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What is Tarot?


And how could a reading help a querent?

A tarot deck is a deck of cards, usually 78 cards, each with a colourful and detailed image on one side, that is used by a skilled tarot reader to 'read' for clients, traditionally referred to as 'querents'. Tarot cards have been around since the 15th century and are now one of the most popular ways of gaining fast, illuminating and helpful insights into oneself and one's life/situation/question/problems. There are many types of deck; the oldest and most popular globally, is the Rider Waite deck.

Why do people have a tarot reading?

There are two different types of Tarot readings: those where the querent has specific questions and 'open' readings where the querent may be entering a new phase in their life and just want a general reading.

People have different reasons for consulting a tarot reader; they may be feeling stuck about a certain aspect of their life and want to gain an impartial, objective perspective. They may have tried talking to friends or family, or spent hours analysing the question/situation themselves - but remain confused and frustrated. A reading can help clarify and simplify something that may have been causing them sleepless nights and sometimes needless anxiety.
At the start of a reading, the client or querent/client intuitively picks a random selection of cards which will form a 'spread'. This spread will then be interpreted for them by the reader.

What happens in a reading?

Firstly, there is nothing spooky, frightening or 'weird' about the cards or about having a tarot reading! Similarly, there are no 'evil, spooky or scary' cards, simply that some of the 78 cards serve as 'alert' cards in a spread- the reader will explain all this in their interpretation.

The procedure:

The querent will shuffle the deck well while concentrating on the question/situation that they are wanting to find out more about. Depending on the querent's question or theme (eg. career, relationship, family, money), the reader will agree with the querent which 'spread' (lay-out cards) to use and how many cards to pick for that spread. Different spreads use a different number of cards eg the '3-card spread' for quick 'Past- Present-Future' readings. When the card spread is on the table, the reader will turn them over and interpret each one individually, then read them all so they tell a unified 'story'. A card's interpretation may have a different focus, depending on the theme asked about and the card's position in the spread.

The 78 cards form two distinct groups with 22 cards in the Major arcana and 56 in the Minor arcana. Your reader will explain this to you, if cards from one or the other group appear in your spread. Cards from the "major arcana" have very specific meanings whilst Cards from the "minor arcana" may have a broader meaning. The inter-relation of cards in a spread will also be explained.

Do you need to believe in tarot?

Although you don't have to be someone who believes in tarot to benefit from a reading, participating in your reading with an open mind can be more beneficial than having a dismissive attitude.

Should you 'test' your reader by remaining silent,
or refusing to give any 'clues'

Not if you want to gain the most from your reading; after all, you wouldn't visit your GP and refuse to discuss your symptoms would you?

How do the cards work?

Tarot is a language of images and symbols, as portrayed on the cards. Tarot experts often make reference to the analytical psychologist Carl Jung. The concept of archetypes, or powerful universal symbols appearing in myths, fairytales and dreams – is a significant part of Jung's concept of the unconscious and is discussed in his book *The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Jung's theories help, say expert tarot writers, to explain the power of archetypal, symbolic systems illustrated in the imagery on Tarot cards.

All readings are unique as there are thousands of possible permutations of a spread. No one has ever really been able to explain exactly how and why a group of colourful cards, intuitively selected by the querent, can so often prove relevant and enlightening to a querent's situation.

Choosing a reader

A tarot reader must be someone who knows the meanings of the 78 cards and their images thoroughly, who practices ethically and always has the querent/client's best interests at heart. Some readers state that they are psychic, some don't; being psychic or not won't influence the quality of the reading. Having some training in basic counselling skills can be helpful for a reader. A reader should never tell a client/querent how to behave or what decision to take about their situation- that is totally down to the querent. The tarot will not and cannot predict a person's future with any certainty; nor can tarot make events happen. The responsibility for shaping our own lives is ultimately down to us; we all have free will to decide how, when and why to live, act and speak.

Legal disclaimers etc.

Lastly, some tarot readers prefer to err on the side of caution and publish legal disclaimers on their websites or publicity materials such as. "Readings are not a substitute for advice from a legal, medical, financial or counselling professional." Some also stipulate that readings cannot be given to under-18s. Ethical practice would also expect readers not to offer services to 'vulnerable' clients such as those suffering from severe mental stress/illness or those who have severe learning difficulties. However, it can be very difficult to obtain or ascertain such information at a busy, noisy MBS/holistic fair or event. If a reader were to ask a querent sensitive health-related questions before agreeing to read for them, this would need to be done tactfully, sensitively and non-intrusively, in a quiet, confidential environment.

*C. J. Jung. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton N.J. Princeton University Press. Vol. 9:1, para 81. 1981

Sue Fryer

Article by Sue Fryer of Tarot and Therapies.
tel: 01206825400



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