Just what is the Tarot?
There is a seemingly huge misconception that Tarot is fortune telling, used to predict the future. But, instead, it's simply an interpretive tool, not a predictive one. It helps us gain an understanding about ourselves, the persons surrounding us in everyday life, and the meaning of the events taking place in our lives. Each card holds an image, an archetypal symbol. These archetypes are core concepts of humanism, and they are used to analyze one's life -- a thought, an emotion, an action or mindset -- one card at a time. By assembling these cards in different patterns, we can study their meanings in relation to each other and draw a more broad meaning of understanding from the whole. This creates a deeper understanding on a more structured and more clear level.
It can be said that Tarot is an esoteric art form that requires intelligence (knowledge of the deck and multiple individual meanings) and a fair amount of intuition. Each card holds multiple meanings. Thus, each Tarot reader has a unique or personal spin on the meaning of each of the cards' universal archetypes, and this spin varies depending on client energy and depending on the purpose for the reading and the question(s) relating thereto. In other words, there is no individual way to interpret a card. The combinations of these different archetypes printed on the cards bring added meaning to the reading. Another way of saying this for the math and philosophy addicts (I'm one) reading this is that the whole exists above and beyond its parts.
The "spreads" that are used to read from are card(s) drawn to answer a single question. Most often a spread contains more than one card, and more than one card can be drawn per question, called "identifier" cards. The laying out of the cards is a simple way to create a rather complex point of view about any given issue that might be on the client's mind. Each card is a symbol of particular emotion or archetype or person or situation. You shuffle the cards and lay them out in a random fashion. Each position in the layout symbolizes a part of the situation for which you're receiving clarity on the present or near future, the basis of the problem, intervening influences, etc. The Tarot reader creates a meaningful story out of this information, connecting the idea represented by the card with the meaning of its position in the layout. This storytelling is a creative, stimulating and challenging job for the Tarot reader. They are deriving sense out of "seemingly" random data and making it coherent.
So the reader conveys to the client an elaborate story about the client's situation. It might be accurate, or it might not be accurate. But what is key is that the story is, at the time, completely outside of the client's mind. It is generated by the symbols on the cards drawn in random order. Everyone with a problem (or simply a question that may or may not be a problem for them), and if they've been stewing on it for a while, the mind tends to fall into a rut in thinking about it. The cards are simply a way of creating a completely external point of view about the problem. They tell the client things they may not have thought of on their own. Comparing the external viewpoint with the internal one will help the client have an "Ah-ha" moment and aid in giving greater clarity about the issue. With the multiple meanings of each of the 78 cards, this encompasses a huge number of areas of life or human experiences from which to derive our Tarot reading comments.
As a Tarot reader, we must remember that life is complex, yes, but experiences are not unique. What a client is going through now has been experienced time after time. The circumstances may be different, but for the most part, the story has been told before and will be told again with a different client. I'll quote Lily Aleksey (2015) because I can't say it any better. "I believe in Tarot readings because I understand their purpose. It is a therapeutic tool designed to force people to think about themselves and their lives. Oftentimes, people know the right answer, but they ask the question to get validation of their choice. Tarot is a wonderful tool to accomplish that, to hear whatever the reading is and adjust it to them. It's a manipulation, but when used for good intentions, it is a wonderful thing."
Then, again, consider that if so many intelligent people believe in Tarot readings (and they do), it's because these intelligent people believe that there is something to it. The world is more than what we can see, hear, feel with our physical senses. It's more than determinism; actually, more than we can know or understand. Esoteric or ethereal exploration has been investigated and/or used by our world's scientists and engineers for eons. I'm adamant that everyone should broaden their outlook in this area. An intelligent person chooses a path that allows them to listen with their heart, they open their mind and take time to contemplate their own life as well as human life in general. Tarot readers have chosen that path.
How does the Tarot work?
I don't believe you can discuss Tarot without mentioning the Jungian's concept of synchronicity. I have bachelor's degrees in psychology and biology (the more existential vs. the tangible) from 1972, and, of course, I studied Carl Gustav Jung in conjunction with his formation of what was termed "analytical psychology." This vein of psychology/philosophy contained theories that included the notions of archetypes, individuation and synchronicity.
The Major Arcana in Tarot numbers from 0 to 21 and contains archetypes that tell a story of Jung's process of Individuation or journey of becoming self-actualized, free of neuroses and psychoses, able to live a full and healthy life, living from a center of true fulfillment. Of course, being imperfect as humans are, we go through cycles. These cycles are represented by the Major Arcana cards beginning with The Fool and on to completion with 21, The World, moving as a spiral into greater and greater human evolvement (wisdom and understanding).
This all gets quite involved and complicated. So I won't go into it any deeper. But suffice it to understand that the Minor Arcana cards are all the tidbits of happenings and emotions that are intertwined between the Major Arcana cards.
Within a spread of, say, 10 cards, what you see or react to offers clues as to what tidbits of one's own psyche are at play and which may need deeper understanding or reflection upon for a prescribed healing.
To explain further, the cards in a spread appear in a progressive manner or seek to incorporate within the progression the process of healing or enlightenment toward individuation. The previous card(s) (drawn one at a time) in a series may display what one has dealt with or come from in such a progression. When certain cards are drawn over and over again (and I'm sure every Tarot reader has experienced this quite often), even though the cards are being shuffled, and it resonates or shows certain symbolism that is personally meaningful, this is Jung's concept of synchronicity or often referred to as "meaningful coincidence."
Let's carry it a step further and say that by accessing an inherent symbology in the cards, one is associating them with one's personal set of meaningful symbols; thereby, acting as a cleverly-meaningful and symbolic method of communication. This is what we see happening within a Tarot reading.
Okay. I'll move on. The probability of receiving any one card in the entire Tarot deck is 1 in 78. The probability of receiving any one card in the Major Arcana is 1 in 22 (0 through 21). I'll reiterate. Why is it that the same cards appear over and over or combine in such a way as to create the same meaning for the same question even if we've drawn from the same shuffled deck of cards many times? Probability theory (p value) itself suggests -- in a quantitative way -- that any card drawn should be completely random, especially if the cards have been shuffled multiple times (this even occurs if a computer shuffles the cards). However, any one of us that has worked with Tarot knows that this is often not the case. More often than not, one can receive the same card or cards over and over again, no matter how many readings one has done. Why is this if the drawing is being completely random? Why would this be? This is the mystery of Tarot. This is where it's helpful, at least in a minor way, to study the nuances of psychological and philosophical probabilities.
This is a quote from K Gaelsdottir, who I don't actually follow, but I did find a quote from him that I find interesting. "This is the reason such scientists and mathematicians, as Isaac Newton, were also inherently as interested in alchemy, hermeticism, and other aspects of mysticism; they understood that great insights come not from just the "rational" thought according to science, but from the great philosophical and mystical truths that acted as inspiration when trying to understand both humanity and the natural world. They are inherently connected. Even more modern science (such as quantum theory) proves this even further." Tarot is an art and a science.
So I certainly view Tarot and how it works from my psychology and biology/physics backgrounds. Just as I believe in innumerable layers of reality and universes, I believe that every Tarot card symbol has layers of connections and deep meanings that intertwine and vibrate at different frequencies. Of course, we all know I'm dumbing this down and that it's much more sophisticated than that, beyond human reasoning. But every principle that is manifest in the third dimension has had its frequency (vibration) slowed to reverberate within this heavier dimension. So everything that does exist here is pulsing with the energy of what it symbolizes. This includes the Tarot symbology. Every archetype is at a different frequency. A spread represents an energetic (symbolic) formula or story that vibrates with the reader's own energy. In other words, it lays out against the Tarot reader's own energy for every reading.
When a client creates an intention for a reading (an energetic emanation) upon the Tarot deck of symbols, as the cards are shuffled, these cards become altered according to the energy of the client's intention. The symbols on the cards that appear in the spread reverberate back to the Tarot reader's own energy field. The reader is drawn to the symbols in the deck that vibrate in harmony with the energy of the intention. Then they go on to interpret the symbols which provide guidance and inspiration for the client. The more clear the reader's mind, the more accurately the energies will fit into one another for a meaningful tale. So this leads to the reader being able to read the symbology more accurately, and it causes the energetic blueprint for the client (the positioning of the cards to one another) to be more accurate. So in a way, a Tarot spread and the reading "works" by using both the client's energy and the reader's energy, as well as the energy of the deck. The reading is, then, a reading of the reader as much as for the client.
We are born with five basic senses that can only tap into the most dense third-dimensional information. We know, of course, that we have many lesser-discovered senses known as either a sixth sense or a third eye. These specialized senses pick up refined information through personal intention. It's not always easily accessed. If you (soul) have worked on activating these higher senses in previous lifetimes, then you most likely will have access to them in this one.
I attempt to keep an open mind and when time allows, read what others have to say about this web of connectedness that extends throughout all of time (as we know it) and throughout all galaxies. This is what allows so much communication with those who have passed. Tarot is no different. It's using this same communicative energetic web. I call it a "spiritual underground" with no long distance charges. That's why the departed are able to keep such close tabs on us here. That's why Tarot could also involves spiritual manipulation. It's really quite easy to move objects between dimensions or so I've been told by spirit. And I have faith that Tarot cards would not present any surmountable challenge to the realms.