Demystifying 10 Common Tarot Myths
When I first started out with tarot, I found it absolutely overwhelming and downright terrifying thanks to all of the stigma that surrounded tarot online and generationally. Thankfully, I discovered that most, if not all, of the "scary" aspects of tarot were actually completely false, and I'm here to demystify these myths so that you don't throw in the towel on tarot before you even get your pretty little feet wet. So, let's jump right in.
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MYTH 01: You Can't Buy Yourself a Tarot Deck
This was one of the main myths that I was hung up on when I first started out with tarot. I was so fearful of bringing bad luck upon myself or offending the "tarot gods" (which aren't real) by doing something wrong... but I also remember thinking, "Who the hell is going to buy me a tarot deck?" I was still very much in the "tarot closet" so having someone buy me a deck was literally not in the cards.
I quickly learned that there is no standing rule anywhere stating that you cannot buy yourself a tarot deck but, for some reason, this myth lives on with fervor. As you further your tarot knowledge, you'll come to see that tarot is all about trusting your intuition and following where it leads you. If it calls you towards a certain tarot deck, then trust that feeling and go treat yo'self!
You'll also find that tarot decks are like friends, each has a different energy and purpose so start with the one that calls to you and then see where it leads you next. Trust me, you'll end up buying more than one tarot deck in your lifetime so don't worry about getting "the one" because it'll eventually be one of many. I have over 100 decks in my collection currently, so heed my advice: There will be many! 😅
MYTH 02: Tarot is Evil
Tarot is what you make of it. If you use it for evil, then evil is what you'll get; however, if you use it for its intended use -- awareness, guidance & insight -- then that's what you'll be gifted with. Many people get spooked by the idea that tarot can predict the future and whatever the cards say, goes. This is both true and false. Tarot simply provides messages and options based on what is known at the time of the reading, much like a weather report predicts the most likely weather forecast based on the patterns and conditions known and recorded.
It's important to remember that everyone has free will as well as the power to create their own reality. The worst thing a querent can do is give their power away to the cards because their desired outcome didn't come through in the reading. Tarot tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
MYTH 03: You Must be Psychic to Read Tarot
Everyone has psychic abilities but not everyone has the same desire to hone their skills. Luckily, tarot is more about trusting your own intuition than being psychic, so anyone can learn how to read the cards if they so choose. As with any skill, trade, or hobby, there's a level of dedication, study, practice, and application that is required to master the craft. The same goes for tarot. The more you use your tarot "muscle," the easier and more effective your readings will become.
Try not to get hung up on what you do and don't need to read tarot because at the end of the day, all you need is a tarot deck, unwavering faith in your own intuition, and a bit of surrender to allow the messages to flow to and through you. In fact, I have a friend with zero knowledge of tarot who actually gave an accurate reading to another one of our friends as a joke. I pulled cards and he interpreted them based off of what he gathered from the scenery on the cards and his own intuitive hits. Granted we were just joking around, but I was astonished at how spot-on he was with his interpretations. This just goes to show that you don't need to be a tarot expert to conduct accurate readings, all you need is a bit of faith (and maybe a beer or two 😉) to get the intuitive juices flowing.
MYTH 04: There are "Bad" Cards in the Deck
As there is no light without the dark, tarot has both light and shadow (read: challenging) aspects to each and every card. People assume getting The Death card predicts impending doom or even death itself, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the Death card is more about transformation and rebirth than it is about doom and gloom. Therefore, they're both light (rebirth, renewal) and dark (ego death, change) aspects to The Death that play into its overall message of out with the old, in with the new.
Said simply, It's more important to look for the lesson, blessing, and/or opportunity in each card's messages as opposed to trying to label certain ones "good" or "bad." It's all about perspective and a willingness to see the light in the dark.
MYTH 05: You Must Follow a Certain Ritual to Read Tarot
When first starting out with tarot, you might be tempted to follow someone else's ritual or practice of setting the space, cleansing the cards, interpreting the cards, and closing out the reading. While doing your due diligence and research is one thing, holding too tightly to someone else's way of doing things isn't authentic or required.
Figure out what feels good to you and run with that. For instance, many people use sage to cleanse their decks before and after readings. However, I've come to see that this method isn't always practical for me, especially if I'm reading at an event for a crowd of people, so I simply knock three times on the deck and shuffle to cleanse it. Don't overcomplicate things because you'll only overwhelm yourself or risk taking on a ritual that doesn't feel aligned with your values. Again, do what feels good and right for YOU and give yourself some wiggle room to adjust your practice as you see fit.
MYTH 06: Someone Else Touching Your Deck is Bad Luck
While it's rude and inconsiderate for someone to touch your tarot deck without permission, thankfully it's not the end of the world. Cleansing your deck is simple, fast, and effective so simply clear the deck(s) of the person's energy with fumigators (sage, incense, palo santo), sound, crystals, air, or other means that you may use in your ritual. One of the easiest and quickest ways to cleanse and/or imprint your energy onto your deck is to fan out the cards in your hands and blow on them then shuffle them.
It's good to regularly cleanse your decks or reawaken their energy anyway, so make it a habit to cleanse, play, or work with your decks often -- this also helps you get to know the unique energy and purpose of each deck, which is a whole other ballgame.
MYTH 07: You Have to Read for Other People
Reading tarot cards can be a private practice that is intended for you and you alone. Don't buy into the idea that because you understand the cards that you have to read for others. Many people choose to keep their tarot practice solitary and personal, actually, so don't feel pressured to open up your practice with anyone else if you don't feel called to.
Tarot is a very sacred practice and is unique to each and every person -- make your practice YOURS. If anyone tries to guilt you into sharing your gift of reading the cards or makes you feel bad for not sharing, then understand that it has more to do with their insecurities than it does you.
Again, this is your practice so do what feels right. If you want to keep your readings to yourself, then do so. If you feel called to open your readings up to family and close friends, then feel into it and open it up when you're ready. As your practice evolves, your openness to sharing your readings may too. Remember, this is a journey, not a destination so be open, be curious, be adventurous.
MYTH 08: You Must Memorize All 78 Cards Before You Start Reading Tarot
Learning to read tarot cards is a little bit of memorization and a lotta bit of intuition, so try not to get in the mindset that you have to memorize every card before you start doing practice readings. In fact, not being swayed by the textbook meaning of the cards is beneficial because it allows you the opportunity to explore the imagery, colors, numerology, and symbols on the card and gather your own interpretation of the cards.
There's also a lot of pressure if you approach all 78 cards with the expectation of needing to memorize each card. What you'll come to see is that you'll end up using the textbook meaning as a general take on the card and rely more on your own intuitive hits to decipher the card's message and purpose in the greater "story" of the reading. Moreover, cards interplay with each other's energies and influence each other's messages so trying to memorize each card's meaning would vastly limit you from exploring the malleable nature of the cards.
MYTH 09: You Have to Read Reversals
Learning the upright meanings of the cards is enough to take on as a beginner, so don't overwhelm yourself by trying to add reversals into the mix. Actually, a lot of readers choose not to incorporate reversals into their tarot practice as a personal choice for various reasons. And again, there's no rule stating that you need to read reversals so throw that out the window.
Reversals, however, shouldn't be feared either. A lot of misinformation is out there about reversals that make them seem scarier than they truly are. As with anything that you're told: Take what resonates, leave the rest... and question everything! If exploring reversals calls to you, then start with the major arcana cards first and then work your way up to the minor arcana cards. It's helpful to think of reversals as another layer or deepening of the upright meaning rather than a completely separate meaning altogether.
MYTH 10: Reversed Cards are Bad
As I mentioned earlier, there are both light and shadow (read: challenging) aspects to each card and the same applies for reversals. Just because a card is reversed doesn't mean it's something bad or negative. For instance, one of the most feared and misunderstood cards in a tarot deck is The Devil card. In its upright position, it stands for temptation, addiction, and vices that keep us trapped or stagnant. However, in its reversed position, The Devil's energy is more liberating and hopeful which completely goes against the myth that reversal cards are bad.
In my practice, reversal cards tend to reveal something that needs to be acknowledged or seen by the querent. In other instances, reversals indicate apparent delays or blockages to be aware of. Regardless of the meaning, I always try to find the lesson, blessing, challenge, and opportunity in each card that I pull whether upright or reversed -- and there's nothing bad or scary about that!
Tarot isn't confined or cut and dried, it's quite adaptive and subjective. It's meant to work with you in bringing shape and form to subconscious or unconscious material so that you can better understand yourself and your experience. As long as you act with integrity and respect and always honor what feels right, you really can't go wrong with reading tarot.
Throw all the fear-based preconceived notions about tarot out the door, then pick up a deck and simply sit with it in meditation. Go through the cards and see what comes to you. Take in the imagery on the cards and allow their energies to guide your intuition. Trust what comes through and apply that to your studies and practice. Learning tarot isn't supposed to be overwhelming or scary, it's meant to be connective, empowering, and most importantly fun!
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