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Tarot FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions.

Although tarot decks have become a popular means of divination, beginners and experienced readers still have many questions about the Tarot. We hope the following FAQ will give you some insight.

 

1. What is Tarot?
2. What does the name Tarot mean?
3. Where does Tarot come from?
4. Where can I get a Tarot Deck?
5. How many Tarot decks are there?
6. How do the various Tarot decks differ?
7. How do I choose my Tarot deck?
8. Does a Tarot deck has to be given to me before I can work with it?
9. What books should I read to get started?
10. What do the cards mean?
11. What about the switch of the 8th and 11th card?
12. How do I care for my deck?
13. Does Tarot predict the future?
14. What are the ethics of card readers?
15. What do reversed cards mean?
16. Can I use Tarot cards for meditation?
17. Do Tarot computer programs work?
18. Can I trust the psychic 900 phone lines?
19. Why do some people claim the Tarot is evil?
20. Are the Death and Devil cards bad?
21. Is the Tarot part of witchcraft?

 


1. What is Tarot?
Tarot is a set of 78 cards, divided in two sets: the major arcana and the minor arcana. The major arcana contains 22 cards and primarily depicts major archetypes like death, temperance and the fool. The minor arcana is based on the traditional playing card deck of 52 cards. In it are the four suits; pentacles (or disks), cups (equal to hearts), swords (spades) and wands. Each suit has ten numbered cards, ace to ten, plus the four court cards. These are page, knight, king and queen. Some but not all tarot decks have picture images on each of the numbered cards.


2. What does the name Tarot mean?
Originally the tarot cards, originating in Italy, were called Trionfi, and later on Tarocchi. In the 16th century the French shortened the name to Tarot. The name Tarot does not seem to have any meaning, although some people have tried to find one.


3. Where does Tarot come from?
The very first cards we know of date from the late Middle Ages and appeared in Italy. They first developed into a set of cards depicting virtues, like Strength and Temperance. They then developed into more elaborate sets of different number of cards and different order of the cards. They were primarily used by the aristocracy as the method of production for cards at that time was not exactly cheap. When the Tarot entered France it took the shape of a uniform deck, that is, it had 78 cards and the order of the cards in the major arcana remained the same. Today we are still using the same order.
Some people have claimed that the Tarot cards came from exotic origins like ancient Egypt, but there is absolutely no proof for this, and it is highly unlikely.


4. Where can I get a Tarot Deck?
Well, you have come to the right place! Our Illuminated Tarot is a colorful version of the well-known Rider-Waite deck, the most widley used deck today. There are many decks available, they can be found in new-age shops, bookstores and the internet. If you are looking for a meditation deck, you could have a look at our major arcana decks.


5. How many Tarot decks are there?
In recent times, since the "Tarot Renaissance" which started in the 1960's, there are always a couple of hundred available on the market worldwide. How many has there ever been? Well Guido Gillabel, a avid Tarot collector has over a thousand Tarot decks in his Tarot museum, Tarot Haven.


6. How do the various Tarot decks differ?
Tarot is an excellent medium for artists. Over the centuries and especially in the last fifty years, many artists have given their own unique view to the cards. Although many artists follow the traditional images and order, some of them have given their tarot deck a unique representation of their own ideas. The Thoth Tarot, created by the famous magician Aleister Crowley, is a good example of this. Traditional decks are the Wirth Tarot and the Rider-Waite. The Wirth Tarot is a typical old deck in which the minor arcana numbered cards do not have picture-images. The Rider-Waite, created in 1909, gave all the suit cards an image, which makes it even more suitable for card readings. Modern decks however, more often than not, do not have images in the suit cards. If you really want to browse the decks, Tarot Passages gives an extensive review of many, many decks.

7. How do I choose my Tarot deck?
After you have looked up different decks, choose the one that really appeals to you. Do not let yourself be guided to much by what other people say. Your feeling is more important than any intellectual reasoning. We all have different tastes. I work with the Thoth Tarot deck, not because it has been created by the famous and controversial magician Aleister Crowley, but because I very, very much like artistic rendering and colorful composition of the cards. But I have also other decks I like because of their esoteric symbolism.

8. Does a Tarot deck has to be given to me before I can work with it?
No, that is a myth that unfortunately is still around.

9. What books should I read to get started?
I only read one or two books about Tarot. There is not much known about the history of the Tarot, and it is impossible to memorize the meaning of the 78 cards, nor is that even advisable. Every author gives his/her own meaning to the cards, and this can differ widely. The decks usually come with their own booklet, and it is good to read those, so you have an idea of what that deck is about. Then we come to the next question:

10. What do the cards mean?
The Tarot cards are archetypes, that is they represent a psychological quality that we all share. They are, in a certain sense, a spiritual heritage of mankind. The archetypes always remain the same, but how they manifest and form depends on your culture, your environment, and even of your own psychological make-up. Take the Death card, for example. Death is an archetype we all share. It is a key ingredient of life. But death means has a different meaning to spiritual Indian yogi than to a Western materialist. For some people death is transformation to a higher state of being, while for others it is the unwanted extinction of life.
So, the cards may have an underlying, symbolic meaning, but you have to learn how to allow yourself to discover what they mean for you. At the same time, a card can bring up slightly different interpretations in different readings. A reading is a highly personalized representation of a certain situation for a certain person at a certain time. Intuition and inspiration will give you the appropriate explanation for the cards at that time, for that person in those circumstances.

11. What about the switch of the 8th and 11th card?
In the old decks the 8th card is Justice and the 11th card is Strength. In many modern decks the order is reversed in which the 8th card is Strength and the 11th card is Justice. This has confused a lot of people. What order is the right order?
When Waite and Smith, both members of the Golden Dawn, created their deck, they decided the switch the old order of 8-Justice and 11 Strength based on a 'secret' esoteric document (The Cipher Manuscript) that stated that these cards needed an alteration, that is, that the Eighth Trump should be assigned to Libra (the Scales); therefore, it was imperative to assign Justice (who holds the scales) to the number eight. (the Cipher Manuscript was later found to be a fake). As their deck became popular (the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, originally published in 1910 by Arthur Edward Waite), it served as a basis for many other tarot artists to create their decks, adopting the mistake Waite and Smith made.

12. How do I care for my deck?
Doing psychic readings is working with energy. There is your energy, the energy of the person(s) you do the readings for, and the energy of the archetypes in the cards. After a while your deck will acquire its own unique energy. To keep this energy uncontaminated, I would advise that you do not let your deck be handled by other people, but store it in its own pouch or wooden box.

13. Does Tarot predict the future?
The future is not written in stone. Certain things will likely happen because their energies are running in a particular direction. But as human beings we have free will and can change those energies in one way or another, in small ways or in big ways. There are also unforeseen things that can interfere. Therefore what we call the future is what most likely will happen given the present set of circumstances, but we need to keep in mind that anything can change this view of the future.
Tarot card are in the first place a means of revealing patterns of energy in the past or the present. It allows us to clarify situations. We all all the answers within us, but not always conscious. Tarot cards, like any other means of divination, can be used to tap into the unconscious, where all the answers lie, and bring it out into the conscious. Then you can make decisions on your own what to do next. Yes, you can look into the possible future with the Tarot cards, but remember it is up to us to decide what to do or not to do. Predicting doomsday has nothing to do with divination, but with an unethical card reader. Actually there is a rule for tarot readers, the 4 D's. Never predict death, disease, disaster, or divorce. If somebody asks you to predict it, don't do it!

14. What are the ethics of card readers?
As a card reader you have a responsibility! Not only moral, but also spiritual. You will reap what you sow. A card reader is there to help somebody to become a better person, to help understand him/herself and to guide him/her on his/her own path. predicting death is totally irresponsible. When you see a divorce coming, you do not have to mention this, it might make things worse. It is better to give the couple a better understanding in their problems and challenges. Remember that fear itself can contribute to something happening, and think about what you say in regards to the fear it could induce. Help people to see and understand their choices, and to make better ones. Do not make any decisions for anyone else, by doing so you take on karma that you do not need or even want. You can give advice, but remember if it is unwanted and unasked it is not right to give it. Always remember to inform people that there is NO guarantee on any prediction, and that they make their own choices. People will sometimes ask about health issues, do not play doctor, and never make a judgment or diagnosis about it. Look to the emotional patterns, and how the person can improve their situation by changing them. Do not indulge in power games, for example when somebody wants to influence somebody else, like a lost lover. Respect at all times the free will of every human, and keep yourself centered in love and light. Remember that we are all divine in essence. Do not judge, seek understanding.

15. What do reversed cards mean?
Some people do not use reversed cards, others cannot do without it. It is totally up to you. It is best to give your own interpretation to a reversed card, as everyone has his own interpretation of it. Let you feeling or intuition play. You may want to wait until you are more familiar with the cards before you introduce reversed meanings.


16. Can I use Tarot cards for meditation?
Yes, especially the 22 cards of the major arcana are excellent for meditation purposes. It is best to use one card at a time. A poster size card works best and at the same time decorates your space; check out our tarot posters page!

17. Do Tarot computer programs work?
They do work, but as with an person-to-person reading, you need to tune into the reading by taking the program seriously, your intentions count. Formulate your question in detail and hit the button when it feels right. You have to understand that our mind is all-powerful and all-encompassing. Although we are not aware of it in our everyday consciousness, the mind is linked to everything around us, and that includes computers and their programs. A Tarot computer program is based on a random number selecting sub program. Our mind is able to interact with the program in an incredible fast and accurate way.
Although most Tarot computer programs come with a fixed interpretation of each card, it is up to you to make of add your own interpretation. A person-to-person reading is much more in depth.

18. Can I trust the psychic 900 phone lines?
You have to be very careful here. That business started out with many good readers, but was messed up by bad business practices. There always can be a good person at the other end of the line, but you have to have enough sense about it yourself to tell if it is worthwhile or not. And if you get a bad company you might end up having to pay way too much. Re-read the section here on ethical practices, and compare them to what the line is advertising. Psychics who emphasize predictions are not what you really want, what you are looking for is a person who can give good guidance.

19. Why do some people claim the Tarot is evil?
Some religious people still carry the inheritance of the Catholic Church from the past centuries. The Catholic Church used to condemn anything, esoteric or not, that was not in line with their beliefs. It has to do with intolerance and power. There are still plenty of people out there like this. The Catholic Church used the call the Tarot the Devil's Picture Book in order to scare people away from it. Of course, the Tarot has nothing to do with the Devil. The Tarot is one of many enlightening tools in which many people have expressed their own, often very different beliefs.


20. Are the Death and Devil cards bad?
Of course not. People who claim this are caught up in their fears and do not understand what these archetypes are about. The Death card is about transformation, about letting the old go and going through a rebirth. The Devil stems from the Catholic Church's view on everything they wanted to ban. Many Tarot artists have renamed the card or have given different explanations to it, like illusion, sexual repression, or materialistic tendencies. Spreading fear does not belong in card readings. Shy away from any readers who do so.

21. Is the Tarot part of witchcraft?
Not necessarily, although many modern witches, pagans, or wicca people have and use a Tarot deck. Tarot decks were often and are still used by gypsies who helped in keeping the tradition of card reading alive.


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Copyright 2002 Dirk Gillabel. All rights reserved.