Tarot has been rumored to be as old as the pyramids and connected to Egypt but there is no solid fact for that. This rumor seems to have begun along with the first mention of Tarot as a mystical tool by Antoine Court de Gebelin. De Gebelin was a French occultist who linked Tarot to ancient Egypt in his book published in 1781. Many other major influences in Tarot also followed de Gebelin. This included names like Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite and even Aleister Crowley. There simply is no factual basis to this thought. There is evidence of cards being used for divination as early as 1540 in a book called The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forli. And Casanova noted in his infamous diary that his Russian mistress often did divination with a deck of playing cards.
What we do know is that the first deck can be traced to Italy in the 15th century. Between 1410 and 1430 in Milan, Ferrera or Bologna. This first deck was when an artist added trump cards, “carte de trionfi” or “triumph cards”
featuring faces of the Visconti and Sforza families as a wedding gift.
MYTH #2: The Gypsies invented Tarot
Historical evidence and Gypsy tradition indicates that their point of origin was somewhere in India which precludes them from inventing Tarot. However the nomadic nature of the Romany did help spread the Tarot. An interesting Romany timeline can be found here.
MYTH #3: Church banned Tarot cards
This is somewhat the truth. The Catholic Church actually banned Tarot cards, along with playing cards (known as the “Devil’s Picturebook”), dice and board games in the 16th century primarily because they could all be used for gambling and not because of some magical secrets. The Christian Bible has passages against divination of any type. A much used passage is Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
MYTH #4: You must be psychic to be a Tarot reader.
Patently false. I happen to be a psychic reader but I know plenty who are not who are fine readers. I believe that everyone has some psychic abilities but most of us close ourselves off to them early in life due to the popular but oppressive thought that it is of the occult.
MYTH #5: You are doomed by what the Tarot cards say.
Again a falsehood and a very very dangerous one in my opinion. If you go to a Tarot consultant who tells you something the cards say is set in stone, I want you to do two things. One, laugh in his or her face. Two get up and walk away and never go back. The cards are a way of looking at patterns in our lives and tendencies. Think of them as a map for the journey of life. If you were in your car and the roadmap said “Bridge out ahead” would you keep driving?
I didn’t think so.
It is the same for the cards. If something dire is in the future, you have all the tools to make changes now to redirect that energy. Certainly if a Tower event is in front of you, you may not be able to completely alleviate that eventual collapse, but you can certainly start climbing down so you don’t have quite as far to fall.
MYTH #6: Only you can touch your cards.
This is not true, but some consultants prefer to be the only ones to handle their cards. This is due to the energies a person has. I let others handle my cards. I also cleanse and clear my cards on a regular basis.
MYTH #7: You must wrap your cards in black silk and keep them hidden away.
This myth probably comes from a practical teaching from the Dark Ages when you could be burned at the stake for being a heretic and a witch. There is no basis in fact for this. I have over 75 decks and none of them are wrapped in black silk. Some of them are hidden away but that is because I can’t figure out which box they are currently packed in!
MYTH #8 You must receive the cards as a gift.
This one makes me laugh. I’d be a sad Tarot collector if this were true. This, I think, ties into the Wiccan tenet of not haggling for your tools. However, I have bought the majority of my decks (although I am always open to receiving gifts hint hint wink wink) and have not had any problems other than when I bought a deck I simply didn’t like.
MYTH #9: You should not read your own cards.
This has basis in truth but not because it is bad luck. Truthfully, reading for yourself is difficult because it is hard to remove yourself from what you want the cards to say. I often have others read for me because of this.
However I can and do read for myself! I would recommend using the cards for self-introspection rather than divination. I have spreads specifically designed for that use.
MYTH #10: The Tarot is always right.
Wouldn’t this be fabulous if it were true! Sadly, it is not true. As I said before, the Tarot predicts possibilities and points out tendencies. Free will comes into play as does informed choice. The minute you lay the cards out, you are changing your future because you are looking ahead. Go back to that driving analogy. When you look at a map, you are changing your path because you are making informed decisions about which way to go.
MYTH #11: You must have set rituals to read properly.
I actually do have a few set rituals but that is for my own benefit not the cards. I have a set way I shuffle and cut as well as a set way I read. The only need for this is my own need to do things a certain way.
MYTH #12: There is only one way to interpret the cards.
And it would be so nice if this were true! However, Tarot cards are tools that help you access your intuition or, perhaps, the collective unconscious. Each card’s meaning comes into play with the card next to it which can alter the interpretation. I can read the same card for six different people and depending on what is around that card, the meaning will change.
MYTH #13: The Death card means someone is going to die!
Absolutely not. It *can* mean physical death, but in my twenty plus years of reading, Death usually means painful change in the querent’s life. This is actually one of the few cards that I consider unavoidable because when change is necessary, you have to do it or suffer the consequences.
What other myths about Tarot do you know? Care to join me in a bit of myth-busting?