Tarot journal, photo by LimerykA woman who reads playing cards recently acquired her first tarot deck, and made inquiries on a forum I participate in1 as to the difference in accuracy between the two, and the “difficulty”.

Frankly, such questions are frustrating as they are not terribly meaningful in and of themselves, but as someone who reads cards professionally myself (I’ve read tarot cards for more than ten years, and I read for various clients, at corporate events, private parties and fundraisers, as well as lecture on the subject), I can attest that they are common. It might help if we first separate fortune-telling from divination.

Divination is the practice of discovering information about a given person or situation, whereas fortune-telling is an attempt to gain knowledge about events that have not yet occurred. There can be some overlap, but many practitioners tend to keep them separate as they are distinctly different in approach and practical application.

The diviner seeks to understand the surrounding influences of a situation, the person, and perhaps a course of action might be suggested, but more often through the process of divination information comes to light which provides insight into a situation (there’s a domineering male personality in your background which is overshadowing this question, consider how this is affecting your work).

A fortune-teller looks for signs of cut-and-dry answers to questions, things which will and will not come to pass (you will marry, have two children, and watch the kidneys).

Even looking at this from the surface we can see how the two different approaches lend different interpretations of “accuracy”. For divination it’s not a matter of being “right” in the sense that what you see will happen, it’s more about interpreting the signs in a way that provides meaning for the client (or oneself).

Above I’ve been more general, but when we get to “difficulty” it might be more helpful to speak more specifically about tarot. Tarot’s been around for about six hundred years, it’s only been “occult” for the past three hundred, but in that time it’s acquired so many layers of symbolism (some which fit well, most which don’t) on top of the original Renaissance imagery that “difficult” is a matter of how deeply one plans to delve into it.

If you’ve a basic background in Golden Dawn correspondences or any of its offshoots (Builders of Adytum, Ordo Templi Orientis, etc.) you’re likely to have an easier time of it. If not, be prepared to learn its elemental, numerological, kabbalistic, colour and other correspondences, its reinterpreted esoteric imagery and heraldic signs — not to mention Renaissance art and tarot’s exoteric history.

“Difficult” is a matter of perspective.

Of course, the only significant difference between reading with playing cards and reading with tarot cards is aesthetics — the techniques and meanings differ, certainly2 – but for someone perfectly happy reading with playing cards, there’s no real reason to change methods unless you’re looking for something new.

There’s no presiding body which deems one more “worthy” than another, it’s merely a matter of personal preference.

Best of luck.

Originally published on Plutonica.net, “Tarot and accuracy”, on November 6th, 2007.

Image credit: Limeryk

  1. A semi-private occult community of ninjas, pirates and reality hackers riddled with secret cabals so elite I dare not speak its name. Fersure. []
  2. Despite common misconceptions, there is no direct equation between the suits of tarot and the suits of “regular” playing cards, consequently, there is no direct correspondence between their divinitory attributions either. []