The Art of Tarot Reading

When the future is unpredictable, how do you find solace in the present?

Joss Arnott // Staff Writer
Coralie Mayer // Illustrator

“I’m just going to take a minute to tune into your energy,” says Tegan Forbes, a local tarot card reader who runs Tegan Tarot. She deals out three decks and asks me to choose; left, centre, or right. I choose left, and Tegan begins laying seven cards out on the table. This general spread is what Tegan calls an ‘energetic snapshot,’ which touches a little bit on things like relationships, career, and personal developments. “All sorts of things are showing up because everything in our life is connected,” says Tegan. 

I expected some sort of mysterious ritual, filled with half-answers and vague allusions. Instead, I receive a torrent of startlingly accurate information as Tegan lays down each successive card. I feel my spine stiffen and am held rapt by her deluge of divination. 

Before my reading, I interviewed Tegan about the finer points of the art of tarot reading in honour of our Halloween issue. 

JA: How did tarot card reading begin? 

It came together around the Renaissance, in the 1300s and 1400s. Trade routes were opening up through the Middle East—Egypt and India—and it was this really interesting time of cultural development and diversity. Tarot’s been used for different purposes over the years. What I’m doing now, and how tarot is more widely known, has really solidified in the early 20th century. It became quite popular in the 1900s. Tarot cards can represent a kind of archetypal language of experience. When you’re doing a reading, there are symbols we’re looking at and the reader interprets them. 

JA: How long have you been reading tarot cards? And what drew you to them? 

I have been reading professionally as a full-time practice for seven years. But, I’ve been reading cards for fifteen years. I was drawn to them because I had a really good reading. I didn’t even know people did this professionally.  I just kept going back to her, and at one point I was like, “You really have to show me how to do this, I want to learn properly.” And then I was hooked. 

JA: What do tarot cards do?

Tarot cards act as a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious. So you might ask the question; why do I feel this way? And you pull a couple of tarot cards and you have to ask yourself, “How do these symbols interpret how I feel?” So it’s working with creative development, the way a writer might be given a prompt. Tarot cards prompt our creative brain, helping us get out of the analytical brain to go deeper into the emotional, maybe even into those subconscious layers. 

JA: How would you interpret a card? 

It’s a deck of seventy-eight cards, each card has a specific meaning. Let’s say we’re looking at the Emperor card. This is a card of authority, power and determination. How the Emperor shows up in a reading could be encouraging somebody to step into their power with more authority, it could be a warning saying, “Hey, you’re way too willpowered, strong and domineering, this needs to be pulled back a little bit.” Sometimes it could be an outside influence. Like, “Hey, you’re coming up against a wall of authority.” The context is really important. A single card is like one word of a sentence.    

JA: What should someone’s mindset be when they’re coming to have a tarot reading? 

Just open and relaxed. Tarot is like storytelling. It’s not black and white. It doesn’t answer yes or no, it gives you more of a narrative. I would also say trusting yourself [is important]. No matter how good the reader is, we as individual humans know our lives better than anybody. So, you have to kind of feel and ask “Does this resonate for me? Is there a truth that’s being told?” Even if you don’t totally understand it at the time, how do you feel? 

JA: What makes tarot reading important to you? 

It allows me to meaningfully connect with people, with strangers, right away on a deep level. We don’t have any other context for knowing each other, other than the tarot reading, and it feels like a heart to heart communication. I feel like I can really shine at what I’m good at and pour my heart into that. [I] feel not only connected to the person I’m reading for, but feel them [to be] more empowered, stronger, and illuminated within their own sense of self. It’s just wonderful to experience. I love this toolset and I definitely love the work that I do. 

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