Tarot is back, baby! Or more accurately, it never really went away. People have used some form of cartomancy–that’s divination using cards–since the 14th century. However, tarot has become wildly popular, especially among Millennial and Gen Z women. Here’s why–and how you can start reading the cards for yourself.
Modern tarot decks are usually based on the 1910 Rider-Waite deck illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith and based on the work of mystic A.E. Waite. The deck contains 78 cards–22 “Major Arcana” cards and 56 “Minor Arcana.”
The Major Arcana are based on mystical and occult archetypes like The Hermit and The Hanged Man. In readings, these cards are a signal to pay attention to something, well, major.
The Minor Arcana cards are similar to playing cards, but their suits are Swords, Wands, Cups, and Coins or Pentacles. These suits correspond to different areas of your life. For example, Cups are all about love, emotion, and relationships. The Minor Arcana suits each have an Ace, Page, Knight, King, and Queen as well as numbered cards 2-10.
As YouTuber Lavendaire puts it in the video below, tarot is all about self-discovery and guidance. Many people who read tarot don’t believe that it’s magic. The imagery shared by many tarot decks taps into globe-spanning myths and legends as well as symbols found in our collective unconscious. Neat, huh?
Tarot’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years. During the Victorian craze for spiritualism, tarot decks were a common sight at séances and parties alike. More recently, tarot was popular in the 60s and 70s. But it has never been as widely accepted and practiced as it is now.
Why is that the case? There are probably a lot of reasons. Alternative religion is on the rise among younger people, including actual witchcraft along with a general “good vibes” style of spirituality. The internet makes it easier than ever to access decks, learn to read tarot, and join like-minded communities. You can even install apps on your phone to do a digital reading for yourself (although purists prefer to use physical cards).
We’re also experiencing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty and turmoil. Many of us feel powerless, confused, and directionless these days. Reading tarot can help clarify your feelings and give you a sense of control over your life.
Tempted to try your hand at tarot? First, consider getting a reading done by a pro. You can find readers online, including on sites like Etsy and Fiverr, and get a reading by email, video conference, or phone. That will give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to start reading the cards for yourself at home.
Next, you’ll need a deck. There’s a superstition that your first deck should be a gift from someone else. While I can’t confirm or deny that buying your own deck is bad luck, mine was a gift. And I’ve given decks to other people to carry on the tradition. If you’re superstitious, put your favorite deck at the top of your birthday or holiday wish list.
There are dozens upon dozens of tarot decks out there, many of them tailored to a specific niche. Browse several decks online until you see one with imagery and art that resonates with you. Some people will love a pretty, whimsical deck while others prefer a traditional Rider-Waite.
Once you’ve got your deck, it’s time to try a reading. For your first few times, try a simple one-card pull or a three-card spread. A great way to get started is to shuffle and cut the deck once while asking the question, “What should I know today?”
Draw a single card and flip it over. Look up the meaning in the book that came with your deck or online, then consider how it might apply to your life. I like to have a cup of tea while I do this in the mornings; it’s a lovely ritual before diving into the rest of my day.
A three-card spread can be an effective tool for getting to the heart of a problem. Depending on your perspective, the cards can represent the past, present and future or your problem (center card) along with outside influences (right card) and internal influences (left card).
It’s best to be as specific as possible when using a spread like this one. For example, you might ask “Why haven’t I gotten the promotion I applied for at work?” instead of a vague question about your career.