Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ten Tarot Myths

What do you mean...Evil??
The odds are, if you're at all familiar with Tarot cards, you've heard some of the stories associated with them. Some are anecdotal ("I read for a friend, all the lights went out, and we heard a demonic voice laughing...") or more institutional ("Tarot dates back to ancient Egypt, and represents the hidden wisdom of the ages"). There are a lot of them out there, and while by no means comprehensive, I'm hoping to address a few of the more common ones here. So let's first start with one I hear a good deal- meaning no disrespect, here goes-
1. Tarot cards are evil, summon evil spirits, cause posession, and/or are Satanic.
This is a tough one to answer, as the influence the cards have depends to a large extent on how willing and able you are to be influenced by them. My experience is there is usually something going on to attract negative energy to you in the first place- if you find yourself surrounded with negativity, as sometimes happens, perhaps it's your own outlook, thoughts and actions that are at the root? Tarot is a tool for examination, not influence. So if you feel a lot of negativity around you, the Tarot can be a useful tool to root out that negativity.
In regards to Satan- well, that's really up to you. If you're not comfortable around Tarot cards, a good reader will respect that and do everything they can to make you feel a little more comfortable. And if you're still uncomfortable around the cards, that's fine also! Not all readers believe in Satan, or even an absolute evil force in the world. Again, this is a matter of personal belief. It's up to you whether or not to read, or have a reading done.
In regards to causing posession, well, how do you get posessed in the first place? Do you live in constant fear of demons? Perhaps if this is the case, you need a more objective view on life. Apart from that, again, if you find yourself with all manner of negativity, perhaps even mental issues, I encourage you to seek help with this! But as to Tarot causing it- only if you believe that. Our beliefs have a tremendous influence over us.
2. The Tarot comes from Egypt (alternately, the Romany/Gypsy people).
The simple fact is, there just isn't enough evidence to support either of these ideas. It's true that the Egyptians did indeed use playing cards, although for divination purposes, there is no real evidence of this. The Tarot may well have been used by Gypsies (my understanding was that they would more commonly use playing cards for fortune-telling), but as to origins, there are a lot of stories floating around out there. The most reliable story I've heard was that the Tarot as we know it today originated in Europe around the time of the Renaissance- the Persian region of the world was home at the time to a card game called taroq- this was brought back along with various other ideas to Europe, and the game became popular, but as a card game. It wasn't until 1781 that one Antoine Court de Gebelin first identified occult correspondences in the Tarot, and it began to gain popularity as a tool of divination. In terms of its use as a divinatory tool, I'd postulate that the fact is, it works because of common elements and aspects of human experience. Combine this with the fact that an underlying pattern exists in the world, and that everything follows that pattern- thus, the Tarot becomes a convenient but by no means exclusive tool of divination.
3. You must recieve Tarot cards as a gift-never buy your own cards
I'm still unsure where this particular superstition comes from. My experience has been, don't worry about it. If there's a deck out there that really speaks to you, and works really well for you, then great! Use that deck. Where they come from has little influence on the cards themselves, though if you consider this a major block to performing effective readings, then by all means don't buy cards. Most people choose a deck not because it chooses them, but rather because they have seen it, heard about it or otherwise encountered it and felt a resonance with it, perhaps a single symbol or card in the deck, or the deck overall.
4. You have to have a certain ritual to properly read.
Usually this is keep the cards in a box and/or wrapped in white (or black) silk, and never let anyone else touch them, or light a candle or incense, and 'clear' the deck before and after. Now, this is putting the proverbial cart ahead of the horse in many ways. I highly recommend having a pre-reading routine, to focus your mind and bring your thoughts in line with the reading you're about to do. Having a set routine like that will help you gather your thoughts, and often make your reading more effective. Think of it as a form of meditation- it can alter your mental state and outlook, and calm you down in many ways. But if your routine differs from mine, does that make you less effective, and me right and you wrong? Not necessarily. Again, it's about the ends, not the means. If you're feeling wound up, stressed out or upset, yes, your readings will be less effective. Keeping your cards in a safe place and handling them with care and respect is always a good idea, however, and I recommend re-shuffling the cards after you read- again, just a personal preference, I find it removes accumulated energy in the cards, letting you start over fresh each time you do a reading. But again, the value of having a routine is that it can put you in the right mindset, free of distracting thoughts, and allow you a moment to collect your thoughts.
5. There is only one proper interpretation of the cards, (alternately the _____ Tarot is the only 'true' Tarot)
There are two elements to Tarot reading- interpretation and insight. Knowing the meaning behind the cards is the first step, and the jumping off point for doing your own readings. The meanings are generally in accordance with one another- the Death card, as a for example, rarely means you'll recieve cupcakes in the mail, though this too is not beyond the scope of probability. There are common elements in various interpretations of the cards, although there is also a degree of personal interpretation. On occasion I've had people look at a card and say "what about this picture here in the corner", or "this looks like this to me", on occasion pointing out something I had completely overlooked! The meanings of the cards allow for a degree of flexibility in reading them- the meanings will hold true to the central message of the card, yet are flexible- you may find one aspect of the card jumping out at you, or see a correlation between cards in a reading. If this is the case, go with your first impression. A good exercise for learning the cards is also to just look at the cards, and record what things each one makes you think of. My experience has been that these interpretations fall into the general meaning of the card. Keep an open mind when reading- you may not find the cards fitting precisely into the pigeon holes of one definition, and that's quite all right. Different experiences provide different meanings for different people, yet at the same time the common threads far outweigh the differences.
In terms of the second part, how there is one 'true' Tarot, my answer is, which one? I'd love to take a peek at it! It's the same as above- people relate to different symbols differently. Most readers have a concept in their head coming in of what each card means, and will generally go with this one, though again, being too rigid and fixed in your interpretation can decrease the effectiveness of your reading. So what deck is best for you? The one you relate most to, and feel most comfortable with. For me, I found there are a couple different decks I can relate to easiest- that's just me though. Some decks that other people really like, I have a tough time understanding and using. It's not wholly trial and error, actually. The first step is identify your interests, and find a deck that can relate to them. There are pretty common decks that seem to be most popular- the perennial favorite, the Rider-Waite deck, comes to mind. It's useful to get to know other decks, and ask questions of others, such as what decks do they like, what decks have they had experience with?
6. Never do your own readings.
Okay, this one actually can be pretty good advice. No one can be less objective in a reading than you yourself, and coming to a point where you can read your own cards objectively can be challenging. But it can be done, and sometimes can provide deeper insight, if you're willing to see it. This is primarily advised against because it's difficult to be objective with yourself. Ego, fear and hopes can get in the way. But there's nothing wrong with doing your own readings, just be aware that you're not exactly an impartial observer.
7. The cards indicate what's destined to happen- no avoiding it.
The Tarot points to what is likely to happen- sometimes this can be inevitable, as we know every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However, if the subject at hand is, say, the direction your life is taking, then free will does have a place in all this. You can change the course of your own life- the role Tarot plays in this is to provide insight, and show you what you may have been missing. Remember that each decision you make sets your own future in motion- in other words, the greatest influence on the course of your own life is you! The Tarot can provide guidance and insight, but don't confuse the map with the road itself.
8. Tarot readers are psychic/you need to be psychic to read Tarot.
The problem with this statement is, what definition of psychic are you using? What defines a psychic? If a psychic is someone with innate psychic abilities, as opposed to those developed over time, then no, you don't need to be psychic to read the cards. Does it help? Certainly. I've encountered a couple people who were indeed born with very potent abilities in this area. The rest of us had to work for our abilities, and if there's a difference, I have yet to find it. It's like being able to run fast, or paint or draw- some people are just better at it than others, but virtually everyone can develop these abilities through hard work and practice, practice, practice.
Some people have experienced an increase in what we'd generally call psychic powers as a result of working with the Tarot, or doing reiki, aura work, or any number of these things, and like any kind of learning, it can create new connections between your "little gray cells" and lead you to think in new ways. I don't consider myself particularly psychic, but as time has gone on, have cultivated and developed insight and understanding of these things.
9. Reversed or "bad" cards are trouble!
Actually, yes and no. Seeing negative cards in a reading doesn't mean you should head for the fallout shelter. It does warn you to keep your eyes open, and perhaps to see where this negative influence is hiding, and what you're not seeing at the present. Reversed cards usually mean this energy or influence is blocked or subverted by something else going on. If that blocked card is a negative one, do be aware that it came up in the reading in the first place, and this can be something to keep alert to. If it's a positive one, look and see what's blocking that energy from coming into your (or your client's) life. Again, keep in mind that the Tarot is a tool for insight and divination- not for predicting inevitable and dire omens! The Tarot can show you something new that you may not have seen, but does not dictate your fate- you do that yourself.
10. Tarot is the exclusive domain of Witches/Wiccans/Pagans.
Actually, there are people from all walks of life who become interested in the Tarot, and all kinds of people who find that the Tarot works for them. The Tarot did not originate with Pagans or Witches, though both of these groups have certainly made use of it. Nor does one have to be a Witch, Wiccan or any other particular religion or lineage to use the Tarot. Some people find that they have a knack for it, others gain skill through time and study, and both of these are perfectly normal ways of gaining insight to the Tarot. So all things considered, the Tarot is, at its core, simply a set of symbols and pictures. To someone who doesn't know the meaning behind those symbols, or doesn't assign meaning to them, the cards reveal nothing. However, looking at a greater pattern and applying greater meaning to the cards, we find that the cards can be a useful tool for divination.
Well, I hope this has helped to clarify a few of the ideas floating around out there in regards to the Tarot. Until next time, happy reading, and stay well, everyone!

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