Many people think of the tarot as something used to only predict the future or lay out your life as if you have no say, no control, or no personal power – an unfortunate method used by some and the one often promoted in popular media and entertainment. Others don’t know much about the tarot or have questionable information about it and disregard it, make fun of it, or condemn it because it’s considered part of that new age “woo woo” stuff.
But what is the tarot, really?
The tarot is a set of images, visual triggers to relate to, to find meaning in, to tell stories from. It can be used in an amazing array of ways and for an equally amazing array of purposes. The tarot is as varied as the thousands upon thousands of different tarot deck and the thousands upon thousands of different people using the tarot.
My path with the tarot lead me to appreciate the tarot as an amazing tool for unlocking the answers within me.
I first used the tarot online. It was on some website where you could get a computer generated tarot reading. You focus on your question or issue and then click the button to have your cards revealed. I must have been lucky because I know there are some really hokey sites out there that are far from positive or helpful, I just happened to find a site that was. The cards and the brief descriptions of their meanings actually gave insight into what I was wondering about and left me to take away what I could and act from there. It worked. So I used it again and again. Eventually I began to see that there were different tarot decks that you could choose to have the readings done in and that led ever visually inclined me to start exploring the world of tarot decks in all their diversity. There are so many different tarot decks out there that there is bound to be one or two that really speak to any one person. I found more than one or two and slowly began to collect tarot decks. An admittedly dangerous to your bank account hobby, believe me!
Once I had my own decks I began to try reading for myself. I wasn’t quite sure how that was done so I went looking for a book to give me some ideas. This is where my luck with the tarot continued. The first tarot book I purchased was Tarot for Life by Paul Quinn I was drawn to it over others I looked at that day at the bookstore because it didn’t just tell you what the cards meant as if there is only one meaning for each of the cards, it showed examples of every day people using the cards to pull realizations and answers from within themselves. It guided you to use the tarot to ask yourself questions, to dig a little deeper. I am forever grateful for that being my first tarot book. And it just got better from there. I instinctively used the tarot, without knowing this was a way it could be used or was used by others, as a jumping off point in my journaling and free-writing practices. I used it to spark ideas for creative writing, again not realizing that there were whole books out there on using it for that very purpose. My work with the tarot was evolving naturally and intuitively and I was getting so much from it.
Eventually I started to look out into the world for tarot community. I felt like what I was getting from it was just too good not to share and if I was getting that stuff I was sure there had to be others that were too. That eventually led me to discovering Joanna Powell Colbert and her beautiful creation, the Gaian Tarot. I followed along as she finished up the work on that deck and so was there to learn that she was creating a community for those who wanted to work with the Gaian Tarot. I eventually joined that community and I could not have done a better thing. That community is so rich with teachings, recorded calls and live calls and people just sharing things in forums. It is rich with an incredible diversity of tarot people from all walks of life and from several places in the world. The collective knowledge of that place seriously knocks my socks off. It’s that good. I have been fortunate enough to get to know and become friends with several amazing people through that community and to connect with people using the tarot in astounding and life changing ways. There is Carolyn Cushing’s contemplative and Journeying into the Tarot practices; James Wells’ tarot counseling approach; Arwen Lynch’ way of using the tarot for writing and for “seeking joy y’all”; and that’s just a tiny sampling of the treasures I’ve found in that and the greater tarot community – so many people using tarot to create positive change within themselves and in the world and I have the fortune to be a part of that.
I can honestly say that when I first began to explore the tarot I would never have guessed what a big part of my life it would become and the places it would take me or the people it would connect me to. I would never have guessed when I joined the Gaian Tarot Circle that I would eventually become one of the forum Guardians, finding a natural place for myself within the community. I would never have guessed the amazing processes I would learn for self growth and development. So I can say I won’t be able to guess where else this relationship with the tarot and the tarot community will take me in the future. But it is full of lovely possibilities and I am excited to see where it goes. It’s a path I am certainly glad I decided to go down.
So that’s some of what the tarot is for me and my abbreviated story of my own evolving path in working with it. If you are curious about the tarot and have questions please feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. If you have stories of your own work with the tarot, I would love to hear them. May the tarot be as wonderful and as helpful a tool and companion along the way for you as it has been for me.