Tarot Usage

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Paris, 1933: a tarot-card reading

Forms of tarot usage

Reading tarot takes many forms, some of which are closer to counselling sessions, and others closer to divinatory insights, in earlier times perhaps referred to as 'fortune telling'. What is common for readings generally is the usage of one or more tarot spreads.

Tarot readings allow individuals and groups to gain insights into situations, the reader's own self, and others, and ideally encourages responsibility in any engagements.

Tarot reading as counselling

There are various senses in which 'tarot counselling' can be understood, partly as a consequence of the various uses of the term 'counselling' in different parts of the world.

If used in the more generic sense, 'counselling' refers to the act of giving counsel or advice. Giving such advice has consequences not only for the person receiving the counsel, but also the person providing it, especially in the context of professional readings (see subheading below).

Tarot Reading as divination

Divination is normally understood in the sense that guidance is received as spiritual insight. The various explanations that can be given will usually reflect the spiritual worldview of the explanatory theory. Some divinatory explanations rely on psychological views of the practice, rather than on any spiritual realm that others prefer.

  • Tarot spreads A tarot spread consists in placing tarot cards in either specified or random positions.

Tarot Reading as brain-storming

Tarot cards have at times been used for 'brain-storming' for either new ideas or finding a means to view a situation from an alternate perspective.

Tarot for meditative practice

Tarot's imagery has been used in various meditative practices. Some of these are reminiscent of the various practices developed in Christian monasteries and convents over the past millennium, such as practices that resemble either Lectio Divina and various other imaginative exercises.

Tarot as an Element of Ritual

Individual cards or groups of cards may be used as visual and energetic focus points during ritual.

Tarot Games

Early Tarot decks were used to play trick-taking games such as Tarot (French and English name - Tarocchi in Italian, and Tarock in German), and today this game is played widely. The Fédération Française de Tarot publishes official rules for Tarot. The game is sometimes referred to in English as French tarot; for example, the French name of the tarot festival held annually in Montreal, Festival International de Tarot de Montréal, is officially translated into English as International French Tarot Festival of Montreal.

New games have been designed for the Tarot as well, with some played with a divinatory slant in mind.


  • Pagat.com Rules for historical Tarot games
  • Tarot Games by Cait Johnson and Maura. D. Shaw, a book containing 45 modern Tarot games that can be played on one's own or in a group, designed for spiritual development, entertainment, or team-building.
  • Twelve Tarot Games by Michael Dummet, which gives twelve historical Tarot games from around the world (mostly Europe)
  • TarotTux Java applet of a Tarot game.
  • Le Tarot for the standard game of tarot as a software package.

Professional Tarot Reading

Reading professionally brings in (in addition to considerations in other subheadings) judicial and tax considerations, which vary from country to country and across smaller jurisdictions within countries (such as states, provinces, cantons, departments, or townships, amongst others).

There are no jurisdictions in which one requires so-called 'accredition' in reading tarot, though some jurisdictions, as mentioned above, require that one registers with relevant bodies the specifics of the public engagement, or obtain a license for the same. These, when they exist, are usually of a form that permits the provision of a service in return for income, and a means by which the local jurisdiction is able to keep a record of public engagements of artists, vendors and merchants (and thus not specifically related to tarot).

Readers and clients should beware of claims of 'professional' accreditation with regards to tarot (cf the page on certification and tarot). research papers

See also