Tarot is an old practice often associated with themes of the occult and mysticism, and with this comes naturally bucketloads of myths that still float around pop culture and even the tarot community itself today. Below are 6 commonly spread myths I run into frequently, and whether or not they hold any truth.
1. Other people shouldn’t touch your deck.
I’ve heard this one be thrown both ways. Other people shouldn’t touch your deck. Other people should touch your deck. The reasoning goes as follows:
Other people should touch your deck before you read them, because their energy is transferred to the deck, thereby creating a stronger connection. OR: Other people shouldn’t touch your deck because their energy is transferred to your deck, thereby messing up the following readings you do with other people. There are other reasons thrown around for these two, but these are the most common ones I run into. Let’s first put this out there: people likely shouldn’t be touching your belongings if you don’t want them to. If someone insists on touching your deck before reading and you’re uncomfortable with this, say no.
At the end of the day, this is one that I view as a matter of preference. I have encountered readers that ask me to touch, cut, or shuffle their deck. I have encountered readers that do no such thing. I’m one to cleanse my decks often regardless, so I have no unique preference in whether or not someone touches my deck, and I’m one to roll with whatever feels right in the moment. Regardless, there is no “should” or “shouldn’t,” other than: you should do whatever feels right for you and your deck.
2. Your first deck has to be a gift.
This is the one I get asked most frequently, and, point blank: no, it really doesn’t.
I’ll be honest, my first tarot deck was a gift from my mother, and I’ve put to practice a few decks from her side of the family. I’ve received decks from friends, tarot decks from family, oracle decks from family, purchased my own, all of the above. It’s a really cool sentiment to receive a deck, and I’m always one to throw them onto my wishlists.
The reasoning for this age-old myth’s existence has to do with access to tarot decks; not everyone was capable of getting their hands on one due to wealth and privilege. The tradition as it stands is not a harmful one — it’s always wonderful to receive a deck from a loved one. But it’s not necessary by any means.
3. You can’t read yourself.
This is again a matter of preference, and some readers genuinely do not think they can accurately and honestly read themselves, so I don’t want to state a blanket “false.” I certainly prefer to be read by others than to read myself, and I believe this is the case for many readers. There is definitely something different about getting the one-on-one time with another person who has a different perspective on your situation than interpreting the cards alone. I know plenty of readers, myself included, that in certain situations will also find it difficult to remain objective about something when the situation provided includes yourself. Sometimes we need reassurance or that tough love from the voice of someone else.
But you definitely shouldn’t totally ignore the merits of reading yourself just because you heard that you can’t! There are obviously so many cases where reading yourself is eye opening, inspiring, and reassuring, so don’t dismiss it, and see where your preferences stand after trying it out.
4. You have to be psychic to read tarot.
Oh man, absolutely not! I cover this a bit more in another post, but especially assuming “psychic” means constantly predicting the future, perfectly honed mediumship, and prophetic visions, definitely no. Tarot is beautiful, insightful, and connects us more deeply to the world around us and our own intuition, but it’s not some magical object that only a select few can pick up. By all means, pick up your own tarot deck, just be ready to practice too to get the most out of it!
5. Tarot is fortune-telling.
In my opinion, at its best, tarot is the opposite of fortune telling. The future is not set in stone, and when you’re in a sticky situation and headed towards the worst, tarot is here to show you your options and how to avoid that outcome. It’s a spiritual and intuitive tool, not an inherently predictive one. Plenty of tarot readers specifically do not do “future readings” and point out that they do not predict the future. This is, again, because the future is not set in stone, and we can most often at best predict the most likely outcome.
Lenormand decks are closer to what people think of when they connect tarot to fortune-telling, as they depict events from a pretty objective, often blunt standpoint, and kind of just say, “Yeah, and that’s how things are looking.” But that still doesn’t mean you can’t change things.
6. Death, The tower, The Devil, and reversals are all bad omens.
Each card is representative of a stage of human life, and a deck is supposed to be a well-rounded depiction of the wildly varying stages of emotion, situations, and ups and downs of being alive. Imagine if we removed all of the perceived “bad” cards from the deck. How well-rounded is that?
In regards to reversals specifically, I have a longer post describing what reversals can mean, but know that they range extensively. And, Sparknotes version incoming, but Death and The Tower both represent forms of change, and practically within most readings, I find that The Devil manifests in petty behavior and negative habits that we pick up, accumulating into some heavier stuff that we often don’t recognize as harmful to us. It’s true that these cards, as well as reversals, can indicate an extreme end of the spectrum of something truly bad, but the vast majority of the time this just won’t be the case because tarot just doesn’t insert random catastrophic events into your life.
If the myth involves some very specific tradition like only putting your decks in silk or only receiving your first deck as a gift, know that it probably isn’t true. At the end of the day, just keep in mind that tarot is widely practiced by many people from varying walks of life, and they are just like you and me, not only renowned psychics depicted with crystal balls. It’s a personal practice that will be what you make out of it, so don’t take seriously the idea that it’s one shrouded in mystery.