vor 4 years

The images depicted on the 78 cards of the Tarot are so deeply engrained in Western culture, that even those who don’t know what a reading is, can easily recognise a Tarot deck. 


The symbology is intricate enough to catch the attention from the likes of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and father of surrealism, Salvador Dali, who created his own deck of cards which have recently been made available to the public for the first time.

The true origins of the Tarot are fairly unknown, and this seems to contribute to the aura of mystery that has crossed centuries and spanned cultures. It is believed to have gotten its start as a parlour card game in Italy in the 15th century, and later to have evolved into a divination method hundreds of years later.

The most well known deck today, the Smith-Waite, was first published in London in the turn of the 20th century. It was widely used by different occult societies including The Order of the Golden Dawn, as well as by famous mystics such as Aleister Crowley and William Yeats.

At its core, how it was manipulated behind closed doors is of no importance. As Lindsay Mack says, the Tarot is the people’s tool, used by individuals to make sense of times filled with tribulations, and to further connect with each other. Its coming-to-life speaks of the time in which it came to exist: plagues, simmering tensions amongst classes, world wars, societal structures undergoing profound transformations. The end of trials was never in sight. In true Wheel of Fortune fashion, what was once up, inevitably comes down – regardless of our understanding of its movements and directions.

And now, shortly after the centennial anniversary of the Smith-Wider deck, the world is in a very similar state. A pandemic brings the fear of death to the forefront of everyone’s minds: major shifts in power structures are in place and the feeling of uncertainty in the future is undeniable.

In an era that everything goes viral, the world has been swept under by a virus that shakes our structures and exposes rotten foundations. It is again clear that our Towers are bound to be rebuilt, yet there is no clarity as to what this will look like. That is our job. The air is dense with both confusion and with possibility. We are suspended upside down, unable to move, but a shift in perspective will grant us ability to envision a landscape of the new normal.

Fabiana Lopes is a PhD student at the University of Oxford, writing her thesis on ancient alchemy. She is also a tarot reader in her spare time: “It seems to me the tendency right now is to see the future less as fatalistic and immutable, and more as a product of energies grounded in the present. The Tarot brings about these energies.”

There’s an overall need to make sense out of the current unfathomable zeitgeist. When the collective is too much to comprehend, a common urge is to look within: to regain a sense of ownership of one’s personal narrative. Not surprisingly, a lot of people have turned to Tarot for guidance in this process. Its symbolic nature allows anyone to take meaning into their own hands and craft it to their liking.The cards come meet us where we are in our journey toward self sovereignty. They represent highly personal approaches and we see in the cards what we carry around with us daily. As much as there are specific concepts attributed to each archetype depicted on the cards, they are not set in stone. Quite the opposite— their ideas and meanings are just as fluid and adaptable as the person reading them.

“The images on the cards become vessels for the things happening inside of us that we still do not understand. Beyond an intrinsic meaning, the cards act as a prompt to access and digest emotions.” says Fabiana. It is no coincidence that many psychologists have used the deck and its symbology as a method of introspection and analysis.

The Tarot is a concrete tool, one that can be manipulated with our hands, brought along to various places, shared and built with others, and it is possible to observe an unfolding of new meaning even in mundane situations.

Perhaps the secret behind the spell it casts lies in the duality of its nature: the materiality of the symbols brings up feelings and sensations we may not be able to place in our language. In the cards, we see the Grand Themes staring back at us: Life, Death, Love, Transformation, Fear, Time. Being able to recognise such deep motives from a detached standpoint makes space for a clarity that is needed to connect the dots of a narrative that is still in the process of being told. It gives us prompts to process what comes up in our own time, and to apply it to our lives however we see fit. “The archetypes are instruments to deal with the conflict of opposing ideas we are going through collectively.”

As a sign of the Internet times, the Tarot is being rediscovered, reshaped, and revamped to match the needs of the people making use of it. “Social media allows us to be connected like never before to others, but this newfound ability comes paired with a feeling of isolation. The Tarot is a means to anchor all these feelings into something more concrete.’” The cards have proven to be a powerful tool for self knowledge and empowerment of the individual. The cards helped us as a collective centuries ago. May we trust them again to get us across these liquid times, give us the ability to connect with others in an open fashion, and to guide us onto more stable grounds once again.



Text by Bruna Corsato 
Collages by Guiga Maria 

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