Here we are in the 21st century with tarot accepted in the mainstream and yet certain tarot myths surrounding the cards seem to persist. Or, at least, I keep hearing them come up again and again. These days, stories and ‘facts’ about tarot circulate in social media and spread; even now on tarot forums I see tarot newbies asking about these tarot myths. Hmm. I’ve picked up on some of the tarot myths that I keep hearing about and I want to talk about them from my own experience. After all, if the myths were true, then shouldn’t I have discovered this over the years?
On this blog I want to encourage people to pick up and use tarot; some of these myths might put the tarot curious off so i’m going to talk about them from my personal perspective.
Lets dive in!
1. You need to be gifted Your first Deck
This old chestnut is still around. I have absolutely no idea where this comes from, probably from the dim and distant past. Lets put this one to rest.
If I had waited to be gifted my first tarot deck all those years ago, I would never have got into tarot in the first place. I suppose I could have asked to have a deck as a Christmas or Birthday present but what if I received a deck I didn’t like? Nope, I bought my first deck. Hated the deck. Lesson learnt there, research your deck before you buy it.
Back in 2004/2005 when I was looking for suitable learning decks, Amazon was incredibly useful as was the Aeclectic.net tarot database which has many, many decks you can get a sampling of. The Aeclectic site is still there although the excellent forums shut down several years ago; You can access the site here. These days, pictures of cards from just about any deck you’re interested in are a short click away from Google; YouTube; Pinterest: Instagram – you name it.
So yeah, you can buy your own deck – being given your first deck is nice but buying your first deck won’t affect your ability to use the tarot. You can read more on buying your first beginner tarot deck in ‘Choosing and Buying a Beginner Tarot Deck‘ which you can find here.
2. You need to be Psychic to read Tarot
Do you really need to have psychic abilities to read the tarot? I’m quite certain there are people in the world with genuine psychic abilities. They might be very rare but i’m sure they exist. I’m not one of them. I would not, in any way, describe myself as psychic yet I am able to read the tarot with no problem. Before our current coronavirus pandemic, I often attended Tarot Meetups here in London and I haven’t yet met another tarot reader who would describe themselves as psychic. I doubt genuine psychics even need to use a tarot deck. Intuition is what’s important so if you’re not psychic then don’t worry, you don’t need to be.
To learn an easy technique to help you read tarot intuitively, see the post ‘How To Do An Intuitive Tarot Reading’ which can be found here.
3. only Witches can read tarot
I’ve seen this mentioned a few times. I’m aware that many witches, whether they are Wiccan or follow some other path, read tarot as part of practicing the Craft. So, some witches are tarot readers but not all tarot tarot readers are witches. I have met some excellent tarot readers who are not witches. One works in the Civil Service, another works in the legal profession, another in television. One tarot reader I known works in the London Underground. Myself, I work mainly in the UK National Health Service and I am definitely not a witch of any kind. But I can read tarot. So there you go.
So, yep. You can read tarot without needing to be a witch.
4. Only women can read Tarot
Oh boy, i’ve seen this one come up pretty often. The rationale is that women are more intuitive than men and, therefore, men cannot read tarot. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I would say, browsing social media and the internet, that there appear to be more female tarot readers than male ones. However, apart from myself – male if it wasn’t obvious – I have encountered in person quite a few male tarot readers. A few of them have been some of the most skilled tarot readers I have ever encountered.
As for myself, when it comes to intuition, I will admit that when I started with tarot many years ago I found it difficult to use my intution with the cards. I had to fight against years of conditioning where I had been focused on rationality and believing that science has all the answers. The more I used tarot though and the more I was exposed to the realm of metaphysics – as well as a very frightning personal experience with the paranormal – I began to realise science does not have all the answers. This allowed me to open up and relax, allowing me to exercise my intuitive ‘muscles’. In fact, I believe that tarot has actually helped me to become more intuitive – the tail wagged the dog.
All of this is to say that men can read tarot just as well as women. Men might read tarot differently from women but, in my experience of having had readings from both male and female readers, both genders do just fine. This myth is a load of old cobblers and deserves to fade away.
5. to bond with your tarot deck – sleep with it under your pillow
I’ve heard this a lot as well. The idea is that you can attune the deck to your energies (or the other way around) by having it under your pillow when you sleep. Getting used to your tarot deck through osmosis basically.
There is only one thing guaranteed to happen if you try this. You will have a very uncomfortable night’s rest and probably wake up with a sore neck. Of course, you could try it with a very thick pillow – memory foam is probably better – but, still. You also run the risk of damaging your deck – not exactly what ‘imprinting’ your energies into the deck is supposed to mean!
If you really want to attune to your tarot deck, to get really familiar with it, then play with it regularly – every day even. Do one card readings, study the cards, whatever floats your boat.You will get used to your deck more easily this way and learn all its nuances. As with most things to do with tarot – and life – there are few shortcuts. Memory foam pillows are very comfy but keep your deck somewhere safe, not under the pillow.
6. It takes years of study to become good at tarot reading
What is true about being a tarot reader is that you will never stop learning something new. I have been reading the cards for many years and I am constantly learning new things that I add into my practice. However, constantly learning doesn’t mean you can’t read the tarot relatively quickly.
There are some key approaches to learning the tarot. One, you learn the meanings of the cards first – we are talking about the Rider Waite Smith system here – and then learn how these meanings apply to your reading with intuition guiding you. With this approach, it can take a long time to become familiar with reading the cards and personally I don’t recommend it. Why? Because this is the approach I took when I started learning to read and it wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t try this if I was a tarot newbie now.
A much better way is option two: you don’t worry about what the cards are supposed to mean, instead you become familiar with your deck by studying the pictures on the cards and figuring out what they mean to you. Some tarot readers are purely intuitive, they never learned what the cards are supposed to mean. Instead they let the pictures guide them in the context of the question. This approach doesn’t have to take that long but, again, you will need to practice, practice, practice.
This approach will get you off the ground and reading the cards fairly quickly but I still encourage learning the card meanings and suit elemental energies later on. It is good to have the knowledge to hand to flavour the readings and, if you get stuck during a reading, you can fall back on the meanings to help you. However, don’t be put off picking up tarot reading because it looks like years of study lie ahead, it doesn’t have to be that way.
7. Tarot Cards are Evil
I fully respect the religious and spiritual views of other people. However, I do have to take this myth down. Hard. The myth is that reading tarot cards will unleash demons – or something similar in tone. Any truth to this? Have I ever experienced this in my many, many years of tarot reading?
The Devil card above, from the fantastic Bohemian Gothic Tarot, probably shows one of the most evil depictions of the Tarot Devil i’ve ever seen – seductive evil, intoxicating, addictive. But, it’s just a card. Tarot decks, whether they are published by large publishers or by independent deck creators, all come off printing presses (mainly, it is possible to get them printed on demand) in their thousands in the case of many mass market decks. They are cardboard and ink and they are no more inherently evil or capable – in and of themselves – of summoning evil spirits as anything else made of cardboard and ink.
So, no, tarot cards are most definitely not evil. In all my years of reading tarot, whether for myself or for others, I have not once summoned evil entities. I’m sure I would have noticed.
A better question to ask is whether tarot cards can be dangerous. In my personal experience they can be but not because of unleashing evil spirits. Tarot, as with all things in which people believe strongly, can create problems. This is a worthy topic for another post so I will leave this for now.
8. you must not read tarot for yourself
Another tarot myth that still appears regularly. One version of this myth i’ve heard is that reading tarot for yourself will result in bad luck. Really? I think the many thousands of people who read tarot for themselves would beg to disagree and so do I. Have I experienced bad luck from reading tarot for myself for 16 years (as of writing this post). Well, i’ve certainly experienced bad luck over the years but then so does everyone else!
It’s inevitable that unfortunate circumstances will happen to people, that’s just the law of averages. On the other hand, reading tarot for oneself can bring many benefits – understanding where you stand in a situation, reflecting on circumstances, helping to creatively think about where and what to do next and the list goes on.
Is reading tarot for yourself difficult? Yes, it can be. The problem with reading tarot for yourself is that you can bring bias to your reading – you can see in the reading what you want to see. It is difficult to be objective about your own readings but it can be done.
This is worth expanding on in a post of it’s own but there are two things you can try to be objective. First, learn when not to read tarot. Yes, that’s right, you heard me! A definite no-no is reading tarot when you are experiencing intense emotion, for example when you are upset or angry at someone or a situation. If you want to read about this situation then wait until you calm down or practice meditation to calm yourself. Another simple technique is to imagine you are reading for someone else; it takes practice but this really works at helping you be objective.
So, let’s put a stake through this myth and burn it. You aren’t going to experience bad luck reading tarot for yourself – that will happen any way because of Life. However, reading tarot for yourself can certainly help you deal with this bad luck in a positive manner. You see, it’s all good!
You can learn more about the problems of reading tarot for yourself – and how to deal with them – in the post ‘Reading Tarot For Yourself – 7 Things to Avoid‘ which is here.
9. Avoid second hand tarot decks
The final tarot myth I want to cover here is this one. The myth goes like this: if you use a second hand tarot deck then you will not be able to get an accurate reading because the energy of the previous owner will create interference. This is mostly untrue in my personal experience.
I am not a collector of tarot decks but I do own quite a few old and vintage decks, mainly for their aesthetic qualities rather than their financial value. These old decks have wonderful papery card stock, more interesting colouration, or just simply resonate with me. Many tarot decks are out of print – if you happen to really like one then you don’t have any choice except to buy it second hand.
I use these old decks quite regularly and with one exception I have never encountered anything out of the ordinary with any of them. The one exception is an old deck that was last published in the 1970s. What makes this deck different is one simple, tiny thing. A previous owner and, for all I know, the only previous owner, marked the back of the 5 of Pentacles with a blue dot in felt tip. If you are familiar with the Rider Waite Smith 5 of Pentacles then you know this card depicts poverty, illness and just sheer material worry.
That tiny blue dot on the back of the card tells me how anxious this previous owner was about that card and I can feel this person’s energy in the deck. However, it is a warm energy, this owner obviously cared for this deck as a valuable divination tool – it is in pretty good condition for a decades old deck. This energy doesn’t interfere with my readings but I am aware of it.
So there you have it, tarot tall tales that have absolutely no truth in them at all – except for one. So don’t let them put you off picking up a tarot deck and beginning a wonderful journey down this metaphysical path. I don’t know why these myths continue to appear, they probably circulate by word of mouth. Ignore them, they are (mostly) a load of BS.