What Are Tarot Cards & How Tarot Cards Work

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At first glance, the question of “What are tarot cards” or “How tarot cards work” might seem like a ‘Duh, really?’

Well, you might be surprised…

Tarot Definition

Simply defined, tarot cards are decks of cards with pictures, symbols, words and numbers printed or painted on them. In theory, ‘they’ (the tarot cards) are supposed to be able to tell the story of the past, give clarity and insight into the present, and predict the future.

Additionally, the specific term for using any cards, tarot cards, oracle cards, playing cards, etc. as a divination tool is cartomancy.

What Are Tarot Cards

Though tarot history is filled with mystery and intrigue regarding the origins and original usage of the cards, today tarot is primarily used for divination, fortune telling, spiritual coaching and making future predictions.

The symbolic meanings of the images, symbols, and numbers on each tarot card tell a story about the sitter’s (client) past, present, and future. A tarot card layout acts like chapters in a book. Each card in the tarot spread connects to the other, thus creating the ‘story’ of the tarot reader’s client. It’s up to the tarot reader to interpret or divine the symbolism and meanings of the cards. The tarot reader delivers these messages to the client and voilà, a tarot reading is born.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Oh, if only…

When trying to answer the question “What are tarot cards”, it might be more helpful to look for answers to the question of ‘How tarot cards work’.

How Tarot Cards Work

Traditional tarot card decks have 78 cards in them and are divided into the Major Arcana & Minor Arcana. Click to read in-depth descriptions of all 78 tarot card meanings plus the Major Arcana & Minor Arcana.

Each tarot deck comes with a guidebook that gives the tarot meanings of each card. The general idea is that the archetypal imagery and symbolism on and position of the cards (tarot spreads) “tells” the tarot card reader a story about the person receiving the reading (sometimes called the client or sitter). Insight into the client’s personal and professional life is “seen” by the tarot reader who, then, offers guidance.

OK, here’s where answering the questions of “what are tarot cards” and “How tarot cards work” gets tricky…

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So let’s say that a reader delivers a tarot card reading wherein the accuracy of the information given is mind blowing. As an example, let’s use the real world example of the twins Faith & Hope.

Long story short – I was reading tarot for a young lady named ‘Hope’ when a card from the tarot deck I was using simply came flying out of the deck while I was shuffling it. Not only did the card have her name on it, but it had the name of her twin sister who had passed away – ‘Faith’. You can read their story in my “Real Psychic Experiences” Series.

Now, I’ve been reading tarot for a couple of decades. And, though thousands of mystical, magical events can occur during psychic and tarot readings, Faith and Hope’s story is one of the more powerful I’ve ever experienced.

Through over 10K psychic and tarot readings, I’m still have no 100% provable answers for ‘what are tarot cards’ and ‘How tarot cards work’.

I continually seek answer to the following questions:

  • Did the information come only from the tarot reader’s knowledge and interpretation of the symbolism and imagery on the cards? If so, how did it happen that the tarot card reader was using the exact deck and laid out the exact spread needed to give the exact client such exact information – especially if the client was a complete stranger?
  • Did the information come through the cards because tarot decks are actually tiny portals through which Universal library of knowledge (Akashic Records) pours advice and at just the right moment, for just the right person?
  • Did the information come from the tarot reader’s innate intuitive and psychic abilities and have nothing to do with the tarot cards at all?
  • Did the tarot reader implant the necessary knowledge into the deck thereby breathing life into an otherwise inanimate entity?
  • And what of the client? If they shuffled the deck as tarot readers often have their sitters do, did the client’s subconscious or higher-self infuse the deck with their energy thereby helping orchestrate the reading?
  • The artist and author of a tarot deck certainly cannot be left out of the equation as those cards will always hold its author and artist’s energy because it was created by them. How does their energetic presence play into the reading?
  • Did Spirit, angels, spirit guides, ancestors, etc. use telekinesis to ‘arrange’ the cards for the client? Sound far too ‘out there’? Well, I’m a super skeptical psychic but in the absence of a provable answer all possibilities must be considered.

What are tarot cards, then? Are they power packed little packages of prophecy or are they just piles of pulverized pulp covered in pretty pigmentation?

How does tarot work? Is it the cards, the reader or both which hold answers to the eternal questions of does he love me, is she cheating on me, will I get the job, etc.?

For those who must have a definitive answer, pretend you never read this article.

For those who embrace the inconclusive, each of the above mentioned hypotheses (and more) can certainly be true.

For all: most of life’s questions don’t have just one answer. If they did, there would be no need for a tarot reading. 😉

Do you have ideas and opinions that might answer the questions “What are tarot cards” and “How tarot cards work”? We’d love for you to post in the comments below!

Bernadette King

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