In most people's minds, "Tarot card reading" means a woman in flowing robes, leaning over a small table in a candlelit room, foretelling impending doom.
But that's not really what Tarot cards are about. In fact, they're not even really meant to tell your fortune or future. According to The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, "The most powerful sources of information come from within; the Tarot aids in coming in contact with one's Higher Self."
But what does that mean? In this article, we'll look at the various ideas about where Tarot cards come from, what they mean and how a deck of cards can possibly tell you anything about yourself. You'll learn why it matters where the cards fall and why you don't have to be a psychic to do a Tarot reading....AND how being a psychic sometimes helps in understanding a cards meaning.

Types of Readings

There are actually two different types of Tarot readings: question readings and open readings.

Question Readings

In question readings, you are addressing a specific question. Tarot is not intended to answer specific yes or no questions. Most say it also shouldn't be used to make decisions, but instead should be used as a guide to help you make the decision yourself. For this reason, the way a question is stated is very important. According to every Tarot reader / instructor / teacher, I've studied & learned from, questions should:
  • Keep your options open: If you have the answer before the reading, then you're not allowing the cards to guide your overall decision. Example: Asking how you could encourage your mother-in-law to move out, as opposed to asking how you can get along better with her, is narrowing the scope of the true question by answering it before you even get started.
  • Find the best level of detail: Your question should be focused, but not overly detailed. Rather than looking at one particular aspect of a problem, find a way to look more broadly at it. For example, rather than asking how you can make your home life less chaotic, ask how you can better balance kid schedules and adult schedules. That is a focused question. But do not go so far as to ask how you can coordinate baseball, soccer and Cub Scout schedules and still have family time -- that's too detailed. Only include the minimum level of detail needed in order to express what you want to learn from the cards.
  • Focus on yourself or the person your reading for: If the reading is for yourself, make sure your question focuses on you rather than on someone else who you think may be the root of your problem. And the same when reading for another....For example, asking why your son is experimenting with drugs is focusing on him, not you. Asking what role you play in your son's decision to experiment with drugs brings the focus of the question back to you.
  • Stay neutral: In order to stay open to other points of view, your question has to be neutral and not convey a preconceived notion that your view is necessarily the right one. The cards can give you guidance if you ask for it. For example, asking why you're doing more work around the house than your spouse isn't neutral; asking how you can get more cooperation from your spouse when it comes to housework is neutral.
  • Be positive: Make sure your question is stated in a positive rather than negative way. Instead of asking why a specific event hasn't happened, ask what you can do to help make that event happen.

Open Readings

Open readings address the larger aspects of your life rather than a specific problem area or question. They're usually done when you're entering a new phase of life, such as getting married, graduating from college or starting a family. You can somewhat direct the reading if you have a general area you want to cover, such as your career or health, but that's as specific as the direction gets.

The Tarot Deck

There are many varieties of Tarot decks / cards, all (usually) containing 78 cards per deck. While the types (brand or style) of cards differ, the suits and their meanings are the same; It's the illustrations which vary greatly, based on various themes such as nature, animals, fantasy, dragons, etc. The most common deck in the United States is the Rider-Waite deck, (which is what I have and use) & was created in 1909 by A.E. Waite and published by Rider & Company.

The Tarot deck is made up of the Minor Arcana and the Major Arcana.
MINOR ARCANA (56 Cards)- Like regular playing cards, the Minor Arcana of the Tarot deck includes four suits. Rather than spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, however, the suits are:
  • wands  (= to clubs)
  • swords  (= to spades)
  • cups  (= to hearts)
  • coins or pentacles (= to diamonds)
Each SUIT, on it's own has meanings regarding a specific approach to life. The cards within these suits are numbered 2 through 10 (and each number has meaning(s)-And then there are 4 ACES; One for each suit. The minor arcana also include the court cards -referred to as "people cards"- the king, queen, knight and page; One of each~ for each suit. -  The Minor Arcana cards represent the more minor, practical daily ups and downs in life......passing events in time - and sometimes represent types of people who may be involved in certain situations or areas of your life at the time.

MAJOR ARCANA  (22 Cards) The Major Arcana are not associated with the suits. They include the picture cards that represent principles, concepts and ideals. They are numbered one through 21, with the 22nd card (the "Fool") marked as zero. The Major Arcana cards represent strong, long-term energy or big events in some area of life....They also indicate that the area of the reading one of these cards presents itself in, is general a "destiny" type card, meaning that the situation in general may be "out of the hand" for the person the reading is for.

Before a reading is performed, the cards are shuffled by the person receiving the reading, if they are present. Some say this transfers that person's energy to the deck. The person receiving the reading should also be concentrating on the question or area for which they want guidance while he or she shuffles the deck.  When a reading is being performed for someone who is not present, The "Reader" should spend a good 15 - 30 minutes of silent, meditation type time while concentrating on the name of the person they're reading for, including what concerns that person has, if any.
Once the cards are shuffled and the deck has been cut, the reader lays out the cards in a pattern called the spread. Each position in the spread has a meaning, and there are many different types of spreads, ranging from those that incorporate a single card to spreads that include all 78 cards of the deck. Which spread is used is up to the reader and the specific type of question or reading. Once a spread is chosen, there is an order in which the cards are laid down for the spread and that each card position within the spread has a meaning. There are many different meanings that each position can have --  The card meanings  are combined with the position meanings. In addition, combinations of cards or card pairings also affect meanings.  Every card has it's own "general" meaning......It's when it's within an area of a spread, that it's meaning becomes more specified.....but still has variations - It is for this reason most Tarot Readers will give the person they read for ALL the possible meanings of each card, in it's particular area of the spread - allowing the person they are reading for to decide which meaning is best describing their situation in that particular area of life or question in which the cards landed in when dealt.  I always tell people I'm reading for - "Take what "fits" and chunk out the rest.  This is another reason the Tarot and it's readers are not "fortune tellers" but "advisers".

Reversed Cards

Because Tarot cards each have one picture that faces in one direction, it is possible that cards will be facing the opposite direction when dealt. According to most sources, this doesn't change the meaning of the card, but simply weakens the impact of the meaning.......kind of like turning the positive aspects of the card into a more negative aspect......It gives a lot of insight on areas that are challenging or troublesome.

OK- Now, most people would agree....these are "just cards".....How do they tell or advise on anyone? 

Tarot-card Philosophy

How can randomly drawn cards have any relevance to someone's life and what's happening in it? What most readers say the Tarot can enlighten you about are the choices you have. The cards don't tell you what you should do or what specifically is going to happen in your future, but rather the possibilities depending on the path you take. Here are some theories behind how Tarot cards could possibly work.
It's believed that in addition to the repeatable cause-and-effect relationships on which the scientific world is so strongly based, there is also another connecting principle that does not share that cause-and-effect relationship; Synchronicity. Synchronicity explains the guiding forces in the universe. Things we might see as coincidence are actually signs that can help us make decisions and guide our lives -- if we recognize them.  There are some that you can do a reading for and they will tell you - NOPE, nothing you said even correlates to my life........ and 9 times out of 10, it's simply things they refuse to see or acknowledge within themselves or someone else.  Now......some scientist break it down even further......Synchronicity "phenomenon" is the result of  quantum mechanics;  The relationships of particles and their random inter-connectivity, with behaviors being probabilities rather than certainties.  There are those who believe that because the forces of quantum mechanics affect the reality of physical objects, Tarot cards might play the role of showing us paths and patterns and helping us understand the meaning in those guiding energies. Although, according to the principles of quantum mechanics, once you see the possible outcomes in the Tarot reading, you've changed the probabilities......You are now, hopefully aware of how/why/where general, and as each of us were born with - FREE WILL - we have the power to change our future at the drop of a dime -
Some say it all boils down to your subconscious mind. Arguably, how we perceive things relies heavily on our subconscious, and there are those who believe that with Tarot, the subconscious projects its own interpretations on the Tarot cards. As a person receiving a Tarot reading, your interpretation of the cards is a result of the factors in your life that shape who you are and what you are about. The questions you have about your life (usually the reason for consulting the Tarot in the first place) are projected onto the pictures, so you divine answers from what you see. In this way, the Tarot is useful in helping us to tap into our subconscious to find answers that we might never consciously think of.
Devine Intervention:  Tarot Readers who also have certain psi gifts and/or medium abilities, often will ask someone "on the other side" to assist them in revealing the cards that will best help and advise the person they are reading for.  That being said, it isn't just the "psychic/mediums" who do this..... Many Tarot Readers pray for guidence and direction when doing a reading.....Yet, a psychic/medium often use the cards in many other psi activities / readings to gain a better knowledge or understanding of a particular situation.

Whether you believe that Tarot cards hold any power or ability to shed light on your life, your problems or your future might depend on how easily you can open you mind to the idea of it. Many Tarot-card readers have differing ideas about how or why the Tarot works. I believe in all 3 ways above...In addition, I believe we only need the Tarot to help us until we learn to get in touch with our "inner guide" on our own.....