This week, I stumbled over this question in Quora. I’m starting to like that platform. Once you figure out how it works, it can be pretty fun to discuss things online. Mark’s question about faith in tarot cards turned out to be quite the learning experience (Thanks, Mark!)
How It Started
Mark wondered how a random selection of cards could show us anything about our lives. As he stated it, it seemed to have no basis for scientific fact and wasn’t logical nor rational. He then explained how he draws cards using a number generator to give him a number between 1 and 78. He said this helped him not to favor one card over another.
Mark and I ended up in a wonderful discussion about faith in tarot and the conscious and the subconscious. I learned from it that I have a lot of rules I use in reading cards but that I’m not very conscious of them anymore. Explaining how it works made me conscious of it again.
It is funny how some people are attracted by a mystery like tarot readings while it scares others. I think that is where the religious view on tarot cards as a tool of the Devil comes from. Just because we can’t explain how a tarot reading works.
But how do we know that God isn’t on the other side of this conversation we have with ourselves? Doesn’t religion also take a significant appeal on just trust? Anyway, that’s a whole other discussion, which I really didn’t want to address in this blog.
The topic of this blog is the question Mark asked when I started reading cards. I mean, how in the world is it possible that “those cards know the answers to my question? How can I trust them, let alone have faith in tarot?
To be honest, those cards know diddly-squat about you nor your questions. It is all about trust and faith in tarot. You get answers because a symbol in the card’s image triggers a part of your brain that then comes up with some brilliant wisdom that is hidden inside. A pearl of wisdom you didn’t know you had.
I even write about it in my upcoming book, where I explain how to read cards intuitively (you can get on my newsletter list to be informed of the big day it is published!). It turns out you use a lot of beliefs to form your frame of reference. This is what I wrote some time ago:
“The moment you draw cards, it seems like a random process. You shuffle the cards and draw one or more cards from an upside-down turned deck. We assume that the cards you draw at that moment are unique and therefore have meaning. It is part of the frame of reference we use when we work with the cards.” Jolanda Bolt, Intuitive Tarot Readings
Logic, science, Or trust?
Where I say that I trust what comes up, Mark has deep thoughts about logic and science. And during the conversation we had, I concluded that I had an extensive frame of reference that I use when I do a reading. That’s what twenty-five years of reading tarot cards does. You slowly automate your work methods and become unconscious of the procedure and, most of all, why you do what you do before you draw a card and interpret it.
Different Habits Around Reading Cards
Not so long ago, I participated in a “tarot café” (meaning: offer tea to a couple of tarot loonies and let them talk about tarot – success guaranteed!). My friend who organized it always uses the fan technique to select a card by letting her finger go under the cards until one of them ‘draws’ her to it. I shuffle the cards, cut them into three stacks, put them back in a different order, and then take the top one. Mark uses a number generator. We all get a card to work with.
So what really is a coincidence? Radboud University’s Nico Heidari Tari wrote an excellent article about it, showing that discussing it is pretty meaningless. Meaningless does not mean it is negative, though. It is neutral. Please read the article and understand that you still know diddly-squat to help you answer the question.
Up until you pull a card and look at it, your cards are like Schrödinger’s cat. Yeah, I had to look that up as well. This theory is about our thought processes. Schrödinger, a physicist, explained it like this:
Place a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source in a sealed box. When the Geiger counter detects radioactivity, it triggers the flask, releasing the poison, killing the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that the cat is simultaneously alive and dead after a while. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends, and reality resolves into one possibility or the other. Source
I mean: this goes deep, right? Am I willing to go that deep? Aren’t we all constantly in this interpretation of quantum mechanics? But it sure is fun to try and find out some answers (not putting the cat in a box with a flask of poison!)
Is Reading Tarot Cards Really So “Unconscious”?
I’ve talked to people before who didn’t have a lot of faith in tarot, about the randomness of the cards.
“People often say, “Yeah, but if I drew the cards again, I’d get another card.” Yes, that’s right, and that’s really the end of the discussion. If you keep drawing until you get the card you like, you will not access that hidden source of information inside. So you draw cards once and trust that you will receive the crucial cards for you at that moment – that is the frame of reference.” A snippet of my upcoming book, Intuitive Tarot Readings
Here’s my frame of reference when it comes to doing tarot readings:
When I pull a card, I trust that it has a meaning for me at that moment. That process is created on the conscious level.
I consciously decide to read the cards, choose my deck (if you have more than one), carefully choose my question, shuffle the cards, and cut the deck. The only thing I cannot control is which card comes up.
There may be some unconscious processes that trigger us when we see the symbols on the card. For instance, on the Fool card, you may one day notice the butterflies, and the next, you notice the dog. These animals stir long-forgotten memories. Some of those memories are conscious, and some are unconscious. Until the Fool card came up, it could have been any card. It could have been a cat as well…
But let me ground this discussion with some no-nonsense experience of how most people interpret the cards. Let me ask you a few questions. How many of you use the following sources to interpret your cards?
- Memories of previous readings you did where the same card came up? So you copy that same meaning hoping it will mean as much this time?
- Leaf back through your journal to find previous notes on that card?
- Google “Fool tarot card meaning” and click the #1 result?
- Use the little white book that accompanies your deck?
- Use a book with tarot card meanings?
And yes, you may get some intuitive downloads as well. I use all of them (except for the LWB, I throw those out because they’re rubbish) when I get stuck. Sometimes, I know precisely what a card means, and the next, I am confused.
So, why we call tarot readings an example of working with the unconscious is a clue. There’s almost nothing unconscious about it. What we do instead is to create unnecessary woo-woo and ritual around it. I guess I’ve done the same things by using automatic habits while doing tarot readings, but it is far from necessary.
Conscious Frame Of Reference
When I started reading the tarot, I had to form my frame of reference. Most of that frame of reference is based on trust. As a recovering control freak, I have dropped control in this small part of my life.
I now let it go when a card comes up that I don’t understand. Some say that I’m not ready for the message, but it could also be that there is nothing logical about the meaning of the card and the question I asked.
My frame of reference also states that to get answers, you need to understand how to connect the card’s meaning with the question you asked to form an answer. It’s more like freely associating than all that woo-woo stuff which is simply not authentic to who I am. Woo-woo isn’t getting us anywhere in life where we have to deal with real-life issues. I’m not saying that ritual isn’t bringing us anything. I just believe that it is not going to solve our issues.
I gave up my search for answers, and at the same time, I never will. I am Schrödingers cat. If I need that animal to explain the tarot, I may risk going overboard. Until I turn over the card, it can be any card, just like any choice can help me to go in any direction. In the end, the tarot cards are just seventy-eight pieces of sturdy paper.
And still, I get cards I instantly trust
And still, too often, I “get” a card that mirrors my situation exactly, and I get confirmation of my next step. You know, reading tarot cards is all about confirming what we already know. Because how else can you interpret a meaning to a card that wasn’t already in your mind?
This makes the tarot a tool for chronically insecure people who secretly know what they want but are too afraid to trust themselves. I know I am one of that league. With the help of the cards, we also consciously and courageously step forward on our adventurous path.
Tarot has brought me help in trying times. It helped me through
- loneliness when I moved to a godforsaken island,
- a major burnout because the job on that island was shit,
- finding that wonderful husband of mine,
- finding professional physical therapy when my shoulder froze up and the doctor said he could not do anything for me,
- finding the courage to apply for jobs and get them
- a business that slowly died on me and decided to stop the agony of it
- the recovery of an eating disorder
- writing blogs and books
Experiences like these, build my faith in tarot and trust my own answers; that’s what it did. That is why I can have faith in it because it restores my faith in myself.
No Schrödinger’s cat will change that…
Now over to you: do you have faith in your tarot readings? What could you change if you let go of certain beliefs that kept you doubting yourself? Please, share your thoughts with me and leave a comment below.