Why More People Are Turning to Tarot for Self-Help
Interpreting the colorfully-illustrated cards can inspire self-awareness and clarity
“Traditionally, it used to be a predictive tool. Now tarot is used for personal development, spiritual connection, and gaining greater awareness between the universe and the self,” says Melinda Lee Holm, a Los Angeles-based high priestess and tarot practitioner who frequently works with music industry insiders and whose clients include Dhani and Olivia Harrison, Dita Von Teese, and GZA. (Her husband happens to be Paul McCartney’s go-to tour DJ, producer Chris Holmes).
What is Tarot and How Does it Work?
Cartomancy is typically associated with psychics and Satanism, but not all tarot readers claim to have a third eye, nor is it rooted in “evil.” Today’s tarot descends from tarocchini, a card game similar to bridge born in the 15th century in Northern Italy. The Renaissance-era game was favored among nobles, and the intricate illustrations and symbology were inspired by Catholicism (which in turn borrowed a thing or two from the pagans). It eventually made its way to France, where it was called tarot.
It wasn’t until the 1700s when tarot was used for divination and its faux history of ancient Egyptian origins was born. Eighteenth-century occultist and Protestant pastor Antoine Court de Gébelin interpreted the playing cards as holding esoteric knowledge from the Book of Thoth, thus sparking ties to the mysticism.
Tarot card decks consist of two parts: The Major Arcana, which has 22 trump cards, each depicting a symbolic scene with one or more characters; and the Minor Arcana, which contains 56 cards divided into four suits and is similar to your common playing cards.
“The tarot deck is based on ancient archetypes of basic humanness that we have,” explains Holm. “Interacting with and learning the language of tarot can help us understand ourselves and each other. If we understand these universal things about ourselves, you recognize that everyone goes through these things and that brings us to common ground. It makes us more compassionate.”
Holm points out that tarot “meets you where you’re at. I find that with the cards, they present to you ideas and concepts that challenge you,” and it can be similar to the benefits of therapy, Holm continues.
In fact, renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung also saw tarot’s benefits. Tarot historian and author Mary K. Greer writes, “Jung believed a person could use ‘an intuitive method’ to understand — through tarot’s reflecting the collective unconscious into a ‘cloud of cognition’ — the meaning in a present, prevailing condition.”
What Are the Best Tarot Products?
Tarot cards are readily available these days, but those who prefer to leave it to the pros can consult a tarot practitioner like Holm (who also offers virtual appointments). If someone else is drawing your cards, Holm says that you “should always come away with something to do. After all, why are you paying $100 to $200 if you’re not [learning] anything from it? It’s a way to continue to develop your higher self.”
She continues: “If you are starting out, and you get a tarot deck and it’s just not connecting with you or feeling heavy, it’s okay to get a new [one]. This process and practice is for personal development.”
This year in particular has primed us all for a bit of soul-searching — and since many cities are facing another round of pandemic lockdowns, why not spend that extra time finding ourselves in a pack of tarot cards?