is generally used for a quick read of a situation at hand, as well as to learn what energies will be coming up in the near future for a person.

2. What are the benefits of Tarot?

The benefits of tarot, is that being such a commonly used tool, it is not difficult to find information on how to use tarot. In addition, there are quite a large number of different types of tarot decks available, and so most people are able to find a deck that works well for them.

3. What should you consider regarding Tarot?

What to consider is that the future is not set in stone, and it is possible to make decisions that will change the path a person is on. Readers that make a lot of negative or dire predictions such as 'You're going to loose a lot of money' or 'A family member is going to die' are better avoided. Often these types of predictions may become self fulfilling prophecies, and are a conclusion that reader has jumped to, based on the energies the cards were expressing. This is not to be confused with a reader saying something like 'There may be financial difficulties ahead, so you may want to be cautious with money.' That allows the person the freedom to have control over their own future, and empowers them, rather than convincing the person that their future is set and that it is bad.

Rider-Waite Decks

A tarot deck that uses four suits - swords, coins (called pentacles in some decks), wands, and cups, as well as a set of major arcana including cards such as 'The Hermit,' 'The World,' 'The Empress,' etc. The four suits number one through ten, and each also has a page, knight, queen, and king.

Rider-Waite was first published by the Rider company in 1910 and was created by Arthur Edward Waite, a member of the 'Hermitic Order of the Golden Dawn.' The imagery of this deck is very similar to pre-existing decks, but removed much of the Christian imagery of the older decks, such as re-naming 'The Pope' to 'The Hierophant' and 'The Popess' to 'The High Priestess.' In addition, while the old decks used straight numbers for their suits, like in a deck of standard playing cards, the Rider-Waite deck added illustrations for all the cards. For example, the 'Two of Coins' is depicted as a person juggling two coins, rather than a stylized representation of two coins. The illustrations are helpful in interpreting the cards, due to the large amount of symbolism. Today, this is the most commonly recognized deck, and all decks using a system of four suits, with page, knight, queen, and king, as well as having a set of what are referred to as major arcana, tend to be considered Rider-Waite style. This is not because it is the earliest such deck, but rather because it is the most commonly recognized.

1. Why would you use Rider-Waite?

Rider-Waite decks are the most commonly used type of deck, there are likely over a hundred different decks that use this deck as a basis. This deck is known for being relatively tangible and direct. This deck is often more suitable for everyday type of questions than a more abstract deck.

2. What are the benefits of Rider-Waite?

The benefits of Rider-Waite is that being such a common system, interpretations are not difficult to locate.

3. What should you consider regarding Rider-Waite?

What to consider about this deck, is that some people may find it too harsh, in terms of the offered interpretations. It is often difficult for some people to move away from fear if certain cards come up in a spread.

Animal Decks

These are decks that focus on nature and/or animal spirits to demonstrate the energies. Some examples of these decks include 'Medicine Cards' by Jamie Sans and David Carson and 'The Druid Animal Oracle' by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. Some of these decks are based off of Rider-Waite decks, and would include such decks as 'The Animal Wise Tarot' by Ted Andrews, and 'The Shapeshifter Tarot' by D.J. Conway and Sirona Knight.

Animal Decks are a more recent creation, possibly arising with the renewed interest in shamanic practices and totem animals. These decks use the archetypes that each animal represents, to show the reader the energies around the question.

1. Why would you use an Animal Deck?

These decks are also used for divination, but sometimes they can also be a helpful component for a person that works regularly with animal spirits. It may be that a specific animal spirit is trying to get in contact with a person, and may be better able to do so through one of these decks.

2. What are the benefits of an Animal Deck?

The benefits of these decks are that animal archetypes are often readily understandable to people at a fairly deep level. This can often mean that it may be easier to interpret the message for some people.

3. What should you consider regarding an Animal Deck?

What to consider is whether you would be more comfortable in working with a Rider-Waite based animal deck, or a deck that is somewhat less structured. A Rider-Waite based animal deck, will give the added interpretations of the Rider-Waite system, while other decks tend to shift the focus primarily into the energy of that animal.

Runic Decks

These are decks based on the Nordic runes. Sometimes these are referred to as 'witch's runes' but they are based off of Nordic runes.

Nordic runes are quite ancient, originating with the myth of Odin hanging himself on the tree Yggdrasil. One of the things he received from this action, were the runes. The tarot decks using these runes are a more recent creation, probably occurring with the increased popularity of the runes. These decks often include more artistry than runes, as runes are painted onto stones, and there is not a great deal of room for a lot of illustrations.

1. Why would you use a Runic Deck?

These decks are also used for divination, but with a basis in Nordic Runes.

2. What are the benefits of a Runic Deck?

The benefits of these decks are that the runes often speak more strongly to some people than other methods of divination.

3. What should you consider regarding a Runic Deck?

What to consider is that adding the imagery of what energies a rune expresses into a deck, helps a person to understand the energy and meanings of a rune with greater ease than they would with a straight set of runes.

Single Card Spread

A reading where one card is pulled. This reading is the simplest, and sometimes most effect spread when asking a question. The single card that is drawn is used as the answer to the question.

1. Why would you use Single Card?

This spread is used when wanting a quick reading, and/or wanting the most simple and direct answer possible.

2. What are the benefits of Single Card?

The benefit of this spread is that it negates the need to try and understand how all the cards in a spread work together to answer the question. It is also very helpful when needing an overarching answer to something.

3. What should you consider regarding Single Card?

What to consider is that a single card reading can often turn into a multi card reading if the reader wishes for more information. A spread is never limited, save by how the reader chooses to limit it.

3 Card Spread

A reading of three cards. This spread is used in a variety of ways. Two of the most common positions are past present future and mind body spirit. In addition, there is a version of asking yes/no questions where you draw three cards, and look to see whether they are right-side-up or not. Inverted (up-side-down) cards, tend to mean a negative answer, although in some systems, the middle card counts twice. Thus, if the two outside cards were inverted, but the middle card was not, the answer would be 'maybe.'

1. Why would you use 3 Card?

This spread is very popular across a wide range of decks, due to how easily it can be adapted to suit various purposes.

2. What are the benefits of 3 Card?

The benefit of this spread is that it maintains simplicity, but also can provide greater insight into the question, as working in threes can provide greater insight.

3. What should you consider regarding 3 Card?

What to consider is what each position should mean when the cards are drawn. Since there are many possible interpretations, not having a clear idea ahead of time can create confusion.

Celtic Cross Spread

A pattern consisting of ten cards, possibly the most common spread used. This spread creates a pattern of two cards drawn in the center, then for more drawn around the first two cards and place beneath, above, to the left, and to the right of the first two cards, and then four more cards place bottom to top in a vertical row on the right. There are subtle variations on what the various positions mean in this spread, although a general interpretation is that the first card represents the questioner, the second card represents obstacles, the card beneath is the basis of the question, the card to the right is what is coming, the card above gets interpreted a couple different ways including an alternative outcome, the goals of the questioner, or an outcome that will happen in the near future, and the card to the left of the two center cards usually represents what is passing or already gone. The bottom most card of the right hand vertical column sometimes represents the negative feelings of the questioner, or the questioner's general attitude in regard to the question. The second card in the column represents the physical environment, the third card can represent whatever the questioner feels good about, or their hopes and fears. The final card of the column represents what the final outcome will be if the questioner continues as they are currently.

1. Why would you use Celtic Cross?

This spread, and variants of it, are perhaps the most common spread used by readers, due to the wide range of information it provides around the question.

2. What are the benefits of Celtic Cross?

The benefit of this spread, is that in dissecting the question into the smaller pieces shown in this spread, deeper understanding of the issue may be gained by the questioner.

3. What should you consider regarding Celtic Cross?

What should be considered about this spread, is that it tends to take some practice to become comfortable with it, especially if the reader is not used to spreads with a larger number of cards.

2 Paths Spread

A spread used when trying to gain more information about two possible outcomes. There are a wide variety of this type of spread. Most of the have a central card, with two columns to the left and right of the middle card. The number of cards in each column can vary depending on the system. Generally speaking, the central card indicates whatever is central to the decision being made, often it refers to whatever the decision hinges on. The two columns refer to each of the two options. Often, the upper most cards on the columns refer to the final outcomes of each path. Cards beneath the final outcome cards can refer to a variety of things such as lessons learned on each path, what things make each path attractive to us, pros and cons, etc.

1. Why would you use 2 Paths?

This spread can be very useful when trying to arrive at a decision, as it can help to show us a variety of things about the two outcomes.

2. What are the benefits of 2 Paths?

The benefits of this spread is that it is almost two readings in one, since it answers questions about two separate outcomes.

3. What should you consider regarding 2 Paths?

What should be considered about this spread is that sometimes there are more than just two outcomes, and a person should always keep that in mind when using this spread, and not get locked into thinking that only these two paths exist.


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