Featured Deck: Playing Marseille by Ryan Edward
Author’s Note: This Myth Busting post will differ from the others in a sense that it’s not busting a wild concept surrounding the tarot. I, myself, do use the cards for divination or in a “fortune-telling” manner and have seen the benefits of this long-standing tradition. For the sake of transparency, I wanted to make it clear that I am not condemning using the cards in this way nor to impose the use of it on you. Take what resonates, and leave the rest behind.
Fortune-telling and tarot cards have been synonymous in the public’s consciousness for decades. If you ask a random person off of the streets what they thought of the tarot they would associate it with predicting the future. Is this myth legit or not? Let’s have a discussion about the history of this practice, the dilemmas it can pose, and a reframing of the concept itself.
How did the tarot became a fortune-telling tool?
I wanted to briefly talk about the history of fortune-telling with the tarot so that you have a clear picture where this concept came from. According to Caitlin Matthews, in her book Untold Tarot, divining using the cards were only well-documented in the 18th Century through the efforts of different esotericists like Comte de Mellet and Court de Gébelin, although there were a handful mentions of it before them but information is scarce (Matthews, 2018). These 18th Century mystics suggested that there is a connection between the cards’ symbols with Egyptian and Romani cultures. This added an exotic depth to the tarot and its oracular power. Using the cards to predict the future became popular, especially during the French Revolution a time of great upheaval.
Through this added layer of mysticism and its adoption by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Arthur Waite and Pamela Colman Smith were inspired to create one of the most iconic tarot decks in existence, which helped solidify the esoteric nature within the cards. The mystical use of the cards outgrew the game it was inherently used for. Add in the effects of pop-culture propagating the “supernatural” qualities of the cards resulted in this idea seeped into the public’s consciousness.
Why is fortune-telling problematic?
The reason a lot of people are very apprehensive about this is because it can pose ethical dilemmas when we try to foretell the future (through cards or any other means). In my opinion, the future is extremely flexible because it is always dependent on the actions we take in the present moment. To me using the cards to solely predict events can rob yourself or the querent’s autonomy over a situation because it implies that the future is fixed in stone. This can have harmful consequences to a person’s mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing because it can leave them powerless and hopeless.
Can the tarot predict the future?
In my opinion, no it won’t predict the future to a tee unless if you’re heavily connected with your psychic gifts (which is a whole different discussion in itself). As I’ve previously mentioned, the future is fluid and can only be determined by the actions you take now, in this moment. The cards can only show you potential outcomes, not definite ones. To believe that the cards can show you what is fated might give you more problems than relief because not everything the cards will tell you will be in your favor. This can cause more harm than good.
So why do you do fortune-telling yourself?
Truthfully, the “fortune-telling” aspect of my practice is just for my own pleasure and to help hone my intuition. Let me be clear, my style of fortune-telling is more forecasting than actual prophesizing. I only use divination with the mindset that the cards only show possibilities rather than predictions. This helps me stay grounded and it brings awareness to what I can do to alter the reading’s outcome (or to give me the space to just let things unfold the way it wants to, which is still my choice). This is why I only view divination in such a light manner because at the end of the day I am in charge of my actions and I get to create the future I want.
The tarot is an incredibly versatile tool and we can use it in a myriad of ways, not just fortune-telling. Modern approaches highlighted its psychological and healing attributes, which can be beneficial to our holistic wellbeing. However, I would also like to say that this old-school tradition should not be completely disregarded by modern readers. That is why I find this myth difficult to debunk fully because I don’t want to belittle those readers who can use the cards this way and are successful at it. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.
What are your thoughts regarding predicting the future with the tarot? Please share them by responding down below!
Matthews, C. (2018). Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots. Red Feather Mind Body Spirit.