By Steven Seinberg
I practice a few different metaphysical disciplines. The most well-known among these are Astrology and Tarot. And most of the time when people contact me to book a reading, they know which type of reading they want.
Every now and then, though, someone will reach out seeking guidance or insight of some kind…but beyond that general state of affairs, they’re not really sure in any specific kind of way what it is they’re after.
And to be fair, Astrology and Tarot are not just two versions of the same thing. Sure, they can both be filed accurately under the overall heading of “Metaphysical Pursuits,” but if you drill down even a tiny bit deeper than that, it’ll become clear that the nuts and bolts of them are very different…and sometimes, so are their applications.
Most people who seek out metaphysical counseling sessions seem to fall into one of two camps.
One camp is filled with people who want a greater understanding of themselves: “Who am I? What am I? What am I meant to do? What’s my true path?”
The other camp is made up of people who want some help making specific, real world decisions…so they’re after predictive input. “Should I take that new job? When will I meet my soul-mate? What day would be good for scheduling my wedding/trip/surgery?”
And neither camp is “right” or “wrong” in their aims. Both lines of inquiry are completely valid. And interestingly enough, both Astrology and Tarot can be applied toward generating some helpful feedback for people in either camp. But remember that the two disciplines differ from each other in what they involve and in how we can apply them.
In terms of those nuts and bolts mentioned earlier, Astrology depends in large part on taking symbolic snapshots of the sky, and then pulling information from the ways in which the various Planets and other points of interest have arranged themselves in the moments captured by those snapshots.
For example, the snapshot taken at the moment of your birth is what we’d call your “birth chart,” and it’s regarded by astrologers as a very deep statement on who and what you are in this lifetime. Astrology practitioners have referred to the birth chart variously as the fingerprint of the spirit…as the soul contract you signed before incarnating here…as the Owner’s Manual for yourself…as the wiring diagram of your psyche…and the list scrolls onward from there…
That’s all pretty profound stuff, and it highlights the fact that modern Astrology can be employed for some serious psychological illumination. Examining your chart can offer up some real revelations about your intrinsic make-up…and obviously, the better you understand your true nature, the more you can make positive and productive choices for yourself.
Now, Astrology can absolutely also be used to address the needs of that other camp. That is, several focuses within the field are definitely predictive. Transits, for instance, reveal when real world events may be primed to manifest in our lives, and what sorts of characteristics might describe those events (will they be happy? sad? terrifying? long-lasting?). Progressions are another predictive astrological technique – they describe our individual pathways of evolution over the courses of our lives. There’s even a practice called Horary Astrology that involves casting a chart at the moment a given question is asked. The result is used to wring out a very clear answer to that question. In that sense, Horary Astrology can be extremely predictive.
Still, it’s arguable that in modern times, Astrology has become more about the psychological focus than the predictive.
Tarot, in contrast, doesn’t really offer anything that can serve as a counterpart to Astrology’s birth chart. The deck is what the deck is, regardless of when you were born, or which Planets might be moving through which Signs at any given moment. There isn’t really a comprehensive, definitive individual psychological profile document that Tarot produces for us. You can try to create one by working up a spread and then drawing cards to flesh out the information it provides, but unlike the fixed, unchanging birth chart, a Tarot spread will probably never yield the same results twice.
I do want to stress here that the practice of Tarot can definitely be used to shed light on our own natures – in fact, it’s difficult to get involved with Tarot beyond the very surface level and not learn more about who and what you are – but the discipline is maybe a bit more suited to getting predictive. You ask a question, and then you pull a few cards so as to arrive at an immediate, on-point answer.
So on the face of it, either one of these two practices can be used to satisfy members of either of those two aforementioned camps: that would be those people who are seeking self-understanding versus those in search of foresight. It’s therefore not shocking that newcomers to metaphysics (and hell, even plenty of people who have been poking around this subject matter for quite some time) may not know offhand which field will better suit their own quest for knowledge of whatever variety.
Personally, I’m not versed in Horary Astrology, and I find the predictive focuses of Astrology to be a bit general when I do apply them. With these things holding true for me, I tend to use Astrology primarily for analyzing the psychological nature of a given person, or to do the same for the relationships that exist between two people. The predictive stuff is fascinating, but it’s a pretty rare case when I try to foretell anything with detail and precision by using it.
In general, I tend to lead with Astrology when the self-knowledge camp members come calling: “Who am I? What am I? What am I meant to do? What’s my true path?”
With Tarot, while I always enjoy discussing which of the archetypes resonate with people, and why – all of which can uncover some terrific pearls of wisdom on the self-knowledge tip – I lean on Tarot when someone wants to try to get a sense of what the probability fields are looking like in the days ahead. This is where I’m way more likely to try to get predictive.
I’m still careful to emphasize the fact that nothing is ever set in stone, and I believe we all have enough free will to change the likelihood of any specific future possibility…but when trying to turn the gaze forward, I do love how easy it is to ask very precise questions of the cards and then get those immediate answers. “Should I take that new job? When will I meet my soul-mate? What day would be good for scheduling my wedding/trip/surgery?”
All in all, then, if you want some helpful feedback from Some Greater Force, and you don’t know which practice will be best suited to your needs, my own approach is pretty simple: I start with Astrology when the aim is straight-up psychological self-analysis, and I begin with Tarot when the questions are more predictive in nature.
That’s of course just my own take on the two fields (and there are always exceptions to this rule, too). But you can use them in any way that appeals to you…and part of what makes both practices so great is their flexibility.
It’s even possible to mix and match them while working on a single avenue of inquiry. In fact, some of the most powerful readings I ever cook up involve a healthy blend of both Astrology and Tarot supplementing each other’s findings for a single person. Experimenting with these kinds of “hybrid” readings is highly recommended!