Fortune telling, spiritual practice, encoded magickal rites, a medieval game – Tarot has certainly been used as all of these. Like any language, Tarot can be used to empower or oppress. But at its core, it is neither good nor evil, it simply “is”.
Tarot is a symbolic language that uses 78 cards in combination to describe the totality of human experience. The deck is made up of 56 minor arcana cards (which correspond to our modern playing cards with one extra court card for each suit) and 22 major arcana cards. In the four suits of the minor arcana we find expressions of the four classical elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. The fifth element of Spirit or Aether is embodied in the 22 cards of the major arcana. While the names of the suits and of the court cards vary from deck to deck, it is generally understood that a Tarot deck is a pack of cards that conforms to this structure. There are other decks of cards used for divination that do not conform to this structure. Lenormand decks, oracle decks, or even decks of playing cards can be used to offer guidance or make predictions.
For me, Tarot is the lens I view the world through. When I’m having a day where everything I do seems to accomplish the opposite of what I intended, I think “ok, so it’s a 5 of Wands kind of day!” and then go about rescheduling whatever I can or a time that may be more productive. If I’m facing a multi-faceted problem that requires decisiveness and strong leadership, I’ll try to embody The Emperor. If the solution seems like it might go down better with a little sugar, I may switch to embodying the all-loving Empress. This matching of moods and situations to Tarot cards is constant for me. If something doesn’t make sense to me in English, I translate it into Tarot and the path forward becomes clear.