Tarot 101 - What is tarot? How to find the perfect deck.
WHAT IS TAROT?
Tarot has been a way for people to gain insight into the aspects of their lives for for many years. Each deck has artistic portrayals of one's journey through life, but the themes for each suit and card remain similar regardless of art style. With their symbolism, metaphors, and depictions of archetypal personality traits, tarot has become not just a method of divination, but a way to look into our subconscious thoughts and behaviors in order to gain guidance through our daily (and often complex) trials and tribulations. These images have remained timeless representations of mankind’s allegories.
“Divination cards offer a way to project certain ideas, whether subconscious or not, and to toy with potential outcomes for important decisions.”
The oldest surviving deck of tarot cards comes from the year 1440 and was created for the Duke of Milan. It was soon after turned into a card playing past-time. This game was called “tarocchi appropriati” and mainly played by Italian aristocrats in which cards were dealt to the players, then used to create poetic and detailed themed stories about each other.
In the 18th century, tarot decks got their image as a tool for mystics and were said to symbolize the wisdom of the Egyptian god, Thoth. As it migrated around Europe, Romani people started using it as a method of fortune telling.
The meaning of tarot and how its used has evolved and been shaped by each era and each culture it’s been passed through. Cartomancy, or divination with cards, as been refined again and again through individual and group teachings, coming together to form a narrative about human behavior and major events we sometimes struggle through.
In 1909, the famously distributed Rider-Waite deck was created specifically for divination and came with a book written by Waite explaining the cards’ esoteric meanings. Since then, many versions have been created and used by individuals from every walk of life across the map.
“Is tarot evil?"
Many people have asked the question, “Is tarot evil?” or “If I use tarot, will I invite evil spirits into my life?” The short answer is no. Using tarot is like looking at a piece of art. We all have our own interpretations of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and the like. Tarot is similar in that way. It is purely a way to bring up emotions, thoughts, and concepts in order to help guide you through life. Some images may stir up troubling or uncomfortable ideas, but those ideas are coming from somewhere in YOU, not some other entity trying to get in to cause you harm. Explore the idea and why it makes you so uncomfortable. Work through it, or dismiss it entirely. YOU are the one in control.
“Do you have to be Pagan to use tarot?”
No. Any person from any faith (or lack thereof) can use tarot. As mentioned above, it’s equivalent to pondering a piece of artwork and analyzing the way it makes you feel. There are Christians, Atheists, Pagans, Muslims, and many others who use tarot and incorporate their own beliefs into their interpretations of the cards.
“Can tarot tell my future?”
Tarot is not always about fortune tellings. While some practitioners use it as such, others don’t use it that way at all. Some interpret the cards to show a likely outcome of a situation GIVEN nothing else changes. So don’t ever worry that you don’t have the power to change an outcome. Your future is for you to decide, not the cards.
“I feel like I’m not reading the cards right.”
Just because your interpretation of a card might be different than someone else’s, it doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong. Tarot helps us to explore our OWN conscious and subconscious thoughts, and we’re all unique in those aspects. All in all, there is no wrong or right way to interpret your spread. 20% of tarot is about understanding the structure of the cards. The other 80% is completely intuitive.
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT DECK
The most important thing about getting your own tarot deck is that is resonates with you. There are so many to choose from, so don’t just go for the most ~aesthetic~ deck or the most popular. You need to FEEL something when you look at the cards. Remember, it’s like coming up with a meaningful interpretation of a piece of art. Some people like Van Gough while others prefer Kalo. As long as it means something to YOU.
For example, some people prefer decks like Modern Witch or Light Seers because there’s diverse representation with the people pictured on the images. For some, that doesn’t matter. For some, it does. Others prefer decks like Anima Mundi or Wild Wood because there’s no people at all, rather, depictions of nature.
Start with something simple, but not too vague. The Hermetic Tarot is jam packed with esoteric symbolism and may be difficult to interpret for beginners while Kawaii Tarot is meant to be a minimalist deck that doesn’t have any symbolism at all. A shop favorite is the Light Visions deck or the Prisma Visions deck.
STRUCTURE OF THE CARDS
In another blog post, we’ll go into detail about the structure of a tarot deck. But for now, some key points to note are that tarot is divided into two sections; the major arcana and the minor arcana. There are 78 cards total. 22 major arcana (or trump cards), and 56 minor arcana. The minor arcana is divided into four suits; generally the wands, swords, cups, and pentacles. These represent temporary aspects of life in our daily trials and tribulations while the major arcana signify big picture events and follow the fool’s journey through life.