All About Tarot
Get answers to all your burning Tarot questions ...
So you want to explore Tarot, but you don't know where to begin? You're not alone! Many Tarot beginners find the cards confusing and intimidating at first. We’re here to demystify this time-honored tool -- without taking away any of the magic.
Read on to get answers to some of the most common Tarot questions and explore all our helpful resources.
What is Tarot?
Tarot is a divination system that uses a specific set of 78 illustrated cards. Some people see Tarot as a way to peer into the future or examine hidden aspects of a situation, while others use it as a therapeutic resource or simply a support for thinking outside the box and creating a sacred moment for themselves.
What are Tarot cards, and how do you use them?
Tarot cards are small, paper cards that come in a deck, similar to playing cards, and are used for divinatory purposes. Each card represents a different archetypal energy or fundamental life lesson.
There are many ways to use Tarot cards. Most commonly, Tarot cards are used for personal readings, allowing people to ask their most pressing life questions and find answers in the symbols and imagery of the Tarot. Beyond readings, though, you can use Tarot cards as prompts for meditation, as beautiful reminders of personal goals, or as inspiration points for journaling or artistic expression. The possibilities are practically endless!
What is a Tarot card reading? Are Tarot readings real?
In its simplest form, a Tarot card reading involves simply focusing on something you want to know, shuffling a deck of Tarot cards, and then pulling one or more cards from the deck at random. The most important part of a Tarot reading comes in the interpretation. As you examine and reflect on the cards that appear in your reading, new perspectives come to light, allowing you to access deeper understanding and empowerment.
Tarot readings are very real! There are dozens of ways to read Tarot cards, but regardless of the specific approach, Tarot readings are built on real emotions, real questions, and real insights.
How many cards are in a Tarot deck?
A standard Tarot deck includes 78 cards. The first 22 are called the Major Arcana. The remaining 56 Minor Arcana cards are divided into four suits (most often called the Wands, the Cups, the Swords, and the Pentacles). Occasionally, a deck creator will include additional cards beyond the original 78 in order to express their artistic vision. Consider them a bonus!
How do you read Tarot cards?
There are many ways to read Tarot cards, but here are some helpful steps to consider, meant especially for beginners:
- Consider your question. It’s best to keep your question open-ended and figure out what you truly want to know. Sometimes our real questions are hidden under a few layers of false ideas, so take your time.
- Select or create a Tarot spread with positions that relate to that question. There are many spreads available online or in Tarot guidebooks to inspire you. (Pro tip: if you’re new to Tarot, try a 3-card Tarot spread. Three cards are usually enough to give you plenty of information without being too overwhelming.)
- Shuffle the cards. There’s no special trick to this! You’re welcome to shuffle the cards however you like. As you do so, meditate on your question and take some deep breaths in order to feel grounded and centered.
- Sit with the cards and interpret them to answer your question. You don’t have to memorize the traditional meaning of every card in order to do this -- consulting a guidebook or other resource is perfectly fine. Keep in mind that the traditional meanings are only one part of the Tarot equation. If you see something in a card that reminds you of a certain relationship, a chapter in your life, or a lesson you’re learning, that recognition counts for a lot! Your own emotions and intuition will help you decipher the messages that are truly meant for you. Remember to pay attention to the way the cards relate to one another. If the Queen of Swords and The Hermit are facing one another, that could be significant. If The Fool is about to fall off a cliff and land in the Ten of Cups, think about what that indicates in your life. There’s magic to be found in the interactions between your cards.
Where does Tarot come from?
The origins of Tarot are a subject of much speculation and debate! The oldest Tarot cards still in existence were made in Italy during the 15th century, but evidence suggests that these decks were used to play a run-of-the-mill card game and didn’t have any association with spirituality or divination quite yet.
However, the archetypal roots of today’s Tarot deck can be traced back thousands of years to traditions from China, India, Egypt, Greece, and the Middle East. Fans of mythologies and philosophies from these parts of the world will likely notice subtle references in the cards.
Why do Tarot readings feel so powerful?
Ask a hundred different Tarot readers this question, and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers! That said, here are some of the most common explanations for the power of Tarot and why it’s been able to deliver illuminating insights for so many over the years:
The collective unconscious
Tarot is wrapped up in symbols and stories that all humanity recognizes. Influential psychoanalyst Carl Jung coined the term “collective unconscious” to describe a shared understanding into which we’re all born. Here’s how he put it in a 1936 lecture: “In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature … there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.”
Even if you haven’t studied Tarot in a serious way, your connection to the collective unconscious can give you an intuitive understanding of the cards. Timeless truths from these archetypes can speak to you, no matter your situation, and help you find your way.
Have you ever thought about an old song you haven’t heard in years … only to turn on the radio and hear it playing? Or learned a random fact for the first time and then noticed several references to it the very next day? Coincidences like these are sometimes called synchronicities. Even though there’s no obvious causal link between the events, it feels like they must be connected somehow! Life delivers these mysterious little gifts from time to time, and Tarot can certainly be a part of that. Any card can give you valuable information, but there are moments when the perfect card shows up in a way that feels positively magical.
As human beings, we search for meaning. We love to create stories that help us make sense of our experiences. Tarot readings are a perfect fit for that impulse. Our meaning-making minds can look at the illustrations and fill in the blanks between them, creating a narrative that mirrors our own lives.
Looking to go a little deeper? Check out our in-depth guide to reading Tarot for a full explanation of how Tarot works.
Are Tarot cards evil? Can Tarot cards ruin your life?
Certainly not. Tarot cards rely on your intuition to shuffle and select the cards and to understand how they apply to you. There is no evil force guiding them, and Tarot readings aren’t used to invite any negative influences into your life or anyone else’s.
There are some who find Tarot intimidating or frightening. People may be scared they'll hear something terrible or inevitable about their future. However, Tarot is nothing to fear. It's simply a tool to give you the insight and advice you need to change your life for the better.
Can Tarot tell the future?
A Tarot reading can give you a very keen sense of the probabilities inherent in a situation, but that’s mostly because it helps you understand your past experiences and the present moment more fully. It can help you see aspects of a situation that have been invisible to your ego.
Some Tarot traditions lean more heavily into predicting the future, but for most people in the modern era, Tarot is simply a valuable form of meditation that returns insight. Consult the Tarot as if you were asking the advice of a wise friend or teacher.
Long story short: Tarot can help you understand the future you’re currently creating. Nothing is set in stone, however, and the self-reflection that Tarot supports enables you to make choices that will shape your path and, if needed, allow you to change direction.
Are online Tarot readings authentic?
It's a question we get a lot, and you may be surprised when you hear our answer: online Tarot readings can be even more authentic than in-person readings.
Why is this? It’s because you're the one doing the reading! There are a lot of gifted Tarot readers out there, but there are also a lot with their own preconceived opinions that can get in the way of interpreting the cards in the most meaningful way for you. When you're doing an online reading, you're tapping into your own intuition instead of outsourcing to someone else.
By combining interactivity, a meditative online environment, and your own unique energy, we help you pull the answers from within you. By giving you the necessary tools -- including in-depth meanings of the cards specific to their unique positions and advice for using the information you're given -- we put you in control of shaping your own destiny.
Want to see for yourself? Try our
Can anyone read Tarot cards?
In short: yes, anyone can read Tarot cards! It definitely takes effort to familiarize yourself with the cards and figure out your preferred ways of working with them, but anyone who’s interested can learn, and even those without any particular Tarot knowledge can find wisdom in the cards.
A common myth or misconception is that you have to be psychic to read Tarot. This simply isn’t true! You don’t have to have some sort of supernatural power that allows you to see into the future or know what people are thinking in order to find a lot of meaning in the cards. Some people will have a greater initial comfort with Tarot, sure, but everyone possesses the key ingredient for reading Tarot: intuition.
We are all intuitive beings, but many people have shut down their intuition, refusing to listen to their inner voice. They downplay the intuitive flashes they get and pass them off as silly feelings that mean nothing. Saying "yes" to those seemingly unexplainable messages and gut instincts will help you interpret Tarot cards and navigate your life’s path.
How do you shuffle Tarot cards?
When it comes to shuffling methods, you can handle Tarot cards the same way you would any regular deck of playing cards. You can cut and mix the deck over and over, or you can simply jumble the cards on the table and put them back together. For some specific ideas and a demonstration of one reader’s approach to shuffling, check out our guide.
Ultimately, there is no wrong way to shuffle your Tarot cards. It’s the intention you hold while shuffling that really matters. As you shuffle, be present and truly focus on the question for which you need answers.
How do you cleanse Tarot cards?
From time to time, you may want to “reset” your Tarot cards, so to speak. Perhaps you’ll feel a little disconnected from the cards, or maybe you’ll decide to give a deck to a friend as a gift and want to make sure it’s free of any leftover energy from you. There are multiple ways to cleanse your Tarot deck under circumstances like these:
- Pass your Tarot cards through cleansing smoke. Our Intuition Burn Wand is a helpful tool!
- Set your Tarot cards outside overnight during a Full Moon or New Moon. If the weather’s poor or you’re worried about your cards being damaged, you can leave them on a windowsill instead.
- Wrap your Tarot cards in silk or linen. Leave them in the wrappings for as many days as feels appropriate.
- Surround your Tarot cards with crystals or set them on a selenite charging plate for a few hours.
What do Tarot cards mean?
Over the centuries, each Tarot card has developed its own unique meaning. You can browse our Tarot Card Meanings to explore the basic interpretation of any card you’d like! Keep in mind, however, that the traditional card meanings are only the beginning. Every Tarot reader builds their own unique associations with the cards, and you have every right in the world to do the same.
What are Tarot birth cards? What is my Tarot birth card?
A Tarot birth card has special relevance to you based on your date of birth. It reflects a central piece of your path and identifies the life lessons you most need to learn. You can find your Tarot birth cards with our custom calculator.
What Tarot deck should I buy?
It's largely a matter of taste! The best Tarot deck for you will depend on what kind of art appeals to you and how much Tarot experience you have, among other things. Try browsing our collection of Tarot decks and making note of the ones you like best. You can even look at each individual card to get a thorough feel of the deck’s energy.
Where can I buy Tarot cards?
There are lots of options available! Tarot has become incredibly popular in recent years, and now it’s easier than ever to find and buy a deck you’ll love. If you want to shop online, our Rituals shop is a fantastic resource. You can also check out brick and mortar stores in your area, including bookshops and specialty New Age boutiques.
Where can I learn more about Tarot?
You can learn more about Tarot right here at Tarot.com! Browse our entire archive of Tarot articles or check out a few of our favorites to get started.