Does Tarot work?

Three coloured pentagrams with captions, a Green pentagram captioned Scientific, a Red pentagram captioned Holistic, and a Blue pentagram captioned Spiritual

Does Tarot work? That's the question I get asked most often when I tell people that I know how to read Tarot cards. The answer to that question depends on your understanding of what Tarot is and what misconceptions you might have.

As I attempt to explain in my book The Tarot Trifecta there are 3 main schools of thought when it comes to Tarot that can best be described as the Spiritual, Scientific, and Holistic approach.

Emotional Intelligence

A red heart emoji wearing glasses

When people think of intelligence they usually think first and foremost of knowledge, with the implication being that someone who possesses knowledge is deemed intelligent and someone who lacks it is deemed to lack intelligence. These judgements are misguided and misconstrue what intelligence actually is defined as. Intelligence is the means or the methods that someone uses to solve problems. A person's intelligence isn't measured by what they know but rather by their ability to deal with the things they know nothing about when they are confronted with them. To that end, many people are a lot more intelligent than they give themselves credit for, and perceive many others of being a lot more intelligent than they actually are, simply because they appear knowledgeable.

To know that a carburettor supplies an ignition to an engine, or that a compiler takes human readable code and transforms it into machine readable binary, or that the vagus nerve is the primary component of the nervous system that triggers immune responses, or to be able to name every member of the Kardashian family is not an indicator or intelligence or lack thereof. These all represent subsets of knowledge that a person may or may not acquire and in most cases whether a person possesses these sets of knowledge depends on whether they have use for them in their everyday lives.

The Concepts of Justice and Injustice

Themis the Goddess of Justice blindfolded holding a set of scales.  Image credit Pavel Danilyuk at

The concept of Justice both in Tarot (XI) and in society more widely is often misunderstood. When people think of Justice they tend to think of right and wrong, or virtue and vice, they tend to perceive Justice as being inherently good and Injustice as inherently evil but this isn't necessarily the case and the reason for that is complex.

Justice is not a question of morality; that is a statement which might anger you or make you feel perturbed to read, it might be something you immediately begin to formulate arguments against but in order to survive in the modern world you need to understand this concept in its entirety. I do single out the modern world here because in this age of information where we have access to news and updates from around the world, we are more aware today of injustices being committed than we have ever been. I see the news reports, I see the comments on social media, I hear the message people express so I know the argument you'll already be forming against my statement but my response is that your argument is misplaced.

HALT - Hungry Angry Lonely Tired

A red stop sign with the caption HALT

HALT is an acronym formed from the abbreviation of the words "Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired" and is one of a set of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) tools used for introspection and reframing when we want to try to understand what we are feeling, why we feel that way, and how we can communicate that state to others.

The King of Pentacles

The King of Pentacles - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

Representing the paternal nature; the King of Pentacles represents the consumption of the soul by wealth. Here the belief is asserted that the limits of our physical world are determined by how much of our spiritual self we draw upon; with the sacrifice of wealth necessary as precondition to the acquisition of wealth – you have to spend money to make money – the burden of loss although offset by the gains does not decrease as those gains are consumed. What is given up is never returned in the form it was given but rather it is transformed forever.

In the upright state the King of Pentacles represents a warning to understand exactly what we ask for, before we ask for it, lest you get everything you want and have it not be at all what you expected.

In the inverted state the King of Pentacles represents fixation and the replacement of concerns about how to gain wealth with concerns about how to prevent its loss. In the inverted state the King of Pentacles is a warning to the miser and those who seek wealth to horde it, that the Universe provides more ways to lose wealth than it does to gain it; your energy will be expended far quicker attempting to safeguard your wealth once acquired than the total sum needed to acquire it in the first place. Unearned wealth is lost with ease, however that which is earned leaves a lasting impact not least of all because the effort expended to acquire it fundamentally changes us in the process.

The Queen of Pentacles

The Queen of Pentacles - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

Representing the maternal nature; the Queen of Pentacles represents the burden of wealth created by obligation. The Queen of Pentacles represents the distribution of wealth and the attempt to mediate a conscience when determining who would benefit most from the wealth we distribute.

In the upright state the Queen of Pentacles represents the recognition that wealth attained but not shared makes those who horde that wealth culpable for the lost potential and deprivation that results from their inaction. The Queen of Pentacles has no desire to horde wealth, but rather focuses on the potential it holds.

In the inverted state the Queen of Pentacles represents the limit of our benevolence and the understanding that not all problems can be solved, not all requests can be met, our judgement must be used to determine who would benefit most, and subsequently the choice we make further burdens us with responsibility for the outcome of our actions and inactions.

The Knight of Pentacles

The Knight of Pentacles - Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite Deck

Representing discipline; the Knight of Pentacles represents the recognition of progress and achievement, as well as an understanding of the need to pass on our legacy to others. The Knight of Pentacles represents an authority figure who wishes to teach others who desire to achieve what they have done.

In the upright state the Knight of Pentacles represents a prompt to share our wealth with those who seek to further their own, to impart knowledge and wisdom and to relate our experience to help guide them on their journey; a prompt to assume the role of mentor and provide guidance when it is asked of us by others.

In the inverted state the Knight of Pentacles represents what is still unknown to us, the mystery and intrigue of the material realm, and a recognition of the limit of our understanding. The inverted Knight asks us to accept our ignorance so that we may open our minds to the opportunity to learn from others in turn.