In our culture, there is no shortage of myths about the tarot. Many of us were raised with the perspective that tarot cards are “scary” or that they have something to do with the devil.
Misinformation is rampant, but the truth is, tarot can be a powerful tool to help you hone your intuition, connect with yourself, deepen your relationship with spirit/universe/guides, make decisions, and more.
In this post, I’ll be debunking some major myths about the tarot so that you can feel more free to work with the tarot in a way that feels really good to you. Check them out below!
MYTH 1: YOU MUST BE GIFTED YOUR FIRST DECK
This is a super common myth! Have you ever heard that you can’t buy your own deck and you must be gifted your first deck?
Tarot reader and author Theresa Reed told Refinery 29 that this myth is “total rubbish.” She says, “If I would have waited around for that to happen, I might not have started working with the tarot as soon as I did — if ever.”
I feel the same way. To me, this myth is just a form of gatekeeping in the tarot community. No one is exactly sure where this myth comes from, but it may be a legacy of 19th-century closed occult societies.
Regardless of where it comes from, there’s nothing wrong with buying a deck for yourself — tarot is a folk magic practice, and it belongs to the people, so you don’t need permission from someone else in the form of a gifted deck to start your practice. If you feel attracted to working with the cards – pick yourself up a deck!
Give this post a listen here.
MYTH 2: TAROT IS EVIL
Another variation of this myth is that tarot cards have something to do with the devil. I believe this myth originates from Christianity. There are various verses in the Bible about divination, “sorcery,” and mediumship that have been translated to be a condemnation of all occult, divination, and spiritual tools outside of Christianity.
This myth is also often perpetuated by the media, whose portrayals of tarot readers and cards have often been abysmal. Media is intended to be sensational, which means tarot cards are portrayed as evil or used with devil worship. Common tarot scenes show the “scary” cards with literal meanings – like the death card when someone is going to die or the devil card when something evil is going to happen.
This myth is easy to debunk when I ask myself a few questions:
- Who benefits from me believing this myth (whether it’s dogmatic religion that wants me to rely on their truth rather than find my own through a tool like the tarot or a TV show that wants to make interesting TV and get viewers)?
- Do I really think that Barnes and Noble are selling a tool to connect with the devil?
- What have my experiences with the tarot been like?
Like with most things, we can use tarot in helpful ways and not so helpful ways. But the cards are not inherently evil, and we can use them in ways that support ourselves and our highest good.
MYTH 3: THE DEATH CARD MEANS YOU’LL DIE
Ah, another TV myth. Like I mentioned above, this card is often portrayed as a super scary card, and when it shows up in a reading, it could mean you’re going to die.
All tarot cards are neutral. There are no good or bad cards. Some cards may be more uncomfortable than others (and this will change depending on every person!), but no cards are in and of themselves bad.
So no, the death card doesn’t mean you’ll die. Usually, it means a transformation of some kind. It refers to deaths of a different kind – deaths of relationships, ways of being, of selves you have been, dreams, etc.
In the United States, we have a cultural aversion to the idea of death, and I think we disconnect from the idea of death happening all around us all the time throughout our lives. The death card breaks this fiction and reminds us that death is a natural process unfolding throughout the seasons and throughout our lives and that it clears the way for our evolution and growth.
That can be scary, too, of course – change is often hard. But next time you pull the death card, you can lean into that kind of scary and not worry that you’re going to die literally.
MYTH 4: TAROT IS ONLY USED TO TELL THE FUTURE
Tarot can certainly be used to predict the future. But in my belief, the future is not set. The future is always changing, and we are actively creating it with our energy and our decisions each day.
When I pull more predictive cards, I like to remember that I have the power to change the future and make different decisions if I don’t like the outcome card in front of me. This is a way to use tarot that feels more empowering and more honest.
But more often than not, I’m not using tarot cards to tell the future, and I think many modern readers will tell you the same. Fortune telling is one powerful way to use the tarot. Still, there are many other ways to work with the cards that can be even more powerful, in my opinion: to connect with yourself, to understand your inner world, to process feelings, to understand current energies, to make support decisions, to connect with your intuition, to heal, and more.
MYTH 5: YOU NEED TO BE PSYCHIC TO READ THE TAROT
I think this myth is rooted in the previous one: that tarot is only used for fortune-telling. When we know that tarot has many purposes, we understand that you don’t need to be psychic to read the cards.
You don’t need to be psychic to connect with your intuition, which is the most important piece of reading cards, in my opinion. Intuition can sometimes require some uncovering and trust work (click here for 3 daily actions to improve your intuition and here for 5 tips to learn how to trust your intuition), but it is innate and available to us all.
Reading the cards with your intuition could look like noticing how you feel about certain cards, paying attention to memories or images that come up around cards when you pull them (even if they don’t match with the traditional meaning of the cards), or meditating with cards to receive messages from them.
But regardless, tarot cards have meanings. You can study those meanings from different books and teachers and develop a rich and fulfilling tarot practice this way! As you learn to trust your intuition a bit more, weaving that practice into your work with your cards can add another meaningful layer.
MYTH 6: YOU CAN NEVER LET ANYONE ELSE TOUCH YOUR TAROT CARDS
This myth is rooted in the idea that the cards themselves contain magic or are magical. In my opinion, the cards themselves are a neutral tool and conduit. They don’t contain their own magic; you are the magic. So it doesn’t matter if other people touch them because they can’t take anything away from them.
If you don’t like other people touching your cards, that’s totally fine! But there’s no need to keep others from touching your cards out of fear that it will take away the deck’s magic or shift the cards’ energy irreversibly.
In fact, many readers (myself included) like to have the querent shuffle the cards to infuse their energy and intention into the deck for a more powerful reading. If you feel the same, a regular cleansing process with your deck (click here to learn how to cleanse your cards) is all you need to keep your deck’s energy clear.
MYTH 7: REVERSED CARDS ARE BAD
When a card is reversed, that simply means it came out of your deck upside-down. Reading reversed cards in the first place is a matter of preference: some readers read them, and some will just flip the cards right side up and go with that meaning. As with most things tarot and intuition, there’s no right or wrong answer. Just do what works for you!
But whether you choose to read reversals or not, reversed cards are not inherently bad. They bring a different energy, certainly, and can add a layer of clarity to a reading, but they’re nothing to be afraid of. Reversed cards can mean blocked energy, more introspective energy, a softer meaning of the card, or maybe some fear around that card’s theme.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TAROT?
Check out some of our other tarot blog posts:
- Getting Started with Tarot
- Tarot Vs. Oracle: What’s the Difference and How to Choose
- How to Learn Tarot Card Meanings Quickly
- 6 Ways to Work With the Tarot Besides Divination
- The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Tarot & Oracle Cards
About Eryn Johnson
Eryn Johnson is a breathwork facilitator, tarot reader, and Reiki Master based in Fishtown, Philadelphia. She is also the host of the Living Open podcast for mystics and seekers, a storytelling tool here to help facilitate soul evolution. The foundation of her work is energetic and based on the belief that there's nothing wrong with you- we are simply programmed from a young age to forget the truth of who we are. She uses energy work, storytelling, and breathwork to guide you back to you - your heart, your power, your magic. Find her work at www.living-open.com and @erynj_ on Instagram.