Ever Wondered How Tarot Actually Works?

If you've never used Tarot and have been looking in from afar, you might be wondering what it actually is and how it really works? Equally, you might have read for yourself or received a reading and been shocked at how THAT card came out and how on earth it was THAT accurate? I'm going to give you the lowdown on the (not so) mysterious forces that are at play in a Tarot reading so you can use the cards confidently, without feeling hesitant!

Isn't Tarot some dark occult thing that tells the future?

Depending on who you ask, the answer will be different because everyone has a different understanding and relationship with Tarot but if you ask me, no, no it's not! For me, Tarot is just a tool. It's quite literally just a series of cards with images on them! Different artists will create decks with varying imagery and sometimes will alter the terminology a little but usually, Tarot decks will follow a standard framework:

  • 78 cards in total - split into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards

  • The Minor Arcana is split into 4 suits - Wands, Cups, Swords & Pentacles

  • Each suit is split into 10 pip cards (Ace - 10) and 4 Court cards

  • 4 Court cards are the Page, Knight, Queen & King

  • Major Arcana cards represent bigger life events, transitions & lessons

  • Minor Arcana cards represent daily life and personal attributes

How does Tarot work though?

Ok so I know I said that fundamentally Tarot is just a series of cards with images on them and whilst that's true, I've come to understand them as being so much more than that! Because of the rich imagery and symbolism weaved into the cards, they have the ability to reflect back our own lived experience - Tarot is a mirror to ourselves.

Bottom section of a round mirror in focus reflecting back a small leaved green plant in the foreground that is out of focus

"Tarot is a mirror

to ourselves"

But how? How can a series of flat images be transformed into a tool that mirrors the diverse and varied experience of our individual lives? Well my dear, the secret here, is YOU! Which is actually no secret at all because the cards NEED a person to read them - whether you're reading for yourself or receiving a reading from someone else, there always has to be at least one person involved!

We are meaning making machines!

Tarot has no meaning apart from the meaning we bring to it. The same applies to most things - there's very little that's inherently good or bad, only what we decide is good or bad and the meanings that we ascribe are mostly a result of our past experiences and conditioning. Think about a black cat for example - does that represent good or bad luck to you? There's nothing inherently lucky or unlucky about a black cat but what we've learned growing up from others and our own experiences means that we might see it in a certain way. In therapy and in counselling, we call these learned beliefs and values 'introjects' which can read more about HERE.

Two plug sockets which appear to look like worried faces

Ever seen faces in inanimate objects? Or shapes in clouds? We can't HELP but find meanings and symbols in things! And I believe the same process happens when we look at Tarot cards or are given their interpretation by the reader, except its WAY more personal than just a random shape in a cloud.

"Tarot gives us the key to our subconscious minds"

When presented with a card image or its interpretation, our subconscious minds are working hard in the background to find relevance to ourselves - it's asking what does this remind me of? It's tapping into our intuition (our inner knowing and gut feelings) to ask what answers do I have to the question being asked? When we have access to subconscious and intuitive information we can bring it to the foreground and make it conscious. This means we can then take appropriate action on the information being given so we can find clarity and make positive changes to our lives!

In my experience, that's how the cards always seem so accurate - because we will always find meaning in what we're presented with. However, when it comes to THAT card that was SO DAMN ON POINT, it does sometimes feel like there's more of a cosmic force at play and maybe there is...

The Law of Vibration

We could spend a lot of time talking about this because its a pretty substantial topic in and of itself but I'll break it down briefly to describe what relevance it has to Tarot. Essentially, the Law of Vibration suggests that our thoughts have vibrations and that we emit these vibrations into our surroundings. Then whatever is vibrating in harmony with this unique frequency will be attracted to us in the form of people, experiences, things and TAROT cards!

Say you've gone through a bad break up, it's likely that you've been thinking about it a lot and it's probably not felt great. Then you go for a Tarot reading and lo and behold, the Three of Swords comes out! The Law of Vibration would say that your thoughts created a particular vibration that matched with the frequency of the 3 of Swords and THAT is why THAT particular card came out - explaining the uncanny accuracy of the reading!

You now know what Tarot is and exactly how it works by understanding the role YOU play in it as well as HOW you play that role. The forces at play in Tarot are less than mysterious, giving YOU the power and control in your readings, whether it's for yourself or from someone else. You should now feel more confident about using Tarot and less daunted by the 'mystery' that surrounds it!

If you're ready to delve deeper into Tarot and learn how to read Tarot with confidence and WITHOUT any confusion you can download my FREE cheat sheet and workbook! There's also any extra surprise to level up your readings when you download!

FREE 'Read Tarot with Confidence Cheat Sheet & Workbook'


Hope this helps clarify things and gives you the confidence and understanding to start working with Tarot! Enjoy!

Speak soon,




Ungvarsky, J. (2020) ‘Pareidolia’, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=109057206&site=eds-live (Accessed: 21 August 2020).

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