Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Doing My Part to Demystify the Tarot

in 0-Library, Tarot


“So what are you writing?” the woman in the yellow blouse cheerily asks me.

We’re sitting next to each other in a college auditorium, waiting for the keynote speaker at a writers’ conference to begin her talk.

“I’m writing a book that compares the seasons of the year to the seasons of a woman’s life,” I reply — my pat answer readily at hand.

Her eyes light up. “Oh! Tell me more.”  So I do.

Then she asks, “Have you had anything published before?”

I inwardly groan, because I know what’s coming next, or I think I do. In a mainstream setting like this conference, my work is a bit on the edge. But I answer truthfully. “Yes. I’m an artist as well as a writer, and I’ve created a tarot deck and book that was published by two different publishers, and I’m working on another.”

Sure enough, I see the doubt creep into her eyes and her smile falter. I feel her begin to shut down and withdraw from me. So I hurry to reassure her. “Most people think tarot cards are all about fortune telling and predicting the future, but that’s not how I use them. It’s more about sparking creativity and using the cards as a tool to unlock your own inner wisdom.”

“Oh …” she says softly, with a slightly confused frown. Now there’s a glimmer of interest in her eyes. Now she’s intrigued. Now she asks to see my tarot art, which I happen to have on my iPhone, and she’s surprised that the art is so beautiful and not scary.

The keynote speaker begins her talk, so that’s the end of that conversation. But I have two or three similar conversations with other people over the course of the next two days at the conference.

What I don’t tell the first woman, or any of the others, is that sometimes the cards do predict the future — one possible future anyway. It’s kind of like a weather report: “If the thunderclouds keep moving in the same direction they are now, it’s highly likely there will be a storm in the late afternoon.”

If there had been more time, and if she had been interested, I would have told her a few more things about the tarot.


  • 3-cards-downIt’s not evil.
  • It’s not scary. (If you find a deck that scares you, get rid of it. It’s not the right deck for you.)
  • Some readers do predictive readings, and some don’t.
  • Are there tarot readers out there who are frauds and just want to take your money? Sure, just like there are plenty of unscrupulous preachers and gurus in every religion. But most tarot readers are honest and sincere.
  • The tarot’s origins are in Renaissance Italy, and the earliest decks (as well as many contemporary ones) have a mixture of Christian and Pagan elements in them.
  • There are thousands of decks out there, with a huge variety of themes and styles of artwork. You can find a “Hello Kitty” tarot, and you can find a “Tarot of the Saints.” It will take a little searching, but you’re sure to find a deck that’s right for you.
  • You can use tarot cards pretty much any way you like.
    • I know writers who use them in workshops as writing prompts: “Tell me a story (or write a poem) based on the imagery in this card.”
    • Some people use them as brainstorming tools, to generate a list of ideas for a new project.
    • Some people appreciate the cards as art, and enjoy seeing countless permutations of particular archetypes like the Great Mother or the Wise Old Man.
    • Some people do readings that help them clarify their options regarding a choice they need to make.
    • Some people use the cards as a contemplative practice, to quiet the mind and emotions.
    • Some people pull a card every morning, asking for the wisdom they will need to successfully navigate the day to come.
    • Some people use them for spiritual guidance, as a way of honing their own intuition, to better discern the voice of Spirit.
  • Although some tarot fundamentalists will disagree with me, my stance is that there is really no wrong way to use, work, or play with tarot cards.

Just doing my part to demystify the tarot.


My deck, the Gaian Tarot, is due to be released in a new edition by Schiffer Books any day now. Find more information here.   You can pre-order it from your friendly neighborhood independent bookstore, or from Amazon

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Rachel Mon - Jun 27th 2016 2:08 pm

    I love this post! So bang on 🙂 thanks for sharing your tarot thoughts and for helping make tarot accessible. That’s so much of the way I work with tarot. Make it work for you!

  • Trish Finley Tue - Jun 28th 2016 3:12 am

    I know that look well – the “she’s gone off the deep end” look. Thanks for giving us an example of handling it with grace!

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Tue - Jun 28th 2016 7:20 am

      Trish, yes, we do get to know that look, don’t we? 😉

  • Mark Tue - Jun 28th 2016 5:54 pm

    This is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about the tarot and its uses, truly!

    It’s too bad that people write it off so quickly without understanding. I’ve used it for all of the above, and additionally as art prompts (what is my own artistic vision of this concept? how would I springboard off of artist A or B? etc.)

    Joanna I’m dying to get my hands on the Gaian Tarot, I’ve got it pre-ordered. I think I’m being taught a patience lesson as the release pushes out a bit further…

    I wish you so much success, and days filled with peace.

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Wed - Jun 29th 2016 7:05 am

      Thank you Mark, so kind of you. Yes I love the idea of using other artists’ work as an inspiration for my own art projects too.

      We’re all learning about patience, I think. Last I heard the decks are due to arrive at the Schiffer warehouse in about a week. Hopefully people will have them in hand by mid-July!

  • Sarah Stockton Tue - Jun 28th 2016 8:19 pm

    Thanks for this post Joanna – a lovely example of how to communicate with grace.