A Skeptic’s Guide to Tarot

Posted on July 05, 2019

​There is an odd phenomenon among those in the metaphysical arts community, where we’re inclined to only believe in certain systems of divination and healing. Some might swear by astrology, but scoff at the idea of astrocartography - despite being branches of the same tree; there are people who don’t think numerology is feasible but fully accept the knowledge offered by rune stones.

So what do we do when we are resistant to the possibility of alternate beliefs and learning? How can we explore the validity of an art form if we are approaching it with an attitude of disbelief?

Though certain forms of divination are given credibility without any apparent opposition, there are others that seem to garner skepticism in spite of their practical application and proven successes. Today, we’re going to explore the art of Tarot reading, and how you can utilize them as a tool for self-discovery - once you suspend your wariness of their credibility.

What are Tarot Cards?

Perhaps part of the skepticism surrounding Tarot cards stems from their origins - derived from the Old Italian word ‘tarocchi’, which was a synonym for foolishness or being jesterly, Tarot cards were primarily an elaborately painted set of playing cards used for games. Though the early sets depicted much of the same art used today, it was not given any mystical properties; they were solely meant to be aesthetically pleasing. However, as these cards migrated throughout the land masses during the 15th and 16th centuries, countries where mystic arts were given more credibility than Western Europe started using the cards for symbolic purposes during divination, which began to cultivate the Tarot deck known and used today.

Much like modern playing cards have four suits (aces, spades, hearts, and diamonds), ancient Tarot decks utilized wands, coins, swords, and cups - which are still reflected in the Minor Arcana of any Tarot deck. As they started to be used more and more for occult purposes, Tarot decks were expanded to include the Major Arcana as well, cards which typically symbolize major life events and themes. Over time, the two sets of cards began to diverge, into the current system of gaming cards and tarot cards. Given these humble beginnings, it would be easy to discredit the validity of Tarot - but that might not be wise.

How Do I Use Tarot Cards?

The most important aspect of tarot card usage is your intent; you must approach your deck and reading with a specific need. A facet of your personality you’re yearning to understand, a deeper insight into the patterns of behavior in your love life, even a desire for guidance on how to resolve a conflict in your personal life- these are all things a Tarot reading can inspire change and impart wisdom on.

A common misconception is that Tarot cards will “tell you the future”, and as we know from our forays into other portents of self-discovery, the future is not a fixed reality. Approaching any system of divination with this mentality is going to lead to disbelief and suspicion.

A modern Tarot deck consists of 78 cards and has two distinct parts, the Major and Minor Arcana.

The 22 cards in the Major Arcana typically represent life lessons, karmic influence and recurring themes in your journey through life. Often pertaining to things like ego, strife, love, wisdom and the like, these are the cards people turn to when they seek more insight into their personality or life’s purpose.

The Minor Arcana, which consists of 56 different cards in four houses, hold more influence over our daily struggles and reflect the more immediate things happening in our world, as opposed to the reaching themes of our self and being.

With this in mind, knowing what knowledge you want to gain from a Tarot deck goes a long way in utilizing it properly and achieving an answer that makes sense, as opposed to leaving you skeptical. If you’re looking for information about your core personality, hearts desires and life’s purpose, dealing from the Major Arcana (with its broad themes and interpretations) is more useful; likewise, if you are looking for a sign from the Universe regarding a job promotion or how to resolve a conflict with a friend, the Minor Arcana will give more focused and direct suggestions.

Can You Trust Tarot Cards?

When exploring any new metaphysical art, we must self-reflect and remember that we were once disbelieving and suspicious at first of the tools we now trust and respect. It is important to understand that acceptance and trust only comes from experience; if we do not give ourselves the opportunity to explore the art of Tarot, are we ever going to respect the answers it yields?

Only time and practice will give you the ability to correctly interpret your cards, and start getting more accurate readings.

Just as we constantly re-analyze our horoscope in relation to the current placement of signs in the sky, and palmistry readings should be done at multiple points in our lives as the topography of our hands change, the knowledge you gain from Tarot cards is only useful if you are willing to accept that your readings will change as you do. Skeptics will say the variances in the cards you pull from each reading mean it is inaccurate, but we must ask ourselves - do we have the same problems and worries that we did last week? Do we seek the same knowledge today that we did a year ago? As we grow and our lives change, so do the cards we pull and our interpretations of them. What we decipher from the cards is not just a reflection of their knowledge, but of who we are in that moment, translating them.

Should I Invest in Tarot Cards?

If after reading this article you’re more receptive to the potential of Tarot cards, investing in a deck and beginning to practice readings may be a beneficial form of actualization for you. As with any other form of divination, your interpretations of the information relayed to you will develop with time; if your first readings do not seem accurate, don’t give Tarot cards up as a ‘scam’ or ‘fake.’ Only with time, knowledge, and acceptance will your readings grow more accurate and meaningful. With practice, you might even go from being a Tarot skeptic to a Tarot savant!

Related Article: Must-Ask Questions for Your Best Tarot Reading

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Emo music, vegetarian food & bold lipstick power this quirky, extroverted Leo. Passionate about exploring the world and our place in it through astrology, tarot, numerology and… Read More »

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