Most of us have heard of tarot but if you haven't read the cards before you might not be familiar with what it actually is. There are plenty of misconceptions floating around about tarot so let's set the record straight:
What tarot is?
Tarot is a deck of cards with pictures on them, and the cards are used to explore one's thoughts, emotions, motifs and inner life in general. Each card depicts a concept regarding everyday life, emotions, values, actions etc. and studying this picture is meant to trigger insights and intuitive knowings in relation to the question at hand.
Tarot is used to organise one's thoughts to be able to take the best available action; and what's a better way to restructure thoughts than having this invisible mental world printed out as pictures like a discussion point card set?
In essence, cards make it easier to focus on one emotion, thought or concept at a time; and discuss it with others, if needed.
Tarot cards have always been used to tell the future, too. Does this work? I think reading tarot for future purposes is a bit like reading signs from nature to tell the coming change in weather. Each one of us knows much more about other people and our own inner life on a subconscious level than we realise: by consciously focusing on these "signs" we can tell quite a bit about how things will most likely unfold.
Tarot is also used for spiritual guidance for those who believe in it. After all, the messages the cards bear are always a combination of our conscious and subconscious mind and if a person thinks that their intuition or conscience is the voice of the divine, then tarot also is. The beauty of the cards is that you don't need to believe in anything spiritual to be able to use them, but if you do, it does add and extra layer of meaning, purpose and direction.
What tarot is not?
Tarot is not witchcraft, satanic, evil or a gateway for malevolent spirits. Tarot is exploring one's own thoughts about all things in life, and it's loosely akin to dream interpretation: figuring out what the subconscious mind is trying to tell about our everyday hopes, fears, plans, suppressed emotions and so forth. Nobody would call dreams nor pondering life in general evil or malevolent.
Some people are scared of tarot because of the abovementioned future telling and the possibility that something bad is on the way.
Firstly, tarot is much more about inner life than the outer. So, if dramatic cards come up, it's more likely there's some inner turmoil going on or coming up than a physical danger. Even if the negative prediction is about a physical issue, it can be a trigger to take action and sort it out (say, you suspect a relationship problem or a health issue and raise it or go have check it out). Again, it's a bit like predicting the weather: it's wise to take the umbrella when the storm clouds are gathering, after all.