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How Tarot Cards Work


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EvylynRose

I don't know. I could see the subconscious stacking the deck in those few seconds of shuffling. There's conscious high-level mathematics that can predict cards (like, the kind of card counting that gets you kicked out of a casino fast...). Then there's brain functioning that can be equally complex but is automatic. There's a whole lot our brains can take in and calculate in fractions of seconds without our conscious awareness. (Ever walk into a room briefly looking for someone or something? Then be asked a few minutes later about something completely different within that room and be able to recall it perfectly? Thank you awesome brain!)

 

For example, I have a mild depth perception deficiency that I've had for at least well over a decade, if not unknowingly my whole life. Things can look much further away than they actually are or even so close together as to appear to be on top of one another at times. Yet I adapt just fine to the deficiency. Sure, I may be more likely to cringe if someone throws a ball or frisbee my way and my anxiety noticeably increases driving down very narrow streets lined with parked cars. But things like timing of turns and merging/switching lanes in traffic are easily compensated for as my brain manages to pull off calculations of time, speed, and distances of other vehicles in relation to other objects in the environment (think light poles, signs, lines on the road, etc.). Can I do *any* of that math consciously? Psh. No! 🤣 But my brain managed a way to work it out to compensate for the visual defect beyond my conscious intellectual ability.

 

So is the stacking the deck theory plausible? Sure! Though I'm hard pressed to work out how if you don't know the order of the cards in the deck before you start shuffling... I'm satisfied just in the high success rate without digging too deep into the how. (I'm more of a "why" person anyway. 😉)

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Barleywine
48 minutes ago, SparklePuffy said:

Thank you. So it's all in the sitter's choice of certain appropriate cards, and the reader is just explaining the card meanings?

"Choice" is probably too strong a word for it, more like an inkling that makes itself known through the cards; but as I see it, it's the sitter's reading and all I do is interpret their inspired selection.

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Lets look at a basic stacking technique: how stacking a cold (unprepared) deck works.
 


It requires looking at the cards, getting a glimpse while shuffling, and manipulating the card order.
Now, assuming that the subconscious is capable of this, what about those of us who don't even look at the cards while riffling? How can the subconscious stack the deck when all the visual input it's getting is the client, the wall, or what's outside the window?

And then what of the cut? That buries the top cards anyway. A card shark would do a false cut, but a reader has no reason to do that.

 



 

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Barleywine
1 hour ago, katrinka said:

EVERYBODY STAND BACK! WE'RE DOING SCIENCE UP IN HERE! 🤣🤣🤣
Time/space. Crack time/space and maybe then you've cracked how it works.

I've been studying this stuff for close to 50 years now and I'm pretty well convinced there is some kind of mental physics (or "mentation") behind it that we don't yet have the ability to measure and quantify, My assumption is that someday we will get to that point. In the meantime it's all theoretical but no less fascinating.

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6 minutes ago, Barleywine said:

but as I see it, it's the sitter's reading and all I do is interpret their inspired selection.

Yep. They pay us to read cards, we tell them what the cards say.
We're interpreters.

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SparklePuffy

Assuming they are new to Tarot, how would they know to select Knight of Cups vs. Knight of Swords?

 

Would they already know what each card means? Apologies if this is tedious.

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I don't see it as the querent knowing where specific cards will be in the deck, nor what they mean.  I see it as the querent's subconscious directs them to shuffle or choose (depending on how the process is done) whatever cards are the "right" ones for them to learn what they need to learn from the reading.  It could be more than one combination that gives them this, so it's not about knowing specific cards and where they will end up in the deck, but rather more like... it's not easy for me to describe... something that is closer to knowing that the cards will be in the right place at the right time.  The brain and neural system are capable of so much more than we realize and so much information process is happening at high speed, that we know so much more subconsciously than consciously.

 

 

Edited by geoxena
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SparklePuffy

If you want to know if you're dreaming, you find a book and look through the pages. Apparently the pages will not all have the words, because our brain or unconscious is not able to produce that much fine-grained detail, so quickly.

 

Likewise, I can't see how the brain or unconscious is physically able to order the cards - especially if the sitter is new to Tarot and has no idea the significance of oddball cards.

 

So while I don't comprehend the explanation,  I do 100% acknowledge the utterly uncanny phenomenon of people pulling the "right" cards for their situation. It's weird!

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9 hours ago, katrinka said:

Yep. They pay us to read cards, we tell them what the cards say.
We're interpreters.

Exactly. How does it work ? That's part of the whole point - we don't know.

9 hours ago, SparklePuffy said:

Assuming they are new to Tarot, how would they know to select Knight of Cups vs. Knight of Swords?

 

Would they already know what each card means? Apologies if this is tedious.

How would they be "choosing" a card ? One or other of you shuffles and draws the cards before turning them face up, in my experience. You don't choose a card except POSSIBLY as the significator (I don't use them) -the reader reads what turns up.

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SparklePuffy

You're taking exception to the word "choose" so perhaps the better word is "picks," face down.

 

So if the person's unconscious is "picking" the cards that will work, then the unconscious somehow knows all about Tarot and decks?  

 

Some imagery is archetypal (i.e., known to the unconscious) but this theory seems to say -all- details are known to the unconscious, and that people have the dexterity to work the deck like a card shark?

 

I'm not arguing against the theory, just trying to see if I understand it. The thread title is tantalizing!

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1 hour ago, SparklePuffy said:

. . . this theory seems to say -all- details are known to the unconscious, and that people have the dexterity to work the deck like a card shark?

 

No, that's not what it's saying, I don't think.  To me, I understand it as something closer to what is known as "the Observer Effect" in science, physics, etc.  That is, you know, scientists discovered that observing an experiment influences the outcome. So they do double blind studies and other things to prevent the person conducting the experiment as well as the participants from knowing certain elements in advance.  Scientists have found that the changes that occur with the thing that is being observed are subject to the Observer Effect.  One example is how the path of an electron will change course when it is observed.

 

From this article (The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics:

' The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: "observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position." In other words, Jordan said, "we ourselves produce the results of measurements." '

 

This is how I view the influence of the sitter to the outcome of the cards in a reading.  It's not that they know in advance what and where the cards are or psychically place the cards where they want them;  it is that their participation (and possibly the reader somehow having an unconscious connection to the sitter, whether in person or not, simply by agreeing to perform the reading) influences what cards will come up to convey the message they need to know, very similarly to what happens in the Observer Effect.  Another thing - why would readers tell a sitter to focus on their question during the shuffling and picking of the cards?  If the sitter has no effect on how the cards turn up, why bother with that?

 

 

Edited by geoxena
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To me, this is an impossibly hard question. But I will throw out a few little factoids that may be somehow relevant. 1) A number of pedantically designed studies have shown that it is possible to influence things (to a relatively small extent) with your mind. 2) Random processes, like shuffling, are apparently easier to influence. 3) Random processes do follow their own, um, fluid set of rules and are not completely random. 4) Despite common sense, there does seem to be evidence that future events can affect the past in some way.

 

Personally, I reckon the involvement of tarot fairies is probably the most likely explanation.

Edited by devin
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I really must get around to setting up that experiment we did on AT years ago where several of us 96 as I recall) used the deck of our choice and the reading method and spread of our choice for the same sitter with the same situation - and all the readings - which had quite different cards - came up with pretty much the same result....

 

I'm with devin's tarot fairies. Seriously kinda - as in not fairies - but something very else.

Edited by gregory
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3 hours ago, gregory said:

I'm with devin's tarot fairies. Seriously kinda - as in not fairies - but something very else.

It's poorly understood, so people anthropomorphize it: fairies, guides, ancestors, etc. Is that what you're saying?

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Barleywine

Personally, I think the long-standing practice of applying known scientific principles to unknown phenomena falls down when confronted with psychic matters. We are hobbled by our assumptions.

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Many of us have seen ghosts. No scientific proof has ever verified this. But those of us who have know it was for real.

 

I have never assumed anything; on the contrary the first time I saw a ghost I was very surprised. - I had never given the matter the slightest thought. My sister  at the age of about 10 had once informed me she'd seen an angel but as I had always thought she was nuts I thought no more about it !  But I know I did, and it was nothing to do with me or anything in my life - so wishful thinking and so on do not apply. Nor had anyone suggested to me that the place I was in harboured a ghost. But there it was.

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1 hour ago, katrinka said:

It's poorly understood, so people anthropomorphize it: fairies, guides, ancestors, etc. Is that what you're saying?

Oops missed that. NO - I just grabbed devin's fairies as a word for the "who knows; I believe in the tarot gods" thing ! I hesitate to say magic, but something does it, and it isn't just me or my subconscious.

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3 hours ago, Barleywine said:

Personally, I think the long-standing practice of applying known scientific principles to unknown phenomena falls down when confronted with psychic matters. We are hobbled by our assumptions.

But calling it a "psychic matter" is also an assumption.

2 hours ago, gregory said:

Many of us have seen ghosts. No scientific proof has ever verified this. But those of us who have know it was for real.

 

I have never assumed anything; on the contrary the first time I saw a ghost I was very surprised. - I had never given the matter the slightest thought. My sister  at the age of about 10 had once informed me she'd seen an angel but as I had always thought she was nuts I thought no more about it !  But I know I did, and it was nothing to do with me or anything in my life - so wishful thinking and so on do not apply. Nor had anyone suggested to me that the place I was in harboured a ghost. But there it was.

I saw a spirit once. I was in that half-awake, lucid state, and I was having a telepathic conversation with it. But it didn't know anything I didn't know, so I can't discount the possibility that it was a projection of my own mind.
YMMV, etc.

 

2 hours ago, gregory said:

Oops missed that. NO - I just grabbed devin's fairies as a word for the "who knows; I believe in the tarot gods" thing ! I hesitate to say magic, but something does it, and it isn't just me or my subconscious.

Yes, it's "outside", for lack of a better word.
And it seems to possess consciousness. We have to be careful with that, though. We tend to think in terms of things like the car not "wanting" to start, he internet connection "acting up", etc.

I'm not saying that it isn't conscious. Just that we shouldn't assume it is.

I think, to analyze a reading  (and there's scads of them here, take your pick), we need to recognize that there's various things at play. When you weed out the educated guesses and the generalized stuff that could fall under cold reading (and we all do that without meaning to: "You're having problems with a friend or relative.", etc.), what's left is the mysterious stuff. The thing that makes the Tower come up for someone who's going through upheaval but not someone whose life is currently uneventful.

Here in the West, people tend to think science and "magic" are opposed to each other, but in the East they don't have that problem. If you read the Dalai Lama's books, he usually talks about science quite a bit. He likes it. When I noticed that years ago, I went looking for answers there. But all I got was that divination is wisdom, and there is wisdom in everything. So your body knows how to turn food into flesh or heal a cut without you having to think about it, and the cards know how to fall, I guess.

I got nothin'. 😁

Edited by katrinka
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EvylynRose
11 hours ago, devin said:

Personally, I reckon the involvement of tarot fairies is probably the most likely explanation.

And now I know what angle to go with when I explain Tarot to my 5 year old. 😂 (He is, after all, a true believer of a new concept I created during the pandemic to get him excited about learning to read: the book fairies... think tooth fairy but random and as rewards/encouragement to keep reading.)

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6 hours ago, EvylynRose said:

And now I know what angle to go with when I explain Tarot to my 5 year old. 😂 (He is, after all, a true believer of a new concept I created during the pandemic to get him excited about learning to read: the book fairies... think tooth fairy but random and as rewards/encouragement to keep reading.)

Book fairies? Wonderful!

Edited by devin
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I have always believed that the messages come from the higher-self or our subconscious, this triggers your intuition and connects with the interpretations that you see in the cards. 

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we can only form our own opinions on this because we just don't know for sure! :78496:

I totally get the idea that it's a mirror and the info comes from us, somewhere deep in our subconscious. But when I read for other people, I sometimes get clairaudient messages or just go with an intuition in the cards or see a part of the card that seems very important. Often this turns out to be really important and something that would be impossible for me to know. I am quite convinced it is beyond me, but from where? Because of some of these things, it turned me from an atheist into believing of something out there. I personally believe I get messages from the universe to guide the person getting the reading, but other's believe in gods / goddesses or sprit guides. I've also found that sometimes there is no clear message for someone, maybe they are not meant to know at that time?

 

If it's not some sort of spiritual channel, maybe it's Jung's belief in the collective unconscious, that we all have a common knowledge at birth that we don't know about that are in our subconscious.

 

This is something I really think about and of course the cards are just cardboard and I do use my subconscious and intuition to interpret the symbols and art, but I really belief at least some messages come from outside me.

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I had never read that particular article before but I love HowStuffWorks in general.  Its helped me in the past figure out some very mundane topics.  The way that article addressed tarot was so very well done and felt very bias-free.  Exactly the information I'd want the general public to read.  

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