Tarot cards and, more recently, oracle cards are outstanding tools for psychological and spiritual work. Each year they become more and more a part of the common vernacular and readily available in mass-market venues, especially the online retailer, Amazon. The number of decks available in and out of print is mind-boggling, easily in the thousands, especially if you go do a search for decks on eBay.
Once shrouded in mystery and a “tool of people with questionable character, dark intentions, or acolytes of heathen beliefs”, tarot and oracle cards are enjoying widespread, if still hesitant acceptance. In this article, I will discuss how we experience every card in the deck repeatedly throughout our lifetime.
Why Tarot Readings are “Never Wrong”
I have been reading cards professionally since 1992, and as part of a full-time spiritual advising practice since 2013. On a weekly basis, I read in two public venues locally, giving readings to many people who are trying the experience for the first time, as well as to people who get readings regularly, from me and other professionals.
A question I am often asked is, “is a tarot reading ever wrong?” My answer, not to sound flippant, is, “not the way I read them.” I do not mean that I am infallible, but rather that I do not read cards to get “right answers” for people. Right or wrong answers are for each of us to work out when it comes to our integrity, personal choices, and values. If a reader lets you ask a question like, “will he ever ask me to marry him?” or “is she stealing money from me?”, then there is a chance the answer will be wrong.
I consider it psychically and morally inappropriate to ask about someone who is not present at the reading to get the information you should ask for directly from them. Instead, I will redirect the client to ask a question that is self-focused, which could be “should I ask him to marry me?” or “what do I need to do to feel more secure about my money around this person in my life that I do not trust but have to deal with?”
When the question is self-focused, the answer is not about right/wrong, but about exploring options and deciding for yourself which one to choose so you are empowered, not disempowered.
The Cards are Already Always Happening in Your Life
When people ask me, “well, how does it work?” I start by explaining that all 78 cards are happening in our lives right now but to different degrees and intensities. Some are very far in the background of our lives, while others will feel very much “in our faces”. Here’s a simple experiment you can do with a deck if you happen to own one.
Shuffle the cards and then start turning them over one by one. As you go through the cards, set aside the ones that “catch your attention” and turn over and restack the ones that do not. You may find that only a small percentage of the cards get set aside, but you will not find all of them interesting. If you take a week and revisit the exercise, you will likely find different cards get noticed and previous cards get ignored.
No card gets left out completely, though some cards may only impact you infrequently, if you are fortunate. Hopefully, you will not know the Death card repeatedly while you are younger, meeting the card only more frequently when you are very old. Several of the Major cards, and some of the minor cards, are ones you want to deal with in as few instances as possible.
The Meanings Change as You Change
I do not mean that the Lovers card can come to mean what the 10 of Swords means, but rather that the Lovers card, or the 10 of Swords, does not mean the same thing to you at 30 as it did at 15. Being in love at 15, then 25, then 45, and then 65 is different for each stage of life. So, it is with all the cards. You will know the sorrow of the 3 of Swords with each failed relationship in different ways and to different degrees depending on the ending of the relationship.
Hopefully, what will happen is that you will grow and mature, allowing you to experience the depth of each card in new and more profound ways each time you re-encounter the card. We may be a reckless adventurer when we see the 3 of Wands at 18 and a seasoned traveler when we see it at 58.
The Reading Shows You Where to Focus
When you do a tarot reading, you are essentially bringing the energy and experiences the cards represent into focus in a narrative that you can hold up against your existing life story. Imagine watching a movie and just absorbing the main visuals where the director wants you to focus. Now imaging watching the same movie on YouTube with a viewer who has found every flaw or Easter egg or “not in the center of the shot” moment worth noting.
As a reading unfolds your attention goes to the card and its meaning as a moment of focus that you can then apply to your life. Say you draw the 6 of Cups, which is about a deep friendship or strong person who loves and supports you, that you love and support. You may realize you have not spoken to a dear friend in some time and decide to reach out because of this card.
Perhaps you have a serious concern on your mind and the appearance of the Tower, or the Hanged Man really makes you put even more energy and focus into your worry or your need to act. Whether the cards are getting you to look at the center of the movie screen or you find yourself drawn to something in the background, the cards will encourage you to think about your life and direction, rather than what is the right or wrong answer.