Human beings have always been fascinated with predicting the future, using a large array of tools to help them accomplish that feat. Cartomancy is one of such arts. People have been consulting the cards to predict the future for centuries, even if the modern tarot decks aren't much more than 200 years old. But how do tarot cards help a diviner predict the future?
A typical tarot deck is formed of 78 cards, 22 of them decorated with figures forming the Major Arcana and another 46 split into four suits of 14 cards each, the Minor Arcana. Each card has its own meaning and symbolism, with the minor arcana representing the four elements of fire (wands), air (swords), earth (pentacles or coins) and water (cups) and the 22 Major Arcana representing several aspects of our journey through life and spiritual progress. Each card tells a story on itself, and so their meanings and where they are placed relative to the rest of the spread can tell us important things about the future.
While some questions can be answered by just shuffling a tarot deck and selecting a single card, most of the time tarot readings take the form of more complex spreads using several cards in specific positions to tell a story and give an answer to a question posed by the querent. Some tarot spreads are used to predict the future and show how events unfold over time, while others just describe a situation and what is happening, has happened or what influences are affecting what is still to be. Where a card falls on a spread and whether is upside down or not will help form that image of the future as it looks likely to be.
A Typical Tarot Reading
During a typical tarot reading, be it for oneself or for somebody else, the querent will first formulate a question. It doesn't need to be spoken aloud, but that can be helpful if it's somebody else actually reading the spread. Based on that question, a spread is selected and the full Tarot deck or a subset of it is shuffled. Some people just shuffle and deal the cards, while others surround it with rituals related to the symbology of the Tarot. Once the cards have been shuffled and selected they are placed in a particular order depending on the spread, and the reader and the querent (if they are two different people) use their meanings to piece together a story that may describe the future or the potential of a situation.
Can Tarot Tell The Future?
The most common opinion about tarot practitioners is that Tarot cards aren't there to give a detailed view of a future that is constantly in flux. The different tarot spreads describe the ebb and flow of energies affecting a situation, but in the end it's the free will of the querent who will create a particular future, either by accepting the advice provided by the cards or taking a totally different path. The Tarot won't tell you the winning numbers of this week's lottery, but it may be able to make you notice that unless you buy a ticket you'll never win. A truthful tarot reading will not tell you what the future holds, but will give you the tools to shape it into what you want it to be.
Some readings, such as the Celtic cross tarot, can be used to either answer a very specific question or to give a general overview of a situation and how it's evolving through time, while others are better to just give a snapshot of the current situation, and what could be its natural progression if nothing changes. However, the future is always in your hands, and you can ignore the advice from the Tarot or act on it, or even be inspired to take a totally different decision based on your personal knowledge and the message from the cards.
The tarot can be a great tool for introspection and self-healing, and even if you don't own a deck or aren't sure about using the tarot cards to ask about your own future you can also check out free online tarot reading as an alternative and see by yourself.
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