To practice divination, you must choose the best method for you. There are several types, including Tarot cards, runes, ogham, the pendulum, scrying, and reading tea leaves. Do you have an intuitive leaning toward a certain method? Have you found that others bore you or frustrate you? Choosing a divination method is a deeply personal decision that can take time and experimentation. Read on to see if the Tarot might be right for you.
Background: The first Tarot card decks were developed in Renaissance Europe for French and Italian sophisticates who liked playing complicated card games. By the 18th century, people started using the Tarot for divination. The most popular deck of all time is probably the Rider Waite deck, which seemed to be the only one available when I wanted one at age fifteen. The Rider-Deck and the Ouija board used to be sold exclusively through toy stores, which is where I bought mine at the local mall. Nowadays, there is a Tarot deck to fit every conceivable interest from Vikings to Faeries, but the Rider-Waite deck is still regarded as a classic.
Appearance: All Tarot decks have 78 cards. The first 56, known as the Minor Arcana, corresponds closely with a standard deck of playing cards. There are four suits: the Wands (clubs), the Cups (hearts), the Swords (spades), and the Coins or Pentacles (diamonds). Each suit has four face-cards rather than just three as in the playing-card deck: the King, the Queen, the Knight (jack), and the Page. Tarot decks are bigger than regular decks of playing cards. My photo shows the Four of Cups from the Vikings Tarot Deck and the regular Four of Hearts.
The Major Arcana consists of 22 trump cards, starting with Number 0, the Fool. As you view the other 21 cards in sequence, you see the Fool's journey from innocence to enlightenment through the personas of 1 The Magician, 2 The High Priestess, 3 The Empress, 4 The Emperor, 5 The Hierophant, 6 The Lovers, 7 The Chariot, 8 Justice, 9 The Hermit, 10 Wheel of Fortune, 11 Strength, 12 The Hanged Man, 13 Death, 14 Temperance, 15 The Devil, 16 The Tower, 17 The Star, 18 The Moon, 19 The Sun, 20 Judgment, and 21 The World.
Use: You can read the Tarot for yourself or for another. The Querent (person seeking the reading) picks a card known as the significator to represent herself. Usually it is one of the face-cards from the Minor Arcana. Then she shuffles the Tarot deck thoroughly while allowing her questions to fill her mind. The Reader takes back the deck and begins to deal the cards in various patterns known as spreads. For example, the Celtic Cross spread surrounds the Querent's significator with cards that reveal past, present, and future influences on the question at hand. The cards themselves, which are rich in symbolism, can each have one of two meanings depending on whether they are upright or reversed.
Pros and Cons Tarot is probably the most popular divination method nowadays. If you choose it, you will be in good company. So many of us respond to art and storytelling. We have only to look at these cards to get lost in their symbolism and complexity. Artists and scholars especially will be drawn to the Tarot as will eclectic pagans who like to build their spiritual path from many different cultures and time periods.
The Tarot probably won't please Reconstructionist pagans who are trying to connect with pre-Renaissance eras. It might not be a good fit for Norse pagans who prefer their own cultural method, the runes. Many who are drawn to simplicity and minimalism may find the Tarot too complicated, too fussy, and too garish. Others will not want to memorize 156 meanings (78 cards multiplied by two meanings each, the upright and the reversed). They may especially dislike having to pull out their Tarot textbooks for each reading as if they are back in school. Compared to other divination methods like scrying, reading the Tarot cards can lack flow and spontaneity unless you're one of the few who can commit everything to memory.
If you think the Tarot might be for you, check out these two books on Amazon.com: The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot - Ever!!, which will help with the whole memorization issue, and Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot, which is a venerable classic.
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