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The Five W’s (and H) of Tarot

When you find something new of interest, you most likely will research it as much as possible so that you can understand it better. This first step in discovery is crucial for your journey. If you delve into something without first learning the basics, you might find yourself in over your head with all the new information and content. It can overwhelm you quite quickly and leave you with nothing but frustration and confusion. In my attempt to make understanding the basics of tarot easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of the most common questions that people ask when wanting to start:

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

Who can use it?

The fun thing about tarot is that anyone can utilize it, whether you’re a tarot veteran or just picking up your first deck today. Tarot doesn’t discriminate and there’s no one set group of people who can use it. But just like anything else in this world, though tarot can be used by anyone and everyone, there will always be those who find tarot just isn’t for them. Whether it’s because they simply dismiss anything tied to the occult, they harbor fear for the unknown, or choose not to believe, at the end of the day, tarot won’t be of any use for those select few.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Though it is important to know, you can be curious and skeptical about tarot and still find it useful at the end of the day. It’s okay not to believe something when first presented to you. Question the information, do your research, and form your own educated opinions on it. At the end of the day that free will is what, not only makes us human but also makes us better able to believe something once we’ve had all our questions answered.

Those who choose to use and practice tarot do so because of their own free will.

To sum it up, if you remain curious, open-minded, and willing to accept that tarot might be of use to you, you’ll find tarot may just be exactly what you need in times of uncertainty.

What is it exactly?

Tarot was just an ordinary card game that originated from an Italian game, carte de trionfi (Cards of Triumphs). Eventually, in the 1400s, it was used for the occult by the French, and since then has been associated with divination and fortune-telling around the world. Each card within the tarot deck has an associated meaning that can help answer the querent’s question/query.

The most important thing to remember about tarot is that it is not an exact science. It will not tell you the exact numbers of the next winning lottery, and it won’t give you the specific name of your soulmate. Rather, it will provide a card or series of cards that are meant to help you discover the answer you’ve known all along.

Tarot is a tool used to enhance your ability to analyze a situation and to see it from a fresh perspective. Though you’ll find that its advice truly comes from within. And while many people associate it with magic and witchcraft, it’s not necessarily magical in nature (not unless you want it to be). What makes each reading special is how you interpret the cards in relation to the question or query provided.

Take for example you need to study for a test. While you are reading a passage, you highlight all the possible things that could help you pass the test. When you go back to reread for some last-minute studying, all the highlighted sections stand out to you. Taking the test the next day, you find you can work through the problems easier because you remembered the sections you highlighted.

Tarot is much like the highlighter in this example. It is a tool that can be used to enhance and magnify the possible solutions that would help answer your question or query. You don’t necessarily need it to get through life just like a highlighter isn’t mandatory to study, but it can be useful and empowering all the same.

When should one use it?

When you decide to do readings really comes down to personal preference. You can use it when you wake up first thing in the morning, or late at night just before you fall asleep. Or perhaps you choose to use it in the middle of the afternoon. It all comes down to you at the end of the day.

It’s worth it to point out that there is a well-meaning piece of advice many experienced readers do suggest when NOT to read tarot. That is when you find yourself in an extremely emotional state. Either under extreme duress, upset, sadness, anger, or even extreme cases of happiness. This isn’t to say that you can’t read tarot during those times, but it is advised not to do so. Because tarot relies on your ability to interpret the cards with a clear head, being extremely emotional can hinder your ability to understand the cards, and that may or may not be the best thing for you at that moment.

You are free to do as you wish, but please heed this warning.

Where should it be used?

The greatest thing about tarot is its portability and versatility. It can be read anywhere and everywhere, and they even sell travel-sized decks these days. But please keep in mind: there is always a time and place for everything. While nothing is truly stopping you from doing a reading anywhere, you might want to consider its appropriateness to the place you wish to do it.

For instance, it would not be advisable to suddenly whip out your tarot cards in the middle of a work meeting, or even in the office at all. Not unless your job is okay with that (e.g. you work in a new age store, and it’s been stated that it’s appropriate). Your boss might not take too kindly to the distraction, and some coworkers might be a bit put-off by you. Even in this modern-day, when more and more people are educated about tarot and divination, not everyone is still accepting or open about such things. So just keep that in mind.

Why use it?

Perhaps one of the most important questions on this post. And so, I answer with the best thought-provoking response: Why not?

Tarot can be such a great tool for empowering you and encouraging you to step out of your comfort zone. It can be used like people use a flipped coin to make on-the-fence decisions. Many people can use it for general guidance, comfort, love, and overall well-being. There are so many reasons one would want to use tarot. The best reason of all: because you just feel like it.

It can be fun and exciting, and for many people during the worst of the pandemic; it was something new to pick up. Many used it as a form of entertainment or a distraction. It can be a hobby or career, or just something done casually for fun at parties or oneself at home.

The takeaway: You don’t need a specific reason to do tarot. If you want to do it, do it.

How can one use it?

There are so many sources online that talk about all the details and specific ways people set up for tarot readings. People talk about all sorts of accompanying tools like spreading clothes, cleansing crystals, or they mention burning incense, lighting candles, and or saging. At the end of the day, keep in mind that it doesn't have to be super fancy or visually aesthetic to get done. As I’ve stated before it can be used anywhere and anytime and it doesn’t need to be made into a whole ceremony if you don’t want it to be.

It's best to keep it simple.

And if you don’t know how to start, here are some easy tips to keep in mind:

  1. Set up an undisturbed block of time. Depending on how detailed you want your reading to be, anywhere between 5-30 minutes can work for most readings.

  2. Find a space free from distractions. Turn off your background TV (unless the white noise helps you focus), close the door so your pets can’t disturb you, put your phone off to the side and turn it on silent. It seems it’s always the tiny things that distract us. Let tarot be the small quiet moment you dedicate to yourself. Like taking a hot shower after a long day, or doing your skincare routine before going to bed.

  3. Doing a simple breathing exercise beforehand can help you focus (or even a quick meditation), but know it’s not necessary if you don’t have that much time.

  4. Use a clean, smooth, and flat surface to lay out your cards. Make sure you have enough space for bigger spreads, keeping in mind Tarot cards do tend to run a bit larger than the average playing card. And there’s a reason I say smooth. You can have a flat surface that’s still rough and you want to avoid that. To keep your cards free from damage, don’t use them on any surfaces that might scuff them or dirty them. For instance, if you're sitting on the ground outside, use a small towel under them to protect them from dirt, grass stains, and or the rough surface of cement or asphalt.

  5. Relax, it doesn't have to be so serious. Unclench your jaw, roll your shoulders, and stretch your hands. Tarot readings should not stress you out. While they can be mentally draining, or you may be asking a serious question, tarot shouldn’t be read when you’re so wound up. So this leads to the next tip:

  6. Take breaks. If you find yourself becoming tense, or antsy, or even if you just need to go to the bathroom, know that it’s perfectly fine to take a break and give yourself some time to recollect yourself. Just leave your cards where they are and go do what you have to do. Come back when your mind is clear, calm, and focus-ready. You can just pick up where you left off.

  7. Most importantly: enjoy it! Tarot readings can be quite refreshing and energizing at times, so enjoy them! They can be moments of silence and solitude or even sometimes moments to process sadder things. For whatever reason you’re using tarot, enjoy it.

And lastly, don’t always expect to be able to do it every single day, day in and day out. A good tarot reading can take some time and you never truly want to do one in a rush. It is wise to properly dedicate some time to your tarot reading so that you have no interruptions and can give it the proper attention it deserves. So while some people have the time to dedicate to reading every day or every other day, others like myself, do it when we want and when we can. Even if that means only once or twice a month or sometimes only once or twice a year.

Happy readings!

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