Tarot Card Games

Aren't Tarot Card Games disapproved of?

The playing of 'Tarot card games' (that is the use of tarot cards for frivolous amusement) is frowned-on by many serious tarot readers and authors on the subject of tarot cards and tarot readings.

Some tarot readers consider that because tarot cards are or symbolise particular energies (think of them as 'emotions' or 'themes' if the concept of 'energies' in this context is unfamilar), each tarot card is a unique messenger, essential to the balance of all the possibilities in the universe - or perhaps in the 'human psyche' to those who take a psychological attitude to tarot card reading.

Such an attitude of reverence to the physical tarot cards themselves is understandable, especially from people who earn their living using the Tarot to assist others with issues in their lives. Another reason why 'Tarot Card Games' can be played and enjoyed equally well using traditional Playing Cards.

Are there any good reasons (or excuses) for playing Tarot Card Games ?

Some tarot enthusiasts actively encourage the use of tarot cards for simple games and other activities e.g. 'tuning into' a card to identify it while seeng only the reverse side of the card, before turning it over to reveal the specific card and its orientation - 'upright' or 'reversed'.

Reasons why Tarot Card Games might be encouraged include:

  • Encouraging youngsters and others new to tarot to interact with tarot cards confidently in a positive way, rather than consider them 'scary', which might be due to the images on certain cards in some, usually older, tarot decks.
  • To engage with new and often younger users, as a means of establishing familiarity with the cards without risk of perceived pressure to have to learn all the meanings first. Understandably, some people can feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to learn a list of tarot card meanings at the outset - but would like to have their own deck and start to gain familiarity with it and enjoyment from it.
  • Finally, some 'tarot card games' are really just no-pressure ways of increasing one's knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the Tarot. That is, one might use a 'game' to test oneself and so reinforce one's efforts to learn to read tarot cards without needing the context of a sitter and a question / subject in order to do so. Such use of the cards is quite different from the playing of a competitive game between many people who are merely passing the time or perhaps betting on the outcomes of games, as sometimes applies when people use 'Playing Cards'.

So, should one play Tarot Card Games, or not ?

As with all questions in the field of personal development and especially concerning tools such as the Tarot, which some people have been thought to use in a negative way or hold negative attitudes about, good advice is: Don't do anything that you're not comfortable with. That doesn't just apply to tarot card games but also to having or giving tarot card readings, and to pretty-much everything else.

The next thing to bear in mind is that use of tarot cards should be respectful. Some people are scornful of and even hostile to the Tarot in general (often without knowing anything about it), while others view it as a means of receiving and interpreting divine, and therefore sacred, insights. Regardless of your own position on this subject, respectful use of tarot cards is respectful of the views of others. That seems appropriate irrespective of the meanings and significance of tarot cards to you personally.

About Tarot Card Games in General

In many, but not all, cases Tarot card games are really just adaptations of card games that are usually played using standard playing cards, adjusted for use with tarot cards. Some people invent their own tarot card games based on card games that they are already familiar with and enjoy. The main decision to make is if and how to use the tarot cards that do not appear in standard playing card decks, which are the Pages (one in each of the four suits) and all of the cards of the Major Arcana.

Examples of Tarot Card Games

The following examples justify a page of explanation each, which might be added at a later date.

Casual Entertainment

  • French Tarot etc.
    A trick-taking card game traditionally played using the 'French Tarot' or Tarot Nouveau style of Tarot deck. There are usually 4 players but variations are possible. Detailed scoring systems apply. As the tarot cards used for these types of games were designed and intended for the playing of these games rather than for divination, use of the cards to play these games is unlikely to be controversial. More info at http://bit.ly/1IjvwhQ .
    There are many variations on 'French Tarot' that are associated with other places dating from approx. the same time period, e.g. Danish Tarok, Toccas (Switzerland), Hungarian Tarokk and others. Although the differences between these games might matter a great deal to enthusiasts of them, they are minor compared with the differences between this type of 'Tarot Game' and others mentioned here. It has been suggested by some historians that tarot actually began as this type of card game.
  • Tarot 'Snap' etc.
    This example is included to apply to and represent all the various uses of tarot cards (although not necessarily all of the tarot deck) to play card games that are also or usually played using either standard playing cards or specific packs of cards made for children to play that particular game. One such game that is easy to explain is called 'Snap'. Standard playing cards can be used with the two 'Jokers' either left in or taken out and set aside. The deck is shuffled then cards are dealt to all players so that each player has the same number of cards, stacked picture-side down. Any remaining cards, after as many cards as possible have been dealt in equal numbers to all players, form the beginning of the pile in the middle, picture-side up. Players then take turns to turn over the card at the top of his or her 'hand' and immediately place it picture-side up on the pile of cards 'in play' located in the middle (between all the players). The player should only see the picture-side of his or her card as he or she places it on the pile. When 2 'matching' cards are placed in sequence e.g. two '2s' such as a 2 of diamonds followed by a 2 of spades in the case of use of playing cards, the first player to call "Snap" by shouting the word aloud claims the pile of cards in the centre and adds it to the bottom of his or her 'hand'. The winner is the person who still has cards after everyone else has gone 'out' by playing his or her last card. In the Tarot equivalent of such a game, the Major Arcana cards are not used but the four Pages are included. The rich illustrations on most tarot cards as opposed to the simple symbols on playing cards result in the tarot version of this game being more challenging for players to see at a glance when matching cards have been placed on the pile. This game can be physically rough on the cards themselves due to the speed at which the game is typically played.
    Note that this is exactly the type of use of tarot cards of which some tarot readers understandably disapprove. This use is not recommended here, but is included for completeness. Although this type of game might help to overcome some fears of tarot cards and increase familiarity with the 'Pip' (Minor Arcana) cards, there are other better ways of achieving both of those objectives.

Tarot Learning 'Games' or Exercises

  • The Literature Clue
    This might be a recently invented tarot game, perhaps specifically for use on internet forums. It is intented for a group of 'players', or perhaps just whoever stumbles across the question. Someone thinks of a tarot card and posts a quotation of a passage from literature that he or she considers indicative of the specific tarot card he or she has chosen for that 'round' of the game. Other people post guesses of which card the person who posted the text (quotation) believes is best represented by that passage. The first person to respond with the correct answer posts the next question, which likewise takes the form of another quotation from literature indicative of a specific tarot card.
    Thanks to Kim, username 'ncefafn' on Aeclectic Tarot, Ref.http://bit.ly/1T2Kr6i for mention of this game.
  • Tarot Charades
    As the 'charades' part of the name suggests, this is not a card game in the sense of manipulating one's 'hand' via interactions with other players as the game progresses. Instead, the cards serve as instructions, each card indicating to the the player who receives it something about the dramatic actions or poses he or she might use to convey the identity of the card to the other players or, in some versions, specifically to the other players in his or her own team. In a small group, such as e.g. 3 or 4 people learning tarot together, this needn't be played as a team game but can be merely used as another way to express and so reinforce everyone's understanding of the meanings of the cards in a tarot deck. When there are more players and especially people who already know the tarot well, Tarot Charades can work well as a team game played between two or more teams of three or more people in each team. This game is mentioned in The Complete Illustrated Guide to Tarot by Rachel Pollack.

- Article added June 2015.

Tarot Articles:

Tarot Card Games - for, against and examples

Learning to Read Tarot Cards

20 Steps to reading Tarot Cards

Why use Free Printable Tarot Cards?

List of Tarot Card Meanings

Origins of the Tarot Nouveau - or 'French Tarot'

Learning Tarot

Uses of Tarot Cards

Celtic Angels were believed to act as guardians or companions - much as totem animals in other traditions.

Although care has been taken when compiling this page, the information contained might not be completely up to date. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright. See terms of use.

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