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The Truth About Tarot

Updated on July 20, 2012
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There are a great many myths and superstitions, as well as down right untruths, regarding the origins, use and purpose of Tarot cards. It's important to understand the differences between the three. A myth is a story with a purpose, usually to explain away mysterious phenomenon. One of the myths associated with the Tarot is that no one really knows from whence it came. A twist of this myth says that it was brought back from Egypt by returning Crusaders. Another states that they were brought into Europe by traveling gypsies who used them for the purpose of telling fortunes.

There are many superstitions surrounding the Tarot. Some of them involve the acceptance or paying of money. One states that money should never be exchanged for a deck of the cards, while another advises against charging money for a reading. A third superstition holds that the first deck of cards a reader owns should be presented to her/him as a gift by a third party. Still other superstitions abound regarding the care and storage of the cards, admonishing the owner of a deck to refuse anyone else to touch their cards. The superstitions responsible for causing the most fear is the idea that reversed (upside-down) cards are bad, and the appearance of the Death card is a warning of actual physical death.

The most blatant lie connected to the Tarot is that they are evil, their powers joined with Satan, and anyone who uses them is dabbling in Black Magic, or a Satanist. There is absolutely no foundation of truth to this falsehood.

There does seem to be some confusion about the Tarot's origins. The oldest known surviving deck comes down to us from 15th century Italy. Only 15 of the cards from several decks, originally designed, remain. The deck was then called tarocci and used to play a game called tarocchinni. As these cards came from northern Italy, some have thought the name made reference to the Taro River, running through northern Italy.

It has been considered that “turuk”, an Arabic word meaning “pathways” is the basis for the spelling as we now know it. This would support the idea that Crusaders brought the cards back from Egypt. Though not the Tarot deck specifically, it is known that playing cards were introduced to Europe in the early 14th century after the last Crusaders returned home. In addition to the language and spelling connections, some students of Tarot believe much of the vibrant imagery lends credence to the Egyptian origins.

The Gypsy myth is probably the widest spread rumor or myth. No one really knows the origin of the gypsies. There has been conjecture based on cultural, linguistic, and genetic evidence pointing to origins in India, having been hired as troops to repel a Muslim invasion during the 11th Century. It's thought their dark looks were mistaken for those of Egyptians, thereby earning them the nickname of Gypsy. Culturally, Gypsies believe in the supernatural, omens and curses. The practice of fortune telling is only done for outsiders as a way to earn money, and is usually done by trickery, rather than a true understanding of “seeing”.

Considering that the Gypsies employed trickery as a way to part clients from their money, it isn't surprising that superstitions surrounding the exchange of money for tarot readings has sprung up. It's best not to buy into silly superstitions instead of relying on plain old common sense. Thorough research into a potential reader's reputation is called for as well as gaining testimonials from other paying clients about the authenticity of the reader is a necessity.

There is nothing to support the belief that the first deck of cards should be received as a gift. This assumption probably stems from the same belief regarding the exchange of money. Anyone who wished to own a set of cards for themselves could circumnavigate the repercussions of exchanging money by having someone else do it in their stead.

To this day, many people are of the belief that inanimate objects can and do pick up energies from their surroundings. Our scientific understanding of energy and its ability to transfer and transform would seem to agree with the notion that guarding the cards by proper storage and handling is a necessity. However, I own many decks of Tarot and they've all been handled by people other than myself. Nothing untoward has happened. In fact, I would much rather the cards were touched by the person receiving the reading, so as to have a chance to feel their energy as a means to divining the meanings best suited to their questions.

While the Death card can on rare occasions signify an actual death, the meaning is much less threatening. The death it refers to has to do with the death of situations, habits, time frames, etc. It represents endings, irreversible changes which can not be turned around. It is not a negative card to receive.

Reverse cards are just that, reversed. Some practitioners interpret them as having the opposite meaning of the upright version while others believe the reversal is a sign that the upright meaning is of a lesser degree or importance. There are sometimes situations where every card drawn is reversed. It may be because the deck wasn't shuffled well enough, or it may be an indication of extreme importance requiring rapt attention.

There is no documented historical evidence supporting the theory that religious authorities ever targeted Tarot as being evil or a thing of the devil. There are scriptures admonishing man against seeking the services of an oracle or “seer”. People have interpreted the passage to mean any tool that can be used to divine the thoughts, feelings, behaviors and impending acts be they of a human or natural origins.

I can't make an absolute statement about whether Satanists use the Tarot or not, as I've never met one. I have, however, met many people who use the Tarot daily as I do, and none of us are Satanists. I suppose one could use the Tarot to attempt to foresee the absolute future, but it would be a waste of time. Tarot readings are about the here and now. The story the cards will tell is about the nature of energies surrounding a topic; how past events and behaviors influenced today, how our thoughts, emotions, and the energies surrounding us will influence tomorrow. It is always in reference to what is going on right now, in this moment. With the information you receive, you can decide to continue as you have, or to change something you are doing, or thinking. You will in effect, change the outcome.

Tarot is a tool for knowing thyself. It brings understanding and conscious awareness of how your subconscious thoughts and beliefs can affect your physical reality in order that you can grow spiritually. There is nothing evil about self-awareness.

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    • profile image

      PWalker281 

      6 years ago

      Thanks, Terri! Yes, the superstitions persist. I offered tarot readings a couple of Christmases ago as gifts and they were (politely) refused by two Christian friends. First time that has ever happened to me, and I've been reading since the early 80s.

      Hopefully we can make a dent in dispelling these misconceptions. Hubs like yours are a great start!

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You may absotively possolutely link to this hub. Thanks for the read. I've been reading Tarot since I was a kid and I am amazed at how, in this day and age, so many folks still believe there's something magical, mystical, or evil about the practice. It's so good to see other "normal" people who understand the concept. (I use the term "normal" very loosely since everyone who knows me understands that such isn't the case with me. :D

    • profile image

      PWalker281 

      6 years ago

      This is a wonderful, well-written treatise that tackles many of the myths, superstitions, and misinformation that abound today regarding the tarot. I'm going to be writing the final hub in my five-part series on how to read tarot cards, and I'd like to link to this hub if you wouldn't mind. Rated up and (very)useful.

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, I thought the origination of some of the rumors was very interesting too.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      7 years ago from Minnesota

      Great job on talkin turkey on this topic. It reminds me of the game, "telephone." You start out with one person whispering in the second person's ear and on and on. By the end, the last person has what was said, completely wrong. This is how myths originate.

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Sorry it took me so long to reply. I just spent the last 18 hours undoing the damage done by a nasty little virus that got past security. What a mess. I'll be paying for the next week. But, thanks again for the comment. I did read your page. The virus struck just as I was reading it. Wiped out my Explorer. I'll be back to make a comment as soon as I can get everything caught up. So......Thanks for stopping by and I'll try to get a page or two up in the next couple of days.

    • Owl Ka Myst profile image

      Owl Ka Myst 

      7 years ago from In the Valley of Grapes

      Numerology- sweet! I just posted my first page about 11:11.

      Tarot is my main tool, but I started in astrology. I get about as deep into numbers as it goes in tarot but reference numerology on occasion. Can't wait for what ya got coming!

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for stopping by and especially for taking time to comment. While Tarot is something I do everyday, I'm actually geared toward numerology. I'll be posting a few pages on that in the near future. Anything that can facilitate self-awareness is a good thing, in my book.

    • Owl Ka Myst profile image

      Owl Ka Myst 

      7 years ago from In the Valley of Grapes

      As you probably know, Tarot as a divination deck was not around at the time for it was just a playing deck, but I believe that where the 'Tarot is Evil' comes from not only that 'do not seek seers' but also when the church put a ban on all gambling, which included dice, and card games.

      Great page! I have something much like it on my blog.

    • Terri Meredith profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Meredith 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I guess if one is a gambler addicted to poker we could say the cards are the devil's invention, but would it make it true??? hey thanks for the great comment. here's to avoiding Satanists everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      This was an excellently written article with a lot of very interesting and helpful information!

      I've known people who used the Tarot cards, they also could read regular cards.I'm fairly certain regular cards ARE from the devil, however. (just kidding)

      I, too, don't know any Satanists, so I also don't know if they use the Tarot cards or not! It's interesting the superstitions that get attached to objects.

      Thank you for the great article! Voted up and useful!

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