Roots of Tarot
Is it an exact science or 'woo woo' mysticism? Explore the intriguing world of tarot cards and discover their historical significance and contemporary interpretations. Our guide provides insights into the varying perspectives on tarot's validity, allowing you to form your own informed opinion.
By Davina Catt / Dec 07 2023
Over the past few years, the art of Tarot card reading has transcended its roots as an antiquity-based form of psychic ‘seeing into the future’ into a contemporary and popular medium that can give life direction or insight in a chaotic world.
However, with Tarot readings becoming so readily available, almost gimmicky in the way this spirituality practice is now marketed - from luxury parties to the front hall of Selfridges – is it really a sacrosanct means to determine your future or a woo-woo spiritual practice turned trendy fad?
As someone who has practised Tarot sessions, over a sustained period, the answer is arguably neither.
the history of tarot
The art of tarot is definitely rooted in ancient history and spirituality: the pack of 78 deck cards can be first traced back to the early 1500’s in various parts of Europe – although originally the cards were used across France and Italy to play card games such as Tarocchini, it wasn’t until the late 18th century that occultists attributed their history and meaning to divination and the deck of cards became used for readings. (This is why you might come across different types of card packs).
There is historical confusion around tarot – whilst in English speaking countries the cards were never used for games so the cards are only available for divination purposes, and Western occultists have claimed the cards had esoteric links to ancient Egypt, tantra, the Kabbalah, historians actually cannot accurately verify their ancient association with the divine.
Whilst the origins of the cards are obscure, a tarot deck will consist of two arcana: the first is made up of 22 seductive names including The Magician, The High Priestess, The Sun, with the most recognisable The Fool, symbolising ‘new beginnings.’ The second arcana consists of court cards like The King, The Knight and the suits including Suit of Cups, Suit of Tentacles.
So what do these cards mean and how can they help you achieve life direction? The major arcana tarot cards reveal messages about the big picture of your life and its long-term direction: for instance, The High Priestess represents human wisdom, and if picked would advise you to focus on your wellbeing, to adhere to a chosen spiritual practice as a path to freedom.
The other arcana, The Wands, suggest action, initiative and invention as a guide to how you move through life, whilst The Cups, represents emotions, intuition and relationships to guide you in love and process your feelings.
mind + spirit
but are tarot readings reliable and can a reading provide a reading provide a sacrosanct look into your future?
The answer is abstract – from my experience, whilst readings which cover about a year into the future, can be somewhat accurate in predicting future occurrences, it is imperative that they are not viewed as an exact science. They do not provide sacrosanct answers but are better viewed as supporting your life choices rather than making them for you.
It’s best to ask for an open reading – go in with no preconceptions – the tarot reader will lay out a card spread designed to reflect what exactly is going on in your life in general. In many cases this form of reading can provide you with new ideas and warn you about impending problems.
It’s also important not to hold onto the readings to exactly – the location of an event, timings and form a person coming into your life can take can all shift from the initial reading to the occurrence.
It’s also important to remember even the most experienced Tarot readers are still challenging the readings through you, so situations can alter with your own change in mindset or direction.
Tarot can be arguably summed up as physically, a deck of picture cards, spiritually, a mini holy book of sorts, and emotionally a portable therapy session.
It’s good to do lots of research on Tarot card readers as it’s such a personal medium.