Misconceptions and outdated myths about tarot have existed as long as tarot itself has. I’m kind of fascinated about the superstitions surrounding tarot. From countless popes declaring them heretic, to the old wives tales of woe for the person whom read their fate and perished in a poetically cruel way, what most of these superstitions boil down to is a fear of the unknown. Occasionally misconceptions and myths can hold back a reader from deep diving into this destination of divination. Sometimes scaring them off altogether. In this article I hope to show you that tarot is not to be feared and can actually be used as a tool for mental health, self development and lifestyle enhancement. With that being said here are some of the most popular myths:
Your first deck must be a gift/handed down
This myth was actually true for the Romani and travelling people of old: to them tarot was a sacred practise passed down through the maternal line and a tarot deck (without any little white guidebook) would be given to the young apprentice when they were ready to begin learning. Of course it wasn’t really about the deck, which itself would be incredibly difficult to find back then, but about the knowledge that would also be passed down which pre-internet days was even harder to come by. This was a way of insuring the apprentice learned a well rounded practise and good grasp on tarot before they read for the public. It was a right of passage and a way to keep a favourable reputation with patrons. Nowadays it’s silly waiting around for someone to pick up hints that your birthday is around the corner and to get a deck for you and what with decks and their imagery being such personal choices and with so many on the market the likelihood of being gifted the one you actually want can be slim. So save yourself the time and hassle and treat yo’self to whatever deck you fancy
You must not read for yourself
Honestly I don’t know where this myth came from because it really short changes the reader. You’ve spent your hard earned cash to acquire a deck, taken the time to learn the intricate art of tarot reading which can take years and now... you sit around and wait for someone to ask for a reading? Nooo. If there is any validity in this myth at all I think it’s that reading tarot for yourself can be difficult. We can be biased and only see what we want/expect to see in the cards. It’s hard to remain non-biased when we really care about the answer and why would we go to the trouble of a tarot reading if we didn’t care about the answer? My solution? Asking for a friend. Imagine this reading and it’s advice was being given to a friend and they had asked the question and only apply the answer to your situation once you are finished with the reading. It’s a neat little mental trick that keeps us in check.
Tarot is evil/to use one is working with the devil
Seriously this one just makes me laugh. I know Christian, atheist and witchy tarot readers and the idea that an image on a card could be the literal devil, well let’s just say it makes no sense to me. Tarot cards are a perfectly neutral tool that work with the mind of the reader, if you are Christian so is your deck, if you’re an atheist so is your deck and so on. They cannot conjure entities of religions if you don’t believe those entities exist, even The Devil card, is more about not being a slave to our addictions and having fun than it is about kicking ass and taking souls.
You must be psychic to use tarot
Well if this was the case I would be screwed for the last 5 years. I don’t possess any psychic abilities to my knowledge and I have a blooming and beautiful relationship with tarot. Tarot can be used with these powers but just as easily used without them. My favourite way of using tarot is for introspection and journaling, exploring our internal landscape and healing trauma. Aka solid gold skills for a happy life. If you begin working with tarot and find your psychic abilities strengthen that is awesome, but if you feel you are not this way inclined please don’t be put off tarot can still be for you
You must not read for profit/money
Again, naaahhh. There’s a clear linear route of progression you can take to get good at tarot and offer your tarot reading services, if you feel called to do so. If you provide a service you should absolutely be paid for it. Many tarot readers begin by reading for themselves, then friends, then offering free public readings and then starting with a small charge eventually upping their price as their skill grows. Often this process can take years and is a labour of love and true passion of the reader’s and a querent (person who has their cards read) is paying for this labour and attention to detail and clarification.
It’s only about finding out your future
There are so many different ways to read tarot: practically, psychically, for future divination, introspection, as a story telling/writing prompt, for journaling, dream interpretation, casting spells with cards and so many more. Read about these in more detail here. Tarot is a path that becomes specialised to you and your mind/intuition and craft the more you practise it. There is no one way we must all adhere to
Messing with fate/bad luck
I believe this myth comes from Hollywood. The classic plot of a self-fulfilling prophecy and a cruel twist of fate tests our protagonist, great hook in a movie but this myth just falls a part in real life. The cards simply do not work in this way. A superstitious person is always going to see connections and blame the cards but in reality it’s the fearful actions by the superstitious person that lead to their fate not the cards. Paper that has been printed, cut and boxed in a factory CANNOT make people do anything (except maybe buy them because they are so pretty)
The querent must/mustn’t touch the cards
This is completely down to the personal choice of the reader, I personally do not like others to touch my own deck just because it is a tool for me to use to read for them. If you went to a watch repairer you wouldn’t insist on touching the exact same tiny little screwdrivers he would be using on your watch, would you? But some readers do like this approach, they like to have the querent’s energy come directly into contact with the deck. At the beginning of my journey into reading for others I made my family shuffle their own cards. It can be very helpful to have this direct connection to the energy of the person you are reading but it gets easier in time and means less cleansing your deck
The death card means literal death
Again Hollywood got their mucky paws on my beloved Death card and I am not into it. We’ve all seen it, no matter how acquainted we are with tarot or not: in a quiet and pivotal scene of a movie a withered hand of an old hag turns over the Death card and she shrieks, the querent and probably protagonist is banished from her circus tent as she clutches her way too many layered jumble of wooden beaded necklace and lace shawl (why is it always wooden beads? So many wooden beads) in a fright the protagonist leaves in a hurry and rushes into an oncoming bus, or off a cliff to their doom. Answer me this Hollywood: why is your tarot reader so afraid of the Death card? There’s only 78 cards in a deck, for a full time tarot reader in a busy circus this card must come up daily, if not weekly. What a performance. Truly the Death card is about endings. Anything and everything ends from projects, to a day’s work to a hair style and it can be as big or small as the reader sees fit. Once the Death card told me to konmari my apartment.. so I did and it felt amazing to finally be rid of the clutter and baggage that had taken up physical and mental space for years holding me back. My point is no one died and a good thing got done
It’s all just superstitious, cold reading or just plain stupid to do what a bunch of cards say
Ah yes, cold reading, the art of staying vague enough to suit everyone but also making it feel specific to each of us as individuals: “You often feel overwhelmed, but at the same time there’s an emptiness deep down which you fear. So you distract yourself from it with love, possessions and staying busy hoping to fill this void but this acquisition of things and pleasures is exhausting leading you to burn out” -yeah, sorry to burst your bubble but that’s everyone. I’m not going to say there aren’t dodgey readers or mediums out there that use this tactic but they are so few and far between. Always do your research to find reputable tarot readers and read their reviews.
As with superstitions it is the actions of being superstitious that cause so much downfall in a person’s life. Here’s a quick experiment you can do: take this premise as fact for just a moment. Anything that is the colour green is now dreadfully unlucky. Well look up and around wherever you are right now. Are you screwed too? I’m sat on a green sofa, with fern green curtains, real and faux plants all around me, out my lounge window my green hedge taunts me. My point is if you believe something and look for it you will find it. If you fear it you will avoid it. Avoiding everything just ‘because’ leads to a very small and depressing life. The only danger with tarot is believing superstitions just because and this isn’t even tarot is superstitions which are everywhere and everything. So my advice is to question everything. Why are ‘black cats unlucky’ why is it 7 years bad luck if I break a mirror? When you probe these superstitions just a little bit you’ll see they fall to pieces and there really is no reason to believe anything other than your own experiences.
As for the part about ‘doing what the cards say’ the cards are a tool that brings you sub-conscious to the forefront of your mind. I like to describe them as an ink blot test (which is not scientifically or psychologically recognised as valid) but they are interesting as a tool of self exploration. For example, if one person sees a bat and one person sees a puppy and these animals mean different things to each reader then the individual paths of associations and memories that are accessed by them can be fascinating to explore. So we can access thoughts and behaviours that had previously been hidden or more likely drowned out by our noisy conscious brain. You’re not doing what the cards say, you are using the cards to pull out of you what you really think, you are doing what you say. For safety never ask the cards about a medical question, unless you are a doctor in which case you’d be doing what the doctor (Yourself) ordered. For everyone else, speak to a medical professional about your medical issue.
Pictured here my tarot deck featuring hand embroidered designs available here
Ultimately tarot cards are pieces of paper with art on them. Art evokes all sorts of feelings from us as it has done for centuries and will continue to do so. Tarot cards only have the power that you give them. They are no more evil than yoga, coffee or a pebble. Each of these things can be used to help or hurt, intention is everything.
It’s your deck so read it however you want. If anyone tries to tell you how you read is wrong shuffle your deck, mimic pulling them a card but super quick change it and flip em the bird 😘✌️
I loved this article…I am looking forward to become a tarot reader and I did come across a lot of these myths..but the way you’ve explained it, I am really relieved! Thanks…
I love reading what you have to say on tarot ✨ and the end just got me laughing 😂😂