Is tarot divination? This might seem a question with an obvious answer, but the question is actually more complicated than it seems.
Divination vs. Self-Analysis
Reading tarot cards is many things to many people. For some readers, tarot cards are a form of divination — allowing them to perceive that which would normally be unknowable. Divination has been used for everything from finding a lost cat, to questions about romantic interests, to getting a sneak-peek at the events of next week.
Tarot as a method for self-analysis can offer insight into one’s feelings, inner fears, inhibitions, dreams and desires.
For other tarot readers, tarot is a tool for personal exploration and self-analysis. Tarot as a method for self-analysis can offer insight into one’s feelings, inner fears, inhibitions, dreams and desires. When tarot is used as a tool for self-analysis, readers often dismiss with the more occult aspects of tarot and leverage tarot’s capacity to focus their personal insight.
Before diving deeper in to this distinction, let’s clear up what “divination” actually means;
DEFINITION: Divination: Divination is a spiritual or occult practice used to acquire knowledge which would otherwise be inaccessible or unknowable to the querent. Divination may include “fortune-telling” but does not necessarily include questions about future events or outcomes.
(For those who aren’t clear on the distinction between divination and fortune-telling, see this issue addressed here).
Let’s talk about both approaches: Tarot divination and tarot self-exploration.
Cartomancy, or divination with playing cards or other fortune-telling cards is an old practice. It dates back to the early Middle Ages — and long before that there were many similar forms of divination. Before paper cards, readers would cast lots, read tea leaves, practice palmistry, throw bones, toss coins, swing pendulums, draw straws, throw dice and use countless other methods. Humans it seems, have been assigning meaning to the the hand of fate since the dawn of time.
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Tarot reading comes from this long tradition of divination — and for most tarot readers, tarot is an occult means of “peering behind the veil” as famed esotericist A.E. Waite once put it.
If you’re asking the cards questions about things you can’t possibly know, then you’re likely practicing divination.
Questions like these are examples of tarot divination questions:
- Will my boyfriend come back?
- Will I get a better job soon?
- Is my ex thinking about me now?
- Is my boss lying to me?
In each of those cases, there is usually no amount of self-analysis or insight which would reveal the answer to those questions. The cards are lifting the veil on the unknown and giving you insights which you would not normally have access to.
Today, millions of tarot fans read tarot every day and don’t believe in “fortune telling” at all. As noted psychotherapist Carl Jung observed, tarot cards have an interesting ability to structure our analysis into different dimensions or aspects. Jung also observed that the tarot made use of archetypes which could be useful in psychoanalysis.
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Countless other tarot readers have noted that tarot as a practice, is one of the few things that we do which asks us to think about specific facets of an issue. Simple meditation, while enormously helpful, does not encourage multiple types of thought, or multiple approaches to analyze an issue.
Tarot’s structure and intentionally mysterious symbolism forces the reader to deconstruct events, emotions, experiences and personality types. In doing so, or overall insight improves.
Questions like these are examples of tarot self-analysis questions:
- How can I cope better with the conflicts at work?
- Why do I have a fear of travel?
- Tell me about my current relationship
- Help me understand both sides of this decision
It’s sometimes a blurry line
Of course, there are plenty of questions which cross between tarot’s two sides of self-analysis and divination. Love and dating questions in particular, are areas which ask us to analyze ourselves while offering tantalizing clues regarding future outcomes.
Because questions about marriage, romance and relationships match so perfectly with tarot’s core strengths, it should come as no surprise that most professional psychics say that relationship questions make up the bulk of their business.
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