Have you ever tried talking about tarot with someone, only to have them scoff and tell you it’s all a bunch of nonsense? Chances are, that person probably thinks that tarot cards are magical objects that claim to tell your future. They likely connect tarot reading with the image of a witchy woman in a darkened tent, spreading her cards out next to a crystal ball.
While these aren't necessarily bad (or entirely false) assumptions, they don't paint the whole picture of tarot reading. The art of tarot is mysterious and complex, so it's no wonder it's become laden with myths and misconceptions.
But it’s important to know the truth about tarot. We get a lot of questions about this mystical practice here at Dragonspace, and we’ve written a few blog posts about it before like Introduction to Tarot & Oracle and 10 Unique Tarot Decks. But this week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the myths and misconceptions about tarot, and the truth behind them. We've also included some images of cards from our favourite decks along the way - just click on the images to find out more about each deck!
Tarot is about ‘predicting the future’
The art of reading tarot is certainly connected to the ‘future’. But it’s not as black-and-white as your future being laid out like a movie in the the cards. Rather, your individual tarot card reading should help you to make sense of your past and your present, to best inform your future pathway.
The tarot cards are ultimately symbols or archetypes. Your tarot card reader will explain these symbols to you and will suggest how they are connected to your life. In turn, you’ll make your own emotional, spiritual and mental connections to these symbols. From this, a picture will end up forming of your current situation and where it might lead - whether it’s related to romance, family, work, creativity, identity or otherwise. A tarot reading might illuminate a specific pathway for you, but it likely won’t predict your future in eerie detail. And that shouldn’t be the point.
You have to be psychic to read the tarot
People with psychic or highly intuitive abilities will definitely be naturals at reading the tarot. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be either of those things to learn. If you’re open and dedicated to the practice, you can learn how to read tarot by studying the history and meanings of the cards, as well as a variety of different theories by professional readers. All it takes is a keen mind and an eager spirit.
There are certainly amazing professional tarot readers out there, and it’s worth going to visit one if you’re interested in the practice. There’s always something new to learn, and as tarot reading is such an individual artform, it’s interesting to hear other people’s interpretations and perspectives on the cards.
You can’t buy your own tarot cards
There are a lot of opinions out there about buying tarot cards. Some people believe that you should never buy your own tarot cards, and that they have to instead be given to you. Other people believe that if you are buying your own tarot cards, you should be the first one to touch them as they come out of the case or the packaging.
This myth isn’t necessarily false. Rather, it’s up to the individual to decide - there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ belief when it comes to buying tarot decks. Many people believe it’s actually important that you do buy your own tarot cards, as there are so many different and diverse decks, only you will know which one is best for you. If you’re in the market for your first tarot deck, have a read of all the different beliefs out there, and then decide what’s ringing true to you. If there’s one thing tarot reading is, it’s that it’s a highly individual practice and you make your own rules.
Cards like ‘Death’ and the ‘Hanged Man’ are terrible omens
We might have the movies to blame for this one. How often have you seen a ‘Death’ or ‘Hanged Man’ tarot deck pulled in a film or TV show in order to foretell some dark or deadly plot line? While it definitely has dramatic effect, it’s given these tarot cards a bad name.
The Death tarot card is actually a signifier of endings, transformation and transitions. Sometimes in life, things have to die to make way for regeneration and revival. This can be the death of bad habits, the death of toxic relationships, or otherwise. So it can actually be a very positive card to pull!
The Hanged Man is a little more difficult to decipher. The Hanged Man has a multitude of interpretations, but most of them indicate surrender and sacrifice. If you pull the Hanged Man card, it might be a sign that you’re holding onto something that you need to let go of, or hesitating to make an important decision. Like the Death card, while the Hanged Man looks ominous, it’s actually an important and fascinating card to apply to your own life.
Reversed cards are the negative version of upright cards
Most of the time when you’re pulling your tarot cards from your deck, they'll emerge in an upright position. But every so often, you’ll pull a card that’s upside down. This is called a reversed card, and reversed cards have slightly different meanings to their upright versions. But contrary to popular belief, this meaning isn't always negative.
Reversed cards normally represent the same energy as their upright versions, but in a suppressed, inverse or incomplete state. For example, the Sun tarot card is all about energy, vitality and success. A reversed Sun could mean that that same energy is being internalised within yourself, rather than projected outwards. This is an important message in itself, and can teach you a lot.
Some tarot readers choose to dismiss reversed cards, so it's up to you if you decide to include them in your practice. But be mindful that they're not a necessarily negative addition to the deck, like some people think.
As you can see, there are quite a few myths and misconceptions about tarot. And that’s fair enough - it is a mysterious art, after all! But now that you know the reality behind these rumours, you’ll be able to enlighten the next person who scoffs at your interest in tarot reading. You’ll never win them all, of course, but you’ll be all the wiser for knowing the truth.