I was first given a pack of Tarot cards by a friend of my mother's when I was only just thirteen. It was the Marseilles deck, so the illustrations weren't particularly helpful or inspiring, but I instantly fell in love with the idea of Tarot although I played with the cards and stared at them a lot more than a studied them! Then, when I was fifteen and had pretty much forgotten what I'd learned, my auntie gave me a deck - The Mythic Tarot, which lifts heavily from Greek mythology. This deck was responsible for awakening inside me the passion for Tarot that I've managed to keep to this day (I'm now in my mid-twenties). The symbolism and stories were so rich and steeped in ideas and emotions and that was all the fuel I needed to strike up a much more intimate relationship with the cards. I think that when I was younger I probably accepted the popular idea that Tarot was for predicting the future. I never believed myself to be psychic and I was the kind of kid who studied a subject just for the sake of it - I loved learning and proving my own capacity to learn. But I think I assumed that if you actually wanted to use the cards to read for people, you had to believe yourself to have some kind of psychic ability. This seems silly to me now, since if you're psychic you're not likely to need cards to tell you anything! I also grew to believe that most querents wanted a psychic to read for them.
I left Tarot on and off for years. I'd get the occasional burst of energy for it and throw myself back into study, but each time it was frustrating because I'd forget what I'd learned before and I could never really envision any kind of path forward.. I did regular readings for my mum. She always believed in my abilities. I used to use the guide book to read for her at first, writing out reams of pages of interpretation which were always at least half lifted from the text and re-written. This gave me huge amounts of practice and helped me to recognise when to use intuition to read the messages and be less mechanistic. I also used to read for a few of my mum's friends, but I never believed anything deeper would come of it and I certainly never imagined it would help me personally as much as it has.
As it turns out, Tarot is actually a useful source of inspiration for me as a writer of fiction and journalism. The Bardic technique of using the cards as a story board has come in handy, and I've had plenty of flashes of inspiration just from shuffling the cards and getting glimpses of imagery that led me down a new mental pathway and into producing something I could be proud of. I find that the cards inspire motivation and positive energy in me from time to time.. I can't help but apply some of the meanings and messages to my own life now that I've studied them for so long. Being able to read Tarot (and, more recently, Runes) has been very helpful to friends and family members who look to me in times of trouble or uncertainty for some guidance.
The key to my happiness as a Tarot reader has been the realisation that the cards can be used -and have been praised as- a psychological tool. Having always been uncomfortable with the mystic, soothsayer, Romany gypsy image, I have been delighted to find in adulthood that so many people are proponents of Tarot for inner-exploration - not just for telling someone what kind of guy they're likely to marry! Once I realised that my ideas on how to use Tarot weren't all that unusual, it empowered me. And I started talking about it. To anyone. I'm not bashful about the fact that I love Tarot anymore. It used to be something I'd make sure I only mentioned in certain company. With strangers I'd have to be pretty sure that they were like-minded and open to the idea before I 'admitted' that I was a Tarot reader. Nowadays I've totally changed my outlook. I actually take great pleasure in opening people up to the possibilities that Tarot offers as a guidance tool and a counselling aid. Once people are introduced to the idea that Tarot can empower people to make their own decisions rather than simply telling them what's going to happen, they are suddenly impressed and interested rather than scoffing and cynical.
I know that Tarot still has a long way to go in terms of public opinion. I don't want it to be resigned to a novelty but I also don't want to see it railroaded into premium psychic telephone line territory. I want it to claw back some level of respect and I believe that readers who maintain blogs, websites and shops which offer Tarot readings as a self-help tool are doing Tarot a massive service and dragging it into the future through making it useful again and using it to empower people. Tarot is worth so much more than the temporary thrill of feeling that someone has seen your future. Tarot is about helping you to write your future, one line at a time.