The common perception of Tarot is that it is a divinatory tool, a way of seeing into the future. While this isn’t wrong per se, it’s a very simplistic view of a tool that offers significantly more value than popular imagery of gypsy fortune tellers in fairground booths would have you believe. Tarot is a tool to help you realize one of many potential futures and to make that future the best that you can. My opinion here may differ to some witches (though I’ll be blunt, it won’t differ greatly to the credible ones) but there is no such thing as a preordained future. As beings with free will we control our own lives and we shape our own destiny - Fact.
As the future is an ever changing landscape, it follows that the real value of Tarot lies in helping the querant to form and command their own future. I’ll be honest, if Tarot was about predicting a predestined future, I wouldn’t touch it. I would have no interest in knowing if there were huge catastrophes heading my own way that I would be unable to influence and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position where I had to share the knowledge of future doom and gloom with others. I’d rather not know and it would be kinder to others not to tell them.
I have on occasion sensed a certain disappointment that I am not providing my querant with specific facts about what their future holds - the whole “read my mind” kind of thing. I don’t really enjoy reading for these kinds of people, I always feel they are looking more for a validation of magic and a display of impressive powers than they are in obtaining any useful insight into their lives. There’s certainly a market for that kind of thing, but those seeking pseudo psychic showmanship would be better off in the fortune telling booth than in consulting a witch who seeks to illuminate rather than instruct.
The other irritation I have when reading for people is that they try to make the cards fit what they believe already. They come to a reading with a definite idea and simply want the reading to corroborate it. There is little value in such a reading. Tarot is about opening your mind to different ideas and concepts, it is about questioning your direction and widening your mind to the fact that you may need to do things differently. A good Tarot reading can sometimes send you headed in an entirely new direction, your path illuminated by your willingness to rethink your established ideas. Most Tarot readers have been told at some point that they are “wrong,” but this makes no sense, the cards are there to make you think and to reconsider your own solutions. If you are unwilling to do so, you will derive very little benefit from a Tarot session and you are probably wasting your time and money in attending one.
There is a world of difference between tarot reading and fortune telling. Fortune telling itself is largely based on perception, psychological tricks and the willingness of the participant to believe what they are told. The very fact that a person turns up in a fortune telling booth speaks volumes about what kind of person they are… The fortune teller will have a pretty shrewd idea that the querant is going to buy whatever they are told merely by the fact that they have turned up asking the questions. Simple facts such as whether a person is married are easily discerned (wedding ring, tan line on person where wedding ring removed before the reading) and presented as deep insight, adding false credibility when the fortune teller starts talking about the future. The “trick” is to convince the querant that because the teller can speak with authority and knowledge about a person’s present, they can speak with similar authority about their future. Generally however, knowledge about the present is fairly easily picked up by anyone with a talent for reading people and of course the future can simply be made up…
Some facts are also pretty universal. It’s safe to say that if you are married, you’ve been through some rocky times. No intuition at all on my part to tell you that, but I know that it’s true. Sometimes you don’t feel appreciated, you worry your life is stuck in a rut, you’d like more outlet for your creativity and there’s a lot more to you than anybody else understands. And the reason I know that? Because we all feel those things. No psychic ability required – if you’re human you’ve had ups and downs – simple as that. Presenting universal emotions as psychic insight is a favourite trick of the fortune teller because they know you will believe the truth when you hear it, particularly if you want to hear it. They play on the fact that everybody likes to think of themselves as an individual. But the real truth is that we’re all a lot more similar than we like to think. Telling you that you feel something that 99% of the population also feels isn’t really a winner of a parlour trick in my book.
Fortune Tellers with a basic psychic ability do exist of course. I’m certainly not denying the existence of psychic powers. However I would question the inherent power of anyone who makes a living charging £1 to read palms on Brighton beach as it’s hardly the embodiment of witchy success. I would also qualify that, even if some insights can be gleaned through psychic methods, such ability does not mean that a psychic fortune teller is any more gifted at seeing the future than even a complete charletan would be. An ability to know the present does not entail an ability to see into the future. And remember that there is no one single scripted future - anybody charging you money to tell you facts about a so called scripted future is wrong and either deluded or lying to you. There is a tendency to treat psychics with reverence and awe but, although some are to be admired for what they do, it is important not to place them on the pedestal of the all powerful. Psychic “gnosis” is just another skill, just another way of getting information. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because a person has psychic ability they can also read the future, the two abilities are very different skills indeed.
Incidentally, the other key tool of success in the Fortune Teller’s armoury is the tendency to tell you what you want to hear. I watched a brilliant episode of Derren Brown once where he illustrated this concept perfectly. He wrote out a highly detailed profile for several guests on his show and gave each of his guests a copy. Each of them praised him for having the insight and intuition to describe their personalities exactly. The trick of course was that he gave exactly the same profile to each guest. Because the profiles were positive (and because, again, the type of people on his show will have more than a passing interest in the mind and in the powers of Derren himself) each guest wanted to identify with the profile and found ways to do so. Fortune Tellers work the same way, the only difference being that they are significantly less honest than Mr. Brown and claim psychic powers rather than psychological understanding.
So Tarot has picked up this rather unfortunate association with seaside fun and fakery, which is a shame because, used properly, the Tarot can be a positive tool of reflection and introspection and become a clear guide to shaping your own future. When I read the cards, I am looking not so much for facts and predictions as much as guidance and support. Take as an example my old favourite the nine of swords. Probably the most miserable card in the entire deck. On the surface of it it is a harbinger of gloom, misery and despair. But as we take Tarot to be a guide to a possible future and not an insight into the predestined, I can work with a querant who draws the card and help them to make life choices and decisions which will allow them to circumvent the misery that may happen if they continue to tread the path they are currently on. The people for whom I read have the power to redirect their path, to listen to the lessons from the cards we read together and to use those lessons as a sound foundation in making their lives better and more productive.
Tarot helps a person to take responsibility for their life and to control the way forward so they approach the future they want. The querant, not the cards (and certainly not the reader) are in final command of that future. The skill of the tarot reader is helping a querant to recognize their own power and to assist them in understanding the steps they need to take to bring about the future/s they want.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1080831 (pirshulet)