Tarot Cards to Understand Your Psychology
What if you could understand why certain things happened in your life and what the future might hold? If you were offered knowledge of challenges to watch out for, of opportunities you could soon be poised to grasp, would you take it?
The answer may be found in a ‘game’ that was practiced in medieval Europe’s backrooms and, some say, in the civilization of Ancient Egypt. Tarot is a card game that has come to be understood by having psychological, and perhaps prophetic, power. 78 cards comprise a Tarot deck, 22 most powerful cards (ominously called Major Arcana cards), and 56 Minor Arcana cards (4 suits with ten ‘pips’ and four ‘face’ cards).
Sounds confusing? You’re not the only one to think so. Very few in our times have truly mastered the cards’ intricacies, although we all know the stereotypes of Seers staring into Crystal Balls in dark rooms, reading the future in front of awe-struck customers. So how much of that is true?
What evidence is there that the enigmatic cards have paranormal powers to guide souls made weary by the modern world? Is it simply a matter of cold reading from the Tarot reader and the Barnum Effect- people’s tendency to interpret general information according to their specific situation?
History of Tarot Cards
Let’s take a look at the history of Tarot cards and what they meant for the cultures and older adults.
Evidence points to the 15th Century as the origin point for the Tarot, when it was a game, and the cards represented Alchemical symbols. Players would take turns counter-clockwise, laying down cards, with the next player having to play a card of the same suit, after which they would try and win with trump cards of varying point values. It doesn’t sound so strange when understood as a game.
By the 1800s, with the growing popularity of the game, Tarot began to tell prophecies to divine individuals’ future. The cards came to represent different concepts, different emotions or perspectives, and the people in your life who might hold them. The Tarot reader would draw cards from a randomized deck; with each card, he or she would describe the card’s significance to the client’s life.
The idea is using the cards’ sorcerous power, hard truths and crucial information could be obtained, grievances could be balmed with a sense of understanding about why events happened. Modern life has as many problems as our ancestors’ lives, and scientific and psychological analysis can often seem sterile to some people. This accounts for the popularity of Tarot cards.
However, many theorists argue that belief in the magic power of the Tarot is misleading, offering false hope to clients. This argument does not invalidate the Tarot, quite the opposite. Tarot may have power as a psychological tool, a placebo conjurer’s trick that, using the guise of the paranormal, may enable the client to truly search their feelings and motives, to tap into their subconscious to deal with painful events that may have occurred in their past, and issues that may burden their mind. In this way, Tarot penetrates the barriers that prevent us from truly pondering the problems that plague our lives.
As Jessa Crispin, who was written guides about Tarot’s significance, quoted in the New York Times, “I tell a story, and that person fits it into their own life. This leads to the concepts of Cold Reading and the Barnum Effect.
Many turtle-neck-clad oracles utilize a cold reading to deceive and trick audiences into thinking supernatural powers possess them. The trick behind cold reading is to act confident that you are receiving information from a supernatural power about the client or someone in an audience and encouraging an individual to exclaim that the information relates to their life or someone in their life.
The information is presumably made up by the oracle, which is simply an expert at communication and manipulation of emotions; purveyor of snippets of poignant sounding statements and seemingly random demographic information tailored to the lives of human beings from many walks of life. Trickery? Or using the mystical guise to encourage people to address issues in their lives they have neglected? That’s up to you.
The Barnum Effect
So why do clients believe this if, indeed, it is a case of cold reading? The Barnum effect is a psychological trait human beings have which causes us to interpret vague information in ways that apply to our lives in specific ways. Think of Horoscopes, predictions, as well as Tarot. People are geared to link stimulation and materials that we observe to our own lives and our own problems.
There is probably an important evolutionary reason behind this cognitive trait. When the Tarot reader in that arcane room peers into her talisman and lays out cards, intoning their meaning with dramatic flair, the impactful statements they make, based on general concepts common to humanity, strike a chord with us.
Because, of course, we have faced danger, arrogance, fools, and the knife in the back. Who hasn’t? That is why audiences who attend mass readings raise their hands in response to the oracle voices’ statements, linking to their life, lost loved ones, and challenges and good times they have experienced.
When this interaction takes place, the oracle now has a line of inquiry to pursue. Their cold reading becomes more specific, ending in the culmination: a specific observation about their life, a purported message from a loved one, that they surely could not have known. Perhaps there is something there we do not understand, as, of course, the client and audience do not reveal their life stories in detail to the oracle.
That would be too obvious. But, perhaps the oracle and reader pick up on subtle emotional and psychological clues. Profile the client’s personality, measuring their reactions to certain statements and cards. Perhaps, the grand reveal is given to the oracle, not by a supernatural force. But, by clever emotional intelligence and psychological knowledge.
Does it matter? Does the answer affect the client? If the information is given under the specific air of being paranormal divinations, then yes. Believers could act on information that is tenuous as if it were a given. But if the meaning, and method, of the Tarot is kept unclear, then perhaps it serves at the very least as a distraction from life. And at most, as a way to comfort and encourage introspection in people desperately seeking guidance.
Tarot as a Prophetic Tool
Tarot started as a game, as a distraction, to be played with friends over beer and good company. Its transformation into a supposedly prophetic tool has changed the rules and its import. However, perhaps it can still serve the purpose, if used right, of a distraction, of meaningful entertainment. Perhaps there is the need for something that is not codified, something we can put our fears and hopes into. Just ensure you know where the game, or art, comes from and what it can and can’t do.