Tarot works by exposing the conscious mind to rich symbols evokes universal feelings. In turn, this triggers our very rich subconscious minds, leading us to new insights and realizations.
To the extent that Tarot is magical, it is because it is charming, not because it is channeling the power of an ethereal beyond. When I read for a querent, my goal in a is to expand the querent’s consciousness by tuning them into what they probably already know but can’t integrate yet. My goal is always to empower the querent through choice.
How Does Tarot Work? Card Selection
Certainly, if there is magic, this would be when it happens and I am definitely not its source. Frankly, I see no particular “value added” in my own shuffling technique. It gets the job done, but many in Vegas have more panache. I am trying, however, to pick up more style. There is, I must admit, a certain charm in the Vegas shuffle. I do believe that charm is important in a reading, but we must all make do with what we can and dexterity has never been my strong suit. That said, I practice.
In more practical terms, it seems that any technique that involves a vigorous shuffling of the cards seems to work quite well. Clients pick their own cards when they are with me in person. I have randomly selected for them when doing a remote reading. If they prefer, clients can assign unique numbers between 1-78 and assign each number to a slot in a spread and I count out the cards, adding those cards to the spread. I’ve had clients randomly select cards from their decks at home and tell me what they pulled. I’ve used computer-generated randomization. It all works and it’s all the same to me. Really, however you like it. Again, I wish for you to experience charm.
How Does Tarot Work? Why the Reading Resonates Is it Spirits or Pixies? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. Invisible magical pixies or spirits could make Tarot work by influencing the card selection, for all I know. How someone might prove such a thesis eludes me, but feel free to believe whatever enhances your experience of charm! I am officially agnostic. I do not, however, believe that Tarot cards open a portal to a realm of malignant spirits who can then move in to do their evil work. This is a common concern that I find baseless. A post will be forthcoming on this very topic.
Why I Think Tarot Works
My own opinion is that tarot works because our minds are very different from other animals in that our minds are attuned to symbols. We are a very strange species in that one thing can seem to “stand for” another. We have an odd belief, in fact, a bizarre reflex for believing that different things can somehow be the same. This is one of the foundations of language itself. This magic is one of the things that makes us human. Indeed, correspondence is the basis for much magic, if we are to believe the magicians.
Moreover, we are a strange species in that we have a conscious mind that tends to think it is everything, but is really only the tip of the iceberg of our cognition. Exposing the conscious mind to a random stream of symbols evokes responses from our constantly active subconscious. To expand one’s consciousness, it is to helpful to marry this response with a fruitful interpretive mind. Hopefully, you will think that’s what I bring to the table.
How Does Tarot Work? Is Destiny or Fate Involved?
Structure and Agency
My answer to this question comes from my days as a political science grad student. Human agency, or willful purposeful action, is constrained by other actors and the consequences of their actions. When those situations create a uniform pattern that is reproduced consistently, we call them structure. In a situation that is tightly structured, a situation in which the decisions have created a limited range of options, things may appear “set in stone.” It is in such moments that humans experience emotional states such as “destiny,” on the one hand, and “fate,” on the other.
Destiny and Fate
These emotional states are misleading, in my opinion, as change is the constant in the universe. The difficulty is that a person’s situation may remain tightly structured in negative and positive ways for long periods of time. This leads to interpretive problems.
If structured in a negative way for a long period of time, one feels like poor Job, cursed by a wager between God and the Devil! We take it personally and judgmental others judge us for our fatalism and we feel powerless before “fate.” But likewise, if our experience is structured in a positive way for extended periods, simple vanity makes us believe that this results from our essential fabulousness and we embrace it as “destiny.” If we are born wealthy, for example, we may get away with poor strategy for a very long time, believing that our survival is the result of our innate brilliance, rather than our unexamined privilege. Others, of course, accuse of us hubris.
Adjusting Is Easier Said Than Done
I feel we do better in life when we don’t take it all too personally and judgmental others don’t interfere, but I am the first to admit that all of this is far easier said than done! After all, it is hard not to take the ups and downs of our lived experience any other way. You’re there and it’s your life. You know how it feels! Likewise, we all love to gossip. The human condition is challenging. That said, if Tarot is to work for you, you must detach.
How Does Tarot Work? How Does Free Will Relate?
Avoid the Repudiation of Free Will at All Costs!
I believe very strongly that with life in general and specifically with Tarot, it is critical never to be fatalistic—to do so resigns all agency! Situations arise when these constraints fade and a person has a great deal of agency in his or her life. At such times, things become far more unpredictable and the individual’s will has a greater impact on unfolding events. Sometimes a situation is yours for the choosing.
That said, few live lives of virtually unlimited freedom. Being aware of the constraints imposed by structure is important. As a heuristic, I find Tarot helpful for exploring the emotional context of those structures to help a querent know where he or she is along this spectrum in a given situation. I do not see myself as a “fortune teller.” I see myself as someone who can read Tarot to help a querent understand the emotional contours of structure and agency in his or her life. Tarot works because the cards trigger the subconscious.
Why Do People Want to Repudiate Free Will?
There is a certain brand of Tarot client, one that I try to avoid, to be frank. This client is sick of free will. My theory is that (1) we watch too many Hollywood films, especially about romance, and yearn to feel the magic of being destined to meet “the soul mate,” (2) we get tired of trying to make this magic happen. We want our romance to begin. We’re tired of struggle and we want the story which Hollywood has made us believe is happening for everyone but us.
I have the deepest empathy for those who are lonely. Before I came out and met my husband, I ached very deeply with loneliness. It’s a horrible feeling. That said, as far as I can see, dating has one universal truth. If you are not enough without a relationship, you will never be enough in one. Hollywood’s formulas aside, magic is a matter of manufactured charm and not “tuning into destiny”. I aim to empower you through a Tarot reading, not to make you fate’s plaything.
How Does Tarot Work? Is This a Psychic Reading?
Heads Up! I’m Not a Psychic!
I am certainly not a psychic. A psychic is someone who “claims to use extrasensory perception to identify information hidden from the normal senses, particularly involving telepathy or clairvoyance, or who performs acts that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws.” I have no extrasensory perception. In contrast, I read cards. Card meanings can be learned by anyone. If you desire it, you can learn to read cards. I hope the card meanings on my site will help you learn to do so, if you wish it! I find great joy in Tarot and I hope you shall, too! Certainly, if you find Tarot attractive, you will probably spend some time learning to read the cards, seeing for yourself how Tarot works!
A Tarot Reading is Art, Not Science
I view reading Tarot as an art, not a science. This means that my reading will not be identical to the next reader’s, just as two critic’s interpretation of a poem will differ. If you were to learn to read Tarot for yourself, I certainly hope that you would see how and why I formed my opinion, even if you don’t find yourself in total agreement.
That said, my reading will be almost completely an interpretive task. If anything is happening that links into the transcendental, it happens at the time of card selection. By the by, I am not at all convinced that anything transcendental is happening at card selection. I personally think that Tarot works because randomized archetypical images simply stir the subconscious. That said, I am officially agnostic as to whether some transcendent power intervenes at the time of card selection.
Magic is Charm and Delight, not Powers of the Beyond
That said, if there is magic, I am not its source. I find this regrettable, as being the great conduit of magic is rather appealing. But alas, my life is a study in mere mortality. That said, with any luck, I can make your experience magical, even if I cannot work magic. This is always my goal.
How Does Tarot Work? Interpretative Technique
People ask, “Do you read what you feel or what you know of the card?” Honestly, what I feel is very strongly shaped by my study of the card. When I’m doing a write-up of a reading, I always take my “executive summary” of the card as my point of departure. I usually read a formal spread with positions with specific meanings. When I do, I think about what that card means when in that position. I look at the context of the other cards in the other positions and try my best to see how the card fits in that context.
Sometimes, in that process, I may get a feeling that is fairly idiosyncratic to the context of that reading. I won’t hesitate to tell you (1) that feeling, (2) that it differs from a stricter reading, (3) how it may differ from a stricter reading and, (4) if I have a clear idea of if I feel that way, why I feel that way. I want to empower you and inform your judgment as best I can.
That said, some readers have cards on the table as a sort of ritual but are just saying whatever they feel, as if channeling some spirit. That is not me in any way. I read cards.
How Does Tarot Work? Does It Identify Issues or Fix Problems?
In The Fellowship of the Ring, when looking into her magical mirror, Frodo asks Galadriel, “What will I see?” Galadriel responds, “Even the wisest cannot tell.”
The cards may identify your issue or have ready solutions. Hopefully, the cards actually deign to answer your question directly. Now and then, they give you the answer to the question that they apparently believe you should have asked. This is rather tedious of them. It puts me in a bit of a bind as a reader, let me tell you! The only way to find out what the cards will say is to actually do a reading.
For what it is worth, I’m fairly sure you will not have an encounter with the Eye of Sauron in your reading with me. With any luck, we will also not discover that your hometown will be razed by orcs if you don’t deliver a ring to a volcano in Mordor. I’ll be frank. My readings are never that dramatic. In the interests of full disclosure, I also do not look nearly as fabulous in white as Galadriel.