In the footsteps of the Oracle

Many of us tarot readers have heard of the idea that tarot should not be used to predict the future and give specific predictions. This may seem like a new trend in tarot, however actually this is a ancient belief.  Normally divination is seen as a way to see the future, but that is a more modern view. Divination to the ancients was a way to determine the will of God or gods.  This is the case for Biblical and non Biblical divination.

The ancient Greeks were well known for their oracles, the most notable was the Oracle at Delphi. People would travel across the Greek world to seek the advice of the Oracle. The oracle had a long history spanning from the 8th century BC until it’s closure by  emperor Theodosius I in 395 AD.

How there what was asked of the oracle would be questions that could be answered in a YES or NO response. Questions where also asked about what should be done to appease the gods. Greeks were always making sure the gods were not mad at them. It was a rule of thumb that you do not ask for a specific prediction or outcome. If asked about the future, the oracle would be truthful but her answers were ambiguous. As the case with King Croesus.  King Croesus asked the Oracle whether he should go to war with King Cyrus of Persia or negotiate terms of peace.  The Oracle’s answer was that who ever crosses the river Halys will become the ruler of a great empire or another version stated If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed. Believing the response favorable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians. Hows that for Greek irony?

What does this all mean? The reason you should not ask about the future and the idea of divination was meant to be used as a means to understand your present more than a future that is out of your hands and up to the fates/gods. Now this principle can apply to tarot. I do however feel that we can ask questions about the future but just like the oracle’s predictions our predictions can become ambiguous because we have to decode the cards and come up with a predictions based on the images. When events come to pass than we will either be like King Croesus, seeing the message we wanted or if we will see the real message. Like oracle I do feel that tarots true gift is reflecting the present, understanding the past and using it as a means to set the pathway to a future you create.




The recipient of Tarosophist of the Year 2011, Angelo Nasios is a rising voice in the tarot community. Angelo is known for his popular YouTube channel in which he produces educational tarot videos. Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana, Angelo’s first book will be released by Schiffer Publishing.

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  • Katrina W

    Hi Angelo,

    I resonate with your final statement, “… tarot’s true gift is reflecting the present, understanding the past and using it as a means to set the pathway to a future you create.”

    What I’d like to add is an updated view of the role of the Gods/Goddesses, especially in relation to seeking guidance. In the old world, humans sought solace by praying to their celestial parental figures, viewing themselves as subjects of the Gods/Goddesses’ will.

    Many people still retain a mindset of being victim to the will of fate, God, or forces pulling their puppet strings? Others realize that not only do we have free will, but we are responsible for our choices, no matter the circumstances. Not even Tarot, nor the Tarot reader, can be the source of our choices, only food for thought and consideration.

    As long as there are people hoping to predict the future or fortunes, there will be fortune-tellers. But offering alternatives and expanding the repertoire of Tarot styles and skills helps us meet the diversity of people and situations that may benefit from the wisdom of Tarot.

    As my friend and Tarot writer, Diane Toland, says, “Relegating tarot cards to the role of fortune-telling is like using a samurai sword to make a sandwich.” (Inner Pathways to the Divine)

    Yes, sandwiches can be yummy, but there is so much more…

    In Spirit,