Misconceptions about Tarot – part 2

Last week we looked at a few myths about getting your first deck, and I would like to continue looking at the various misconceptions surrounding Tarot. This is going to be part two of what I intend to be a three-part series. So let’s jump back into it.

The cards have static meanings/can only be read one way

Now when I speak about this as a misunderstanding, it’s not that I’m saying the cards don’t have specific keywords and concepts that they represent. I’m talking more about the idea that these meanings exist in isolation; when, in reality, they are influenced by the context in which they appear.

So what are the contexts in which a Tarot card can be drawn, you ask? Well, it mostly comes down to several things:

  1. Is the card drawn upright also known as dignified, or reversed?
  2. The type of reading/question being asked.
  3. The card’s position in the spread and spread being used.
  4. The cards that came before and after it.

As you can see when you look at any guide for the tarot, there are various associations and keywords linked to the individual cards. Let’s take one of the more famous cards as an example – the Wheel of Fortune.

Generally, this is regarded as a positive card (if drawn upright) and some of the keywords you’d come across for this card include; Change, cycles, and fate.

When this card comes up reversed those keywords would be; No control, clinging to control, and bad luck. 

With these in mind, consider how those meanings could apply to a simple closed question where you’re looking for a yes/no answer. Now think how you’d consider those same meanings in a basic past, present and future reading.

How would you interpret the wheel for each place in the spread if he appeared upright? What if it came up reversed? You don’t have to do this thought exercise, it’s merely included to illustrate the depth of the symbolism of each card from just it’s key concepts alone. If you found this useful, please do let me know and I’ll endeavour to include more illustrations in this way to help deepen your understanding. 

The death card means that you are going to die soon

The death card might be the most famous or infamous cards in tarot and there are many mistaken beliefs about it in particular. The name alone seems to speak to the primal fear of the majority of people. When coupled with the traditional imagery of a skeleton riding a horse, it makes this card one that people want to see the least.

In reality, this card is a powerful portent of change and transformation, as such, one of my tarot decks renamed the death card to ‘Transformation’.

When explaining the meaning of this card to people, I encourage them to think of it like the mythical phoenix, or the end of one chapter and the start of another. These analogies work well for the core meaning of rebirth which is represented by the death card. The thing to remember is that everything in Tarot is a symbol, and it shouldn’t be taken literally. 

Thinking back to the previous myth we just talked about, all the cards in tarot have contextual meaning and the death card is no different. If you’re considering making an important change in your life or wishing to start a new project this is one of the best draws you could get. Even reversed, as the inverted meaning is simply that of fearing change instead of embracing it. With that in mind let’s talk about the last myth for today.

The devil card means you are or will be possessed

Continuing to look at the negative connotations linked to tarot imagery we have the Devil card.

Now there are a few reasons for the apprehension surrounding this one, and it can be considered to have its roots in the idea that tarot is associated with black magic and the occult. If I had to guess at the origins of this idea, I would say it’s more likely to have multiple rather than a single point of originality.

Traditional art for this card would normally depict Baphomet, as opposed to the actual Christian Devil himself. Although I’ve had people insist that the presence of this card proves the Tarot is a tool of the devil.

In reality, the devil card is a warning about excesses, and when it is drawn reversed can be a rather positive card. That being said, it is not a card that is completely negative or completely positive in either the upright or inverted position. In my experience, the devil card is one of the most context heavy cards in the entire deck, if not the most.

It can be a warning, or it can be a spotlight shining on things we are hiding from ourselves. When this card appears it’s usually to underline the importance of the message from the previous cards, as the associations of this card are heavily linked to the past. Be it allowing ourselves to be chained to it, or breaking free from it.  When dealing with the Devil card, it is tempting to buy into the religious symbolism, which is, ironically, the core concept of this card. If it appears in your readings, pay close attention to the preceding card and the one directly following it. As things are rarely what they seem when the Devil appears, after all, he is a trickster.

I hope this has been useful, in helping to clear up some of the more negative ideas which can cloud your perception when working with the Tarot. In my experience my cards have always been a loyal friend, treat them with respect and they will pay it back tenfold. Next week I’m going to conclude my discussion on the more common myths about tarot cards. Thanks again for joining me

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