The Truth Behind the Tarot by Christina Knowles


All my life I’ve been fascinated by the Tarot. I started reading cards many years ago, and although I’ve had great experiences with them, I’ve given them up over and over, just to pick them up again. First, because I thought that the idea that these were somehow magical cards that could tell us truths about ourselves was ridiculous, and later because when I was a Christian, I was told they were evil—full of Satanic power. I thought this was a little crazy too. After all, they seemed pretty innocuous to me. But now, without religious dogma dictating my actions, I decided to pick them up again—just for fun.


Why would a skeptical atheist want to mess around with cards that supposedly predict the future? Well, for one thing, that’s not what they are intended to do. They are supposed to get in touch with the “higher self,” the divine self who knows things that our regular self does not. I don’t believe I have a divine self or a “higher self,” but I do have a subconscious mind. Much as dreams may signal internal conflict or reveal unconscious struggles symbolically, reading the cards is a way of unlocking some of our stored away issues of which we are not fully aware.


Having taught literature for a number of years, I recognize the power of story—the connections we make, the epiphanies that occur when we relate automatically to a certain set of circumstances or events. Each Tarot card tells a story and can represent many things symbolically. How we relate to these stories at any given time is a clue to revealing our inner desires, our worries and fears, our secret feelings. Some people interpret these feelings when reading cards as intuition. I recognize intuition as our subconscious coming to the surface momentarily, allowing us to have realizations about ourselves that may previously have been blocked, sort of like the anecdote about making decisions. If you really want to know what you want, flip a coin, and when it’s in the air, you will realize which side of the coin you were hoping to see. Sometimes we need a little help figuring ourselves out, and the Tarot can do that—there’s nothing magical or mystical about it.


As for those who are really adept at reading cards for others, this is also easily explained. Whenever I read cards for others, I would “sense” a feeling or an interpretation of the cards from my own experiences, biases, and personality. When I repeated my impressions, the person for whom I was reading, reacted. I, in turn, would perceive from their reaction which way to take the story’s interpretation. The person receiving the reading is also influenced by both the cards and my interpretation, essentially being led down a road simultaneously by me and themselves, still reaching the destination of revealed truths about their own struggles and desires. The reader is not necessarily a charlatan. They really believe they are having mystical insights into this person’s life. It does feel like that. I’ve felt it many times, but I assure you I am no psychic.


Removing the illusion of magic from the cards doesn’t have to ruin the benefits of card reading. With my imagination, I can immerse myself in their symbols and stories, relax, and let my subconscious tell me what I need to know. As I’ve learned many things about myself through dream interpretation, I continue to use the Tarot as a tool for problem-solving and clarity. After all, it’s all in my mind anyway, so if the goal is understanding my own behavior or decisions, what better place to find answers?—Christina Knowles

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