What Is Tarot And What Happens In A Tarot Reading?

“You will meet a tall, dark stranger.” Funnily enough, I’ve never actually made that promise to one of my Tarot clients. Join Tarot reader and teacher Keziah Gibbons and learn what tarot actually is.
Keziah is a tarot reader and teacher, Reiki Master, NLP Trainer and meditation teacher.
what is tarot reading
Keziah is a tarot reader and teacher, Reiki Master, NLP Trainer and meditation teacher.

What is tarot? Tarot has a reputation as a tool of fortune-telling, and indeed often was used as such, but in recent years Tarot professionals and enthusiasts have become more sophisticated in how they use this deck of 78 illustrated cards. Nowadays, as well as a tool of intuition, the Tarot is recognised as being an impressive means of personal growth.

What Is Tarot: The History

Tarot as we know it first appeared in the late medieval period, in Europe. Cards were decorated by archetypes of the times, a procession of attitudes and characters very much influenced by folk beliefs and practices, many of which have ancient roots. We know that the cards were used in occult practice – which was very common at the time – and also as a game.

Modern Tarot owes a lot to the Order of the Golden Dawn, a London based esoteric group active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Arthur Edward Waite commissioned the drawings for the cards, to his specifications, from fellow Golden Dawn member Pamela Colman Smith, a gifted artist. In a superb piece of injustice, Pamela Smith was not celebrated and the deck was known for many years as the Rider-Waite (after Rider, the publisher, and A. E. Waite). These days we might be more likely to acknowledge Smith’s instrumental role in the creation of the deck, and call it the Smith Waite, or Rider Waite Smith.

The Smith Waite deck has become a classic of our time and the majority of modern decks are based in some way on these beautiful and richly symbolic illustrations. Other classic decks include the Tarot of Marseille and Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

What Is A Tarot Reading?

So, what actually happens in a Tarot reading? Well, that very much depends on the reader. My advice to anyone thinking of getting a reading is to contact the reader first, to discover more about their style.

For example, I personally don’t do fortune telling, nor do I do making decisions for my clients. What I can do is help them to formulate their question to the cards in a way that allows them the space to acknowledge what’s happening for them, and sometimes what they want their outcome to be as well.

Then the reading itself – looking at the cards and how they influence each other – works best as a collaborative affair. My skill is in using the cards as prompts to help the querent (Tarot client) to discover their own, sometimes hidden, motivations and behaviour patterns, and to understand how the elements of their situation relate to one another. Often there will be little or no new information in a reading, but the cards re-present it to the querent in a way that enables them to know how to unstick. Sometimes, it just helps them to acknowledge something they knew already, but needed a little confirmation on.

Read more: In another article, Keziah shares five tips about tarot for beginners – from the right way of shuffling the cards to setting the right intentions.

The Right Cards Come To The Right People

It would be easy to say that it’s a kind of Barnum effect – the querent could be presented with any card or set of cards, and would apply it to their own situation. Experience tells me that this is not quite the case. I don’t know how it happens, but I do know it to be true, that the right cards always come out for the right person. I have encountered this many times over the years.

The most dramatic example was a woman that I read for when I was first practicing this skill. We did a six card reading, but she didn’t like what she got. So, we each shuffled the cards and we read again – four of the same six cards. We tried again, a third time, again, each of us shuffling before the reading, only to draw the same six cards, this time reversed. That only happened once, but I have discovered that readings could not be interchangeable. When I used to read at fairs, and have several people come through my booth one after another, I witnessed how each reading was very specific to that person’s set of circumstances. I don’t know how it works, I just know that it does.

Tarot & The Unconscious Mind

The mystery of how the right cards always come out aside, Tarot works through the unconscious mind, delivering messages through symbolism and archetypes. Usually the cards will combine elements of collective narratives, and elements of personal meaning for the querent. There is such a wonderful array of decks these days, that there is a Tarot for everybody.

Weave this with carefully crafted exercises, and you have an incredibly powerful tool for both personal and professional development. Thousands of students in my Tarot classes have found Tarot to be a wonderful tool to get to know themselves, with the rich gifts which come of this. They are using Tarot to uncover secrets about themselves, and use this information to craft the lives that they really want.

Tarot is a perfect coaching tool, allowing self expression, the discovery of agency, and communication with the unconscious mind through the rich and beautiful images.

And because it is a tool that has been beloved of so many over so many years, Tarot not only expresses, but has also taken up residence in, the collective unconscious. That is why decks created for collective empowerment and healing work, as well as those which combine the Tarot with other archetypal forces.

I have even taken Tarot into organisations, facilitating conversations between teams and exploring company culture. This has proved to be a fun and yet meaningful means of employee engagement.

What you can do with Tarot is limited only by the boundaries of your imagination. I’m excited that the more I read and teach Tarot, the more I share with others, the more I learn and am inspired. I can’t wait to see where the Tarot will take me next!

Learn more!

If you’re interested, intrigued, and ready for the gifts and lessons that Tarot can bring you, come and join thousands of students in the 30-day course “Tarot Wisdom: A Complete Guide” on Insight Timer. This course serves as an introduction to tarot for people with little experience as well as people who already have a tarot practice which they might like to continue to develop. Listen to day one without signing up by clicking on the banner below:

tarot course

Meditation. Free.