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It’s All in the Cards: Tarot Reading and the Human Psyche

Tarot cards, the famous and controversial deck of playing cards used for divination by occultists and mystic practitioners since the late 1700s, have long been an item of fascination among both the psychic practitioner and fortune teller, as well as the psychologist and therapeutic practitioner. What, precisely, the nature of their effect actually is, no one can say; while the mystic will use them to predict outcomes of future events, the psychologist might prescribe them for use in helping order one’s own inner thoughts, rather than anything yet to come.

Fascinated with the different possibilities, I thought that there may be no finer way to test this for myself than to subject myself to a couple of Tarot readings myself, by different readers with different backgrounds and interpretations, and see what outcomes transpired for me personally. Indeed, the outcomes were quite fascinating…

Going into my first Tarot reading, which was performed by the astute Mr. Scotty Roberts, author of Rise and Fall of the Nephelim, I really tried not to have any serious preconceptions or expectations. If anything, I had more or less hoped to merely look at the information objectively, and see, as they say, “where the cards would fall.” During the reading, Roberts also told me that, in his own practice, he favored a more “optimistic” interpretation of the data revealed by the cards, drawing from the lighter aspects of the symbolism they represented. The resounding themes from this reading had been that I had reached great new achievements in life, or the “capture” of something I’d longed for… but that there may still be trials ahead. “The battle is won,” Roberts alluded, “but there may still be a war to be won as well, so celebrate… but celebrate from the saddle.” Also the Empress card was a key fixture of the reading, speaking of a strong feminine presence in my life. Finally, there had also been a strong trend toward physical movement in the outcome of the reading. “I don’t just mean moving change,” Scotty confided, “this could be interpreted as actually moving, or traveling.”

Reflecting on the reading, I couldn’t help but feel that the essence of the reading had been spot-on. There had been various personal developments occurring in my life, but due to the nature of the situation, as well as my own work schedule and other “grown up” aspects of life and living, things were moving slowly, but with sincere promise. While the Empress card obviously seemed to represent this, I felt that the presence of feminine energies also related to a number of other areas in my life; various female friends (particularly those many decades older than myself), and even a general level of comfort with what I perceive as being my own innate feminine or “motherly” side (this particularly manifests, for me, with regard to children, the elderly, or anyone generally in need of more care and attention than most others). And finally, there had certainly been recent discussion and contemplation regarding the prospect of relocation at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Had Scotty managed to use divination to “read” my own future? While the possibility existed, for me, I felt much more strongly that the meaning in the symbolism the cards presented was reliant on my own inner psyche, and the determinations of my own heart and mind. In other words, rather than having “predicted” things about my life, the cards Scotty had drawn utilized archetypal symbolism to help me re-order my own thoughts, and in an almost therapeutic way.

This interpretation of the Tarot is not unique, of course. While I normally would not quote Wikipedia as a source, the following excerpt from the Wiki article on Tarot discusses briefly the apparent symbolic aspects psychologist Carl Jung saw in Tarot and their use:

Carl Jung was the first psychoanalyst to attach importance to tarot symbolism. He may have regarded the tarot cards as representing archetypes: fundamental types of persons or situations embedded in the collective unconscious of all human beings. The theory of archetypes gives rise to several psychoanalytical uses. Since the cards represent these different archetypes within each individual, ideas of the subject’s self-perception can be gained by asking them to select a card that they ‘identify with’. Equally, the subject can try to clarify the situation by imagining it in terms of the archetypal ideas associated with each card. For instance, someone rushing in heedlessly like the Knight of Swords, or blindly keeping the world at bay like the Rider-Waite-Smith Two of Swords.

This rather concisely illustrates the same principles underlying my own interpretation of the Tarot reading; while there were incredible (even synchronistic) elements that emerged, I felt that the strongest determinations stemmed from within my own subconsciousness, or at times, even my overt conscious mind just as well.

My second reading took place more recently, at the suggestion of my friend Laura, who also performed the reading. In contrast with the reading performed by Scotty, Laura asked me to formulate a specific question, which would become the focus of the information in the reading. My question had been one I was contemplating on the drive over, and dealt with how to cultivate and focus more of my own inner positivity, but also ways I could express this outward in constructive ways toward those around me (a concept I refer to often as “Cosmic Love”). With Laura’s reading, the first card drawn had been the Justice card, and later on, the Empress card also appeared yet again. The final “resolution” card had been death; admittedly, it was a beautifully drawn card (Laura had been using a popular deck known as the Robin Wood Tarot deck, named after the artist, which features a variety of pagan and mythic imagery). It featured a person lying on the ground, mostly covered in a cape or robe, with blood pooling on the stone floor. A number of swords protruded from the body in the picture; but despite the dark depiction on the card itself, I made an instant association upon taking the card and holding it in my hand. The image that came to mind had been the scene at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the “starchild” is hovering near the Earth… to me, this obviously represented change, or perhaps more succinctly, rebirth. But altogether, while Laura’s reading had seemed to be more instructive (and as expected, due to the more focused nature of the question I asked beforehand), I still found that the majority of the meaning I took away from the reading had been my own projected inner senses and feelings, and the interpretation I assigned them in the order the cards helped assert.

On a personal level, the experiences with the Tarot readings became incredibly helpful in terms of clarifying the otherwise cluttered nature of everyday thought, and seemed to help bring together a number of loose ends, so to speak. While Tarot may be favored for many in terms of its use for predicting outcomes, I found it far more helpful within the context of taking the known quantities of existence, and helping bring meaning to them as if laying them out on a grid for examination in the raw. Perhaps if more tools of spiritualism could be viewed this way, rather than through the sorts of cultural taboos built around them over time, they would not only become more readily acceptable to a larger audience, but would even stand to aid a wider demographic in a variety of therapeutic ways. Even in a more logic-oriented context such as this, one could argue there is a certain “magic” they maintain nonetheless.


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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