Tarot is seeing a renaissance of sorts. While it is is being embraced by legions of new adherents at the same time many the same people are dismissing the origins of Tarot as religious nonsense. Tarot cards were created in a different time and the times have surely changed. One thing that has not changed is the act of divination with Tarot cards.
The definition of divination is metamorphosing with the times. Thousands of years ago divination was an act of discovering the will of the Gods or God through various methods. Arts such as Geomancy and Fung-shei became common, reading the nature of the world around to solicit unknown information. Astrology may be the single most wide spread and well documented of all of these such arts.
Regardless of what method used the hope was always to learn something unknown by studying something that would seem to have absolutely no connection. The I-Ching or the book of changes is likely the oldest type of divinatory tool that is still widely referred to, having seen it’s first iterations compiled some 4000 years ago. By drawing sticks the diviner would be directed to study a certain hexagram for advice on how to handle a certain situation or to understand the various options that were available for a successful completion of their task.
The churches of the west made divination illegal long ago, and to this day in many places it still is. At the same time the church and courts of various kings allowed for their official astrologers to carry on the work on their behalf. So while it was definitely frowned on by the powers that be of the time, they surely believed it was of some profit for themselves.
It is not cool anymore to take out your deck of Tarot cards and foretell the future. That would be woo-woo. At the same time it is, “ok” to shuffle up that deck of cards and try to ascertain why or how to alleviate whatever issue we may be going through internally. This separation of these two acts is a modern notion, that there is some differentiation between divination according to what you are trying to learn.
In divination there is really no difference between asking yourself, “what is going to happen tomorrow?” and asking “Why am I crying about this person all the time?” A question is formed, the cards are shuffled, the cards are spread out and read. If we remove God from this equation, who is it that we are asking? The question is formed internally in the mind, the body shuffles the cards, and the cards are read using experience and understanding of the cards. Shuffling the cards of a tarot deck and spreading them out is absolutely no different than drawing sticks for the I-ching, reading tea leaves or wax or clouds. It is an act nearly as old as man himself, trying to ascertain the current state of our internal functioning is a form of divination just as much as trying to find out if it is going to rain tomorrow.
Shaman live a life of divination. This life of divination is more along the lines of self help than prediction. Just like a Shaman reading bones or the hot coals of a fire we are asking questions of our subconscious or inner self as well. Instead of looking for symbols and structure in the coals of a fire or the structure of the bones that were thrown, the cards of the Tarot possess the symbols that correspond to meanings that answers can be inferred from. In shuffling the cards part of us takes over and manipulates the order of the cards. If that process goes smoothly the top cards will help us understand or resolve that question that was held in the mind during the shuffle.
We are all divine. It seems so New Age to say. Long ago the divination we are all doing with Tarot now were the sole realm of shaman, oracles, and seers. They spoke to the gods on behalf of their people, and the answers from the Gods were given in return. Back then these were the companions and counsel to the leaders of all. Millennia later the same people would be branded witches and persecuted, while the persecutors maintained their personal astrologers and alchemists in hypocrisy.
There is some sort of strength and power we take on when we can divine with ourselves. We see ourselves in ways we can not without these tools and symbols of divination. I think we see ourselves through the eyes of society and how we believe we should be seen so strongly we can not observe the obvious. This divination is a way to accesses ourselves while circumventing who we think we are or think we want to be, and it allows us to talk to our real self. Or at the very least hear what our real self wants to tell us.