OPINION: The power and purpose of tarot card reading


Hailey Stessman

Tarot is a wonderful outlet to gain insight and guidance on specific situations or conflicts. Photo by Hailey Stessman/the Gateway.

The first deck I ever owned was gifted to me by my mother on Christmas a few years back. It was a gold embossed blue box engraved with the words “The Illuminated Tarot” in cursive script. Inside held 53 cards beautifully decorated with the art of Caitlyn Keegan that combined the symbols and archetypes of the Major and Minor Arcana’s, a fact I would learn years after.

For quite some time, I never used the cards as I wasn’t sure of their purpose. I only occasionally glanced at the art when I was bored. I didn’t know what the titles such as “The Empress” and “The Hierophant” meant, and I didn’t know how to use the accompanying packet that came with the deck.

Fast forward a few years to the present, I utilize one of my seven tarot decks on an almost daily basis. When my life seems too hectic or I’m not quite sure what path I should take in a situation, I turn to tarot with the hope that it will help guide me in the right direction.

Tarot is a form of divination where a set of archetypes and symbols are assigned to one of seventy-eight cards that are divided into two categories: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards that represent large life events or cycles through specific themes and archetypes such as “the Wheel of Fortune” and “Temperance”. The Minor Arcana, the remaining 56 cards, signify smaller occurrences or patterns of everyday life. These 56 cards are divided further into four separate suits which each correspond with a specific element: Cups (water), Pentacles (earth), Swords (air) and Wands (fire).

I will admit that at the beginning of my journey with tarot I was very skeptical about whether it worked. I wasn’t entirely convinced that a set of playing cards could give me insight or advice on conflicts or trials happening in my life. But as I began to integrate a consistent practice in my life, I was beginning to see how much the cards’ meanings related to my personal circumstances.

While I would not recommend tarot as a replacement for counseling or therapy (as those are important tools for mental health), I will say that tarot has offered me an outlet where I can work through my emotions and reflect on where I am in my life. Think of tarot as a form of journaling but with cards. Not only does tarot offer a framework for you to meditate on your feelings, but it can often be a sacred practice or form of prayer for some individuals.

Not sure where to start?

I would highly encourage you to do your research first and think about what you are seeking for your practice. Are you more drawn to general readings or do you want to focus on a certain area of your life? Would you prefer the classic Rider-Waite deck that is built around the common archetypes that many are familiar with? Or, are you more drawn to angel cards or oracle cards that go beyond the basic tarot framework? The wonderful thing about tarot is that it is all based around your intuition. There is no pressure or high expectation to achieve as a tarot reader. The options are limitless. If you are attracted to a certain deck or a specific technique of shuffling, then go for it! There is no right or wrong answer.

Tarot has also grown into a large community where individuals will offer readings over Instagram, TikTok and even YouTube for the general public if you are unable to purchase your own deck. If you do have the funds to buy your own deck, I recommend The Conjure Shop near campus! They have an amazing selection of tarot decks, and the staff is incredibly welcoming and want to help you on your tarot journey. Businesses such as Barnes and Noble and businesses on Etsy also offer beautiful tarot decks.

It may scare you at first, tarot has so much to offer you. Remember, your intent is everything. And if you find out that tarot isn’t for you, that’s okay!

And as always, you have the power to accept or refuse what the cards say.